8 television stars who were affected by the Red Scare and Hollywood blacklist

McCarthyism put a dent in many entertainment careers.

On June 22, 1950, the right-wing publication Counterattack printed a pamphlet that would change the entertainment industry, if not American society itself. Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television listed 151 professionals in the entertainment industry, branding them Communists. 

The accusations split Hollywood, leading studios to blacklist supposedly leftist actors and creators, while others, like Barbra Stanwyck, would join pro-blacklist groups such as the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. 

Many stars would testify before Congress and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Careers were derailed. Some were branded sellouts. Some were able to avoid the stigma. The Red Scare will forever remain one of Hollywood's darkest chapters. Here are some notable actors you might not realize were accused of communism.

1. Lucille Ball

The reddest thing about Lucy is her hair. In 1953, Ball gave sealed testimony to HUAC investigator William A. Wheeler, due to a minor issue of paperwork from two decades prior. When registering to vote in 1936, Ball listed her party affiliation as Communist, but swore that she did so at the insistence of her socialist grandfather. Fortunately, J. Edgar Hoover was a big fan of I Love Lucy. But who wasn't?

Image: AP Photo

2. Eddie Albert

The Green Acres star was painted into a red corner when his name was listed in Red Channels. His wife, the actress Margo, was openly on the left. Albert was able to overcome the blacklisting thanks to his heroic efforts in World War II, though his Mexican-born spouse saw her career greatly suffer.

Image: MGM Television

3. Will Geer

Best known as grandpa Zeb Walton on The Waltons, Geer saw his roles greatly diminish in the 1950s after being named in Red Channels. The man on the right in the photo certainly didn't seem to trust the Western actor. Geer would pass away during the production of The Waltons.

Image: AP Photo

4. Burgess Meredith

The Penguin was labeled a villain in real life, as well. That would explain the sizeable gaps in the actor's filmography during the 1950s. Meredith turned to the stage and voice work during the Red Scare. Thankfully, McCarthyism faded away, as we can't imaging Batman and The Twilight Zone without him.

5. Pert Kelton

If the name seems obscure to you, blame the blacklist. Kelton was an original Honeymooner, the first to play Alice Kramden. She gave the character a darker twist, and it would have been fascinating to see how the show would have differed with her permanently in the role. When The Honeymooners moved to CBS, Kelton was removed from the cast, because of being named in Red Channels. Gleason covered for her by spreading misinformation that she left due to heart trouble.

Image: Wikipedia

6. Lee Grant

With an Oscar and Emmys on her mantle, Grant might seem like an unlikely victim of the blacklist. Grant refused to testify against her husband before the HUAC, and lost work for more than a decade in Hollywood. The difficult period would long haunt her, yet she was able to overcome, scoring roles in Peyton Place and her own sitcom, Fay. She took home an Emmy for Peyton, and was nominated for another after a guest appearance on Columbo — just to name a couple of her well-earned honors.

Image: AP Photo/David F. Smith

7. Nat Hiken

The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You? creator, pictured on the right with Silvers, was able to clear the blacklist. The progressive Hiken would thankfully continue to push boundaries, casting another blacklisted actor, Ossie Davis, in Car 54

Image: AP Photo

8. John Ireland

The great Western actor, pictured left, who portrayed Jed Colby on Rawhide, was not going to go down without a fight. After being blacklisted, Ireland sued two TV producers for slander and breach of contract. He had been deemed “politically unacceptable.” He earned a cash settlement. He also appeared in Spartacus, the cinema classic written by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

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VBartilucci 21 months ago
It's generally believed that Lucy avoiding McCarthy's grasp was the beginning of the end to his influence. She was simply too big, and too beloved, to take down. And people started asking who else he might have been wrong about.
RedSamRackham 34 months ago
* During depression of 1930's while neither Herbert Hoover's nor FDR's best efforts failed to quick fix economy many folks including Hollywood actors & screenwriters attended meetings discussing communism as as a cure albeit temporary for our suffering economy. However once entry into WW2 with wartime economy ended depression all of the folks who attended those meetings went back to being good little Democrats and Republicans. Persecuting them in 1950's was a violation of their constitutional rights and was totally wrong. ♣
BarryGoubler RedSamRackham 22 months ago
"Went back"? The Hollywood Ten were Communist Party members even after the war.
GEMof72 34 months ago
This article was written with too many jokes. The fake red scare screwed up a lot of careers off baseless fears.
BarryGoubler GEMof72 22 months ago
Are you familiar with the Venona transcripts? Soviet agents were working in the State Department and Hollywood. The real issue is that people like you support it.
No, the real issue is that Congress went after famous people with a vengeance in order to generate more publicity for themselves.
DSnider 40 months ago
I remember Ossie Davis in The Phil Silvers Show, but not in Car 54. Nipsey Russell was in Car 54, as was another Black actor with a tremendous bass singing voice (check out the "Christmas concert" episode). More than "just" a sit-com, Car 54 dealt with some very important issues both for the time and in general. The tearing down of tenements to create The Projects (with Molly Picon as Mrs Bronson, agreeing to move out of her tenement in exchange for donations to "Plant a Tree for Israel") was a case in point; and the one about the bar mitzvah for the son of the "most hated landlord in the Bronx" had a three-handkerchief climax.
GEMof72 DSnider 34 months ago
Thank you. And the Black actors had actual respectable lines & weren’t just in the background.
Carlos63 47 months ago
Too bad hollyweird doesn't blacklist progressives now, 3/4 of them wouldn't be working and spreading leftist propaganda
JohnL1951 Carlos63 41 months ago
That would be perfect if this weren't the United States of America, a free country that's grown beyond the blacklist oppression, hate, injustice. If not for progressives, we'd be stuck back then with neanderthalic jerks like you.
GEMof72 Carlos63 34 months ago
It was a bunch of lies generated by people who were ignorant & controlling.
RedSamRackham Carlos63 34 months ago
* Yet preaching any political belief no matter how controversial is a 1st amendment right and cannot legally be prosecuted. However for any person in show biz certain public comments can indeed be bad career ending PR. ♣
BarryGoubler JohnL1951 22 months ago
The Hollywood Ten were Communist Party members who supported the Soviets even after Stalin signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler. They deserved what they got.
BarryGoubler GEMof72 22 months ago
Are you familiar with the Venona transcripts?
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