8 television stars who were affected by the Red Scare and Hollywood blacklist
On June 22, 1950, the right-wing publication Counterattack printed a pamphlet that would change the entertainment industry, if not American society itself. Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television listed 151 professionals in the entertainment industry, branding them Communists.
The accusations split Hollywood, leading studios to blacklist supposedly leftist actors and creators, while others, like Barbra Stanwyck, would join pro-blacklist groups such as the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.
Many stars would testify before Congress and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Careers were derailed. Some were branded sellouts. Some were able to avoid the stigma. The Red Scare will forever remain one of Hollywood's darkest chapters. Here are some notable actors you might not realize were accused of communism.
The reddest thing about Lucy is her hair. In 1953, Ball gave sealed testimony to HUAC investigator William A. Wheeler, due to a minor issue of paperwork from two decades prior. When registering to vote in 1936, Ball listed her party affiliation as Communist, but swore that she did so at the insistence of her socialist grandfather. Fortunately, J. Edgar Hoover was a big fan of I Love Lucy. But who wasn't?
Image: AP Photo
The Green Acres star was painted into a red corner when his name was listed in Red Channels. His wife, the actress Margo, was openly on the left. Albert was able to overcome the blacklisting thanks to his heroic efforts in World War II, though his Mexican-born spouse saw her career greatly suffer.
Image: MGM Television
Best known as grandpa Zeb Walton on The Waltons, Geer saw his roles greatly diminish in the 1950s after being named in Red Channels. The man on the right in the photo certainly didn't seem to trust the Western actor. Geer would pass away during the production of The Waltons.
Image: AP Photo
The Penguin was labeled a villain in real life, as well. That would explain the sizeable gaps in the actor's filmography during the 1950s. Meredith turned to the stage and voice work during the Red Scare. Thankfully, McCarthyism faded away, as we can't imaging Batman and The Twilight Zone without him.
If the name seems obscure to you, blame the blacklist. Kelton was an original Honeymooner, the first to play Alice Kramden. She gave the character a darker twist, and it would have been fascinating to see how the show would have differed with her permanently in the role. When The Honeymooners moved to CBS, Kelton was removed from the cast, because of being named in Red Channels. Gleason covered for her by spreading misinformation that she left due to heart trouble.
With an Oscar and Emmys on her mantle, Grant might seem like an unlikely victim of the blacklist. Grant refused to testify against her husband before the HUAC, and lost work for more than a decade in Hollywood. The difficult period would long haunt her, yet she was able to overcome, scoring roles in Peyton Place and her own sitcom, Fay. She took home an Emmy for Peyton, and was nominated for another after a guest appearance on Columbo — just to name a couple of her well-earned honors.
Image: AP Photo/David F. Smith
The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You? creator, pictured on the right with Silvers, was able to clear the blacklist. The progressive Hiken would thankfully continue to push boundaries, casting another blacklisted actor, Ossie Davis, in Car 54.
Image: AP Photo
The great Western actor, pictured left, who portrayed Jed Colby on Rawhide, was not going to go down without a fight. After being blacklisted, Ireland sued two TV producers for slander and breach of contract. He had been deemed “politically unacceptable.” He earned a cash settlement. He also appeared in Spartacus, the cinema classic written by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.