December 9, 2009 |
It is odd how history often bequeaths to us iconic names bereft of personality. Helen Gahagan Douglas, once a paladin of California's progressive politics and a congressional stalwart of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, is such a name. To the extent she's now remembered at all, it's as the victim of Richard M. Nixon's notoriously dirty 1950 campaign for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats. Sally Denton's "The Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas" does an admirable if sometimes needlessly breathless job of restoring flesh and sinew to a remarkable woman and political personality, who stands as a kind of archetype of today's engaged Hollywood celebrity.
October 1, 2008 |
BEFORE Lee Atwater became a political hit man and before "Rovian" was written into the nation's campaign lexicon, the campaign against actress Helen Gahagan Douglas symbolized the viciousness of politics by smear. Douglas, a liberal Democrat who ran against Congressman Richard Nixon for a California senatorial seat in 1950, was characterized as a communist -- "pink down to her underwear" -- by an opponent who would become known as "Tricky Dick."
December 3, 2006 |
SHE starred on Broadway and in the opera. She was described as one of the most beautiful women in the country, and she married a famous actor. She came out to Hollywood and starred in the adventure picture "She." History, though, remembers Helen Gahagan Douglas for something else entirely. She blazed the trail down that curious and starlit road leading from celebrity to politics. Back in 1944, it was a novelty to see a movie star on the stump.
February 15, 1998 |
The most significant U.S. Senate contest in modern America occurred in California in 1950, when Republican Rep. Richard Nixon and Democratic Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas squared off in a bitter struggle to win the seat held by a retiring incumbent. Nixon's earlier role in the 1948 House Un-American Activities Committee phase of the Hiss-Chambers case had brought him national recognition.
January 15, 1996
Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson asked--apparently in jest--if they could have obviated Howard Rosenberg's criticism of the mix of reality and invention in the film "Nixon," which they co-wrote with Oliver Stone, by "flashing subtitles on the screen" ("Critic's Ploy to Review 'Nixon' Is the Only Dirty Trick," Calendar, Jan. 1). Yes! Please! I was a reasonably concerned adult during the Watergate episode. I was aware of Nixon's checkered (pun) past, of his vicious destruction of Helen Gahagan Douglas and of his despicable role as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
December 25, 1994
In a Dec. 11 Film Clip, Judy Brennan, writing about a new Al Pacino movie in which he plays the part of a New York mayor, says, "You may even see a little of Mark Antonio, the congressman from New York, in Pacino's character." Could she be referring to Vito Marcantonio, the fiery, left-wing congressman who was elected on the ticket of the American Labor Party for years? Readers may remember it was Marcantonio's name that Richard Nixon invoked in his vicious senatorial campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950, attempting to tie her votes to his, thereby labeling her as a "left-winger."