Jewish Museum Milwaukee
Press Release

Jewish Museum Milwaukee Exhibit Shows Importance of Civil Liberties through Hollywood’s Blacklist

Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare asks visitors to critically examine other points in history including contemporary issues

By - Sep 5th, 2018 11:20 am

Milwaukee, WI: Jewish Museum Milwaukee will open its new originally curated exhibit, Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare, on view October 12, 2018–February 10, 2019. Blacklist explores the personal and national impact of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the Hollywood Blacklist through the biographies and accounts of blacklistees, films that were considered subversive by the FBI, HUAC hearing footage and more.

The people regarded as “Un-American” in HUAC’s blacklist were disproportionately of minority backgrounds—Jews and immigrants. The exhibit explores the factors that led to the Hollywood Blacklist, a time in which these first amendment freedoms and what it meant to be patriotic became central in a cultural battle, one that continues to replay in American politics today.

“After three years in the making, Jewish Museum Milwaukee is looking forward to finally sharing this exhibit with the public,” said Ellie Gettinger, Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s exhibit curator and education director. “Blacklist offers a fascinating look into a fearful time in our country’s history, and provides the opportunity for visitors to compare ways history continues to repeat itself.”

The gritty, dark feel of the exhibit sends museum-goers back to the tense and anxious era of Hollywood’s Red Scare in the 1940s-50s. Both the process of being blacklisted and getting off the blacklist were shrouded in mystery and had real consequences for people caught in the crosshairs. Those who were implicated faced the infamous question, “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” and suffered personal consequences: mental anguish, bankruptcy, unemployment, illness and even death.

Blacklist seeks to answer many key questions still relevant today—from the role of media in reporting on government checks and balances, government overreach, civil liberties and first amendment rights, the exhibit sheds light on a wide array of issues that affected the historical and political climate of this era, which ultimately made the Hollywood Blacklist possible.

Blacklist is sponsored by Joel and Caran Quadracci and The Windhover Foundation, Marianne and Sheldon B. Lubar, Brico Fund and an Anonymous Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation. Following its first display at Jewish Museum Milwaukee, the exhibit will travel to other museums across the region and country.

About the Programs

Programming surrounding Blacklist will explore accounts of Hollywood blacklistees through films and presentations from prominent speakers, and analyze the film industry’s response to government pressure that led to the Blacklist, which cost hundreds of writers, directors, actors and many others their livelihoods. For a complete listing of programming and additional details, visit www.jewishmuseummilwaukee.org or call (414) 390-5730.

Opening Preview

Thursday, October 11, 5:30–9:30 p.m. Tours at the Jewish Museum begin at 4:30 p.m.

Renaissance Place, 1451 N. Prospect Ave.

Participants will enjoy museum tours and the premiere of the original animated introductory film Prying Eyes: A Prelude to the Blacklist and a key note presentation, “Blacklisted in a Keystroke” by Gene Policinski, president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Institute and a founding editor of USA Today, with introduction by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor George Stanley. This evening will include themed hors d’oeuvres and “Salt of the Earth Margaritas.”

Program admission is $150 for non-members and $125 for members. Participants must RSVP at www.jewishmuseummilwaukee.org. This program is sponsored in part by the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

Calling All Women: The Ladies that Broke the Blacklist: Madeline Gilford, Lee Grant and Ruby Dee.

Monday, October 15

A wine and light hors d’ oeuvre reception will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. with the presentation to follow at 6 p.m.

This presentation will weave a tale of three brave women who risked everything to stand up to the government to defend the Constitution. Madeline Gilford’s daughter, Lisa Gilford, together with Madeline’s grandson, Max Smerling, will take participants through a fascinating history of a little known part of the Blacklist. Gilford will share a first-person account of what it was like to grow up during the Blacklist as a “Red Diaper Baby” – with the FBI following her to school and fearing every knock on the door was the one that took her parents away.

Program admission is $8 for non-members and $5 for members. This program is sponsored by Amy and Jonathan Ansfield.

October ‘Thirds-day’

Thursday, October 18, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Jewish Museum Milwaukee is open until 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month. The museum will screen The Front, a 1976 drama film starring Woody Allen, set in the midst of the Hollywood Red Scare. The film screening begins at 5:30 p.m.

Registration is not required, and regular museum admission applies.

Joe McCarthy and the Blacklist: Parallel Paranoia

Sunday, October 21, 3–4:30 p.m.

Historian Richard M. Fried will explore the role Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) played within the Red Scare and the limits of his power. He will offer a perspective on McCarthy’s meteoric rise and fall, and his lingering effects today. Fried is professor emeritus of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has published four books, including Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective.

Program admission is $8 for non-members and $5 for members. This program is sponsored in part by the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

Steve Solochek Memorial Lecture Series Presents High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic

Thursday, November 1, 7–8:30 p.m.

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel will tell the compelling story behind the classic American Western High Noon, and the toxic political climate in which it was created. Starring screen legend Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in her first significant film role, High Noon became a cultural touchstone, often cited by politicians as a favorite film, celebrating moral fortitude. What is often forgotten is that High Noon was made during the height of the Hollywood Blacklist, a time of political inquisition and personal betrayal. In the middle of the film shoot, screenwriter Carl Foreman was forced to testify before HUAC about his former membership in the Communist Party.

Program admission is $10 for non-members and $6 for members.

Victim and Villain: Jewish Reponses to the Red Scare

Wednesday, November 14, 7 p.m.

Blacklist scholar and author Larry Ceplair will provide a detailed look at the roots of Jewish anti-communism. Ceplair will particularly focus on the infamous trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the Jews who were especially vocal advocates for their ultimate capital punishment, and will also comment on the role Jews played in the Hollywood Blacklist.

Program admission is $8 for non-members and $5 for members. This program is sponsored by the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

November ‘Thirds-day’

Thursday, November 15, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Jewish Museum Milwaukee is open until 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month. The museum will screen The Boy With Green Hair, a 1948 American comedy/drama film directed by blacklistee Joseph Losey. The film screening begins at 5:30 p.m.

Registration is not required, and regular museum admission applies.

Blacklisted: A Concert

Saturday, December 1, 7–8:30 p.m.

Arts Center Lecture Hall, Peck School of the Arts

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Audiences will hear Chicago’s cabaret talents perform the songs that HUAC never wanted people to hear—a concert of songs written or made famous by blacklisted artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Yip Harburg, Lena Horne, Burl Ives, Zero Mostel, Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger and more.

Admission is $35 for non-members and $25 for members. Parking for this program is available beneath the UWM Student Union at 2200 East Kenwood Blvd.

Hollywood on Trial with Tony Kahn

Thursday, December 13, 7–8:30 p.m.

Radio producer and personality Tony Kahn will share his experiences as a child of a blacklistee, address the psychological challenges of this upbringing, and detail the intergenerational strife and isolation that were hallmarks of his childhood. Kahn’s father, Gordon Kahn, was a successful screenwriter who wrote a defense of the Hollywood Ten entitled Hollywood on Trial in 1948. His father was under FBI investigation from 1944 until his death in 1962.

Program admission is $8 for non-members and $5 for members. This program is sponsored in part by the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

December ‘Thirds-day’

Thursday, December 20, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Jewish Museum Milwaukee is open until 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month. The museum will screen Salt of the Earth with an introduction by Raul Gavan, manager of program production at Milwaukee PBS. Salt of the Earth is a 1954 American drama film written by Michael Wilson, directed by Herbert J. Biberman and produced by Paul Jarrico. Galvan will address why the writer, director and producer were all blacklisted by the Hollywood establishment. The film screening and introduction begins at 5:30 p.m.

Registration is not required, and regular museum admission applies.

Annual Christmas Cinema: Roman Holiday

Tuesday, December 25, 12–4 p.m.

Jewish Museum Milwaukee will screen the love story Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, with screenwriting by Dalton Trumbo, who refused to testify before the HUAC in 1947 during the committee’s investigation of communist influences in the motion picture industry. He, and hundreds of other industry professionals, were subsequently blacklisted. The screening begins at 1 p.m.

Registration is not required, and regular museum admission applies.

Book Club: “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller

Wednesday, January 9, 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Participants will learn about the allegorical references in Arthur Miller’s 1953 iconic play “The Crucible” with the Coalition for Jewish Learning and Jewish Museum Milwaukee. Miller wrote the play as an allegory to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts” in the United States. Miller himself was questioned by the HUAC in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.

This is a LOMED (Learning Opportunity for Milwaukee Educators) program sponsored by the Coalition for Jewish Learning. The program is free for museum members and CJL Educators, and $5 for the public.

The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government

Thursday, January 17, 7–8:30 p.m.

Historian David K. Johnson will share the frightening, untold story of how, during the Cold War, homosexuals were considered as dangerous a threat to national security as Communists. Charges that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations were havens for homosexuals proved a potent political weapon, sparking a “Lavender Scare,” more vehement and long-lasting that McCarthy’s Red Scare.

This program is offered in conjunction with a film screening of The Lavender Scare on November 8, 2018 by the LBGT Film Festival, sponsored by the Cream City Foundation.

Program admission is $8 for non-members and $5 for members.

Hollywood’s Friendly Witness: Elia Kazan

Thursday, January 31, 7–8:30 p.m.

Jeff Smith, professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, will discuss director Elia Kazan’s status as Hollywood’s most notorious “friendly witness.”

During his career, Kazan directed blockbuster films including A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden. By the time he testified before the HUAC, he had already won an Oscar for the controversial film, Gentleman’s Agreement. Although Kazan publicly defended his testimony, his films display an ambivalent attitude toward the HUAC hearings. Smith will also offer a brief overview of the manuscript collections in the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research related to the Hollywood blacklist.

Program admission is $8 for non-members and $5 for members.

The Blacklist: A Tarnish on Hollywood’s Golden Age

Sunday, February 10, 2–3:30 p.m.

David Fantle, author of Hollywood Heyday: 75 Candid Interviews with Golden Age Legends, will present on Hollywood celebrities with blacklist connections. Published for the first time with exclusive photos, his selection of 75 interviews chronicles the author’s 40-year quest for insights and anecdotes from iconic 20th century artists. The presentation will be followed by a book signing.

The program is free with cost of admission.

For a full list of programs visit http://jewishmuseummilwaukee.org/events.

About Jewish Museum Milwaukee: Jewish Museum Milwaukee is a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the Jewish people in southeastern Wisconsin and celebrating the continuum of Jewish heritage and culture. The history of American Jews is rooted in thousands of years of searching for freedom and equality. We are committed to sharing this story, the life lessons it brings with it, and building bridges between people of diverse backgrounds. By telling personal and local stories about issues that can be overwhelming in scale, JMM inspires empathy and deepens understanding of not only the Jewish people, but also others who have gone through similar experiences.

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