Elia Kazan, who died this week at age 94, is remembered for two things: for having directed masterpieces on stage and screen, and, in the parlance of the Left, for having "named names" before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952.
He was long recognized for the former; but he should have been equally celebrated for the latter. For what was "naming names" but lifting the operational anonymity of Americans who served the hostile interests of a foreign power bent on dominating the world? Regardless of this hard historical truth, the potshots flew for a half-century at the mention of Kazan's name, with no-talent Lefties scoring easy ink well into their dotage just for taking aim at Kazan the "informer," the "Judas" and the "heel." Never did they account for -- and never were they asked to account for -- their own shameful careers as shills and agents of what was, in truth, an aggressive Stalinist conspiracy to infiltrate and twist the entertainment industry into a propaganda tool for the Soviet Union.
What goes unacknowledged is how very successful this conspiracy was, and how potent its repercussions remain. Communist success in Hollywood lies not so much in the movies that have engraved the Leftist demonology of Big Business, the CIA and suburbia onto our collective consciousness, nor in movies that baldly extolled the supposed virtues of Communism. The very best measure of the smashing success of Communist infiltration of Hollywood is the near-total absence of movies, black-and-white or color, that chronicle the primary drama of the last century: the struggle for freedom against totalitarian communism.
In his book "Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s" (Prima Lifestyles, 1998), Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley plumbs this massive cultural chasm. Thousands of Germans risked their lives to break out from behind the Berlin Wall and find freedom in the West, he writes, but only a single Hollywood offering -- "Night Crossing" from Disney -- ever dramatized this scenario. Screen heroes with "progressive" politics abound, but who can name a single anti-communist good guy?