The return home was less than triumphant. Polonsky says that when Gershwin had a party to welcome everyone back, none of the stars showed up.
"We were so naive it was ridiculous," Bacall later recalled. "When the press started to ask us questions, they had a field day."
The hearings ended abruptly on Oct. 30, with the committee quizzing only 10 of the original 19 people it had subpoenaed. Politics gave way to pandemonium. The unfriendly witnesses refused to answer any questions, even ones about their Writers Guild membership, citing the 1st Amendment. Their attempts at impassioned oratory were silenced by Thomas, the committee's gavel-pounding chairman. The most vocal members of the 10, John Howard Lawson and Dalton Trumbo, were physically dragged away from the witness stand. Ring Lardner Jr. supplied the only writerly wit. Asked the famous question--"Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party"--he replied, "I could answer it, but if I did, I would hate myself in the morning."
To save face, Thomas said the hearings had been halted to prevent communists from staging a massive Washington rally. It seems more likely that he wanted to avoid more bad reviews. Variety brought down the curtain with the headline: "Commie Carnival Closes: An Egg Is Laid." But if HUAC ended up with egg on its face, so did the Hollywood 10, whose blustery speechifying cast them as ill-mannered ideologues.
"It was a sorry performance," complained John Huston, a onetime supporter. "They lost a chance to defend a most important principle."
On Nov. 5, the American Legion threatened to boycott films made with the involvement of party members. On Nov. 17, the Screen Actors Guild voted to make its officers take a non-communist pledge. 20th Century Fox chief Darryl Zanuck had assured his writers that he wouldn't fire them unless ordered to by his board of directors. On Nov. 21, the board met and gave the order.
On Nov. 25, the House voted overwhelmingly to cite the Hollywood 10 for contempt of Congress. Anti-communism gave way to thinly veiled anti-Semitism. Saying his committee was there to protect the "Christian people of America," HUAC member John Rankin read a list of Hollywood 10 supporters, saying "Another one was Danny Kaye, we found out his real name was David Daniel Kaminsky. . . . One calls himself Edward G. Robinson. His real name is Emmanuel Goldenberg. Another one here calls himself Melvyn Douglas, whose real name is Melvyn Hesselberg." (Douglas' wife, California congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, was one of only 17 House members to vote against the contempt citations.)
News of the citations came as 50 industry leaders met behind closed doors at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. All the legendary moguls were there: Louis B. Mayer, Loews' Nicholas Schenck, Jack Warner, Samuel Goldwyn, RKO's Dore Schary, Paramount's Barney Balaban, 20th Century Fox's Joe Schenck. Also on hand, significantly, was the Motion Picture Assn. of America's new special counsel, former Secretary of State James Byrnes, who assured the studio brass that the government wouldn't stand in their way if they fired the 10.
"They were under the gun," says Neal Gabler. "They were being forced to give up their theaters. TV was on the horizon. The whole studio system was unraveling. Now their Jewish origins were under attack by blatant anti-Semites. In the past, they'd always managed to co-opt their opposition. But this time, they gave them everything they wanted. It's too easy to say they were cowards. Is it cowardice if someone points a gun at your head and you say, 'I give in'?"
Despite the misgivings of Goldwyn and Schary, the group unanimously adopted a resolution, known as the Waldorf Statement, which deplored the actions of the 10 and said that the studios would no longer knowingly employ any communists.
It was the official beginning of the blacklist. Within days, all studio-employed members of the Hollywood 10 were fired. Everyone ran for cover. Jack Warner telegrammed his distribution chief, eager to know how Danny Kaye and John Garfield's theater bookings were holding up. Then he turned his attention to Bogart. Feeling the heat, Hollywood's best-known tough guy held a Dec. 3 news conference in Chicago, saying he detested communism and that his protest trip to Washington had been "ill-advised, even foolish."