Skirball Cultural Center reveals details of the West Coast debut of Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare
May 4–September 3, 2023
Tickets on sale Thursday, April 6, at 10:00 am PDT
LOS ANGELES, CA—The Skirball Cultural Center reveals details of the West Coast debut of Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare, opening Thursday, May 4, and on view until Sunday, September 3, 2023. Tickets go on sale Thursday, April 6, at 10:00 am PDT.
Developed by the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, and expanded by the Skirball Cultural Center for its presentation in Los Angeles, Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare thoroughly examines the proceedings, investigations, motives, and choices of the people impacted by the Blacklist—including many Jewish creatives and executives who suffered under, and enforced it. The exhibition explores, in depth, this defining moment in American history and the contemporary implications for civil liberties, propaganda, government overreach, the rule of law, and the shifting definitions of patriotism.
In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) called on Hollywood figures to testify about allegations of Communist propaganda in American films. Forty-five witnesses were subpoenaed, nineteen of whom were suspected Communists. The Committee asked eleven to testify before Congress. Writer Bertolt Brecht answered the Committee’s questions and quickly left the country. The remaining ten witnesses—eight screenwriters, one director, and one producer—refused to answer HUAC’s questions. The Committee charged them with contempt of Congress, sentenced them to one year in jail, and the media labeled them “The Hollywood Ten.”
A month after the HUAC Hearings, Hollywood executives and politicians met behind closed doors at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Studio heads caved to political and financial pressure, issuing a statement that they would not hire people connected with the Communist Party. The Hollywood Ten were fired based on morality clauses in their contracts and the film industry became the watchdog for employee behavior, and the first mass employer to adopt a Blacklist against those whose political beliefs ran counter to prevailing ideals. As a result, hundreds of people lost their jobs and livelihoods, and many families were torn apart. This set a precedent that other industries followed.
The collective failures of government and industry denied individuals’ civil liberties—speech, association, and assembly—that are all protected under the First Amendment. The Blacklist flourished when corporate and political interests superseded the freedoms explicitly protected in the Constitution.
Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare is an emotionally complex and compelling exhibition where film and civic history collide, examining the devastating impact of the people caught in the crosshairs, and demonstrating how the politics of Hollywood can also shape the entire country.
“What’s most striking about Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare, to me, are the persistent themes we still grapple with in today’s society,” said Skirball Vice President and Museum Director, Sheri Bernstein. “Two of the Skirball Cultural Center’s core values are to pursue justice and honor memory. By presenting this exhibition at the present moment, we are shining light on the impact of restricting civil liberties, and on the sharply different decisions made in the name of patriotism. We hope to inspire those both familiar and unfamiliar with the Hollywood Blacklist to help build a more just, fair, and lawful future.”
Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare features more than 100 artifacts, including letters, telegrams, historical press coverage, court documents, film costumes, movie posters, artwork, and Oscar statuettes. Highlights of items on view include:
- Telegram organizing what would become known as the Waldorf Conference, from the office of Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios.
- Lauren Bacall’s costume from How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske into a Jewish household in the Bronx, NY, founded the Committee for the First Amendment to support The Hollywood Ten with Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly, and others.
- Typewriter ribbon tins with personal items belonging to Hollywood Ten screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, collected during his incarceration.
- Original scripts, including: Spartacus, written by Dalton Trumbo; The Defiant Ones, written by “Nathan E. Douglas,” a front used by Blacklisted writer Nedrick Young; and The Degenerate written by Lenny Bruce and Alvah Bessie, although only Bruce is credited.
- Original storyboard drawings for Salt of the Earth, made by a group of Blacklisted filmmakers. Upon release, the film was boycotted by most theaters in the US, but was successful in Europe and rediscovered domestically after the Blacklist ended.
- Dalton Trumbo’s 1953 Oscar statuette for Best Original Story for Roman Holiday. At the time, Academy members did not know they were honoring a Blacklistee. Trumbo’s wife Cleo Trumbo accepted the Oscar, awarded for her husband posthumously in 1993, forty years after the film’s release.
- Dalton Trumbo’s 1956 Oscar statuette for Best Original Story for The Brave One which was awarded to the fictitious “Robert Rich” and sat unclaimed until 1975.
- Original movie posters from creatives associated with the Blacklist including Roman Holiday, The Brave One, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Today, the Skirball also announces two series of films inspired by the exhibition: a double-feature series called Behind the Blacklist and the ever-popular Outdoor Movies at the Skirball. Both series include admission to the exhibition.
- Behind the Blacklist digs into the history and impact of the Hollywood Red Scare through monthly double-feature matinées. Programmed in collaboration with noted film historian, author, and cinema host Alan K. Rode, these programs feature conversations with film historians, filmmakers, and family members of Blacklisted creatives.
- Outdoor Movies at the Skirball returns with three Friday night screenings in the Skirball’s picturesque courtyard.
“Presenting film programs in conjunction with Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare is a must,” stated Marlene Braga, Skirball Vice President of Programs. “Our objective is to celebrate the magnificent work of Blacklisted filmmakers, demonstrating the depth and breadth of creativity that flourished despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It is a genuine pleasure working with film historian Alan K. Rode to curate our Behind the Blacklist double features.”
Sunday, May 7, 11:00 am
Trumbo (2007) and The Prowler (1951)
Celebrate the opening of Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare with a double feature focusing on the award-winning Blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Delve into Trumbo’s story in his own words with the 2007 documentary Trumbo, featuring Joan Allen, Nathan Lane, Liam Neeson, and more reading his letters; and a lesser-known Trumbo-penned noir, The Prowler, in which a policeman's obsession with a married woman leads to murder.
Sunday, June 11, 11:00 am
Hollywood on Trial (1976) and Crossfire (1947)
Oscar-nominated Hollywood on Trial documents the 1947 HUAC Hearings featuring archival footage and interviews with directors, screenwriters, and producers who were targeted. Crossfire, directed by one of the Hollywood Ten, Edward Dmytryk, starkly examines antisemitism in the US military. In between films, hear from Thomas Doherty, professor of American studies at Brandeis University and cultural historian focusing on Hollywood cinema.
Sunday, July 9, 11:00 am
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and Force of Evil (1948)
See two classic films by Blacklisted screenwriter and director Abraham Polonsky: the action-packed heist flick Odds Against Tomorrow, starring Hollywood legends Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, and Ed Begley; and Force of Evil, a poetic urban saga about a lawyer embroiled in a scheme to control "the numbers racket" in New York City. In between films, hear from Polonsky’s son, Hank Polonsky, about his father's experience with the Hollywood Red Scare and its impact on their family.
Sunday, August 20, 11:00 am
The Breaking Point (1950) and Body and Soul (1947)
The final Behind the Blacklist double feature presents two thrilling noirs starring John Garfield: The Breaking Point, an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not, and Body and Soul, in which Garfield portrays an up-and-coming boxer whose unbridled ambition forces hard choices of personal loyalty.
Friday, June 9, 8:30 pm
Roman Holiday (1953)
The Oscar-winning film Roman Holiday exemplifies the incredible talent of Blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who penned this unforgettable romantic comedy. With spectacular performances from Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, experience the magic of the Eternal City as we follow the adventures of a princess and a journalist on the streets of Rome.
Friday, June 23, 8:30 pm
High Noon (1952)
This masterful Western starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly will have you on the edge of your seat as a town marshal comes up against a band of outlaws plotting to kill him. Written as an allegory for the Hollywood Red Scare by Blacklisted writer Carl Foreman, High Noon is a rare and brave film that dared to challenge the political climate of the time.
Friday, July 7, 8:30 pm
The Way We Were (1973)
Celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of The Way We Were featuring iconic performances by Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. The Oscar-winning film, directed by Sydney Pollack, was written by Arthur Laurents who based both his original novel and the subsequent screenplay on his experiences with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Ticketing for the Spring 2023 Exhibitions:
Tickets for Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare will be released on Thursday, April 6, at 10:00 am PDT. Special pricing: $18 General; $15 Seniors, Full-Time Students, and Children over 12; $13 Children 2–12. General admission and tickets to Noah’s Ark at the Skirball: $12 General; $9 Seniors, Full-Time Students, and Children over 12; $7 Children 2–12. Exhibitions are always free to Skirball Members and Children under 2.
Peter Krasnow: Breathing Joy and Light and Chloë Bass: Wayfinding will be included with admission to Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare, Noah’s Ark at the Skirball, or as part of general admission. Advance timed-entry reservations are recommended for Noah’s Ark at the Skirball and Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare; tickets for these exhibitions will be sold separately.
Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare and its related educational programs at the Skirball Cultural Center are made possible by generous support from the following donors:
The Stanley and Joyce Black Family Foundation
Harold and Stephanie Bronson
Engaging the Senses Foundation
Glaser Weil, LLP
Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary
The Keston Family
In Memory of George Litto by Andria Litto
TZ Projects & Friends
Peter and Julie Weil
About the Skirball:
The Skirball Cultural Center is a place of meeting guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger and inspired by the American democratic ideals of freedom and equality. We welcome people of all communities and generations to participate in cultural experiences that celebrate discovery and hope, foster human connections, and call upon us to help build a more just society.
Visiting the Skirball:
The Skirball is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049. Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12:00–5:00 pm; Saturday–Sunday, 10:00 am–5:00 pm; closed Mondays and holidays. Parking is free. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit skirball.org.