2022 Winner: Memories of the Blacklist Era

Project Information
Memories of the Blacklist Era
Independent Study –– HIST 196
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the careers of more than three hundred writers and artists in Hollywood were destroyed by one of America’s most insidious crusades. During the Blacklist Era, the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) relentlessly pursued members of the Communist Party, ex-Communists, or even acquaintances of Communists in the entertainment industry, and exerted pressure on the Hollywood studio bosses to ban them from the production process. Given the context of virulent anti-Semitism, an analysis of the blacklist experience must encompass the overrepresention of Jewish intellectuals and artists in the blacklisted community. Though the blacklist was motivated by a wider tradition of American anticommunism, it gained traction in Hollywood amidst the conflict between right-wing Jewish studio executives and their Communist employees, many of whom were Jewish. This tension is linked to the politically charged aesthetic of film noir, spearheaded by Jewish directors who turned the American dream into an American nightmare. In this essay, I will examine the innovative Freudian-Marxist film noir, The Locket (1946), authored by Norma Barzman, one of the few blacklisted female screenwriters. A Jewish-American, New York-born Communist, Barzman offers a unique perspective on the blacklist, as she was denied opportunities not only because she was a Communist, but also because she was a woman. How does her work tie into the larger experience of Jewish Americans in Hollywood? How does it tie into the experience of American Communists in the mid-20th century?
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  • Lucy Rose Dasilva (Stevenson)