The Hollywood Blacklist, 1947–58

The roots of the Hollywood Blacklist began in the 1930s during the height of the Great Depression, when many American writers and artists were drawn to the basic ideology of communism. The fear that communism had become a serious internal threat to the nation’s security resulted in the creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1938. Its goal was to ferret out subversive figures throughout American life. The influential, blistering left-wing faction in Hollywood became a prime target. of HUAC.
Genre films, particularly crime stories and westerns, became the fertile soil for filmmakers to cultivate their personal agendas. Many low-budget films carried subversive political and social subtexts that went unnoticed by censors and government watchdogs, enabling a stream of highly charged, meaningful films to invade the public consciousness. Ultimately, these artists would pay a severe price for the right to freely express their ideas and concerns, leaving behind a battle-scarred Hollywood landscape that would take decades to heal.
This course will feature a dozen or more films focusing on those most affected by this shameful scourge. We will discuss writers and directors such as Dalton Trumbo, Jules Dassin, Joseph Losey, and Adrian Scott and films such as High Noon, Body and Soul, Crossfire, Brute Force, and The Prowler—subversively camouflaged genre pictures. Students will have the opportunity to view the films at their own pace at home and then discuss together as a class each week via Zoom.

Elliot Lavine
Film Historian; Filmmaker


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Online, instructor-led
Jan 31 - Mar 6, 2024
Stanford Continuing Studies