BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA.com) — During the McCarthy era, the Hollywood Blacklist ruined the careers of many writers, actors and directors who were accused of being communists.
The son of the founder of The Hollywood Reporter publicly apologized Monday for his father’s part in the witch hunts.
One of the remaining victims, Norma Barzman, said her recollection of Hollywood’s dark past is clear.
“Ten marvelous people went to jail: writers, directors, producers.”
The 1947 Hollywood Blacklist killed many careers of those suspected of being communist.
“Most of the people who were involved in the Blacklist are no longer alive, but they were severely harmed. Their families, the people they worked with will never forget this shameful period,” entertainment journalist Jeanne Wolf said. “I think all an apology can do at this point is open some very tender wounds, and, also, remind us that this isn’t a fictional story. This is a reality. People’s lives, careers were completely destroyed.”
Barzman wrote the film “Finishing School”, but after she was labeled a communist in 1951, the studio changed the name to “Luxury Girls.”
“Instead of my name, they put the Italian who translated it. That was one of the biggest disappointments and hurts of the blacklist,” Barzman said.
The writer had been living and working with her husband, director Ben Barzman, in Paris.
“Picasso hugged me and said, ‘We are the same.’ And I said, ‘The same?’ And he roared, ‘Exiles who don’t know yet they’re exiles.’”
Aligned with communist ideals, the couple couldn’t return to the U.S. and spent the next 30 years living in France, working in Europe and raising seven children.
Now, 65 years after the Blacklist, the son of THR’s founder, Willie Wilkerson, apologized for the trade paper’s role in the witch hunt.
“Nobody has apologized to these people. They need an apology. I know that, if I were on the receiving end, I would like to receive an apology,” Willie Wilkerson told CBS2/KCAL9 over Skype.
In an article published by The Hollywood Reporter, the 61-year-old said his father, Billy Wilkerson, supported the Blacklist to exact revenge against studio executives, who he felt squashed his dream when he tried to start a movie studio in the 1920s.
“He wanted to retaliate against the movie moguls who had shut him out in 1927. He wanted a career in the movie industry, he wanted to start his own studio…The movie moguls messed with the wrong person. My father made it a vendetta to get back to them,” Wilkerson said.
As fear of communism swept the nation, the THR founder used the paper as a vehicle to accuse Hollywood writers, producers and actors of being communist activists.
It’s a sensitive topic for Barzman.
“The apology just gets me furious! I think it’s just below comment,” Barzman said.
She penned a book, “The Red And Blacklist,” full of commentary on a dark period that went beyond political persecution.
“I love America, but I have seen terrible periods, like the period of the Blacklist,” Barzman said.
In 1979, she and her husband moved back to Los Angeles. Although they sold a few scripts, she and her husband were never hired to write a movie again.