I enthusiastically recommend a recent book on Hollywood Communism: Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony’s Long Romance With the Left, by Ronald and Allis Radosh (Encounter Books, 309 pages). (Ronald Radosh is, like David Horowitz, a former communist who in later years became disillusioned with the Left and ended up an articulate, principled anti-communist. I also recommend his autobiography, Commie, and his history of the role of the Soviets in the Spanish Civil War, Spain Betrayed.)
The authors successfully collapse the myth that has been created about Hollywood communists (and especially the Hollywood Ten) and present the truth. The book covers the emergence of a Hollywood-Soviet connection, the popular front era and the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the years when the USA and USSR were allies, the two big HUAC hearings on Hollywood (’47 & ’51) and their aftermath (the blacklists, growing disillusionment among the Hollywood Left, the creation of the myth of the angelic Hollywood Communists).
My main disagreement with the authors concerns the blacklists, which they believe were wrong. (I defend Ayn Rand’s account of the blacklists in Chapter 5 of my Ayn Rand and Song of Russia.) The blacklists don’t loom large in Red Star Over Hollywood, however, and the authors clearly don’t accept the all-too-common view that the blacklists justify the glorification of the Hollywood communists. And part of their complaint might be on target: that the blacklists were (in part) an ineptly handled reaction to the hearings of an organization that was mixed at best (i.e., HUAC).
Red Star Over Hollywood provides an excellent picture of the nature and actions of the Hollywood communists, and is an excellent complement to Ayn Rand and Song of Russia, which is a case study and not a broad history. I’ll add that in stark contrast to most who have written on this subject–even many on the Right–Ronald and Allis Radosh are completely respectful of Ayn Rand. For example, after discussing Song of Russia and Ayn Rand’s 1947 HUAC testimony on it (in Chapter 4, The Nazi-Soviet Pact and Its Aftermath) they end that chapter with the following: “Ayn Rand was ridiculed and derided for years by journalists like Victor Navasky for her evaluation of Song of Russia. But she was completely correct.”