The Hollywood farce that the Rankin Committee is directing this week threatens, in irresponsibility and blindness to facts, to surpass all other recent attempts to uproot America's Communist menace. Depending on the testimony of political experts of the caliber of Adolphe Menjou, the Committee seeks to prove that the celluloid capital is a dispensary of Red propaganda. Meanwhile, a bevy of eminent movie producers are defending themselves like criminals against the charge of having made films, during the war, that seemed friendly to our erstwhile allies, the Russian people.
Not only in Menjou, who admits knowing no Communist, worthless as a testifier, but the charges smack of the preposterous. The great bulk of American movies, present a glamourized version of what Louis B. Mayer calls, "the American way of life," almost always avoiding red hot political issues. The mass-production of wishful thinking and the reluctance to deal with controversial problems may themselves be an indictment against Hollywood, but that is not in Mr. Rankin's field.
The pathetic comedy of the investigation stems from the fact that Hollywood is a business, and gladly neglects issues that will lose it customers. To come out for any unfashionable political creed, and especially Communism, would be unheard of by the conservative moguls who feed the public their weekly escape from life. So when Witness Menjou proudly declares that he prevented quantities of "sly, subtle, class-struggle propaganda" from sneaking into films, one can only wonder whether their almost total absence stems from his efforts.
Of course, not much can result from the Un-American Activities Committee's motion-picture doings. There are Communists in Hollywood, as there are in every large community, and some of them may lose their jobs on account of the investigation. But to call the activities of movieland Red is a most vicious folly, serving only to keep the Committee itself, which is the real Un-American menace, in the two-inch headlines until it can make itself really dangerous. The victims may then be the colleges or the independent newspapers. Certainly nobody, Democrat or Republican, is safe when Louis B. Mayer, a dear friend a Hearst, has to defend him self against Communist charges.