Edward Dmytryk Recalls the Hollywood Ten in Washington, 1947

. . . Since Crossfire was a worldwide smash, my at- tack, as well as Adrian's, centered on the committee's ethnic bias and its attempts to limit freedom of speech in the area of national self-criticism. But none of our lawyers really expected that we would be heard, and the strategy was say nothing, hide under the possible cover of the First Amendment, and hope for a favorable verdict from the Supreme Court. "Taking the Fifth" was never considered, though it would have kept us out of jail; the implication of guilt was considered too dangerous. . . .

With all the public feeling in our favor, Bart Crum suggested that Adrian and I should testify freely, which we were perfectly willing to do. We felt it might serve to pull the committee's fangs. You'd have thought we were offering to atomize the Kremlin. The unanimity rule was invoked, and that was that. From their point of view, they were absolutely right. If we had answered any substantive questions at all, we would have been legally required to give names if we were asked to. If we refused to name party members, as, at that time, we certainly would have done, we would still be cited for contempt. If we had given the names, the other members of our group would have been in the soup. Eventually, that's where we wound up anyway, but at this point the battle had barely begun and our eyes were fixed on a liberal Supreme Court. With no argument, we put our suggestion aside and on the 27th of October, entered the chamber prepared to face the inquisitors.

The chamber was crowded; the real fun was about to begin. . . . Dore Schary sat beside me as we watched John Howard Lawson being sworn in. He was the leader and would set the tone of our attack. Unfortunately, Lawson was tone-deaf.

It started with the usual identification by name and address. Then Lawson requested permission to read a statement. After a bit of bickering, Thomas asked to look at it before making his decision. He was, as they say in court, making a record. The statement was handed over to the chairman, who made only a slight pretense of reading it, then ruled that it was irrelevant. Lawson started to argue; Thomas banged his gavel. The exchange got so hot that the chairman nearly forgot to ask what came to be called "the sixty-four dollar question": "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?"

Now Lawson started shouting in earnest, trying to enumerate his reasons for refusing to answer the question. Between gavel soundings, the chairman screamed, "Answer yes or no!" Shouting and banging-banging and shouting. It was a miserable scene. I was hit by a feeling I had had once before, when a car skidded into me across a wet street. "This is it," I thought. I scrunched down in my seat and turned to Dore.

"What are my chances at the studio now?" I asked.

"You have an ironclad contract," he replied.

And so it went for the rest of the hearing. I could literally feel the listeners' sympathies oozing away with each shout from one of our group. Thomas had made a ridiculous show of himself with his shouting and free use of the gavel; now we were matching him shout for shout-it was a fight we couldn't win. . . .

We made it back to Hollywood, basking for a short time in the light of what our leftist friends assured us was a fine and glorious victory, but the decision that would affect our lives was being made at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. There, on November 27, 1947, the representatives of the motion- picture industry formally decided to fire any accused worker who would not freely answer all questions asked by the Un-American Activities Committee and who could not clear himself of charges that he was or had been a member of the Communist party. The following day, since Dore refused to be the hatchet man, N. Peter Rathvon called Scott and me into his office and asked us once more to recant and to purge ourselves. With hardly any sense of martyrdom at all, we refused. In that case, he informed us, we were no longer employees of RKO. So much for ironclad contracts. . . .