Blacklist Victim Thanks THR Founder’s Son for Apology

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W.R. Wilkerson III, who goes by Willie, with his father, Billy Wilkerson, in 1952.

“I can’t tell you how much it means," said Marsha Hunt, who had been a star on the rise when being branded a communist sympathizer ended her acting career.

After issuing an apology this week for his father’s role in the creation of Hollywood’s blacklist, the son of The Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson spoke with one of the infamous list’s victims on public radio Wednesday.

W.R. Wilkerson III and Marsha Hunt, a former star who was unable to find industry work after being branded a communist sympathizer, spoke by phone during a segment on KCRW's Which Way L.A.?

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“I can’t tell you how heartwarming that is. I do salute Wilkerson’s son,” Hunt said of the apology. “For this apology to be issued now, I can’t tell you how much it means.”

At the time she was blacklisted, Hunt was on her way to becoming a major star, having appeared in 52 films, been offered TV shows by all three networks, and having graced the cover of Life magazine.

Hunt said remembering the Blacklist was essential for the country's young people.

“It’s of great importance that younger people learn … not only that it could happen, but that it did happen here and to be on guard against anything that could arise in the future to make people cautious and afraid to question," she said.

Wilkerson's apology ran as a column in this week’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, along with profiles of Hunt and other surviving victims of the Blacklist.

STORY: The Hollywood Reporter, After 65 Years, Addresses Role in Blacklist

Wilkerson has said that before founding THR in 1930, his father attempted to start his own movie studio but was derailed. The son believes that this rejection caused Wilkerson to seek revenge in the editorial pages of THR, where he railed against alleged communists in Hollywood and in 1946 launched a campaign that named industry notables such as Spartacus screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and Casablanca co-writer Howard Koch as communist sympathizers.

If his father were alive today, Wilkerson believes he would apologize for his role in the Blacklist.

“What he started was a local spat between him and the movie moguls," Wilkerson said. “I don’t think he ever envisioned Sen. [Joseph] McCarthy in 1950 taking his business model so to speak and giving it a national face.”

On Tuesday, another surviving Blacklist victim spoke with CBS Los Angeles to give her take on the apology. (See video below.)

STORY: An Apology: The Son of THR Founder Billy Wilkerson on the Publication's Dark Past

“The apology just gets me furious! I think it’s just below comment,” said Norma Barzman, 92. She and her husband, a fellow screenwriter and Communist Party member, fled the country and moved to Paris when things got bad.

“I love America, but I have seen terrible periods, like the period of the Blacklist,” she said.

To listen to the conversation between Wilkerson and Hunt, head to KCRW. You can also hear a KCRW interview with THR’s Gary Baum and Daniel Miller about their article on the Blacklist below.