The Subversive Screen

Communist Influence in Hollywood's Golden Age

by Brian E. Birdnow


The Red Scare is often painted as a tale of fear, frenzy, and false accusations, but is there more to the story?

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January 2019


Pages 126
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Conflict
  Popular Culture/Film

A riveting chronicle of Communist Party efforts to propagate Communism in the United States, concurrent with Hollywood's "Golden Age" of creativity that came to define classical Hollywood cinema.

From the Great Depression through World War II, the American Communist Party tried to take control of the motion picture industry. This comprehensive and chronological account of Communist influence in Hollywood surveys the topic from the Popular Front's fight against Fascism during the 1930s to the height of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in the late 1940s.

Birdnow, an established historian and chronicler of domestic Communism, outlines Communist International's organizational efforts promoting international communism, focusing on the work of Communist political activists such as Willi Münzenberg, a media mogul with an international network; Gerhart Eisler, patron of a Hollywood composer; and Otto Katz, a high-profile publicist of the party line involved in movies in the 1930s and 1940s.

The book explores the covert ways in which Hollywood Communists and Soviet sympathizers attempted to tailor movie scripts to suit the Soviet agenda and discusses Communist front groups such as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League in great detail. Final chapters offer convincing proof that the directors, producers, and screenwriters blacklisted by studios for their possible Communist affiliations, known as the Hollywood Ten, were members of the Communist Party.


  • Gives readers insight into how the Communist Party used the creative explosion in the movie industry to actively establish a foothold in the United States
  • Draws a parallel between the rise of the Community Party and the rise of the motion picture industry in the United States
  • Profiles Communist Party USA leaders close to Hollywood
  • Takes a closer look at the "Hollywood Ten," detailing who each of the blacklisted individuals were and how their names came to be on the list
Author Info

Brian E. Birdnow, PhD, is adjunct professor of history at Lindenwood University, St. Charles, MO. He has authored The St. Louis Five: Communism, Anti-Communism, and the Federal Courts in Missouri, 1852–1958 and Gerald R. Ford: The All-American President.

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