Ok, so some things in the golden era were not too cool...

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Blackjack, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    The public was very aware of the Communist menace, it was in every newspaper and news broadcast. Who could have missed the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs for espionage? What regular newspaper reader did not know the names Harry Dexter White, Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers?

    There were Russian spies in the US, as amply proven at the time and backed up by the records of the old Soviet Union when they became available after 1989. It is just silly to pretend these accusations were baseless.

    I would also suggest that the best informed sections of American society when it came to Communism were Joe and Sally Dinnerpail especially if they were union members or had been politically active in the thirties and forties, plus a small coterie of Eastern Ivy League intellectuals.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  2. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The original question was about entertainment blacklisting, which was a completely different thing from the espionage and State Department intrigue you're talking about. No actors were passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, nor were they ever in any position to do so, and nobody ever alleged that they were. I own an original copy of Red Channels -- a book published by an ultra-right-wing organization, and which was never sold or distributed to the general public -- and 99 percent of the accusations are along the lines of "Joe Actor signed a petition for the integration of baseball in 1944." There are exactly three people in the book who are flat-out identified as members of the Communist Party -- Pete Seeger, Lillian Hellman, and Dashiell Hammett -- and all the rest are just smeary innuendo. Aware Inc., which took it upon itself to enforce "Red Channels," was, to be blunt, a crude shakedown racket perpetrated by a cashiered FBI agent, an ad agency flunky, and a paranoid supermarket-chain executive from Syracuse -- actors would be listed on the flimsiest of pretenses and then charged a fee to be "cleared." Failure to pay up meant pressure on sponsors -- backed up by threats to remove their products from stores under the executive's control -- and these sponsors, in turn, brought pressure on networks and production companies to get rid of the personalities cited. That's all "blacklisting" was. There were no "investigations," there were no legal charges, there was nothing but simple, filthy extortion.

    The average American had little to no idea this was going on in show business to the extent it was -- because the industry was very careful to avoid publicly accusing anyone of being a Communist for fear of courting legal action. It was John Henry Faulk's lawsuit against Aware, Inc. in 1957 which finally dragged all of what was going on into the public spotlight and exposed it as the paranoid fraud that it was.

    The Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss were not "blacklisted." They were arrested, charged with Federal crimes, and convicted in open court on the basis of hard evidence. That's a big, big difference from the closed-door, star-chamber tactics used in the entertainment industry to throw Joe Actor out of work because a couple of crackpots in Syracuse claimed that someone who looked like him was seen reading the Daily Worker on the subway in 1936.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  3. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    "At the peak of his influence, McCarthy's public approval rating was 50 percent. That's hardly a groundswell of public support for Red-baiting, no matter how you slice it."

    That is a great statistic (or poll number) as sometimes it seems the entire country was behind it.

    I'm getting a sense from this threat that Hollywood took the brunt of it and, therefor, as is Hollywood's wont, they have made it into the greatest shame of America ever. Let me say this next thing loud and clear, being denied the ability to earn a living for any unfair reason is one of the worst things you can do to a person, (and one of the reasons I respect my father is that in an era a prejudice and opinions we hold wrong today - and he held some of them - he believed and taught us that every person - man, women, of any race, religion - is entitled to work and you should alway be willing to patronize them if they offer value (I'm not doing this full justice).

    So I am not mitigating the horror of people not being able to work, but it does seem that since this hit Hollywood hard, it has - possibly - distorted the history to make it seems that America was a seething cauldron of commie hunting and Hollywood was the innocent, heroic, freedom-protecting victims of the lumpen proletariat Americans. Remember it was some in Hollywood who wanted to hold the Oscars on an army base the first year after 9/11 because they were afraid of terrorist attacks: yes, they are capable of obscene naval gazing. And the movie that started this sub-theme was so heavy handed it was embarrassing - ignorant, illiterate Americans who were ready to burn books and fire old ladies all based on one book - and it was about 99% to 1% not the 50% that Lizzie mentioned.
     
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    It was Madison Avenue that carries the brunt of the shame, far more than Hollywood. The advertising industry was deeply enmeshed in the mechanism of show-business blacklisting, with all of the major New York agencies involved up to their necks: a copy of "Red Channels" was sent to every agency in 1950, and threw the industry into a panic. It was the advertising industry which furnished the primary source of pressure on networks and program producers to comply with the demands of the blacklisters, and it was the advertising industry which enforced the blacklist by requiring networks to clear particpating performers before approving them for participation in programs under their control.

    The broadcasting industry, being dependent on sponsor dollars for its lifeblood, was, by far, the hardest-hit target of blacklisting. Movieland comes in a distant second. Hollywood had its share of craven cowards in the front office, but the real villians of the era were respectable, bourgeoise New York Businessmen who placed the dollar above decency every time. Behind the fine tailoring and the elegant cocktails, the real-life "Mad Men" were the *real* "traitors to Democracy."
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2014
  5. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    More insightful inside baseball from you as always. I'm still thinking it through, but am amazed that even at its peak, only 50% of the public bought it - wow. As with most of history, the shorthand today is a very distorted view of what happened. Both sides of the political divide engage in creating narratives that support their views, but this one has incredible staying power as it's almost become a shorthand for narrow minded censorship.

    And I have only a vague memory, but thought "Mad Men" the TV show has touched on it several times, but - as you said - absolutely not in they way you outlined it. But I almost wonder why as it is not as if Hollywood or TV shows don't make businessmen the bad guys all the time (I'd go so far as to say its rare that a businessman isn't the bad guy today and is almost never the good guy).
     
  6. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    Maybe you can explain something that has puzzled me for years. How did Lee Harvey Oswald, outspoken Marxist - Leninist and Castro supporter, land a government job in Texas in 1963 with no background check or loyalty oath?
     
  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    He barely even had an interview. Roy Truly, the Texas School Book Depository superintendant, hired him on the basis of a brief conversation after he applied on the reference of an acquaintance who worked there. Oswald impressed Truly with his "yes sir, no sir" demeanor, and mentioned that he'd been a Marine veteran. There was no mention of his service record or his failed defection, and no discussion of his politics.

    The Depository was not a Government operation -- it was a privately-run company which had a contract with the Dallas school system to supply and distribute textbooks. It routinely hired casual labor with little investigation into the background of the people it engaged.
     
  8. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

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    Another thing that was not too cool: the way infants and little kids were transported via car in the good old days.

    Child car seats that are out now make that a far safer proposition.. although, I have to say that some of these kids that are plopped into car seats seem too old. I know that if my mom had tried making me ride in one at age six, I'd have raised holy hell. Some of the pediatricians want every kid under 12 riding in the back seat: the intent is good, but anything can be turned into silly by overkill.
     
  9. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    My childhood car seat was a cardboard box. Until I was old enough to sit up by myself, that is -- at that point the box was turned upside down and I sat on top of it in the middle of the front seat.
     
  10. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    In red above. That seems like something that isn't better today. Safety was thought about, but not obsessed about in the Golden Era. There is a balance; it is intelligent to take reasonable steps to increase safety, and my memory (and newspaper articles, movies, etc. support this) is that people did think about safety and adopted new safety features (over time) in the GE, but today there is something pathological or, at least, overly-focused on "safety" and "being safe" that makes me cringe. Life has risk - always has, always will - and it feels like we've veered into a weird societal-safety obsession that isn't good for society overall nor the generation that is growing up in it.
     
  11. Sorry, but it boggles my mind that putting your infant in a car seat or making your kid wear a seatbelt is considered by some to be "silly" and "overkill". It isn't pathological to understand Newtonian physics. Yes, there is risk in life. That doesn't mean we should be cavalier with our children's lives.
     
  12. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Actually, I wouldn't mind banning kids from riding in cars entirely. It'd rid the road of the plague of suburban minivans, and by forcing kids to walk or ride their bikes, it might work off some of the flab and make them a little more self sufficient. Or as my ma always said, "what the hell do I look like to you, a g-d cabbie?"
     
  13. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    In those days the kids went through the windshield with the rest of the family. Seat belts for cars were unknown before 1955 and did not become standard equipment until 1967 or 68.
     
  14. Stearmen

    Stearmen I'll Lock Up

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    When Dodge stressed how safe their cars were in the 30s, sales actually went down!
     
  15. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    After rereading my post and following comments, I did not see anywhere where I suggested anything specific about whether or not someone should or shouldn't use this or that safety feature. I am a big fan of taking reasonable steps to increase safety. I wear a seatbelt and believe children to a certain age should be in car seats. And I don't claim to know the right balance, but again, there is a point where safety can become an obsession. It is safer not to drive at all or at least to never take an unnecessary ride, but most do take superfluous rides - is that not being safe? Most would say that it is silly to think that way (and I'd agree). On the other hand, most would say it is crazy to ride with you head out the window (and I'd agree).

    My earlier point is that cultures strike a balance of safety versus convenience or safety versus risk in living life and I think the balance has tilted - at a cultural level - too far toward safety versus what it was in the past. My parents taught us to look both ways when crossing a street, to keep our hands in the window of the cars and other reasonable things, but they didn't seem anywhere near as focused on safety as parents are today. And I'm not saying my parents were right and parent today are wrong, I'm saying at a big-picture level the balance in my opinion has swung a bit too far toward safety versus accepting that life has risk.

    And all that said, I believe it is absolutely each parents right to make that decision for their child whether or not I agree with it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  16. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    Same thing happened to Ford in 1955 and 56. In their ads they stressed new safety features like stronger door locks, padded dash, collapsible steering wheel and optional seat belts.

    Chevrolet stressed their hot new V8 engine, performance, and new styling.

    Chev beat Ford's brains out in sales.

    In 1957 Ford dropped the safety pitch and came back with a new design that was longer, lower, wider, and had bigger tail fins and more chrome than any car they ever made. It came with an optional supercharged engine and a full compliment of luxury accessories like power steering, power windows, air conditioning. They also offered the first "flip top" hardtop, a convertible with a steel roof that disappeared into the trunk.

    For the first time in 30 years, Ford outsold Chevrolet.
     
  17. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Growing up in the late '60s/ 70s, it was widely recognized that Volvos were the safest cars, but I only knew one person who had one (and while they were out of my family's price range, I knew many families that could have bought a Volvo but bought other cars of equal value). It just wasn't as safety-focused a society as it is today.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  18. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Read "The Insolent Chariots" by John Keats (the journalist, not the poet) for an eye-opening look at how The Boys From Marketing sold the auto-buying public on flash over substance during the mid-to-late fifties. Even Chrysler had to abandon its emphasis on safety and sound engineering and join the chrome-crusted parade.
     
  19. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

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    And Volvo drivers were/are among the worst drivers on the road. I guess they figure they're bulletproof. Same with the SUV drivers. For the most part, driving safety is about the driver's skills (concentration, anticipation, reaction, etc) not the vehicle being driven.
     
  20. Safety SHOULD be an obsession, especially on the road and on the job.
     

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