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Scandalize My Name: Stories from the Blacklist (1998)

TV-PG | | Documentary
A documentary look at the confluence of the Red scare, McCarthyism, and blacklists with the post-war activism by African Americans seeking more and better roles on radio, television, and ... See full summary »


Alexandra Isles


Alexandra Isles (as Alexandra M. Isles)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Morgan Freeman ... Self - Host
Rosetta LeNoire ... Self
Dick Campbell Dick Campbell ... Self
Frederick O'Neal ... Self
Ossie Davis ... Self
Harry Belafonte ... Self
Paul Robeson ... Self (archive footage)
Joseph Wershba Joseph Wershba ... Self (broadcast journalist)
J. Edgar Hoover ... Self (archive footage)
Jackie Robinson ... Self (archive footage)
Gregory Abbott Gregory Abbott ... Newsreel Narrator (voice) (archive sound)
Erik Barnouw Erik Barnouw ... Self (broadcast historian)
Hazel Scott ... Self (archive footage)
Adam Clayton Powell III Adam Clayton Powell III ... Self (son of Hazel Scott)
Fred Waring ... Self (archive footage)


A documentary look at the confluence of the Red scare, McCarthyism, and blacklists with the post-war activism by African Americans seeking more and better roles on radio, television, and stage. It begins in Harlem, measures the impact of Paul Robeson and the campaign to bring him down, looks at the role of HUAC, J. Edgar Hoover and of journalists such as Ed Sullivan, and ends with a tribute to Canada Lee. Throughout are interviews with men and women who were there, including Dick Campbell of the Rose McLendon Players and Fredrick O'Neal of the American Negro Theatre. In the 1940s and 1950s, anti-Communism was one more tool to maintain Jim Crow and to keep down African-Americans. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Self - Host: [When Jackie Robinson testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he said something that was taken out of the newsreel. He said:] The fact that it is a communist who denounces injustices in courts, police brutality and lynching, doesn't change the truth of these charges. Just because communists kick up a big fuss over racial discrimination when it suits their purposes, a lot of people pretend that the whole issue is a creation of the communists imagination and talk about ...
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Brilliant and terribly sad
14 September 2010 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

"Scandalize My Name" is a documentary from 1998 that details the blacklisting during the Communist era of prominent blacks who held some of the same beliefs that Communists did, and therefore were a great target for McCarthy. You know, beliefs like equality, subversive things like that.

Hosted by Morgan Freeman, there are interviews with Ossie Davis, Rosetta LeNoire, Dick Campbell (who had a black theater company), Harry Belafonte and others about that time in America, post-war, when blacks believed that after serving their country, their role in society would change. It did - they were branded communists.

The focus is on, for one, the great singer and actor Paul Robeson. Treated like a god when he gave concerts in the Soviet Union and not really having an idea of what was going on there, some of his statements were taken as commie-loving, and his career was pretty much ruined, although eventually the state department gave him a passport so he could continue performing in Europe, where he was revered. After his career in the U.S. dried up, he attempted suicide and turned to drugs. Because of his influence and fame, he was a good one to stomp on, and stomp the Hoover-McCarthy side did.

Another focus is on the beautiful, vivacious, and talented Hazel Scott, who had her own radio show and made films. As the wife of Adam Clayton Powell, she, too became a target and was silenced, and eventually continued her career in Paris. Fortunately she lived long enough to enjoy a comeback in the U.S. in the '60s. Another target was the brilliant stage and film actor Canada Lee, whose death in 1953 was surely exacerbated by the blacklist and heartache over the accusations.

Scott and Lee were proactive - though not subpoenaed, they stated their cases before the House of Unamerican Activities. It did them no good. Willie Mays, pressured to speak out against Robeson, didn't help either. At the end of the documentary, Freeman reads what was left out of the Mays testimony in the newsreel, which certainly tempered what he said.

I admit that this is a side of the blacklist that I didn't know much about, and it's shameful and disturbing. Sometimes I read comments on this board and realize that people don't understand what went on. Yes, there probably was Communist influence in the entertainment industry. And there's no doubt that people were terrified of Communism when I was growing up. But you could make the book "Red Channels" if you went to the funeral of a suspected Communist. You could get in there over nothing and be denied work. If you went to a communist meeting in the 1930s, just to see what it was about, in the 1950s you could be blacklisted. Hazel Scott was accused of entertaining Russian troops during World War II...when they were our allies and she entertained combined forces.

If you get a chance to see this, don't miss this documentary about a very, very ugly time.

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