Hear Billy Wilkerson’s son and blacklisted actress March Hunt on KCRW’s Which Way, LA? – Click HERE.
Hollywood exists in a miasma of fear and insecurity, and in such an environment, it’s easy to turn people against each other. And that is exactly what happened in the Red Scare of the late ’50′s.
One of the elements of this horror story that I wasn’t aware of was how The Hollywood Reporter helped make the Blacklist possible.
THR‘s own role in fomenting the Blacklist has long been overlooked: obscured by scholars and, out of shame, for decades never properly addressed in this publication’s pages. (Legendary THR owner Billy) Wilkerson’s key advocacy is at most a footnote in the definitive book-length histories of the period, yet his unsparing campaign, launched early on and from the heart of the movie colony — the front page of one of its two daily trade papers — was crucial to what followed. There eventually might have been a Hollywood Blacklist without Wilkerson, but in all likelihood, it wouldn’t have looked quite the same, or materialized quite when it did, without his indomitable support.
That’s how the Reporter itself put it in a recent set of articles. Call it brave, call it a great publicity stunt, but I was riveted by the story and additional materials, like Sean Penn’s story about his blacklisted dad and the following video.
That dark period in Hollywood history was the result of a particular time in American history plus the odd origins of a young industry. But Hollywood is still a fearful and insecure place and we live in uncertain and often outrageous political times. It’s not beyond the pale to suggest that something like the Blacklist – or something totally unlike it but equally depraved - could happen even now. Read and learn…it’s our best defense against making such life-destroying mistakes sagain.