Cover image for Hollywood party : how communism seduced the American film industry in the 1930s and 1940s
Hollywood party : how communism seduced the American film industry in the 1930s and 1940s
Billingsley, Lloyd.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Rocklin, CA : Forum, [1998]

Physical Description:
xvii, 365 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PN1998.2 .B53 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the fall of 1997 some of the biggest names in show business filled the Motion Picture Academy theater in Beverly Hills for Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist , a lavish production worthy of an Oscar telecast. In song, film, and live performances by stars such as Billy Crystal, Kevin Spacey, and John Lithgow, the audience relived a time some fifty years before, when, as the story has always been told, courageous writers and actors stood firm against a witch-hunt and blacklist that wrecked lives and destroyed careers. Left untold that night, and ignored in books and films for more than half a century, was a story not so politically correct but vastly more complex and dramatic.

In Hollywood Party the complete story finally emerges, backdropped by the great upheavals of our time and with all the elements of a thriller--wrenching plot twists, intrigue, betrayal, violence, corruption, misguided passion, and lost idealism. Using long neglected information from public records, the personal files of key players, and recent revelations from Soviet archives, Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley uncovers the Communist Party's strategic plan for taking control of the movie industry during its golden age, a plan that came perilously close to success. He shows how the Party dominated the politics of the movie industry during the 1930s and 1940s, raising vast sums of money from unwitting liberals and conscripting industry luminaries into supporting Stalinist causes.

In riveting detail, the shameful truth unfolds: Communist writers, actors, and directors, wealthy beyond the dreams of most Americans, posture as proletarian wage slaves as they try to influence the content of movies. From the days of the Popular Front through the Nazi-Soviet Pact and beyond World War II, they remain faithful to a regime whose brutality rivaled that of Hitler's Nazis.

Their plans for control of the industry a shambles by the mid-1950s, the Party nonetheless succeeded in shaping the popular memory of those days. By chronicling what has been left on the cutting-room floor, from "back story" to aftermath, Hollywood Party changes those perceptions forever.

"Mr. Billingsley's book is the best exploration I've seen of the Hollywood blacklist and the Communist Party's role in that conflict. Hollywood Party covers it all with insight, meticulous research, and some wry perceptions."

--Charlton Heston

"For years we've been treated to the left-wing version of the Hollywood blacklist. Now Lloyd Billingsley has provided us with the rest of the story."

--David Horowitz, author of Radical Son

"Now the whole story can be told; the blacklist was never black and white after all, but can only be depicted accurately in shades of gray. From this day forward, no future backstage history of Hollywood can be called complete without taking into account the evidence that Lloyd Billingsley has uncovered."

--Gary McVey, film curator, former director of the Los Angeles International Film Festival

" Hollywood Party is an absolutely captivating achievement."

--Richard Grenier, columnist and author of Capturing the Culture

About the Author

Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley is the editorial director of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. He has served as California correspondent for the Spectator (London) and written for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, and many other publications. He currently divides his time between Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Southern California.

Author Notes

Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley is the editorial director of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. Formerly the California correspondent for the London Spectator, he has written for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Daily News, and San Francisco Chronicle. He divides his time between Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Southern California.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Soviet Union's demise, the release of spy-era files and the 50-year anniversary of the year in which Joseph McCarthy wielded lists of supposed Communists like so many sickles, has prompted new studies on the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Cold War politics. Examining accounts of movie industry unions, money trails between Russian Communists and American Communists, the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and other groups' response to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 and industry insider allegiances and betrayals, Billingsley throws a wet blanket on the gushing self-congratulation with which the entertainment world has memorialized the Hollywood Ten and the era of blacklisted writers and producers. The House Committee and the blacklist it spawned, he contends, were no simple versions of the Spanish Inquisition. Not everyone accused and even persecuted was innocent of the Communist label; not every Hollywood figure told the truth. Heroes and villains, he points out, were not nearly so clear-cut as movies, like the 1991 DeNiro feature, Guilty by Suspicion, and gala events like Hollywood Remembers the Blacklist, a recreation of the HUAC hearings, would have us believe. On this point, Billingsley convinces, supplying what he calls "backstory" to subvert the assumption that the House Committee was pure sham. Filled with specific details of infiltrators and full-fledged activists, his study discloses veins of Communist influence within the studios of that era. But Billingsley also attempts to prove that a battle for control over movies themselves was nearly lost to Communist "seduction," and with this provocative charge, his argument falls apart. The stories he documents of director Edward Dmytryck, writer Dalton Trumbo and countless lesser players, who he accuses of championing themes that were consistent with the Party line, fail to add up to an underground movement to smuggle Communist ideology into American cinema. Its racy subtitle notwithstanding, this volume ultimately fails to provide a convincing picture of those dramatic times. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Billingsley (editorial director, Pacific Research Inst., San Francisco) offers a provocative journalistic account of the rise and fall of pro-Communist agitation in the film industry. Billingsley is critical of earlier accounts of leftist organizing in Hollywood, which, he says, gloss over the use of antifascist rhetoric by party members in mid-century Hollywood to conceal the crimes of Josef Stalin. He is particularly concerned with the ideology of wartime films that celebrated the role of the USSR in the Allied cause. Although he strives to maintain a dispassionate approach, occasionally his political reflexes kick in, as when he dismisses Katharine Hepburn on the grounds that her "commitments to the downtrodden did not prevent the pursuit of personal affluence." Recommended for collections on communism, anticommunism, and the arts.‘Kent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan Coll., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.