BOOK REVIEW: ‘Hollywood Left and Right’

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c Warren Beatty, longtime media adviser to Democratic candidates. Perhaps more than most other actor/producers cited in this book, Mr. Beatty used the screen to preach his liberal gospel.

Mr. Ross‘ major villain throughout is the House Un-American Activities Committee. Were HUAC treated any other way in this book, the professor probably would have lost some friends at the Academy.

He is, or course, entitled to his opinion, though some distortions tend to distract from the scholarly research the author presents. The book informs us that “everybody” in Hollywood knew the unfriendly witnesses among HCUA’s infamous “Hollywood 10” were communists.

Perhaps true, but quite beside the point that not “everybody” among America’s millions of moviegoers was aware that some who wrote and directed what they saw on the screen were part of a group dedicated in the Cold War to the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. The committee even had their party membership-card numbers.

How tolerant would Hollywood have been of Nazi writers/directors promoting enemy propaganda? The author implies that when a chairman was being chosen for HUAC, Rep. Samuel Dickstein, New York Democrat, was unfairly bypassed. Dickstein was born in Lithuania.

Not mentioned is that a more recent report, “The Haunted Wood,” revealed Dickstein was on the take from the Soviets for whatever useful information he could provide. Who’s to say the FBI did not inform congressional leaders of that? The 1999 report was made public several years before Mr. Ross wrote his book. It’s hard to understand how he would not have been aware of it.

The author treats HUAC as a Republican political toy, even though in 34 of its 38 years, the committee was chaired by Democrats. In fact, some of its most penetrating investigations into communism occurred under the panel’s Democratic chairmen.

So overall, which side was more adept at winning the hearts and minds of Americans? Was it the Hollywood right, with a handful of Republican politicians, including Ronald Reagan who quipped that a candidate had to be an actor to survive at the polls? Or was it the Hollywood left, which followed Marlon Brando’s observation that if actors can sell deodorant, they can sell ideas (especially when the moviegoer’s political guard is down)?

Mr. Ross seems to think Tinseltown’s right has had the upper hand. However, when the day arrives where speechifying at Academy Awards presentations sounds less like the Democratic National Convention, more Americans may conclude that Mr. Ross has a point.

Wes Vernon, a Washington-based writer, is a veteran broadcast journalist. His column appears regularly at

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