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Hollywood on Trial (1976)

Not Rated | | Documentary | November 1976 (USA)
The documentary analyzes a dark period in Hollywood's history due to the Red Scare of the 1940's and 1950's, when actors, writers and directors were persecuted and investigated by the House... See full summary »

Director:

David Helpern (as David Helpern Jr.)

Writer:

Arnie Reisman
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Walter Bernstein Walter Bernstein ... Himself - Interviewee
Alvah Bessie Alvah Bessie ... Himself - Interviewee
Lester Cole Lester Cole ... Himself - Interviewee
Howard Da Silva ... Himself - Interviewee
Edward Dmytryk ... Himself - Interviewee
Millard Lampell Millard Lampell ... Himself - Interviewee
Ring Lardner Jr. Ring Lardner Jr. ... Himself - Interviewee
Albert Maltz Albert Maltz ... Himself - Interviewee
Ben Margolis Ben Margolis ... Himself - Interviewee
Zero Mostel ... Himself - Interviewee
Otto Preminger ... Himself - Interviewee
Ronald Reagan ... Himself - Interviewee
Martin Ritt ... Himself - Interviewee
Gale Sondergaard ... Herself - Interviewee
Leo Townsend Leo Townsend ... Himself - Interviewee
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Storyline

The documentary analyzes a dark period in Hollywood's history due to the Red Scare of the 1940's and 1950's, when actors, writers and directors were persecuted and investigated by the House of Un-American Activities Committee after being considered suspects of committing Anti-American acts by preaching the Communism in their films and television shows. Written by Rodrigo Amaro

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

November 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hollywood przed sadem See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Over 50 people were interviewed for the documentary. See more »

Connections

References Murder, My Sweet (1944) See more »

Soundtracks

By a Waterfall
(uncredited)
Music by Sammy Fain
Played during a clip from Footlight Parade (1933)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An important and historical register on Hollywood's red scare
9 September 2015 | by Rodrigo_AmaroSee all my reviews

"Hollywood on Trial" presents a detailed account on one of the darkest and most shameful periods of Hollywood history with the red scare and the House of Un-American Activities Committee investigation on writers, directors, actors and others who were considered subversive and sympathizers of the Communism. Narrated by the great John Huston, the documentary gives us an insightful chronology of events about the committee's works, from the Hollywood Ten trails and imprisonment, to the loud hearings of the 1950's involving not only the persecuted figures but also friendly witnesses of the committee who helped them by denouncing their friends and colleagues on the industry in order to whether keep the Communists away from the movies or to guarantee their future safe in the film business by not being blacklisted.

David Helpern's film was released in 1976, same year Martin Ritt's "The Front" introduced the period to new audiences with a story focusing a persecuted writer, played by Woody Allen, who continues to write his movies, despite being blacklisted, by asking his friends to be his front and take credit for his productions. A year before both movies, the House of Un-American Activities ceased their works and by that time many of the people imprisoned due to their investigations and prosecutions already had ended their jail sentences but Hollywood was still touchy in remembering that era, with only a few notable individuals returning their careers back on track.

Interviewed here are some of the Hollywood Ten such as Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr., Lester Cole (the whole group can be seen in "The Hollywood Ten" documentary, with some clips introduced here), a brief interview with Zero Mostel who was persecuted in real life and also plays a pivotal dramatical role in "The Front" - his interview was right on Ritt's film set; and there's also the voice from members of the committee, and Edward Dmytryk, film director who named names and continued his career in the 1950's to much acclaim. The first mentioned people are known for their bravery and courage while taking the fifth amendment and refusing to testify to the committee on personal and moral grounds, a true act of defiance that cost them deeply with years in jail and being shut out of Hollywood for a period, with many of them writing films with the use of a front (Dalton Trumbo wrote "The Brave One", won an Oscar but the award was given to the name who received the credits on screen, someone who didn't exist, actually. Many years later, the Academy gave him the award and stated him as the one who wrote the movie). Their testimony to the movie is the one that captures our attention for the details they provide about how they survived through this dark moment, how they were incredibly secure about their thoughts and actions, rarely frightened of the possibility of losing everything and go to jail for their freedom of speech. Even though, it's years later from all that, they never admit in the film about being Communists or sympathizers so it feels like a lot like "Guilty by Suspicion" (1991), a case where liberal figures were put along next to the Reds simply for defending positive ideals that weren't the norm back in the 1950's. Dmytryk, on the other side of the fence, isn't much passionate or compelling about why he acted that way, throwing his fellow colleagues into the mud. Kazan isn't even here.

Mr. Halpern's film is a great historical lesson to those who doesn't know anything or know very little about Hollywood's witch hunt, it presents facts and informations without overcharging the viewers with too much information, it's all very precise, amazingly rich in images of the period, the films responsible for scaring audiences about the perils of the URSS regime, plus the interviews in the 1970's. A must-see. 9/10


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