Blacklisted: Marsha Hunt & Norma Barzman

6:00 AM PST 11/17/2012 by Scott Feinberg
Joe Pugliese

Marsha Hunt, 95, made her film debut in 1935, at age 18, and appeared in 52 films during the next 14 years, most notably Pride and Prejudice (1940), Blossoms in the Dust (1941) and The Human Comedy (1943) for MGM. In 1946, she was elected to the SAG board and first sensed trouble when members were asked to sign loyalty oaths. A year later, HUAC called its first witnesses, 19 screenwriters and directors. The move prompted Hunt and her husband, screenwriter Robert Presnell, to join the Committee for the First Amendment, which was composed of Hollywood A-listers looking to defend their colleagues' constitutional rights. "We were defending freedom and the good name of our industry, which was being attacked," Hunt recalls. After recording Hollywood Fights Back, a radio broadcast co-scripted by Presnell that questioned the propriety of HUAC, the group chartered a flight to Washington to sit in on the hearings in silent protest. For this, and for signing on to other "lefty" causes and petitions, Hunt was included in Red Channels. Despite being a hot commodity before then -- she'd had a solo Life cover and been offered shows by all three TV networks -- she found it virtually impossible to get film or TV work for the next decade. Instead, she shifted her attention to public service, devoting 25 years to the United Nations. "It enriched me, it challenged me, it helped me grow," she reflects. "I was lucky, wasn't I?"

Norma Barzman, 92, on her 21st birthday came out from New York to Hollywood, where her cousin, a noted screenwriter, enrolled her at the left-leaning School of Writers. A year later, she married up-and-coming screenwriter Ben Barzman and joined the Communist Party, of which he was already a member. Her attraction to the party was due as much to the community that it provided as the politics it professed. "The Hollywood progressive community in the '40s was so wonderful, so exciting to be part of," she says. But she made no secret of her belief that capitalism wasn't working. After a stint as a newspaper writer, she began penning scripts of her own, including the 1946 Errol Flynn picture Never Say Goodbye. But in 1947, after the Hollywood Ten were jailed, the parents of two decided not to wait for their time to run out. To avoid being subpoenaed if named by others, they moved to Paris in 1949. (They were indeed named in 1951.) Even overseas, they continued to be monitored by the FBI but still wrote under pseudonyms and fronts. It would be three decades before they could return to America. "These were intensely difficult years," she says. "When I got back here, by God, I was gonna be the Norma that I was supposed to be, that I started out as." In the years since, Barzman has written a popular newspaper column and several books, including a memoir, The Red and the Blacklist. Ben died in 1989.

Hunt and Barzman were photographed Oct. 24 by Joe Pugliese at Barzman’s home in Beverly Hills.

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