Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
In a dramatic showdown before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, 10 motion picture directors and screenwriters refused to answer questions regarding their possible Communist associations. After the Supreme Court refused to consider their contempt-of-Congress appeals, they went to prison and were blacklisted by the film industry. Most never worked again, although Dalton Trumbo won an Academy Award in 1957 for "The Brave One," which he wrote under a pseudonym. An excerpt from The Post of May 30, 1950:
Ten Hollywood figures and 11 members of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee moved closer to jail yesterday when the Supreme Court refused to reconsider cases affecting them.
The court first refused in 1948 to consider the case of the refugee committee group, all of whom had been convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing in 1946 to produce their books and records for the House Un-American Activities Committee. The organization is on the Attorney General's subversive list (and the court has agreed to consider a case next fall testing the validity of such a list).
Of the 10 Hollywood writers and directors, two -- Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson -- fought their contempt of Congress convictions through to the Supreme Court. The high court refused to consider their cases last month and yesterday refused for the last time.
Eight other Hollywood figures involved in similar contempt of Congress proceedings -- also involving the House Un-American Activities Committee -- have agreed to be bound by the legal rules in the Lawson-Trumbo case. They now will be brought into District Court here, where Government will ask that they likewise be sentenced.
All 10 refused to answer questions as to whether they had been members of the Communist Party. The effect of the Supreme Court ruling was to uphold a Court of Appeals decision that "the right of free speech is not absolute but must yield to national interests justifiably thought to be of larger importance. The same is true of the right to remain silent."
The Hollywood figures had contended they had a right to refuse to answer because to be forced to do so would violate their constitutional rights. Another case, testing the right to refuse to answer the Communist question on the ground of self-incrimination, will be considered by the high court next fall.
Lawson and Trumbo were fined $1000 each and sentenced to jail for a year. The eight others are Adrian Scott, Herbert Biberman, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, jr., Samuel Ornitz, Lester Cole, Alvah Bessie and Albert Maltz.