On this day in history, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began a rigid and severe investigation on the possibility of Communist infiltration in Hollywood. The Second Red Scare was in full effect, and HUAC was concerned about propagandist Communist messages being transmitted to the masses through the popular forms of film and television.
HUAC questioned some of Hollywood’s most influential figures, including Walt Disney and film director Elia Kazan. The threat of HUAC was made real when ten Hollywood screenwriters, known as the Hollywood Ten, refused to answer HUAC’s questions under the protection of the first amendment; all ten were subsequently sentenced to prison and blacklisted from working in Hollywood, bringing about the end of many careers. The threat also caused other artists, like Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles, to leave the country in order to keep working.