This story first appeared in the November 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The so-called Waldorf Statement — named for the New York hotel where it was drafted on Nov. 24-25, 1947, by MPAA president Eric Johnston on behalf of 48 movie executives — decreed that the 10 Hollywood men who had just been cited for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities would not be allowed to work in the business until each had “purged himself of contempt and declares under oath that he is not a communist.”
None of them, as it happened, ever was proved to have inserted communist propaganda into their films or other projects in an attempt to undermine or overthrow the government. But that didn’t matter: The heads of the major studios — including Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Harry Cohn, Barney Balaban and Albert Warner — signed the declaration in part simply to look like they, the leaders of the industry, were getting out in front of the supposed problem by taking what they termed “positive action.”
Their statement took care to remind the public that “nothing subversive or un-American has appeared on the screen, nor can any number of Hollywood investigations obscure the patriotic services of the 30,000 loyal Americans employed in Hollywood.”
Finally, they acknowledged the fevered tenor of the time — yet, ironically, positioned their own politically motivated decision to economically exile their employees due to their supposed beliefs as one of resolute principle. “In pursuing this policy, we are not going to be swayed by hysteria or intimidation from any source,” they wrote. “We are frank to recognize that such a policy involves danger and risks. There is the danger of hurting innocent people. There is the risk of creating an atmosphere of fear. Creative work at its best cannot be carried on in an atmosphere of fear. We will guard against this danger, this risk, this fear.”
Email: Gary.Baum@THR.com; Daniel.Miller@THR.com