Magazine founder's son admits father was motivated by spite to accuse flick industry workers of being communist sympathisers
US flick industry magazine the Hollywood Reporter has apologised for its role in kickstarting the infamous 1947 blacklist that destroyed the careers of writers, actors and directors accused of being communist sympathisers.
In its latest issue, the magazine features a column by Willie Wilkerson, son of founder Billy Wilkerson, admitting his father was motivated by spite to publish lists of left-leaning flick industry workers that influenced US politicians during the postwar McCarthy era.
The elder Wilkerson was annoyed at having been shut out by an exclusive "club" of Hollywood bosses when he tried to open his own studio in the 20s, his son revealed.
By way of revenge, the magazine's proprietor decided to destroy his enemies' most valuable commodities by labelling them communists.
"No one has ever apologised to the victims of this holocaust," writes the younger Wilkerson, whose father published the Hollywood Reporter between 1930 and 1962.
"So on the eve of this dark 65th anniversary, I feel an apology is necessary.
On behalf of my family, and particularly my late father, I wish to convey my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets to those who were victimised by this unfortunate incident."
Wilkerson's 1946 campaign against alleged communists in the pages of the Hollywood Reporter influenced the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities, which the following year cited 10 writers and directors for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before it.
A group of studio executives acting as the Motion Picture Association of America then announced the firing of the "Hollywood Ten" in what became known as the Waldorf Statement.
Blacklisting continued until at least 1960 when the Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been forced to move to Mexico City and write under an assumed name, was publicly acknowledged by Kirk Douglas and others for his work on blockbusters such as Spartacus and Exodus.
The Oscar-winning actor and political activist Sean Penn also writes for the magazine about his father, Leo, who was blacklisted for several years for expressing sympathy with trade unions.
He remembers seeing the elder Penn deliberately blank the director of On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, Elia Kazan, when father and son accidentally stumbled on to the set of the film-maker's 1976 flick The Last Tycoon during a beachside walk.
Kazan had named colleagues and industry friends as communists before the committee to save himself from prosecution.
Penn also calls for the body that organises the Oscars to apologise for its role in the blacklist.
"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has yet to offer a clear acknowledgment of its own complicity in the shameful witch hunt of the 50s that was the blacklist," writes Penn.
"In the name of patriotism and patriots (most of whom would never have even asked for it) and in the name of our own dignity … it's time."
Film industryCommunismUnited StatesMagazinesNewspapers & magazinesSean PennBen Childguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
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