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In early 1938, writer and activist Ella Winter took stock of the momentous political awakening in the film community in Hollywood. Once the wife of Lincoln Steffens, Winter was now married to screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart, which gave her a unique outsiders' perspective on the idiosyncrasies of the Hollywood community. In an essay published in The New Republic, she wrote that "[t]here is hardly a tea party today, or a cocktail gathering, a studio lunch table or dinner even at a producer's house, at which you do not hear agitated discussion, talk of 'freedom' and 'suppression,' talk of tyranny and the Constitution, of war, of world economy and political theory." Winter used her essay to remind the artists of the labor struggles in California, the threat of vigilante violence, and the raw coercion that the Growers' Associations and local authorities wielded against any effort to organize agricultural workers. Reviewing the genesis of activism in the film community, she highlighted the contributions of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, which Stewart just happened to chair. The frenetic activism of the elites had galvanized some forty other craft guilds into action, encouraging them to apply for certification from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). "It appears that the very salaries which were meant to keep movie people contented and drugged in their golden-goose existence have made them aware of the essential powerlessness in the modern world of mere triple garages and double feather beds." Wealth had not purchased nearly as much power as the Hollywood parvenu might have imagined. (1)

Winter's whimsical account of Hollywood activism did not preclude a sincere commitment to social democracy and anti-fascist activism. Nonetheless, this commitment has frequently been lost in treatments of the Hollywood Left. Historians have sought to revise the caricatures of fellow-traveling bons vivants parroting the Stalinist line, but the image persists, in part because of a resilient strain of anti-communism in the literature. (2)

It also persists because of the relative lack of attention to the grass-roots organizing engaged in by Hollywood activists and their allies as part of their campaign to move the New Deal to the left. By exploring the front-line community organizing and political mobilization of groups such as the Motion Picture Democratic Committee, we move beyond some of the more invidious generalizations about Hollywood activism toward an understanding of how screenwriters, actors, musicians, and stage hands built a network of political action grounded in local issues, but tied to a national network of social democratic action. At the same time, we come to see that the alliance of 'liberals' and 'radicals' was more than the sum of its parts. In the ideologically amorphous era of popular front activism, when socialists and independent leftists coordinated with communists and New Deal liberals in multiple campaigns, the left in the film community forged a social democratic movement rooted in its commitment to working-class democracy. More than reformers, but something other than subversives, these activist intellectuals built alliances to a mass movement that aimed at a structural transformation of American society. (3) Paralleling the white-collar activism of popular front groups such as the National Lawyers Guild, and engaging in what historian Michael Denning has described as the "politics of labor defense," Hollywood activists helped build a movement for economic democracy and racial equality that measurably advanced the working-class movement of the era. (4)


In the precis of what Winter hoped would develop into a book, she foregrounded the anti-fascist organizations that had transformed celebrities like Dorothy Parker, Gloria Stuart, and Eddie Cantor into political neophytes. This was not mere political dilettantism. What impressed Winter--a cosmopolitan, left bohemian if there ever was one--was the evidence that Hollywood had "grown conscious of the outside world." Rather than charity, the anti-fascist activity, assistance to political refugees, financial and moral support for migratory workers, and consumer boycott campaigns expressed "an organized movement for social betterment to be attained through political action." She was the first to acknowledge the amusing contradictions between Hollywood frivolity and political engagement. As Winter--who was either a Communist Party member or at least one of its most vigorous supporters--wrote to Sam Darcy, district 13 organizer of the CPUS A in California, "There's so very much nonsense. Worst is the velvet curtain, though, not in whose folds shots are muffled, but certainly the groans and cries of the frustrated and suffocated (suffocated in the most expensive mink, you understand. Drowned in the bluest and most beautiful, clear swimming pools)." (5) Winter poked fun at swimming pool socialists, but she was simultaneously impressed by the "use [of] the national and international prestige of the Hollywood movie people... for progressive ends." (6) Here was a pragmatic assessment of why Hollywood mattered at all in the movement for social democracy: Celebrity appeal could be utilized as a weapon in the class struggle.

Winter was attentive to the network of progressive organizations that tied the Hollywood community to the larger labor movement. In her proposal, she highlighted the "League of Women Shoppers," a key progressive organization in the 1930s dedicated to defending the interests of consumers and workers through on-site inspections of retail outlets by motivated volunteers. In its national coordination, its local, activist focus, its links to the film community, and its unerring orientation toward labor, the League of Women Shoppers exemplified Hollywood activism. Fashion shows and turns on the picket line with the likes of Dorothy Parker and Gloria Stewart provided invaluable star appeal for this local chapter. Yet the League also sent a delegation to testify before La Follette's Senate Committee on Education and Labor in order to defend the integrity of the Wagner Act. The League could not have been more prescient in its belief that "the greatest danger to the Act is that if it is opened to amendment, no matter how trivial, it may be wrecked altogether by its opponents such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, etc." It carefully endorsed candidates, particularly women, such as Chelene Eckerson for city council. It then mobilized stars including Dorothy Parker, Helen Gahagan, and Gale Sondergaard to stump for them. Running articles that addressed the question of whether married women should enter the paid labor force, the League highlighted the gender disparities that reduced women to the status of consumers and dependents. (7)

The League's effectiveness ultimately hinged on its mobilization around local issues and its ability to point toward a more just social order. By focusing on the nexus between the producer and the consumer, by incorporating the interests of the unemployed as well as women and minorities, the League moved the question of democratic socialism out of the realm of the theoretical and into the region of the distinctly possible. As the editors of The Woman Shopper succinctly put it, the organization aimed "to educate women to find out under what conditions the product they buy are made, then to use their buying power for justice." Through progressive buyer awareness, the League would extend the struggle for economic democracy from the point of production to the sphere of consumption. (8)

Forging connections to progressive politicians, the League of Women Shoppers invited State Assemblyman Sam Yorty to address the group on industrial democracy and the importance of the National Labor Relations Board. Through Yorty's presentation, the assembled women already active on the labor front learned of the CIO-led efforts of 300 female walnut pickers to break a company union and gain protection under the National Labor Relations Act. From Yorty, they heard a pro-labor critique of corporate profiteering at the expense of human labor; from David Sokol, a lawyer who had worked for the La Follette Committee, they learned more about the Memorial Day Massacre as well as the connection between local strikes and the national movement for working-class democracy. The League provided a forum for political education and a vehicle for action that tied them to the social movements of the 1930s. A Newspaper Guild strike in Orange, New Jersey, was linked to the campaign to boycott Japanese silk, to support for the leftwing theater hit "Pins and Needles," and to a seminar at the Biltmore Hotel on "The Effects of the Sweat Shop on the Home and the Family." Sponsored by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, "Pins and Needles" fit seamlessly into the League's objective to defend fair labor standards and protect the interests of consumers by ensuring that higher wages for workers did not result in consumer price-gouging by manufacturers. (9)

But Winter's prospectus was most valuable for her insight into the labor consciousness that permeated the wide spectrum of Hollywood activism. Historians often minimize the connection between the labor movement and the Motion Picture Democratic Committee (MPDC). Formed in June 1938 at a party thrown by actress Miriam Hopkins, the MPDC drew personnel and energy from the Hollywood Left's earlier campaigns, including support for socialist Upton Sinclair's bid for the governor's office and his End Poverty in California campaign in 1934. Hollywood progressives also lent financial support and publicity to striking cotton pickers in 1933 and lettuce workers in 1936. In 1938, when newsroom workers hit the bricks against Citizen-News, then one of the leading liberal newspapers in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Left picketed in style and in strength to show their solidarity. (10)

The MPDC also expended considerable energy on generating support for Culbert Olson, a prominent liberal running for governor of California in 1938. It soon extended its efforts to defeat Proposition 1, a statewide campaign by the Associated Farmers, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and other business groups seeking to impose strict limitations on picketing, to prohibit secondary boycotts, and to hold unions responsible for any damages inflicted by striking workers. For this task, the MPDC recruited some of the most prominent screenwriters and actors in the colony. Melvyn Douglas became the salient figure in the organization, but he was joined by the likes of screenwriters Donald Ogden Stewart and Philip Dunne, writers Dashiell Hammett and Dorothy Parker, actors Frederic March and Gloria Stuart, and directors Lewis Milestone and John Ford, among others. (12)

Joining forces with the Steinbeck Committee, the MPDC mobilized opposition to the anti-labor initiative. Its most important contribution was the Bakersfield Conference on Agricultural Labor in late October 1938. Designed to raise consciousness of the growers' assault on workers and to build support for the striking cotton workers in the area, the conference united working-class activists, prominent intellectuals such as Carey McWilliams, and Hollywood figures including Donald Ogden Stewart and screenwriter John D. Barry in a campaign for economic justice. (13) More than this, Stewart addressed a "huge crowd of oil and agricultural workers and other citizens" during the conference, castigating Proposition 1 as a measure that would "nullify every right won by labor in the last fifty years. It will practically give the employer the power to determine when a labor dispute exists," a prediction which subsequent developments would prove accurate. Through a multiplicity of overlapping popular front organizations, Stewart and the Hollywood Left had forged connections to a wider labor movement that seemed poised to translate mass militancy into political influence. Through vigorous grass-roots activism that linked the guilds to the wider labor movement, through anti-fascist organizing in defense of Spain and against the Nazi menace in Europe, the Hollywood Left seemed to have produced an historic moment of widening political influence.

That moment evaporated quickly. The Nazi-Soviet pact and the subsequent Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939 tore the MPDC, the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, the League of American Writers, and the other popular front organizations to pieces. When Melvyn Douglas and Philip Dunne failed to win support for a resolution condemning "aggression, including Soviet aggression, and our fundamental disagreement with the Communist Party for its support of that aggression," they resigned from the MPDC.


The rupture did irrevocable damage to the popular front organizations, but the most conspicuous casualty of the Nazi-Soviet Pact was the labor movement itself. Hollywood liberals like Melvyn Douglas and the exiles from the MPDC largely abandoned the labor question. Turning their backs on the struggles of Mexican migratory laborers, they came to believe that militant labor unionism had been tainted by communism. Liberal groups such as the California Citizens' Council and the Americans for Democratic Action had little patience for the kind of mass picketing that had been so vital to the campaign to organize agricultural workers in the 1930s. If anything, the militant tactics used by the Conference of Student Unions to win representation for backstage workers and displace the corrupt International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees in 1945 proved a decisive turning point in the consolidation of a conservative bloc of talent in the film community. (14)

Instead of grass-roots organizing, ex-popular front liberals turned to politics on a grand scale, working within the mainstream establishment to promote New Deal Liberalism. Supporting organizations such as the Motion Picture Division of the Democratic National Committee and the Committee to Defend America, Douglas made it clear how far he had traveled in a short time from the popular front. According to historians Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund, "political activism now meant support for political insiders." (15) One could add the determined subordination of the whole question of worker control over the production process itself.

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union provided a bridge back to pseudo-respectability for the Communist Party and created the conditions for the restoration of a progressive alliance in Hollywood. For disillusioned liberals like Melvyn Douglas and Philip Dunne, however, the relationship would continue to be fraught. Many of those who had abandoned the popular front organizations in 1939 did not return. Devotion to maximum production, a second front, and winning the war would never be enough to allay the distrust that many liberals continued to feel toward the Communist Party. (16)

Considering the mutual suspicion, it is even more remarkable that communists and middle-class progressives forged organizations that did, in fact, address the most salient political issues of the period. The liberals may not have rejoined the popular front groups en masse, but a new alliance developed, one that united middle-class professionals, artists, and craftworkers in support of social democratic reform, if not the vibrant economic democracy of the 1930s. This new movement built institutions that thrived on celebrity prestige and forged connections to activist academics and intellectuals. The Hollywood-New York connection, present at the creation of the film colony and fostered throughout the 1930s by a cross-fertilization of talent, now became essential.


As the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union eased the divisions between Hollywood radicals and liberals, new, industry-supported groups like the Hollywood Victory Committee and the Hollywood Victory Caravan brought the stars out into the public forum. Through USO tours, hospital events, radio advertisements, public appearances, and bond drives, a new Hollywood alliance developed, one that foregrounded egalitarian values in the fight against fascism. The Hollywood Writers Mobilization (HWM) exemplified the fusion of anti-fascism and pro-war sentiment. Chaired by Francis Faragoh, the HWM developed into a distinctly left-leaning operation that acted as a conduit between film colony authors and the Washington war effort. The HWM joined progressive allies in advocating for the elimination of restrictive covenants that effectively segregated African Americans. (17) The HWM also protested a rally held by American fascist Gerald L.K. Smith and sent observers to the picket lines of the Conference of Studio Unions Strike in 1945. In its alliances and its actions, the Hollywood Writers Mobilization filled the gap left by the MPDC, providing a venue for progressive cultural expression. (18)

Yet it was the Hollywood Democratic Committee (HDC) that provided the most conspicuous example of the film colony's commitment to political and social activism. The group coalesced out of the fragmented Motion Picture Artists Committee that stumped for Culbert Olson's election in 1938. Led by Communist Party members John Howard Lawson and George Pepper, the latter a musician by trade, as well as by producer and party member Nat Perrin, socialist songwriter E.Y. Harburg, and producer and party member Sidney Buchman, the HDC set out to become a decisive political force. It would do so by the "constant clarification of issues through the medium of mass meetings, radio programs, membership meetings, and neighborhood discussions." (19) Although the communists presented a formidable presence in the HDC, they did not dominate the executive. Neither did they constitute a majority in the membership, which included such leading lights as Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, and Olivia de Havilland. (20) Equally important, the committee deliberately reached out to African Americans, including on its board Lena Home, William Grant Still, Rex Ingram, and Hattie McDaniel. More than tokenism, the committee took action when local proprietors discriminated against its members. (21)

If the new alliance largely abandoned the tactics of mass picketing and demonstrations that had been key to the movement in the 1930s, it continued to make overtures to the labor ethic during the war years. Winning the war also meant building the kind of society worth defending, one that provided for the "protection of labor's rights," offered childcare for mothers working in the defense industry, and eradicated the blight of racial discrimination and lynching. (22) The intervention of the federal government's propaganda machinery in almost every picture that Hollywood produced during the war further legitimized the HDC's orientation toward the redistributive, egalitarian themes of the Four Freedoms. In its "Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture Industry," the Office of War Information (OWI) sent the message that the industry should become vigorous exponents of the Four Freedoms. Through films that challenged Hitler's racist ideology, bolstered the image of America's allies, promoted cultural pluralism, and emphasized the possibilities for oppressed minorities in a liberal democracy, Hollywood would make its contribution to the war effort. (23) The studios reluctantly fell in line, as did the Hollywood Democratic Committee. Increasingly incorporated into the propaganda division of the war effort, the HDC and the studios would become the purveyors of a wartime liberalism that emphasized top-down leadership, the necessity of party discipline, and the nebulous populism of the popular front, which emphasized the antagonism between "the people" and all things fascist. Films and OWI-inspired patriotism would assert not only that liberal democracy was the American way, but that it had already triumphed over its adversaries. As Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black write, "Instead of opening realms of understanding by confronting experience, OWI, the propaganda agency, and Hollywood, the dream factory, joined hands to deny realities." Managerial liberalism steadily "undermined the liberation for which they said they fought." (24)

None of this happened immediately. The social democratic focus was still decidedly evident in the HDC's support for the Tolan-Kilgore-Pepper bill. This was not simply a 'liberal' measure. A product of the visionary economic planning advocated for by the National Resources Planning Board, a New Deal agency that drew the ire of conservatives and which Congress mothballed in 1943, the bill aimed to wrench control over wartime policy out of the hands of major corporations and military agencies, substituting instead a system of civilian-control that would defend working-class priorities and pave the way for postwar economic planning. First championed by the CIO, the bill drew its main support from organized labor and the left wing of the Democratic Party. (25) The HDC vigorously supported the bill, gathering more than 65 representatives of the film industry to hear Senator Harley Kilgore explain its provisions, including what eventually became the Office of War Mobilization (OWM). (26) Although conservative interests within the administration successfully undermined the OWM, the HDC had identified itself with Vice President Henry Wallace and the proponents of expansive, structural economic reform.

Steeped in the ethos of the popular front, the HDC continued to agitate for the radical vision of racial equality that had animated the Motion Picture Democratic Committee in the 1930s. When the Zoot Suit riots of 1943 saw Navy personnel attack Mexican, Filipino, and African-American youths sporting the flamboyant outfits as well as other racial minorities who just happened to be in the vicinity, the HDC quickly came to the defense of the victims. Joining the Hollywood Writers Mobilization (which had many of the same members), the HDC participated in a community meeting on 8 June that produced a flurry of activism, including the decision to challenge the mainstream media bias in favor of the men in uniform. The meeting sent a delegation to Mayor Fletcher Bowron to appeal for police protection of Mexican immigrants and applied pressure on California congressmen and the left-leaning State Attorney General Robert Kenny to take action. (27) The Hollywood agitation paid off. Governor Earl Warren appointed a Citizens Committee to investigate the disorder.

Equally important, the Hollywood Democratic Committee crystallized anti-racist indignation into an institutional form that promoted interracial cooperation. Through its Council for Civic Unity, the HDC created a forum that combined some fifty organizations in a continuing effort to understand the social origins of the riots. Troubled by a Mexican population that now appeared "sullen and uneasy," the HDC and the Council of Civic Unity addressed the social upheaval that accompanied wartime mobilization: "The influx of 54,000 Negroes, many from the South, with an accompanying influx of Southern whites; discrimination in war industries, and segregation and poor housing for war workers, had encouraged the activities of Fifth Columnists, including the Ku Klux Klan." The Hollywood Democratic Committee maintained its involvement in the Council of Civic Unity. At the urging of Helen Gahagan Douglas, it reached out to the NAACP and established connections to the Minorities Council of the CIO. It was no exaggeration when executive secretary George Pepper applauded his organization's consistent effort to "bring the problem before the public through radio programs, meetings, and discussions." The Council of Civic Unity had become a liaison to the mayor's office while the HDC played a prominent part in staging the "United We Stand" rally at the Shrine Auditorium, a mass demonstration for racial tolerance and a kaleidoscope of local groups. By the end of 1943, the committee had organized legislative councils in congressional districts. It had also launched letter-writing campaigns in support of food subsidies, the anti-poll tax initiative, voting rights for soldiers, progressive taxation, anti-inflation measures, and a measure aimed at prohibiting anti-Semitic and racist propaganda from the mails. (28)

Building on its Council of Civic Unity initiative, the HDC convened a meeting of local civic organizations to examine the source of the riots. If the committee gave in to the communist habit of blaming "fifth columnists" and "reactionaries" for every episode of social unrest, it also rejected the assertion by the Foreign Relations Bureau of the L.A. County Sheriff's Office that the "ethnological and biological ancestry of the Mexican people" was somehow responsible. Instead, the HDC asserted that a volatile combination of right-wing media "incitements," social dislocations, and economic factors had produced the episode. Speaking out decisively against racial intolerance mattered, particularly during a war in which racial stereotyping figured so prominently, and not only on the Axis side. (29)

Yet as the focus shifted toward the political mainstream, committee members began to raise concerns about the need to maintain its links to the working-class. At an executive board meeting in October 1943, Don King urged the committee to abandon its effort to lead the state legislative conference and to focus instead on cultivating its connections to labor organizations. Electing progressives was fine, but King wanted the group to emphasize the importance of contacting "leaders of the A.F. of L., the CIO and Railroad Brotherhoods in each of about ten communities, putting them in touch with liberals and having the latter contact labor leaders." Holding meetings in individual homes and launching a speakers' bureau would demonstrate the group's commitment to building local networks of political reform. (30) As the attention paid to formal politics increased, voices within the HDC advocated for a return to the working-class orientation of the MPDC. A struggle was on to maintain the links between the working-class movement at the center of the democratic upsurge of the 1930s and the New Deal liberalism which the OWI represented.

Advocates of King's position cheered the evidence of precisely this kind of cross-class alliance. In a January 1944 membership meeting chaired by actor Albert Dekker, who would win a seat in the California legislature in the coming year, the committee assessed its accomplishments. None was more important than the evidence "that white collar groups had become integrated with labor groups," exemplified by a "Message to Washington" mass meeting featuring Senator Sheridan Downey and Congressman Will Rogers Jr. The meeting attracted some 2,700 people who resolved to "send a direct message to Congress through the medium of the people's representatives." More than this, the HDC called on delegates from labor and middle-class organizations to conduct interviews with California's congressional delegation. (31)

Examining their positions on issues ranging from support for the Office of Price Administration to anti-labor legislation such as the Smith-Connally bill, the committee underlined an authentic commitment to economic democracy. Gathering representatives from the Committee for the Care of Children, the League of Women Voters, the Musicians' Union, the Lawyers' Guild, the Conference of Studio Unions, and the Teamsters' Union, among others, Pepper and the HDC forged a cross-class alliance to fight inflation, advocate for adequate childcare, and expand the social wage. (32) More than this, through a Citizens' Committee headed by the Attorney General Robert Kenny, it reached out to Sidney Hillman, national chair of the CIO Political Action Committee, a key organization in the movement to unite working and middle-class efforts. (33) The formation of a "Motion Picture Labor Council for Political Action" linking the Hollywood guilds and unions under the leadership of a studio electrician only seemed to reinforce the labor-orientation of this new Hollywood formation. (34)

The HDC was now involved at both the local and national levels. It organized the first meeting of the 15th Congressional District's Legislative Council, boasting of the affiliation of seventeen unions to an HDC-sponsored legislative council in the San Fernando Valley. The formation of a Beverly-Westwood Democratic Committee and the launching of a Consumers' League to organize against inflation suggested that King's appeal for community action had not fallen on deaf ears. King may have exaggerated when he claimed that "great progress had been made in community organization, i.e., the Beverly-Westwood Democratic Committee which now has a membership over two hundred," but he wasn't fabricating. If leading stars did not knock on doors, George Pepper and his research team had nevertheless utilized their prestige for pedestrian but necessary tasks such as the formation of Democratic Party committees in the Silver Lake district and in Pasadena. (35)

Encouraged by the OWI's hand-in-glove relationship with the studios, the HDC made full use of the star power at its disposal. In 1943, the executive called on Virginia Bruce, Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, George Burns, Gloria Stuart, Walter Huston, and Groucho Marx--to name a few--to sign an HDC telegram to the Senate Judiciary Committee appealing for cloture on the anti-poll tax bill. Similarly, when John Cromwell and the executive planned an HDC meeting to support the anti-lynching bill and the measure to prohibit the distribution of racist literature, it could count on "prominent Hollywood artists" to sign on for the "United We Stand Rally." (36) More than this, the committee clearly identified with the leftwing of the party. In February 1944, it sponsored a mass rally for Henry Wallace at the Shrine Auditorium. Following the event, Pepper wrote to Ambrose O'Connell of the Democratic National Committee to offer them Ben Hecht's script for the "The Common Man" free of charge. The skit had been performed to wild acclaim at the Wallace rally, and Pepper believed it would be a "potent weapon" that could be used to promote the progressive movement and Roosevelt's re-election. (37) Relying on the women who staffed the rank-and-file of the HDC, the organization continued to engage in the kind of local, grass-roots activism that had defined the social democratic movement of the 1930s. (38)


If there was any question at the beginning of 1944 that the Hollywood Left would turn out for Roosevelt's re-election, it was quickly dispelled. Film stars eagerly lent their glamor and energy to the campaign. In the process, they raised the profile of the Hollywood Democratic Committee, not only as a champion of Roosevelt's reelection, but as an advocate of the New Deal's progressive policies. (39)

Many of the committee's activities had the ring of political dilettantism, but that impression is misleading. Cary Grant and Gene Kelly may not have canvassed door-to-door, but leading Hollywood figures lent their talent to a political movement predicated on the belief that the 1944 election would decisively shape the postwar order. That mood was clear in a speech to the membership in July. Likely written by Lou Harris or George Pepper, and delivered by director John Cromwell, the speech resonated with Roosevelt's economic bill of rights. "This is no usual squable [sic] between two parties, each seeking special priviledge [sic]. This election is a conflict, rather, over something more fundamental, more sacred. It is a conflict to determine the status of the people, of the simple citizen... it is sure to be a political and social conflict." Cromwell (or Pepper) announced that political action could secure "a Free World of United Nations for Peace" as well as "Full Employment and Prosperity... for all." (40) An army of professional cartoonists, newspaper writers, publicity agents, and lesser-known actors produced a multi-media campaign that championed not only Roosevelt but the policies of full employment, racial equality, and national economic planning. (41) The Speakers Division, for example, "supplied meetings of all sizes, from precinct groups to mass rallies of thousands." Actress Karen Morley--of Scarface and Last Train from Madrid fame--cooperated with the CIO to produce a pro-Roosevelt cartoon, "Hell-Bent for Election." (42) The Coordinating Committee provided a bridge to the State Assembly and to the Democratic Party. It also reached out to strategic non-partisan groups, including the CIO, the AFL-PAC, and the Railroad Brotherhoods. (43) In addition to spectacular fundraisers, Hollywood progressives forged links between middle-class intellectuals, radicals, and organized labor that still bore the signs of community activism and social democratic commitment. (44)

Coordinating their research, media, and volunteer efforts, the HDC spearheaded a drive to nominate progressive candidates for Congress and the state assembly. "We printed pamphlets, placards, and posters, automobile cards and stickers, banners and billboards" the HDC executive announced in a report to the membership on the group's activities during the 1944 primaries. Some historians have trivialized the political activism of screenwriters and actors, but this fails to acknowledge the magnitude of the HDC's investment in grassroots organizing. "With this material the people of the Hollywood Democratic Committee and the people of the community, hundreds of volunteer citizen workers... sewing a Democratic Political ideal went out into the community, through the district to the precincts, up and down the block and into every home ringing doorbells and presenting our cause, the cause of Democracy in the 20th century." It was because of this shoe-leather activism that "the housewife, and the shopkeeper and the men who hadn't been concerned before became aware of the issues at stake." (45)

In fact, a dynamic relationship developed between organized labor and the white-collar professionals of Hollywood during the 1944 campaign, suggesting the possibility of a regenerated progressive-labor alliance in the coming years. Hollywood Democratic Committee organizers deliberately reached out to unions such as the Railroad Brotherhoods and the Building Service Employees International. In turn, the Building Service Union sought support from the HDC to broadcast Congressional proceedings over the radio. The Building Service Union's proposal resonated with the democratic ethos of the New Deal period: "Let every man and woman of America hear," wrote union vice president Ward Coley to George Pepper, "what our elected representatives have to say regarding the G.I. Bill, the poll-tax, unemployment compensation, social security, postwar planning, low cost housing, the right of trade unions in our society, the foreign policy and all other issues that vitally affect the lives of the people of America." (46)

Coley and the CIO understood the political benefits of a closer alliance between Hollywood and the labor movement. In March, the CIO proposed joint sponsorship of its radio program, which would bring in additional revenues but also augment the cultural profile of its broadcasts. At the same time, the state CIO invited the HDC to suggest on-screen talent that might be willing to visit factories and "dramatize" the need for voter registration. Rather than dreamy idealists, the Hollywood Democratic Committee understood that only a cross-class alliance dedicated to the egalitarian values of the labor movement could shift the balance of power in an increasingly conservative wartime government. (47) Steeped in labor activism, and increasingly conscious of their own position as employees rather than a cultural aristocracy, the left-wing of the Hollywood popular front continued to champion democratic unionism and the expansion of the social wage. (48)


The Hollywood Committee was not only making it big in Washington; it was also becoming a junior partner in the state party apparatus. Acting on behalf of the Democratic Party and functioning as a Hollywood liaison, Helen Gahagan Douglas invited the committee to offer its opinion on a state vice chairman. The State Committee Executive Board also invited the HDC to appoint an official representative from among its members. Topping it all off, however, the party invited the Hollywood acolytes to send delegates to the state convention. Eager to validate its activism and confirm the image of itself as a player in the political mainstream, the committee accepted. Reporting on the state Democratic convention, Pepper and the other delegates noted that the party had "adopted one of the finest programs the country had ever seen, with no sign of disunity appearing at the Convention." He and the other HDC delegates offered the committee's talent to the Democratic cause, which was received enthusiastically, "especially from northern California candidates." Ed Pauley and Mike Fanning of the state committee continued the political wooing at a sit-down meeting with the HDC delegates. "It was agreed that there should be the closest kind of collaboration between HDC and the Democratic Party." Feted by the Democrats, what had once been a thorny question for the HDC executive seemed a foregone conclusion for George Pepper. (49) To consummate the deal, the Democratic insiders invited the Hollywood acolytes to join the party apparatus. The HDC now functioned as campaign advisors rather than independent activists. Not unlike the CIO and its relationship to the Communist party, the Democratic Party co-opted the HDC. (50)

The election of 1944 demonstrated the ability of the Hollywood Left to contribute to a broad-based political movement, but it signaled a further shift away from the militant activism of the 1930s and the group's stated commitment to political independence. (51) In short, as the HDC gained insider status, its capacity to operate as an independent power bloc diminished. Once directly connected to the front lines of the labor movement, and once directly involved in the movement for economic democracy, the HDC increasingly became an exponent of the managerial liberalism that came to dominate the Democratic Party.

The willingness of the committee to abandon Henry Wallace in the cause of party unity was a conspicuous example of the shift toward political expediency. In place of galas that feted Wallace and his "Century of the Common Man," the committee now cheered Harry Truman's nomination "as a blow to the worst sections of reactionary forces within the Democratic Party." Of course, few could anticipate the significance of Truman's nomination in 1944. Even so, popular front activists understood that the campaign against Wallace was a campaign against the very ideals for which they stood. A combination of factors explained this decision. The disappointing results of 1942 proved critical. So too did the growing conviction that progressive reform and the objective of re-electing Roosevelt had merged. Considering as well the demand for wartime unity, the heady patriotic atmosphere in which entertainment and politics fused, and the gravitational pull of the president's charisma, the decision to rally behind Truman becomes more explicable. (52)

At the national level, the HDC's enthusiastic proclamation that "Hollywood is for FDR" seemed to drown out any misgivings about a party that sacrificed Henry Wallace to political expediency. The special campaign division sponsored a dinner for Harold Ickes that entertained a thousand guests at the Ambassador Hotel. A week later, "Hollywood is for FDR" organized a gala event at the Shrine auditorium for Senator Harry Truman. The weeks leading up to the election proved how important Hollywood celebrities had become in the political universe. Paul Porter of the Democratic National Committee gratefully accepted Pepper's offer of assistance from Dalton Trumbo and the "Writers for Roosevelt" division. Pepper arranged for Humphrey Bogart to serve the Democratic cause. So too would James Cagney. A supporter of the agricultural workers' movement in the 1930s, it was no surprise to see the star of "Public Enemy" lending his talent to a "Labor for Roosevelt" broadcast. Edward G. Robinson and Paulette Goddard soon joined the labor campaign. The indomitable Pepper dispatched Walter Huston and Evelyn Keyes to appear in Seattle alongside vice-presidential nominee Harry Truman. At the same time, Charles Boyer and Joan Crawford took to the airwaves to extoll the virtues of the Democratic Party. Political activism had become de rigueur. (53)

Although the political prospects of the HDC seemed to be improving, the rising tide of anti-communism and the concomitant development of an organized right-wing presence in Hollywood put the committee under additional scrutiny. In October 1944, State Senator Jack Tenney launched hearings that sought to expose communist influence in the Hollywood Writers Mobilization Congress. John Howard Lawson found himself dragged before the committee. Screenwriters Albert Maltz, Marc Connelly, and Paul Trivers were also subpoenaed. Like Lawson, Connelly and Trivers belonged to the Hollywood Democratic Committee. So too was Attorney General Robert Kenny. Considering the overlap between the Hollywood Writers Mobilization and the Hollywood Democratic Committee, Tenney may as well have gone after the latter. He certainly did go after the People's Education Center, where Hollywood activists joined organized labor to teach the history of multiracial working-class activism. The Tenney hearings may not have blacklisted any one--yet--but they reminded the Hollywood Left of their vulnerability to the tactics of the Red Scare. The renewed search for subversives aimed as much at alternative thought as it did at the American allies of the Bolsheviks. And it suggested just how potent the Hollywood Left had become. If the HDC and the Hollywood Writers Mobilization had not been able to use their cultural influence to champion a social transformation along the lines of industrial democracy, anti-fascism, and racial equality, Tenney would have ignored them altogether. (54)

The Hollywood Left faced not only the machinery of state repression but also a conservative alliance within the film community that gained momentum during the 1940s. Right-wing actors, directors, screenwriters, and producers found common ground in their opposition to New Deal measures that impinged on the alleged prerogatives of free enterprise while raising taxes on the affluent and on corporations. They also united behind the conviction that communists dominated the talent guilds and sought to use films as weapons of ideological indoctrination. The alliance included members of the John Birch Society, fascist sympathizers, and those who genuinely believed communism posed an imminent threat to American institutions. Mirroring the HDC, the conservatives began to organize, forming the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA) that fulfilled Louis B. Mayer's ambition to institutionalize a Republican presence in the industry. With its roots in MGM, the MPA reached out to the Hearst newspaper chain and to the American Legion, seeking to build a broader front in defense of "the American way of life" and to protect the silver screen from the insidious influence of New Dealers and communists. Using the same techniques as the HDC, the MPA drew the attention of the investigative committees to Hollywood and further politicized the industry, raising the stakes in the debate over the function of entertainment in a democratic society. (55)

Yet the simple fact that a right-wing opposition was coalescing in Hollywood does not explain the HDC's capitulation to the Truman nomination and all it represented. The MPA would represent a formidable adversary, but not in 1944. The formation of the MPA certainly alarmed the Hollywood Democratic Committee, but the MPA was still on the defensive at this point, accused by the HDC of harboring isolationists and fascist sympathizers. As historian Kathryn Cramer Brownell explains, "The dominance of the Hollywood Left during the war ultimately hurt the effectiveness and the reputation of the MPA and initially made membership controversial." (56) The Hollywood Left was certainly engaged in a struggle, but capitulating to the forces of conservatism within the Democratic Party only strengthened its adversaries at a time when the labor movement was still a formidable force.

The rejection of Wallace proved costly to the movement for social democratic reform. Absolving the South of the policies it had imposed on the parry, the HDC played its small but pivotal part in strengthening the resolve of those who would most vigorously oppose interracial democratic unionism. As historian Patricia Sullivan makes clear, the prospect of Roosevelt's imminent death convinced southern segregationists to establish a unified front against the re-nomination of Wallace, declaring that his ouster was the non-negotiable condition for their continued support of the party. (57) Those very same southerners would soon turn their fear and loathing toward the alleged communists then anguishing over a "collision" that "would have split the Party wide open" and "paved the way for disaster at the polls." By accommodating Wallace's adversaries, the committee increased the likelihood that a third-party challenge would seem the only option for those committed to the ideals of social democracy. (58)


The committee had reason to cheer its efforts, having contributed to the election of liberals Ellis Patterson, Ned Healey, and Sheridan Downey. Yet the uncritical assumption that Truman, Pauley, and Hannegan would "go down the line unswervingly for the liberal principles of both political democracy and economic democracy regardless of race, color, or religion," as Wallace had put it, was misguided at best. Legitimacy came at the cost of its grassroots commitment to achieving the promises of Roosevelt's Economic Bill of Rights. Paralleling the CIO-PAC, the Hollywood Democratic Committee had championed the extension of what had evolved into a form of democratic socialism in the postwar years. Advocating for full employment, racial equality, the defense of working-class rights, and the expansion of the social safety net, they mirrored progressives in England and western Europe. (59)

And yet a combination of factors had steadily undermined the vitality of this once militant social democratic formation. The capitulation of communists to the dictates of Soviet policy was pivotal. The subsequent defection of liberals from anything resembling a militant labor movement dealt a devastating blow to the alliance. Despite the revival of the popular front in the war years, the communists' adherence to the "no strike pledge" further exacerbated tensions between Hollywood progressives and the more militant elements of the labor movements. (60) The CPUSA's abandonment of working-class militancy undermined its claims to "vanguard" leadership and exposed the CIO to a conservative counter-insurgency in the postwar years. (61)

Yet the decision to abandon Vice President Henry Wallace proved particularly corrosive to the working-class movement that the Hollywood Democratic Committee had once participated in and supported. Rather than placate conservative opponents, it conceded strength to the reaction already building at the local and national level. Equally important, as class conflict broke out once again in 1945 and 1946, liberals and conservatives split from the social democrats and radicals who had always made the defense of labor the sine qua non of the progressive movement. In fact, Ronald Reagan attributed his disaffection with the Hollywood Left to the militant and frequently violent Conference of Studio Unions' (CSU) strike. For Reagan, as for many of his counterparts, communism, not company exploitation, was responsible for "class conflict." (62) Yet seeing their struggle in the revolt of some 10,000 craft-workers, the Screenwriters Guild--which was inextricably connected to the HDC--joined the Screen Office Employees Guild, the Newspaper Guild, the Screen Cartoonists, AFL machinists, the extras, and the least skilled in the industry, throwing their support behind the CSU's drive for democratic unionism against the mob-dominated IATSE, which enjoyed the favor of the studios. (63)

Hollywood conservatism was never simply a reaction to communist subversion, real or imagined, but to the evidence of a militant labor movement that challenged the prerogatives of the free enterprise system. (64) While the no-strike pledge held, conservatives, liberals who abhorred a fight, and communists could find common cause. But the resurgence of labor militancy in the general strikes of 1945 and 1946 divided liberals and conservatives from those who had considered working-class democracy critical to the revitalization of American society. Even before the anti-communist purge tore apart the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions, the even more prominent successor to the HDC, the Hollywood Left was moving away from a resilient commitment to social democratic activism. The abandonment of the CSU by elements of the Hollywood community that would come to identify themselves as conservatives further weakened the movement in the early years of the Cold War.

Yet focusing on the concessions made to the conservative elements in the party and the fracturing of the tenuous anti-fascist alliance threatens to overshadow what the Hollywood Democratic Committee achieved. Think again of Ella Winter: what impressed her most was not the tensions within the popular front or the evidence of a conservative opposition, but "the growing cooperation between 'cultural' Hollywood and the general labor and trade union movement in California as expressed in the MPDC's activities." If the "social acceptability of trade union and labor leaders in Hollywood" that Winter cheered proved ephemeral, it was because of the building resistance to the very movement which the HDC championed. The leadership of the talent unions may have wanted the patriotic unity to continue, but "the class-based insurgency of the New Deal years" returned with a vengeance. (65)

While historians have focused endless attention on Ronald Reagan's defection from HICCASP, they have paid considerably less attention to the fact that he denigrated Melvyn Douglas and Helen Gahagan Douglas for their support of the CSU strikes which, above all, sought to promote democratic unionism in Hollywood. Despite the disaster of the Nazi-Stalin Pact, the Douglas's still chose to support the working-class movement in 1945. The general strikes of 1945-46 did not simply produce a conservative exodus or renewed HUAC investigations and blacklisting, then. Instead, they exposed the class tensions at the center of American society, tensions which a war bond drive or a Hollywood Victory Committee event could never hope to resolve.


Michael Dennis is a professor of history at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and the author of The Memorial Day Massacre and the Movement for Industrial Democracy (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010). He is currently finishing a hook on the movement for full employment in the postwar era.

(1.) Ella Winter, "Hollywood Wakes Up," The New Republic 93 (12 January 1938): 276-77. For the importance of Ella Winter as practitioner of the politics of "labor defense" and as a labor reporter and chronicler of the experience of women in the Soviet Union, see Michael Dennis, "Women in Defense of Workers: Ella Winter, the Literary Left, and Labor Journalism in California," Women's History Review 26 (Fall 2017): 857-879.

(2.) Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-1960 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003); Gerald Home, The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006); Jennifer Langdon, Caught in the Crossfire: Adrian Scott and the Politics of Americanism in 1940s Hollywood (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); see also Steven J. Ross, Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, A Very Dangerous Citizen: Abraham Polonsky and the Hollywood Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Thom Andersen, "Red Hollywood," in Peter Stanfield et al., eds., Un-American Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 184-97.

(3.) This interpretation challenges Judy Kutuals' assertion that "Front politics was never mass politics" and that "so long as the fronts concentrated on fascism and, particularly, the Loyalist fight, progressives did not feel the tensions they felt elsewhere." See Judy Kutuals, The Long War: The Intellectual People's Front and Anti-Stalinism, 1930-1940 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 105. In fact, progressives from across the ideological spectrum supported the labor movement that linked Hollywood to Los Angeles and the migratory worker struggles in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.

(4.) Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: the Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (New York: Verso Press, 1998), 13, xviii.

(5.) Ella Winter to Sam Darcy, 18 July, n.d., box 15, folder titled "Unsorted Correspondence, 1911-1946," Donald Ogden Stewart and Ella Winter Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, hereafter cited as Stewart and Winter papers.

(6.) Ella Winter, "Progressive Hollywood," 1-2, box 29, folder titled "Film Notes/My Book," Stewart and Winter papers.

(7.) "We Use Our Buying Power for Social Justice"; "Mrs. Eckerson Council Candidate"; "Hollywood Actresses Appear for Mrs. Eckerson"; "Should Married Women Work?"; "National League Testifies at NLRB Hearings in Washington," The Woman Shopper 1 (April 1939): 1-3.

(8.) "We Use Our Buying Power for Social Justice." On the importance of the League in the tradition of twentieth century consumer activism and as a cross-class, grass-roots organization that wielded considerable influence in the social democratic movement of the 1930s and '40s, see Landon Storrs, "Left-Feminism, the Consumer Movement, and Red Scare Politics in the United States, 1935-1960," Journal of Women's History 18 (Fall 2006): 40-67, particularly 41-44.

(9.) "Let's Have Democracy in Our Industry"; "Let U.S. Boycott Japanese Silk"; "Cast of 'Pins and Needles' to be Guests of League"; "Newspaper Guild Wins Courier Strike," in The Woman Shopper 2 (July 1938): 1, 4, box 29, folder titled "Labor Strikes," Stewart and Winter papers.

(10.) Michael Furmanovsky, "Cocktail Picket Party: The Hollywood Citizen-News Strike, The Newspaper Guild, and the Popularization of the 'Democratic Front' in Los Angeles," UCLA Historical Journal 5 (1984): 35.

(11.) Kevin Starr, Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 209.

(12.) David Welky, The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 137.

(13.) Ibid., 2-4; MPDC "Secretary's Report," n.d., box 43, folder titled "MPDC," Stewart and Winter papers.

(14.) Gerald Home notes that John Garfield, Rex Ingram, Dalton Trumbo, and John Howard Lawson functioned as observers at the studio picket lines supported by thousands of craft workers as well as UCLA students, students from other local colleges, and union supporters. Other celebrities, including Ring Lardner Jr. and Bette Davis, would contribute their time and financial or moral support to the pickets and to the rallies held to generate solidarity. See Gerald Home, Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930-1950: Moguls, Mobsters, Stars, Reds, & Trade Unionists (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001), 187-89.

(15.) Ceplair and Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood, 148-49.

(16.) Fraser M. Ottanelli, The Communist Party of the United States: From the Depression to World War II (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 207-8; Joseph Starobin, American Communism in Crisis, 1943-1957 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), 32-33; M.J. Heale, "Red Scare Politics: California's Campaign Against Un-American Activities, 1940-1970," Journal of American Studies 20 (1986): 10-11.

(17.) Home, Class Struggle in Hollywood, 78.

(18.) Brian Neve, "Red Hollywood in Transition: The Case of Robert Rossen," in Stanfield et al., Un-American Hollywood: Politics and film in the Blacklist Era, 188; Ceplair and Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood, 190; Denning, The Cultural Front, 417-420; as Eric Smoodin writes, the editors "hoped that the journal might become a forum for advancing a politicized, socially responsible cinema, one freed from what their editorial statement called the 'pure entertainment' myth," which had only rationalized social indifference. According to Smoodin, the editors believed that "film needed to teach, to enlighten, to persuade." See Eric Smoodin and Ann Martin, eds., Hollywood Quarterly: Film Culture in Postwar America, 1945-1957 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), xiv. It was out of the HWM that the sophisticated Hollywood Quarterly journal would emerge, providing further evidence of the synergy between political commitment and artistic innovation.

(19.) George Pepper to Jay Gorney, 17 November 1943, in box 1, folder titled "History," Hollywood Democratic Committee Records, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, University of Wisconsin, hereafter cited as HDC papers.

(20.) Ceplair and Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood, 228.

(21.) Home, The Final Victim of the Blacklist, 170-71.

(22.) Hollywood Democratic Committee, "Statement of Aims," n.d., box 1, folder titled "Constitutions," HDC papers.

(23.) Kathryn Cramer Brownell, Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 56-58.

(24.) Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black, "What to Show the World: The Office of War Information and Hollywood, 1942-1945," Journal of American History 64 (June 1977): 104-5; Saverio Giovacchini, Hollywood Modernism: Film and Politics in the Age of the New Deal (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001), 141-42; Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black, Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Propaganda, and Profits Shaped World War II Movies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 146-54. As Koppes and Black explain of the 1943 MGM film An American Romance, "Under the watchful eye of the Bureau of Motion Pictures, An American Romance had been transformed from a paean to rugged individualism into a celebration of management-labor cooperation" (154). New Deal corporatism had replaced American individualism and class conflict.

(25.) Nelson Lichtenstein, Labor's War at Home: The CIO in World War II (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2003), 93-94.

(26.) "Hollywood Democratic Committee--Background," 4; "Hollywood Democratic Committee Activities and Accomplishments," n.d., box 1, folder titled "History," HDC papers; Lichtenstein, Labor's War at Home, 93-94.

(27.) "Hollywood Democratic Committee--Background," 8-9.

(28.) "Hollywood Democratic Committee--Background," 10-11, 20; "Hollywood Democratic Committee, Minutes of Membership Meeting, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Jan. 12, '44," box 1, folder titled "Membership Meetings 1944": "What Can We Do to Stop This?", Target for Today: Bulletin of the Hollywood Democratic Committee 1 (December 1943): 2, HDC papers.

(29.) "Hollywood Democratic Committee--Background," 9; Target for Today: Bulletin of the Hollywood Democratic Committee 1 (25 July 1943): 2, in box 8, folder titled "HDC-Target for Tomorrow, 1943-44," HDC Papers.

(30.) Hollywood Democratic Committee, Minutes of the Executive Board Meeting, 13 October 1943, box 1, folder tided "Executive Board 1943-44," HDC papers.

(31.) Hollywood Democratic Committee, Minutes of Membership Meeting, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 12 January 1944, box 1, folder titled "Membership Meetings 1944," HDC papers.

(32.) Target for Today: Bulletin of the Hollywood Democratic Committee (October 1943): 1.

(33.) NCPAC, "This is Our Plan," 6 January 1945, box 18, folder titled "NCPAC 1945," Baldwin papers; Clark Foreman, "Statement of the National Citizens Political Action Committee," The Antioch Review 4 (Autumn 1944): 475.

(34.) Target for Today: Bulletin of the Hollywood Democratic Committee (October 1943): 1.

(35.) Ibid.

(36.) "Back the Attack on the Homefront," Target for Today: Bulletin of the Hollywood Democratic Committee 1 (October 1943): 2.

(37.) Pepper to O'Connell, 17 February 1944, box 8, folder titled "Wallace, Henry, 1943-1946," HDC papers.

(38.) As Michael Denning explains, "since the Popular Front was in many ways a community-based social movement--epitomized perhaps in the citywide general strikes of 1934 and 1946--the key community organizers were often women," all of which certainly held for the Hollywood popular front. See Denning, The Cultural Front, 32.

(39.) Talent organized by the Hollywood Democratic Committee attended hundreds of local meetings, penned dozens of campaign articles, and delivered countless speeches in support of Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms. The Actors Division dispatched high-profile names to appearances from San Diego and Long Beach to Pasadena, Wilmington, and San Bernardino. Throughout the campaign, the unit of junior actors performed skits for organizations and rallies throughout Southern California. The Radio Division recorded 162 advertisements for congressional candidates, 45 for local candidates, and spots targeted specifically at "Spanish American and Negro voters." For more, see "Hollywood Democratic Committee: Background," 23-24, box 1, folder titled "History," HDC papers. Minutes, Hollywood Democratic Committee, Executive Board Meeting, 16 June 1944.

(40.) Untitled Speech, "Mr. Chairman and Friends," 26(?) July 1944, Minutes of Membership Meetings, box 1, folder titled "Membership Meetings 1944," HDC papers.

(41.) "Vote for Your Life and Your Country's Future Next Tuesday, May 16!," Target for Today: Bulletin of the Hollywood Democratic Committee, May 1944, box 8, folder titled "HDC-Target for Today, 1943-44," HDC papers.

(42.) Minutes, Executive Board Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 7 July 1944, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board, 1943-44," HDC papers; Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 510. It would seem that this was the final result of a script written by fellow Communist Party members Paul Jarrico and Paul Trivers titled "Over Here." See Executive Board meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 7 July, 1 August, and 4 August 1944, 1, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board 1943-44," HDC papers.

(43.) Minutes, Executive Board Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 4 and 18 August 1944.

(44.) Executive Board Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 18 August 1944; "Hollywood Democratic Committee--Background," 25, box 1, folder titled "History," HDC papers.

(45.) Untitled Speech, "Mr. Chairman and Friends," 26(?) July 1944, Minutes of Membership Meetings, box 1, folder titled "Membership Meetings 1944," HDC papers.

(46.) Ward Coley to George Pepper, 14 June 1944, box 2, folder titled "Miscellaneous correspondence, 1943-46," HDC papers.

(47.) Minutes, Executive Board Special Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 6 February 1944, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board 1943-44," HDC papers.

(48.) Ibid. Executive Board Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 9 June 1944; see also Michael Dennis, "The Other Good Fight: Hollywood Talent and the Working-Class Movement of the 1930s," Science and Society 80 (April 2016): 172-75. Perhaps most importantly, the HDC raised mountains of money. Through radio spots, radio skits, telephone campaigns, and targeted print advertising, George Pepper and his committee helped raise $35,000 in support of candidates that endorsed Roosevelt's policies. That paled in comparison to the $136,015 that the HDC solicited from the wallets of the Hollywood wealthy for the November campaign. See Louise Overacker, "American Government and Politics: Presidential Campaign Funds, 1944," American Political Science Review 39 (October 1945): 902; on the extent of the committee's fundraising, see "Report for Yip Harburg," 20 April 1945; "Hollywood Democratic Committee, Activities and Accomplishments," 2, box 1, folder titled "History," HDC papers; on the Great Depression as the turning point in the advancement of the social wage in France, the United States, and several Scandinavian countries, see Alvin Finkel, "Workers' Social Wage Struggles during the Great Depression and the Era of Neoliberalism," in Leon Fink, Joan Sangster, and Joseph A. McCartin, eds., Workers in Hard Times: A Long View of Economic Crises (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2014), chapter six.

(49.) Hollywood Democratic Committee, "Activities and Accomplishments," 2, box 1, folder titled "History," HDC papers.

(50.) Minutes, Executive Board Meeting, 18 August 1944, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board 1943-44," HDC papers.

(51.) The growing proximity between the Hollywood organization and the Democratic Party generated considerable debate, particularly considering the group's insistence on its independent and non-partisan status. See Minutes, Executive Board Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, "full transcript," 15 December 1943, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board, 1943-44," HDC papers.

(52.) "Some Speech!," n.d., 1944, Minutes of Membership Meeting, Hollywood Democratic Committee, box 1, folder titled "Membership Meetings 1944," HDC papers.

(53.) Ronald Brownstein, The Power and the Glitter (New York: Pantheon Books, 1990), 99-100. The HDC's campaign for Roosevelt culminated in two radio broadcasts, one featuring Paul Muni, John Garfield, Gloria Stuart, and Edward G. Robinson, and another, on election eve, 6 November 1944, starring Humphrey Bogart and Judy Garland; the broadcast was a major victory for the Hollywood left.

(54.) Home, Class Struggle in Hollywood, 91; Neve, "Red Hollywood in Transition," 188; Ceplair and Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood, 190; Denning, The Cultural Front, 417-420.

(55.) Ross, Hollywood Left and Right, 140-42; Brownell, Showbiz Politics, 91-99.

(56.) Brownell, Showbiz Politics, 97.

(57.) Patricia Sullivan, Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 174-75; Nelson Lichtenstein, "From Corporatism to Collective Bargaining: Organized Labor and the Eclipse of Social Democracy in the Postwar Era," in Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle, eds., The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 129; for more on Southern influence in shaping key New Deal measures, including the Social Security Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the virulently anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, see, for example, Sean Farhang and Ira Katznelson,"The Southern Imposition: Congress and Labor in the New Deal and Fair Deal," Studies in American Political Development 19 (Spring 2005): 1-30. Elsewhere, Katznelson makes the case for the South's growing intransigence on labor and progressive legislation, of which Wallace had become the administration symbol, and Roosevelt's allegedly impossible political dilemma. See Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (New York: WW Norton and Company, 2005), particularly chapters 4 and 5.

(58.) See Minutes of the Executive Board, Hollywood Democratic Committee, 18 August 1944, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board, 1943-44," HDC papers.

(59.) Doug Rossinow, Visions of Progress: The Left-Liberal Tradition in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 186; "Statement of Policy, Morris Cohn," 18 August 1944, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board 1943-44," HDC papers.

(60.) For example, HDC secretary George Pepper insisted at an executive board meeting in January 1944 that organized labor accept President Roosevelt's call for national service legislation. Failing to do so, he insisted, would encourage "reactionary legislation." According to Pepper's party-driven reasoning, "HDC's ultimate position on the [Roosevelt] program [should] be based on whether it is good for the country as a whole, whether it will aid prosecution of the war, whether it is good for morale on the home front, what it will do for the soldiers, and what it will do for economic condition of the country." The measure threatened to reduce labor's already limited power, the result of the no-strike pledge, while legitimizing highly authoritarian measures that fell on the shoulders of working people. That Pepper's urgent determination for labor to support this "fifth point" left little doubt that Communist Party interests exercised considerable though not unilateral influence within the Hollywood Democratic Committee. See Hollywood Democratic Committee, Executive Board Meeting--19 March 1943, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board 1943-44," HDC papers; "The President's Five Point Program," in Hollywood Democratic Committee, Minutes of the Executive Board, 19 January 1944, box 1, folder titled "Executive Board 1943-44"; untitled address, "We are in a state of motion between two great campaigns...," July 1944. HDC papers.

(61.) Mike Davis, "The Barren Marriage of Labour and the Democratic Party," New Left Review 124 (November-December 1980): 66-67.

(62.) See Brownell, Showbiz Politics, 114-15.

(63.) Home, Class Struggle in Hollywood, 170-71; Gerda Lerner, Fireweed: A Political Autobiography (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2002), 246-47; Larry May, The Big Tomorrow: Hollywood and the Politics of the American Way (Chicago, IL: University Press of Chicago, 2000) 190.

(64.) Indeed, as Donald T. Critchlow writes in a sympathetic treatment of the MPA and the rise of the right in Hollywood, "the issue of communism in the film industry was a labor issue. It was not about pro-Soviet films." See Donald T. Critchlow, When Hollywood was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 63.

(65.) May, The Big Tomorrow, 189-91, quotation on 190.
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Date:Jun 22, 2019

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