By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
For many, Elia Kazan has become symbolic as a man who informed on his friends and performed a stellar role in one of "the most indefensible, scandalous and cruel episodes in the entire history of legislative investigations." At the 71st Academy Awards he will receive another Oscar, the ultimate symbol of the motion-picture industry's approval. It is estimated that perhaps a billion people will watch the ceremony.
I don't know what a billion people are going to think when they watch Kazan re-ceive the Academy's sleek golden statue. But I'm willing to speculate what the mem-bers of the House Committee on Un-American Activities would think if any of them were still alive. I think they would love to have a billion people watch their star witness receive another Oscar.
On April 12, 1952, a day after he voluntarily returned to give a second statement to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Elia Kazan took out a full-page ad inThe New York Times justifying his actions. The following is excerpted from that advertisement.
by Elia Kazan
In the past weeks intolerable rumors about my political position have been circulating in New York and Hollywood. I want to make my stand clear:
I believe that Communist activities confront the people of this country with an unprecedented and exceptionally tough problem. That is, how to protect ourselves from a dangerous and alien conspiracy and still keep the free, open, healthy way of life that gives us self-respect.
I believe that the American people can solve this problem wisely only if they have the facts about communism. All the facts.
Now, I believe that any American who is in possession of such facts has the obligation to make them known, either to the public or to the appropriate Government agency.
Whatever hysteria exists -- and there is some, particularly in Hollywood -- is inflamed by mystery, suspicion and secrecy. Hard and exact facts will cool it.
The facts I have are sixteen years out of date, but they supply a small piece of background to the graver picture of communism today.
I have placed these facts before the House Committee on Un-American Activities without reserve and I now place them before the public and before my co-workers in motion pictures and in the theatre.
Seventeen and a half years ago I was a 24-year-old stage manager and bit actor, making $40 a week, when I worked.
At that time nearly all of us felt menaced by two things: the Depression and the ever growing power of Hitler. The streets were full of unemployed and shaken men. I was taken in by the Hard Times version of what might be called the Communists' advertising or recruiting technique. They claimed to have a cure for depressions and a cure for Naziism and Fascism.
I joined the Communist Party late in the summer of 1934. I got out a year and a half later.
I have no spy stories to tell, because I saw no spies. Nor did I understand, at that time, any opposition between American and Russian national interest. It was not even clear to me in 1936 that the American Communist Party was abjectly taking its orders from the Kremlin.
What I learned was the minimum that anyone must learn who puts his head into the noose of party "discipline." The Communists automatically violated the daily practices of democracy to which I was accustomed. They attempted to control thought and to suppress personal opinion. They tried to dictate personal conduct. They habitually distorted and disregarded and violated the truth. All this was crudely opposite to their claims of "democracy" and "the scientific approach."
To be a member of the Communist Party is to have a taste of the police state. It is a diluted taste but it is bitter and unforgettable. It is diluted because you can walk out.
I got out in the spring of 1936.
The question will be asked why I did not tell this story sooner. I was held back, primarily, by concern for the reputations and employment of people who may, like myself, have left the party many years ago.
I was also held back by a piece of specious reasoning which has silenced many liberals. It goes like this: "You may hate the Communists, but you must not attack them or expose them, because if you do you are attacking the right to hold unpopular opinions and you are joining the people who attack civil liberties."
I have thought soberly about this. It is, simply, a lie.
Secrecy serves the Communists . . .
The motion pictures I have made and the plays I have chosen to direct represent my convictions.
I expect to continue to make the same kinds of pictures and to direct the same kinds of plays.
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