Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is known for such popular films as Roman Holiday, Spartacus, Exodus and The Way We Were. Trumbo is a new biopic about the controversial writer that details his persecution by the American government for being a Communist. Turns out he wasn’t the only one. Here are 13 Hollywood actors who went “red.”
1. Lucille Ball
Our favorite funny girl Ball, who paved the way for today’s comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Schumer, registered to vote in 1936 and listed her party affiliation as Communist. In 1940, however, Ball recanted and denied ever being a member of the Communist Party.
2. James Cagney
In 1950, a pamphlet entitled Red Channels was published that contained the names of supposed “Red Fascists and their sympathizers.” Cagney, best known for his Oscar-winning role in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy, was on the list.
3. Humphrey Bogart
A Democrat, Bogart organized a delegation to Washington, D.C., called the Committee for the First Amendment, to take a stand against the House Un-American Activities Committee’s (HUAC) persecution of Hollywood’s actors and writers.
4. Katharine Hepburn
Fiercely private, Hepburn publicly denied being a communist sympathizer when her name was mentioned at the HUAC’s hearings in the 1940s.
5. Richard Attenborough
Attenborough was also included in the Red Channels pamphlet. Though there was never any evidence that he was a communist sympathizer, he said, “I’m a passionate trade unionist.”
6. Charlie Chaplin
When the FBI considered Chaplin to be a huge communist threat, J. Edgar Hoover tried to have him deported. So frustrated by what he called an “unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted,” Chaplain left the U.S. and made his home in Switzerland.
7. Gypsy Rose Lee
Lee was only 18 years old when the stock market crashed in 1929. It’s possible she turned to prostitution during the Depression, trying to make ends meet. Later in life, she regularly attended meetings at the Communist United Front.
8. Orson Welles
While the FBI was never able to establish that Welles was a member of the Communist Party, he was put on a list of individuals who should be taken into custody if the country faced any kind of national emergency.
9. Burl Ives
Also mentioned in the Red Channels pamphlet, Ives denied being a Communist but admitted wanting to keep in touch with “working folk.” He was removed from the blacklist when he cooperated with the HUAC, though was considered a sellout by many of his friends.
10. Will Geer
Best known for appearing on the hit TV show The Waltons in the 1970s, Geer found himself blacklisted in the early 1950s for refusing to testify before the HUAC. His film career stalled after that, inspiring him to open the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, in the mountains above Los Angeles in 1951.
11. Uta Hagen
Hagen was also well known as an acting teacher. Her refusal to name Communists in the so-called witch hunts of the 1950s caused her to be blacklisted.
12. Stella Adler
Another actress and acclaimed acting teacher, Adler was also deemed a Communist for her association with Russian actor-director Konstantin Stanislavski, who’s credited for creating the foundation for method acting.
13. Ruth Gordon
Along with her husband Garson Kanin, Gordon cowrote screenplays for rom-coms like Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike that starred Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Both those films depicted strong female characters that were discouraged during the time of the blacklist.
Trumbo opens in theaters Nov. 6.