Dore Schary: An Eyewitness Account of the Hollywood Blacklist Agreement
Independents Speak Out During the Blacklist
The following excerpt is from Dore Schary's autobiography Heyday,
one of the most famous retellings of the events of the so-called Waldorf
Declaration in which the blacklist policy was formalized at a meeting of the key
Hollywood figures. SIMPP president Donald Nelson was present at the meeting.
Despite opposition from SIMPP members Sam Goldwyn and
Walter Wanger, the Waldorf
Conference Statement was issued, and the blacklist began.
Excerpt from Heyday by Dore Schary
Once the hearings ended and the Hollywood Ten were cited for contempt by the
House, the Committee to Defend the First Amendment fell apart and Eric Johnston
called a meeting at the Waldorf in New York. The meeting, November 24, 1947, was
attended by the presidents of companies, and a regiment of lawyers.
Schary (left) and MPAA President Eric Johnston.
McNutt had been demoted (perhaps because his "political clout" had
not had much clout) and replaced as chief legal sachem by former Secretary of
State James Byrnes. In addition to New York executive heads, independents
such as Sam Goldwyn and Walter Wanger were invited. Along with Ned Depinet I
represented RKO; Nicholas Schenck, Mayer, Spyros Skouras, Barney Balaban, Jack
Cohn, B. B. Kahane, Y. Frank Freeman and Jack Warner were the big guns present.
Zanuck was not there. A congress of attorneys were also in attendance. Johnston
chaired the meeting. A sea change had taken place. Johnston had abandoned his
previous posture and, seemingly panicked by what he saw as a drastic change in
public opinion, was for a tough policy on the part of the industry. He talked to
the seventy to eighty people who were in the room as if we were members of an
industry manufacturing secret deadly weapons by employing Communists.
Johnston's opening salvo was followed by patriotic statements from Messrs.
Mayer, Freeman, Skouras, and a few others. Sam Goldwyn was bold enough to
suggest that there was an air of panic in the room. Goldwyn, ramrod straight,
bald headed, and with a slightly Oriental slant to his eyes, spoke sarcastically
and irritated Johnston, who responded with an angry speech concluding with the
cliche question asking us whether we were mice or men. He insisted that if the
motion-picture business wanted to earn the respect of the American public, the
ten men who had appeared plus any known, or believed to be, Communists had to be
That was my cue to speak up: the men involved at the hearing were not yet
proven guilty of anything — there was no law in the country denying the right
of any citizen to be a Communist; there was no proof any of these men had
advocated the overthrow of the government by force or violence; we had insisted
there had been no Communist propagandizing in films, hence, the men in question
could not be guilty of that arcane crime; we would dishonor and not honor our
industry by an action that would inevitably lead to a blacklist.
My remarks provoked another angry outburst from Johnston and one by Skouras.
However, Walter Wanger demanded the floor and he barged into Johnston,
supporting my list of reasons for not rushing into a maelstrom. Then Goldwyn
chipped in again, this time with anger and a statement that he would not be
allied to any such nonsense as that proposed by Johnston.
The biggest surprise comment came from Eddie Mannix, the general manager of
MGM studios. Eddie was once a bouncer for the Schenck brothers' enterprise at
Palisades Park. He was a tough man, physically and emotionally, had a rugged
temper, iron fists, and an enormous appetite for liquor and women. (Years later,
following a series of ten heart attacks, after which he still kept up his
drinking, cigar smoking, and womanizing, he said to me, "When I go, I want
to be in the saddle humping, with a glass of booze in one hand and a cigar in my
mouth." It was a complicated image of indulgence that I have never quite
assembled in my mind.)
Eddie was one of those who believed it would have been sensible for the
Allies to turn on Russia after Hitler was wiped out and finish them off while
they were in a position to be had. Therefore, none of us expected Eddie to say
that he opposed firing the ten men. But Eddie argued that there was a state law
in California that prohibited an employer from firing anyone because of his
political ideas, and Eddie added that he would not break the law.
It was now time for Jimmy Byrnes to speak up. He doubted that any government
official "would argue with the decision of the industry to get rid of
'Reds.' " Not only that — the men could be relieved of their jobs because
of the contractual "morals" clause on the basis that their behavior
had brought disrepute on the industry. (This morals clause existed in all talent
contracts and was a device that came in with the advent of the Legion of Decency
but has, in view of present-day standards, become extinct.)
That heated up the meeting, with Goldwyn, Wanger, and me providing some of
the coal. Finally, Johnston, who had been slapping his hotel key on the table as
he made his arguments, became furious and threw his key down as a gage of battle
and threatened to quit unless the industry came to its senses.
No vote was ever taken. It was Johnston's threat plus Byrnes's argument that
had won the decision to discharge those cited. I said I would not be a party to
the action — so did Goldwyn and Wanger, but we won no support. A committee was
appointed to draft a statement. Mendel Silberberg, who was chairman, asked that
I, as a spokesman for the opposition, be a member. It was an assignment I did
not want, but Goldwyn whispered, "Do it — maybe they won't go
crazy." The statement is inconsistent, probably because I helped make it so
by protesting the first four paragraphs and aiding in writing the last four, in
the hope that I could persuade the guilds to form a defense barrier to prevent
wholesale firings and investigations. That foggy hope served to make me a target
for the right and the left. I should never have listened to Goldwyn.
CLICK HERE to read the full text of the Waldorf
One newspaper, in Los Angeles, ran a banner headline printed in bright
crimson that proclaimed: STUDIO HEAD SAYS HE WILL HIRE REDS.
Later, when I appeared at the Writers Guild and stated that I opposed the
studio policy but supported the effort to form some sort of talent guild council
to stave off reckless indictments, I was clobbered. The nicest name I was called
was "thief." Those bold members who stood up to defend me were either
booed or silently rejected.
Floyd Odlum, the chairman of RKO, called me and asked for an explanation of
my stand. Having been given the background, including Johnston's previous
position for the industry to stand firm, Odlum wanted to know why the industry
was not defending me against the rocks hurled at me. I had no answer for
that.& informed me that there was to be a meeting of the RKO board in the
Town House in Los Angeles in a few days.
Before that meeting took place eight of the now-called Hollywood Ten had been
fired by Metro, Warners, and Twentieth-Fox, or if not employed, had been told
they were unemployable.
I had not taken action against Scott and Dymytryk.
Peter Rathvon as president of the company chaired the board meeting and the
matter in question was why I had not yet fired the two of the Ten at RKO. After
I explained my position, Odlum said that he respected my point of view but
disagreed with me and that there would be a vote of the board: to discharge or
not discharge the accused men. When a vote was taken, I asked that my nay be
recorded in the minutes. That done I told the board I would not execute the
order to fire Scott and Dymytryk. Odlum was patient. He told Rathvon to do the
firing. When the meeting was broken up, Odlum told me that the motion-picture
business was one he would never understand. Two days later, he issued a
statement defending me and by implication attacking Johnston for not publicly
coming to my defense.
The entire episode was my first serious encounter with the heavyweights in
the motion-picture structure, teaching me that in a clutch, if you swam against
the tide, it was, "So long, Charlie, you should have hung on to the
raft." There were those who thought that as a matter of principle, I should
resign. I mulled that over and came to the conclusion that it would be more
helpful to remain in the business and fight against the blacklisting; also,
since the waters had been muddied by HUAC, the Hollywood Ten, and the producers,
my resignation would in no way clarify the issue.
There is some doubt that this account will straighten the record. Perhaps it
is just as well. Those who attacked me — Hedda Hopper, Jack Tenney, Westbrook
Pegler, George Sokolsky on one side and spokesmen for the far left on the other
— demonstrated what the position of liberals in politics has always been and
will likely forever remain: they will be rejected for not having accepted the
Then along came Howard Hughes.
Schary, Dore. Heyday: An Autobiography. Boston: Little,
Brown, 1979, pp. 164-167.