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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

The Hollywood blacklist era was a dark time in American history where many in the film industry were dragged before a congressional committee and interrogated about their political affiliations. Some lost their jobs, friends, or even their lives. The House Un-American Activities Committee carefully picked apart many films of the era in the search for subversive ideologies. As a result, filmmakers became more creative and subtle in their criticisms of the Hollywood blacklist. Director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Carl Foreman perfected this allegorical criticism through their creation of two films that reflected themselves and their respective decisions whether or not to cooperate with HUAC. Kazan’s On the Waterfront and Foreman’s High Noon served not only as cinematic masterpieces, but also as the pinnacle of the use of film as a political medium. In the current era of partisan turmoil, film serves the same purpose, so studying politically charged movies of the past helps to establish an understanding of the manner in which the medium is reflecting contemporary politics. Furthermore, given film’s unique political and historical value, it can also be a valuable tool in political science classrooms.

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