Cinema: Operation Hollywood

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In its fourth week of analyzing Communism's conspiracy in Hollywood, the House Un-American Activities Committee came upon an unexpected find. He was Director Edward Dmytryk, one of the "unfriendly ten" who served jail terms when they refused to tell the committee in 1947 whether or not they were Communists. This time Dmytryk not only admitted membership in the party in 1944-45; he also gave the committee a longer list of party members (26) than any other witness to date and the best summary yet of the Communists' "Operation Hollywood."

Witness Dmytryk got right down to cases. He got into the party, he announced, out of a desire to do something for humanity. What the party wanted of him and of Hollywood, he said, was nothing less than eventual control of the content of films, through infiltration of the talent unions. Chief tactical aim on the way to the strategic objective: getting money and the prestige value of big Hollywood names.

Like earlier witnesses, Dmytryk was sure that the party backers had never really gotten within shooting distance of their main goal. They managed to get enough card carriers on the board of the Screen Writers' Guild to control it for a time, and they set off the studio strike of 1945. But no Red ever got on the board of the Screen Directors' Guild (he was one who tried). Said Dmytryk: "There was never effective control over a major studio executive or at any time effective control over the content of films."

But the party did collect plenty of cash and names. "I think," said Dmytryk, "a great deal of money was taken out of Hollywood, particularly during the love feast during the war." And, said Dmytryk, there were plenty of big names in the party: Writer John Howard Lawson (another member of the "unfriendly ten," whom Dmytryk described as onetime "high lama of the party"), Directors Frank (College Holiday) Tuttle, Jules (The Naked City) Dassin, and Michael (Cyrano de Bergerac) Gordon.

Dmytryk finally left the party when he was disciplined for cutting "undramatic" anti-fascist speeches from Cornered. He had refused to answer the committee's questions in 1947, he said, because it seemed a matter of civil rights. The Korean war made him doubt the sincerity of the Communist peace propaganda; the latest round of spy trials decided him. Said Dmytryk with the surprised air of a man discovering sin for the first time: "This is treason and it means the party is committing treason. For this reason, I am willing to talk today."