The Hollywood Communism Scare: Just A Personal Vendetta

A son apologizes for his father’s participation in the 1950s communist witch hunts:

From 1930 to 1962, Billy Wilkerson was the publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. He also was my father. Before establishing THR, he actively was involved in the film industry, mainly as a producer. In 1927, he had plans to build and own a film studio, but without the help of the studio titans, who owned everything related to film production at that time — from the talent to distribution to the theater chains — it would have been next to impossible for Wilkerson. For whatever reason, the movie brass refused him entry into their “club” and squashed his dream. So he found another one: exacting revenge.

After World War II, the spread of communism began gobbling up Eastern Europe. This presented Wilkerson with a formidable opportunity. In his maniacal quest to annihilate the studio owners, he realized that the most effective retaliation was to destroy their talent. In the wake of this emerging hysteria surrounding communism, the easiest way to crush the studio owners was to simply call their actors, writers and directors communists. Unfortunately, they would become the collateral damage of history. Apart from being charged with contempt, for refusing to name names, none of these individuals committed any crimes.

In the end, it was all about a personal grudge. Which makes the whole event even more like the actual witch hunts, where the accusers could obtain, for a song, the properties of the condemned.

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