Reagan, Hefner, Bridges and the Hollywood Blacklist

6 July 2001

I stumbled across this gem while researching red scare stuff.

It is Ronald Reagan’s 1960 letter to Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner regarding the Hollywood Blacklist. (1960 was Reagan’s last year as Screen Actors Guild President.)

The letter is interesting in that it contains Reagan’s egregious lie: “Hollywood has no blacklist. . .”

Compare this statement by the President of the Guild three years ago:

“Tonight, the Screen Actors Guild would like to express how deeply we regret that when courage and conviction were needed to oppose the Blacklist, the poison of fear so paralyzed our organization.”

More interesting, to readers here, will be the revelation that the ILWU was trying to organize “everyone in the picture business within Mr. Bridges longshoreman’s union.”

Now THAT must have been some organizing campaign!



p. s. a message from our Musical Accompaniment Department:

To further enhance your pleasure while reading this historic document, may we suggest you play one of the appropriate musical selections while you peruse it?

July 4

Dear Mr. Hefner

I’ve been a long time answering your letter of May 13 and my selection of – The 4th – as an answering date is coincidence plus the fact that Holidays are – free time – days around our house:

Your letter has been very much on my mind and I question whether I can answer in a way that will make sense to you. First because I once thought exactly as you think, and second, because no one could have changed my thinking (and some tried). It took seven months of meeting communists and communist influenced people across a table in almost daily sessions while pickets rioted in front of studio gates, homes were bombed and a great industry almost ground to a halt.

You expressed lack of knowledge about my views, political back ground etc. Because so much doubt has been cast on “anti-communist,” inspired by the radicalism of extremists who saw “Reds” under every “cause,” I feel I should reveal where I have stood and now stand.

My first four votes were cast for F. D. R., my fifth for Harry Truman. Following World War II my interest in liberalism and my fear of “neo-fascism” led to my serving on the board of directors of an organization later exposed as a “Communist Front,” namely the “Hollywood Independent Citizens Comm. of the Arts, Sciences& Professions”! Incidentally Mr. Trumbo was also on that board.

Now you might ask who exposed this organization as a “Front”? It was no crusading committee of Congress, the D. A. R. or the American Legion. A small group of board members disturbed by the things being done in the organization’s name introduced to their fellow board members a mild statement approving our Dem. system and free enterprise economy and repudiating communism as a desirable form of govt. for this country. The suggestion was that by adopting such a policy statement the board would reassure our membership we were liberal but not a “front.” The small group who introduced this measure were such “witch hunters” as James Roosevelt, Dore Schary, Don Hartman, Olivia de Havilland, Johnny Green & myself.

Leaders of the opposition to our statement included Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson and a number of others who have since attained some fame for their refusal to answer questions. I remember one of their group reciting the Soviet Constitution to prove “Russia was more Democratic than the U. S.” Another said if America continued her imperialist policy and as a result wound up in a war with Russia he would be on the side of Russia against the U. S. We suggested this “policy statement” was perhaps a matter for the whole organization to decide-not just the board. We were told the membership was “not politically sophisticated enough to make such a decision.”

When we resigned the organization went out of existence only to reappear later (minus us)as “Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences & Prof.” in support of Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party.

The “seven months” of meetings I mentioned in the first paragraph or two refers to the jurisdictional strike in the Motion Pic. business. There are volumes of documentary evidence, testimony of former communists etc. that this whole affair was under the leadership of Harry Bridges and was aimed at an ultimate organizing of everyone in the picture business within Mr. Bridges longshoreman’s union.

Now none of what I’ve said answers your argument that “freedom of speech means freedom to disagree,” does it? Here begins my difficulty. How can I put down in less than “book form” the countless hours of meetings, the honest attempts at compromise, the trying to meet dishonesty, lies and cheating with conduct bound by rules of fair play? How can I make you understand that my feeling now is not prejudice born of this struggle but is realization supported by incontrovertible evidence that the American Communist is in truth a member of a “Russian American Bund” owing his first allegiance to a foreign power?

Politics of Subversion

I, like you, will defend the right of any American to openly practise & preach any political philosophy from monarchy to anarchy. But this is not the case with regard to the communist. He is bound by party discipline to deny he is a communist so that he can by subversion & stealth infuse on an unwilling people the rule of the International Communist Party which is in fact the govt. of Soviet Russia. I say to you that any man still or now a member of the “party” was a man who looked upon the death of American soldiers in Korea as a victory for his side. For proof of this I refer you to some of the ex-communists who fled the party at that time & for that reason, including some of Mr. Trumbo’s companions of the “Unfriendly 10.”

Hollywood has no blacklist, Hollywood does have a list handed to it by millions of “movie goers” who have said “we don’t want and will not pay to see pictures made by or with these people we consider traitors.” On this list were many names of people we in Hollywood felt were wrongly suspect. I personally served on a committee that succeeded in clearing these people. Today any person who feels he is a victim of discrimination because of his political beliefs can avail himself of machinery to solve this problem.

[Note: the Screen Actors Guild continued to require all of its members to sign the loyalty oath until July of 1974 - ole]

I must ask you as a publisher, aside from any questions of political philosophy, should a film producer be accused of bigotry for not hiring an artist when the customers for his product have labeled the artist “poor box office,” regardless of the cause?

I realize I’ve presented my case poorly due to the limitations of pen & paper so may I ask one favor? Will you call the F. B. I. there in Chi. ask for the anti-communist detail, then tell him of our correspondence (show him my letter if you like) and ask his views on this subject of communism as a political belief or a fifth column device of Russia.

Now my apologies for having taken so long in answering your letter and my appreciation for your having taken the time to write in the first place.


Ronald Reagan