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Son Of Founder Of 'Hollywood Reporter' Apologizes For Hollywood Blacklist

Posted: November 19, 2012

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W.R. Wilkerson III is apologizing for the trade paper's role in what he calls "Hollywood's holocaust," the blacklist that destroyed the careers of those accused of communist sympathies.

The son of the founder of The Hollywood Reporter is apologizing for the trade paper's role in what he calls "Hollywood's holocaust," the blacklist that destroyed the careers of those accused of communist sympathies.

In an article published Monday by the trade paper, W.R. Wilkerson III wrote that the 1947 Blacklist "silenced the careers of some of the studios' greatest talent and ruined countless others merely standing on the sidelines."

Here's more from Wilkerson:

"The U.S. government, which had a great hand in this event, could have prevented it from mushrooming. It did nothing. And no one has ever apologized to the victims of this holocaust. So on the eve of this dark 65th anniversary, I feel an apology is necessary. It's possible, had my father lived long enough, that he would have apologized for creating something that devastated so many careers. On behalf of my family, and particularly my late father, I wish to convey my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets to those who were victimized by this unfortunate incident."

Wilkerson's father, Billy Wilkerson, founded the trade paper in 1930. But before that, he was involved in the movie industry, mainly as a producer. His plans in 1927 to build a film studio failed. His son writes: "For whatever reason, the movie brass refused him entry into their 'club' and squashed his dream. So he found another one: exacting revenge."

Billy Wilkerson found his opportunity at the end of World War II when communism began spreading across Europe.

Here's more from W.R. Wilkerson's piece:

"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."

Being named on the Blacklist effectively proved to be a career killer for many in Hollywood: Soon after the publication of the first Blacklist, Nov. 5, 1947, top studio chiefs and the head of the Motion Picture Association of America met on Nov. 25 and ruled that 10 members of the film industry who had not cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities would be denied employment. The Hollywood Reporter has a story on its own role in the affair.

Here's what the trade paper says:

"THR's own role in fomenting the Blacklist has long been overlooked: obscured by scholars and, out of shame, for decades never properly addressed in this publication's pages. Wilkerson's key advocacy is at most a footnote in the definitive book-length histories of the period, yet his unsparing campaign, launched early on and from the heart of the movie colony — the front page of one of its two daily trade papers — was crucial to what followed. There eventually might have been a Hollywood Blacklist without Wilkerson, but in all likelihood, it wouldn't have looked quite the same, or materialized quite when it did, without his indomitable support."

The paper also interviewed those blacklisted workers who are still alive. Among them is actress Marsha Hunt, who expressed relief that The Hollywood Reporter was finally acknowledging its role.

"It means doing what I knew to be right is no longer lonely," she told the paper.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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