ringlardner

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RING LARDNER

On October 30, 1947, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating allegations that Communists were incorporating propaganda messages into Hollywood films of the time. Lardner was a member of the “Unfriendly Ten,” a group of ten writers, directors and producers who refused to testify before Congress about their political affiliations. (The week prior, several “friendly” witnesses including Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, and Louis B. Mayer had testified against the insidious “red menace.”) Lardner, like the other members of the Unfriendly Ten, refused to answer HUAC’s questions on the grounds that the First Amendment protected speech on the screen and that political and union affiliations were quite simply no one’s business. When the irate panel chair J. Parnell Thomas asked Lardner, “It is a very simple question… Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Lardner famously answered, “I could answer the question exactly the way you want, but if I did, I would hate myself in the morning.”

Lardner, along with the nine other members of the Unfriendly Ten, was tried, convicted and sent to federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut , in 1950 for contempt of Congress for his refusal to answer HUAC’s questions. Upon his release one year later, Lardner found himself blacklisted. In order to find work as a writer, Lardner had to work under a series of pseudonyms despite his previous success and as a screenwriter. Larder, born in 1915, died in 2000, the last living member of the famous “Unfriendly Ten.”

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