ONLY VICTIMS: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting by Robert F. Vaughn

ONLY VICTIMS: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Robert Vaughn, the TV-movie actor best known as the Man from U.N.C.L.E., is also a Ph.D. from USC and this is his doctoral dissertation. It suffers from most of the defects associated with academic thesis writing (turgid prose, factual glut, excessive footnoting, ponderous quotations), but those interested in the methodology of extralegal censorship or the specifics of the entertainment industry's blacklisting practices in the '40's and '50's should be willing to overlook these faults. Because lodged among the scholarly impedimenta is some genuinely intriguing and new material which enhances both our understanding of the blacklist technique and our perspective of the particular history involved. Vaughn summarizes and evaluates the House Committee on Un-American Activities' investigations conducted between 1938 and 1958 into alleged Communist influence in Hollywood, television programming, and the legitimate theater -- hearings which produced no legislation, only sensational headlines for politicians like Martin Dies, J. Parnell Thomas, and Francis Walter and ""personalized persecution of entertainment people."" Some of the ""friendly"" witnesses were cowed; others cheerfully cooperated, supplying lists of names; a few of the unfriendly First Amendment types were jailed for contempt (i.e., the Hollywood Ten); and many of those who relied on the Fifth Amendment were blacklisted by their respective industries. What is most useful here, however, is Vaughn's original research -- questionnaire and interview data elicited from selected uncooperative HUAC witnesses -- which serves as the basis for some definitive conclusions about the retrospective effects of blacklisting, e.g., motion picture and TV actors were hit hardest (theater performers were hardly affected at all and many writers were able to continue producing under pseudonyms). In sum, what we have here is the most complete and intelligent treatment of the virulent practice of blacklisting now available.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1972
ISBN: 0879100818
Publisher: Putnam