I want to discuss the book Hollywood on Trial: McCarthyism’s War against the Movies written by Michael Freedland. It tells about the period in the middle of the 20th century that was marked by the communists’ political repression within the United States that was spread on the Entertainment industry. The character of John Parnell Thomas, the representative of House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), is of outmost concern. This can be explained by the role he played in the numerous repressions of the Hollywood filmmakers, actors, screenwriters and other workers of the industry.
“The irony was that at this time the Communist Party was legal. People were sent to prison for refusing to say if they were communists’”. The member of the Republican Party, Thomas was a conservative opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his views. He supported the idea of extremely strict policy against communism within the country. It all began in the end of 1940s, when Thomas travelled to Hollywood to meet with the executives of the entertainment film industry in order to discuss the problem of Communist infiltration within the content of the movies. After he returned to Washington, he concentrated the state authorities’ attention on the problem of so-called “subversives” within the industry.
John Parnell Thomas began the process of “cleaning” the Hollywood that resulted in the hundreds of ruined lives of the movie industry’s representatives. He denied Charlie Chaplin and Paul Robertson the passports that gave them the ability to go abroad. The serious number of outstanding Hollywood screenwriters that won Oscar and other authoritative awards were enforced to give their scripts to the other, unknown writers in order to be able to work as their names were considered as undesirable. Therefore, the great amount of movies at that time was made by the unknown directors, operators, screenwriters and producers. Such outstanding Hollywood stars as John Huston, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart went to Washington in order to defend the “Hollywood Ten”, the first blacklist with the famous Hollywood writers, as they were considered to be the supporters of communism. Unfortunately, their active social position resulted in the conflict with John Parnell Thomas. After that, Bacall and Bogart joined their colleagues in the blacklist. Therefore, Thomas was not only oppressing people whom he considered to be guilty, but also blacklisted their colleagues that tried to help them in hard times.
He became extremely famous for the number of incarceration of Hollywood workers, as well as for the series of restrictions targeted to limit the right of the other professionals within the film industry. He was one of the most well-known representatives of the McCarthyism policy. He continued the process of “cleaning” up the Hollywood industry until the late 1950. Then, Thomas was convicted of corruption and fraud. The judicial process against him resulted in his imprisonment. He tried to avoid taxation from the early 1940s, and when this information with reasonable evidence became known, he refused to answer the questions connected with these prosecutions. This was the end of the trial against Hollywood that was almost sentenced to death with the help of this man.
As it can be seen, the John Parnell Thomas played one of the key roles in the McCarthyism policy in the United States in the middle of the 20th century. He was a member of Republican Party that organized the series of repressions against the representatives of the Hollywood industry that were regarded as the supporters of the communist ideology. This resulted in the serious harm of the industry and therefore it took time for Hollywood to get back to its ordinary life. A lot of lives have been ruined because of Thomas’s policy. Although this period came to an end in the late 1950, John Parnell Thomas is still known for the scars he left on the national movie industry.
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