Lester Cole, 81, a former Hollywood screen writer who was one of the famed Hollywood 10 who refused to testify before the old House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during its anticommunist investigations after World War II, died Aug. 15 at a hospital here after a heart attack.
Mr. Cole was a founding member of the Screen Writers Guild and served as its president in the mid-1940s. He was the author or coauthor of more than 40 screenplays, including "Objective Burma," "House of Seven Gables," "Blood on the Sun," "If I Had a Million," The Invisible Man Returns," "Fiesta," "None Shall Escape" and "The Romance of Rosy Ridge," a 1947 film in which actress Janet Leigh made her debut.
He spent nearly nine months in prison in 1950 after being found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about communist influence in the motion picture industry. Nine other screen writers and producers also were found guilty during the 1947 trial. Mr. Cole was the third of the Hollywood 10 to die this year. Albert Maltz died in April and Alvah Bessie in July. The only two surviving members of the group are Ring Lardner Jr. and Edward Dmytryk.
Mr. Cole, the son of Polish immigrants, was born Lester Cohn in New York City. His father was a Marxist garment union organizer. Mr. Cole, who moved to Hollywood in 1932, joined the Communist Party in 1934. His autobiography, published in 1982, was titled "Hollywood Red."
Mr. Cole wrote a few post-prison screenplays under fictitious names. In 1965 he used the name "Gerald L.C. Copley" when he adapted Joy Adamson's book "Born Free" for film. But his film career was largely finished.
He spent most of the last two decades in the San Francisco area, teaching film writing at the University of California extension in that city and writing film criticism for the People's World newspaper. One of his last public appearances was in Moscow, where he was a guest at a Soviet film festival.
Survivors include his third wife, Katherine; a son, a daughter, a sister and two grandchildren.