The decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to
present a lifetime achievement award on March 21 to director Elia Kazan drew many
protests. Kazan testified before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in the early
1950s. He informed on friends and co-workers, told congressional inquisitors about
individuals political views and activities, named names. As a result, those former
friends and co-workers lost their jobs and their careers. They were among the
writers, actors and directors victimized by the Cold War blacklist operating in Hollywood.
For perspective on those events, we turned to the writing of Charles
Kerns, whose column on television and film occupied this space in the UE NEWS
for many years. Kerns involvement in labor political action cost him his Pittsburgh
radio job but led to a long career as UEs publicity and education director. He died
The following is taken from columns written by Charlie Kerns in 1977:
"[A] detailed examination of the ugly period of the late Forties
through the Fifties should be repeated at least annually. Labor and our entire social
structure still bear the scars of those unhappy times, and the scars are not completely
"The witchhunts that thrived during the Cold War succeeded in
stopping the movement of industrial unionism and the general drive of social progress.
Neither have ever recovered.
"The Hollywood Ten [actors, directors and writers
persecuted in the late 1940s], if not the first, [were] certainly the most famous victims
of the marauding congressional committees...
"While Congress was industriously preparing the Taft-Hartley bill,
the UnAmerican Committee... was using Hollywood as a dramatic setting to create the
hysteria necessary to push through a plethora of repressive measures... The background for
the hearings was a strike at the major studios...
"There were all shades of opinion and morality expressed by those who
went to jail in what they were convinced was defense of the right for freedom of speech
and freedom of political choice, and by those who cooperated with the committee and helped
to send them to jail."
"[In the 1950s people in the entertainment industry] were the ones
who made headlines for the politicians who found red-hunting to be a quick way to higher
and higher office. They were the unfortunate stepping stones for the opportunists..."