Reds Out of Hollywood

Reds Out of Hollywood! McCarthyism and American Cinema. Let's take a trip back in time, to the America of the McCarthy era in 1947, when one of the most popular jobs was to be a door-to-door salesman of bomb shelters. These were the United States of the Cold War era, told to the Italian readers through the unpublished hearings held on Hollywood by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). The HUAC dedicated nine days of hearings into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry, and interrogated names such as Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Bertolt Brecht and Edward Dmytrik.
 

From the Preface, by Oliviero Diliberto: 

Zero Mostel dances alone in a hotel room. He smiles. He has a champagne flute in his hand. He toasts towards an nonexistent interlocutor. He climbs onto the windowsill. He throws himself into the emptiness. It is a vivid memory. The Front (in Italy, Il prestanome) by Martin Ritt: a story about the McCarthy era and the impossibility to work in the motion picture industry for those who were a part of the political Left, or those who opposed the McCarthyite witch hunt, those who believed in the freedom of expression, and in democracy. Someone faced jail time, someone got fired from their jobs, and someone - like Mostel in Ritt's movie - committed suicide. [...]
 
Let's go back to Zero Mostel and the worrisome final scene of the film, in which Woody Allen refuses to give to the HUAC even the name of one dead man. He, who was previously only a front man, then becomes an unexpected hero. America interrogates herself, as Sydney Pollack did three years earlier in The Way we Were. Hollywood investigates itself, its cowardice and its courage. There are still some open wounds, if you think about the 1998 controversy about the Academy Honorary Award attributed to the career of Elia Kazan, who accused friends and colleagues for speaking frankly. These are the moments when each of us confronts ourselves before others. As Alessandro Manzoni would say, one cannot give courage to himself. But dignity, yes.
 
The McCarthy era is cultured, refined and rich in unpublished materials. The era was born, as this intelligent book perfectly explains, in the context of a world divided in two, from the Berlin Blockade (1948), from the atomic nightmare coming from the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and tested for the first time in the USSR (1949), from the fear of communism overcoming China (1949), and the beginning of the Korean War (1950).
 
Hollywood told the history of the Vietnam's war - a real national nightmare - in very different ways. But American cinema has been able to spoil its own image, and I think to that same cinema about Vietnam, thanks to the bitter and intelligent parody by Tarantino (Pulp fiction). [...] This is the same cinema that is confronting today's story: the theme of the danger of terrorism, and the fear of Muslims. It's the cinema of the time period of the Guantanamo Bay prisons and the torture of Abu Graib. A cinema that is obsessed, in one way or another, with September 11th. The "enemies", of course, change with time. Sometimes they are the Native Americans, some others are the Mexicans (The Alamo). Once they are the same stubborn cowboys that don't give up at the arrival of the law in the Wild West (the worrisome The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), then the Japanese, the Germans, the Soviets with their allies: the Koreans, the Vietnamese, and often implicitly represented by extraterrestrials, of which an invasion is always feared. And now, the Muslims.
 
Now we are thrown back into the nightmare. War once again dominates the scene. The war has even substituted foreign politics, and diplomacy. And the first victim of war, as one who understands war maintained, is the truth. Mass fear, whether rational or irrational, witch hunts, fiery proclamations and curses, have now returned. There's always a little of Senator Joseph McCarthy in every ambush. It's up to us, as the free conscience of America, to watch out for history, devilishly persevering so that the errors are never repeated, ever again.

-Oliviero Diliberto, National Secretary of the Italian Communist Party

Presentation
 
This research has been presented with a lectio magistralis about the McCarthy Era in Chioggia (Civic Museum), Trento (University of Trento, Dept. of Sociology), Rome (National Rally of Liberazione).
 
Praise for Fuori i rossi da Hollywood!
Gastaldi's powerful study is rich in definitions, facts, official documents, data, dates, audience minutes, interrogations, depositions and, above all, testimonials of the stars... it is also the impassioned narration of a witch hunt... Gastaldi tells the story of a time in American history, the story of the cinema, and of world politics with a disarming clarity and a praiseworthy balance that had been overlooked up until now... The value of this long description of the Hollywood show to the bar is the all-American slice already chosen by the author.
(Alessandra Iadicicco, Il Giornale, September 21st, 2004).
"The McCarthy era is a period that needs to be looked at again in the age of Islamic witch hunts. [...] Reds out of Hollywood! is one of the rare Italian essays on the topic. [...] The analogies of the America of Bush junior are such and so evident, that unfortunately Gastaldi speaks about post September 11th as the neo-McCarthy era, in which the red scare is substituted with the Islam-scare".
(Emilio Ranzato, Alias de Il Manifesto, October 7th, 2006.)
"This book is the most exhaustive published essay by an Italian scholar on the phenomenon of the communist hunt in the world or American cinema".
(Giuliano di Tanna, Il Centro, October 5th, 2004).
"A subject that has not been deeply explored in Italy, the McCarthy era phenomenon in American cinema, is now at the center of this penetrating and well researched study by Sciltian Gastaldi, based on the hearings - in a large part unpublished in Italy - of the audiences held by the House Committee on the Un-American Activities".
(Francesco Troiano, Tuttolibri de La Stampa, October 23rd, 2004).
"An important, detailed, and ample close examination on the facts and more often on the misdeeds of the McCarthy era".
(Massimo Lastrucci, Ciak, November 2004).
One of the best Italian books on the McCarthy era.
(La Repubblica, November 26th, 2004, page 40).
"The hearings from the House Committee on the Un-American Activities subjected people such as Gary Cooper, Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney in the 1940s and they make up the majority of the volume".
(Paola Piacenza, Io Donna - Il femminile del Corriere della Sera, April 12th, 2004).
"Gastaldi pauses on the last pages to reflect on the most recent facts, those of what happened after September 11, 2001. And he asks himself if there exists today a type of neo- Mccarthyism directed at Muslims instead of Communists. There are unsettling signs pointing in this direction".
(Roberto Carnero, L'Unità, January 3rd, 2005).
"A book rich with official documents and testimonials, information and facts, rendering itself very useful to reconstruct a period in time from many points of view".
(Marco Respinti - L'Indipendente, April 28th, 2005)
"Reading Sciltian Gastaldi's work [...] is a healthy full immersion into most up-to-date political dynamics. It's not only, as the title of the volume states, an occasion for a detailed historiography occasion on past facts. Gastaldi, in this volume, succeeds in reconstructing McCarthyism's influence and direct consequences on the American cinematography. This is the reason why, in our opinion, the most important aspect of this book is given by its final chapter, in which [...] the author questions whether that historical phase has been more a symptom of a more ample political will. A will that for this reason is repeatable when the government feels the need for it..."
(Antonello Cresti - MegaChip, October 27th, 2013)

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