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Tuesday, July 14, 2015


A book review by Lynn Bergman

Copyright © 2015 by Allan H. Ryskind

The author’s father was Morrie Ryskind (10/20/1895 – 8/24/1985), a playwright and screenwriter with several Marx Brothers productions to his credit, who in 1944 helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which confronted radical Communists in Hollywood head on and was instrumental in bringing about the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings on Hollywood in 1947, the year I was born.

This book presents a history of infiltration of the motion picture industry by Hollywood Communists controlled by Soviet agent Gerhart Eisler, described by Luis Budenz* as the “Number One Communist” in America. Eisler, a somewhat concealed member of the Soviet-run Comintern, delivered instructions to the American Communist Party and wrote articles in the Daily Worker under the name Hans Berger.

*ex-managing editor of the Red publication, the Daily Worker, a devout Catholic, who was a Fordham professor when he made this comment in a speech in Detroit.

Cultural Commission of the U.S. Communist Party

Communist Party headquarters was located at 35 East Twelfth Street in New York City. The ninth floor was considered the inner sanctum for the CP’s national officers where the Cultural Commission of the CP held its meetings. Eisler’s second in command was Alexander Trachtenberg, a member of the Political Bureau of the U.S. Communist Party. Either Eisler or Trachtenberg would hand the Party line to V.J. Jerome, who was in charge of the Cultural Commission. Jerome made numerous trips to Hollywood to relay the official Party line to John Howard Lawson, the main Hollywood fundraiser for the Party, who was an Academy Award nominated screenwriter. Alvah Bessie, a former commissar in the International Brigade in Spain fighting for the Stalinist wing in the Spanish civil war, was also sent to Hollywood by the Cultural Commission.

The Communists cultivated and used Hollywood actors extensively for their various causes, but the general Party line was that stars are, 99 percent of them, political morons. There only use to the revolution was their bank account. The Communist Party in New York regularly received information on the kind of pictures coming out of the various studios and, in some cases, a copy of the actual script was sent to the Cultural Commission of the Party at 35 East Twelfth Street months before the picture went into production. The Party used every organization that they controlled or had influence in, not only the major organizations, the AFL and the CIO, but the Council of American-Soviet Friendship, the old time American League for Peace and Democracy, the American Youth for Democracy, church organizations such as the Epworth League, as well as a faction of ministers under Communist control who could be depended on.

The Hollywood Ten

The “Hollywood Ten” were card carrying Communists, perhaps best described by the international secretary, Bela Illes of Hungary, who stated “Pen in hand, we are the soldiers of the great invincible army of the international proletariat.” In the order of their appearances before the HUAC, they are listed below along with their Communist Party registration card numbers:

John Howard Lawson – 1944 Number 47275

Lawson, “the enforcer”, was elected the first president of the Screen Writers Guild on April 6, 1933. Lawson, Lester Cole (see below), and Guy Endore were involved in the formation of the League of American Writers, affiliated with the International Union of Revolutionary Writers, headquartered in Moscow.

Dalton Trumbo – 1944 Number 47187

Trumbo wrote many excellent films (Roman Holiday, Spartacus, and Papillon), was a fervent supporter of Stalinist Russia and Kim Il-sung’s North Korea, and was an apologist for Nazi Germany until Hitler double-crossed Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union. Trumbo frequently suggested in his writings that he was fighting for individual freedom, anti-colonialism, and civil rights. But the only nations and movements he ever tipped his hat to be brutal, totalitarian, and Communist. To this day, the Hollywood left considers Trumbo and authentic American Hero.

Albert Maltz – 1944 Number 47196

Maltz was a short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter. After an article in the February 12, 1946 issue of New Masses, a Communist Party weekly, that mildly criticized writers on the left, the Daily Worker charged that Maltz was undermining class warfare, the core of Communism, and Lenin himself. The main stream media covered the attacks on Maltz that ultimately revealed the American Communist Party’s contempt for anyone that even slightly deviated from the official Party line; so much for the American Communists’ reverence for Freedom of Speech. Maltz, after two meetings that severely “re-educated” him, publicly clawed himself bloody for being guilty of revisionism and returned to his propaganda work. Maltz contributed to at least thirteen films between 1932 and 1973, including the Russian propaganda film Moscow Strikes Back in 1942.

Alvah Bessie – 1944 Number 47181

Bessie, who fought on the Soviet side in the Spanish Civil War, bragged about inserting Soviet propaganda that was “subversive as all hell” into the 1943 film Action in the North Atlantic.

Samuel Ornitz – 1944 Number 47181

Ornitz had been active in the “American Peace Mobilization” during the Hitler-Stalin Pact but quickly became a proponent for American entry into the war once Hitler broke the pact and attacked Russia.

Herbert Biberman – 1944 Number 47267

Biberman attacked U.S. aid to Britain so fiercely during the Hitler-Stalin Pact that an FBI agent suspected Biberman, who was in fact Jewish, of being a Nazi.

Edward Dmytryk – 1945 Number 47238

Dmytryk, a director of many successful movies, was the only one of the Hollywood Ten to ultimately renounce Communism completely.

Adrian Scott – 1945 Number 47200

Scott was one of seven members (also Trumbo, Lawson, Cole, Ornitz, Bessie and Lardner Jr.) of the Hollywood Ten to participate as facilitators in “writers’ clinics” to “improve” the material and quality of scripts with a heavy influence on “class warfare” and toward working the “Party line” into films.

Ring Lardner Jr. – 1944 Number 47180

Lardner, in his memoir published in the late 1970s, discusses his conversion to Marxism-Leninism and states that when he went out by himself in the evening in the 1940s “it was to attend a Communist meeting of one sort or another.”

Lester Cole – 1944 Number 47226

Cole boasted in his autobiography about putting “social realities” and his political “feelings” into Hollywood films. He and Lawson were founding participants in the birth of the Screen Writers Guild, along with Samson Raphaelson, Louis Weitzenkorn and John Bright. While the publicly presented reason for the organization was “improved working conditions”, the radicals wanted it to be an all-powerful union to further Soviet goals by calling strikes that would bring the movie moguls to their knees.

The League of American Writers’ biennial American Writers’ Congress

In January, 1935 a group of prominent American left-wing novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters issued a revolutionary “call” for a Congress because “The capitalist system crumbles so rapidly before our eyes that, whereas ten years ago scarcely more than a handful of writers were sufficiently far-sighted and courageous to take a stand for proletarian revolution, today hundreds of poets, novelists, dramatists, critics and short-story writers recognize the necessity of personally helping to accelerate the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of a workers’ government…”. There were three more congresses in 1937, 1939, and 1941.

Stalin’s “Peace” Agreement with Hitler

Three months after the Third American Writers’ Conference adjourned the August, 1939 pact between Hitler and Stalin precipitated a full reversal of the official Soviet line from “anti-Nazi” to “anti-war”. The new focus of the Soviets was to prevent the United States from becoming involved in freeing the captives of Hitler’s Third Reich. The Fourth American Writers’ Conference savaged the parties resisting Hitler and the nations overwhelmed by his armies as “imperialist” and “fascist”.

One of the absurd ironies of history was the signing of the “call” for the Fourth American Writers’ Congress by five Communists in the League of American Writers; Lawson, Bessie, Ornitz, Maltz and Cole. These five, who prided themselves on their Jewish heritage and their anti-fascism, appear to have had few qualms about abruptly siding with Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the greatest enemy of the Jewish people in history.

Supporting Comrades

Jack Warner, in charge of production at the Warner Brothers Studios at Burbank, California, was the leadoff witness at the HUAC hearings on October 20, 1947, 7 days after my birth. Warner identified several writers who were Communist or Un-American and who had tried, sometimes successfully to inject communist propaganda into films. They included dyed-in-the-wool Stalinists Alvah Bessie, Gordon Kahn, Guy Endore, Howard Koch, Ring Lardner, Jr., Emmet Lavery, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Robert Rossen, Irwin Shaw, Dalton Trumbo, and John Wexley.

The only person named by Warner who was not a Party member was screenwriter Howard Koch whose wife, however, was a member of a Hollywood Communist unit. Koch, who had worked on the celebrated film Casablanca, was persuaded to write the script of Mission to Moscow after Jack Warner told him about a recent dinner with FDR and the president’s pro-Soviet former ambassador to Moscow (1936-1938), Joseph Davies, who wrote the bestselling book, a whitewashing of Stalinist Russia. The President wanted the Warners to do a film based on Davies’s book to educate the American people on the “truth” about the Soviet Union. Koch’s technical advisor on the film was Party member and Soviet enthusiast Jay Leyda, a former employee of Moscow’s International Bureau of Revolutionary Literature and a contributing editor to New Theater magazine. Eugene Lyons, the famous United Press correspondent thoroughly disillusioned by his stint in Moscow in the 1930s, described New Theater magazine as the “focal center for a lusty Stalinist faction on Broadway and in Hollywood.” Leyda had been transferred from New York City along with his West Indian wife, Si-Lan Chen, who he had met and married in Russia.

Koch admitted to being associated with such Red fronts as the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, the Hollywood Writers Mobilization (when it was chaired by Communist screenwriter Robert Rossen), a committee for the defense of Communist longshoreman Harry Bridges, the National Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, the Progressive Party headed by Henry Wallace, and a “fund-raising committee for the National Guardian, a well-known Marxist publication. Anne Green, Koch’s wife, described herself as a “socialist” and raved that a man as rich a Davies could see so much that was good in a socialist country.

Communist Movie Stars

The list of Communist sympathizing movie stars included Charlie Chaplin, Olivia de Havilland, Theodore Dreiser, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Gene Kelly, Danny Kay, Jane Wyatt, June Havoc, Marsha Hunt, Richard Conte, Judy Garland, Joseph Cotton, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Robert Young, Lucille Ball, Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and Sterling Hayden, who had fought with the Communist Partisans in Yugoslavia against the Nazis.


I purchased this book the day I became aware of its being published. I wanted to know the extent to which Hollywood had undermined our country’s future at a time when our very existence was at stake. It was eye-opening to read about all of the Communists that were involved in writing movie scripts that presented outright lies about the Soviet Union’s history and culture. The number of movies outlined in the book that contained propaganda from these Communists is astounding. If you do nothing else, please go to the library and copy the pages that reveal these movies for what they were, Soviet Communist propaganda films. Lastly, the book confirmed my suspicions that FDR was a Red sympathizer and enabler, adding to my distaste for that particular President’s socialistic record.

My next read will be Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies.



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