De Toledano,









M. Wesley




INT: Very briefly, could you just tell me how you were greeted by the Hollywood community when you came out of prison?

RL: We came out of prison... the atmosphere was quite different than it had been in those two and a half years before we went to prison. There had been changes in the scene, Senator McCarthy had appeared on the scene, the Korean War had broken out, the Rosenberg case had been tried, and people generally in Hollywood were pretty scared to have anything to do with us. Whereas before we went to prison, they had not been nearly as scared and they were plotting undercover arrangements that were made to write scripts under pseudonyms for a good deal less money than you were accustomed to being paid. But that was all shut down because not only had all these other things happened, but the committee had just begun new hearings in '50, this was in the Spring of '51. I remember in the prison, before I was released, I was in my cell... I had asked for a private cell, so I could do some work and an inmate came from the common room in this building and said, hey, they're talking about you on the radio and I went and heard the reports of this testimony and new hearings that were starting.

INT: And did you imagine at that point during the '51 hearings that the situation was going to get much worse? And Hollywood was sort of divided by that, could you describe that for me a little bit?

RL: Yes. , because it was on... quite... a... These... these new hearings in 1951 were on a large scale, involved a lot more people. They involved witnesses who had quite long lists of names, witnesses who decided to co-operate with the committee, including one single witness, a writer named Tony Berkeley, who named a hundred and sixty people, I believe. It was really not qualitatively different thing, because it involved such a large part of the community, who were, I think, about two hundred and fifty people black-listed eventually. And a great many other people were very scared and I think were more cautious both in their, what they were writing for the screen and in the portico activities generally.

INT: And with the business of naming names?

RL: Well, that was the choice that the... It became now,... it was clear at the time the '51 hearings started, there was no point in taking the stand we had, 'cos that just resulted in prison and there was nothing new to be achieved. So you had a choice between invoking the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination or answering the question, which the next question was, who else, and that involved naming names, which a great many people decided to do. Some of them were under a lot more pressure than others, they really felt their careers were at stake and in my opinion, most of them did it quite reluctantly. You just didn't hear of people going round expressing pride that they had done this. And as the years passed, I think more of them regretted it. 'Cos Dalton Trumbo said, in a way there were no heroes at that time, only victims... both the people who had gone to prison, the people who were black-listed and the people who were pressured into doing something that they found very unpleasant to do.

INT: Yeah. It was a good way of putting it. Now, move on a little bit. What do you think was the worst thing about the influence of HUAC and McCarthy on American life?

RL: Well, to the extent that people believed what they said and I and I think quite a few people believed quite a lot of it. It created a couple of false impressions, one was that this country was in danger of an attack by the Soviet Union, which actually I think was kind of a preposterous idea, because I think the last thing in the minds of any of the Soviet leaders then would be starting a war with the United States. And I think that's really been borne out now that records are being exposed and we find out what decisions were being made. And the second was that there was a sort of conspiracy within the United States that people who were in the Communist Party of the United States, were plotting in some way to, to overthrow the government, to some kind of act against the..., in other words, the Communist Party was erroneously described as similar to the present movements in this country, like the militia movements or the Islamic militants who are involved in the World Trade Centre bombing, as people who were actually conspiring to commit some act of terror and this simply didn't exist.

INT: And it did damage to American society, would you say?

RL: It certainly did, yes. It put people against each other, suspicious of each other. It created an erroneous image of the world situation. There were people in this country and maybe there were in the Soviet Union too, who actually benefited in some way from the fact of a Cold War and keeping that constant threat in people's minds.

INT: Fine, OK. Can we take a pause there.


INT: So could you just describe to me how the black list affected both yours and other people's lives?

RL;: Well, some people who were black-listed, I said they were in the hundreds, maybe two hundred and fifty or something and many of them were not sufficiently established in the motion picture business to be able to survive this period of black-listing. The went into other forms of work entirely. They had very unhappy times some of them, they suffered a economically, there were a couple of possible suicides as a result of it. There were a good deal of misery. Those of us who were more established at the time of the black-list, didn't have it quite so bad, becausalthough were not able after we got out of prison to find [unintelligible] work in Hollywood again as we had before we went to prison, we gradually found other ways of earning a living and survived, so that we were able to return when that was possible. In my particular case, the work consisted of doing television series, these were black and white half hour shows, mainly directed toward children, which an American woman, named Hannah Weinstein went to England and started a company there, and produced these shows and she had, part of her purpose was to hire black-listed writers. She was sympathetic, she also thought it would be to her economic advantage, she was also interested in making money out of these shows. So she enlisted another black-listed writer, Ian McClelland-Hunter and me to do a pilot film of... she had the idea of doing a television series about Robin Hood and she got a British actor, Richard Greene, to star in it and we wrote the pilot and many, many episodes in it and that particular programme was quite successful and went on for several years and it appeared in England but also was mainly sold to an American network and was a successful network show. And we went on to do three pilots that all became series and which created a great deal of work to be done and about twenty black-listed writers got involved, and American black-listed writers got involved doing this. Some of the shows were written by English writers, an this was a source of income to us. They didn't actually pay very well, and our standard of living was quite changed. Our way of life and our children in some instances suffered some in schools.

(End of tape)