The anti-communist hysteria of the 1940s that exploded into the Hollywood Blacklist managed to destroy the careers of many film actors, writers and directors while making an Academy Award-winning hero out of one of the biggest rat fink coward bastards in American history. Less well known because none of them were part of the infamous Hollywood Ten is the fact that the Hollywood Blacklist also put a tragic end to several careers in the burgeoning world of TV entertainment while making a legend out of another coward. What is especially tragic is that one of the most unexpected victims of the Blacklist saw a 20 year career entertaining kids come to an end despite incontrovertible evidence of her innocence.
What is especially galling about the end of Ireene Wicker’s career as the result of anti-communist hysteria is the way her case sets itself up at the polar opposite of Lucille Ball. Ireene Wicker had been known as “The Singing Lady” on the radio for twenty years before moved to television. From 1948 to 1950, “The Singing Lady” featured Wicker’s genial brand of songs, puppet shows and lessons in American history. Clearly, the allegations that she was a communist had nothing to do with the content of her show. It was the infamous–and ver often infamously incorrect–ultra-right wing Bible of McCarthyism called Red Channels that did her in. Her crimes, according to Red Channels, was having legally signed a petition in support of electing the Communist Party candidate for New York City Council and for siding with leftist rebels during the Spanish Civil War. Instead of, you know, supporting the side that result in the dictatorship of fascist pig Franco for the next thirty-five years.
So, you see, even if Ireene Wicker actually had done the things she was accused of doing in Red Channels there is absolutely no reason it had to bring her long career to an abrupt halt. But here’s the kicker: her name was never–ever–found on that petition supporting the Communist candidate. And her support for leftist rebels during the Spanish Civil War? It was traced back to efforts to raise funds for refugee children displaced as a result of the fascist pig Franco’s leadership.
But wait, that’s not all. Ireene Wicker, as you can see, did not actually do any of subversive, pinko, commie activities she was accused of doing, yet saw her career come to an end. On the other, Lucille Ball actually was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Look into Lucy’s investigation by the whackos of HUAC and what you find is the proverbial smoking gun. And yet, somehow, she not only kept her career going, but thrived on the small screen in a way she could never duplicate on the big screen even after attaining TV legend status. How, you may ask? Read my article here to find out .
One of the first wildly successful family sitcoms in TV history was “The Aldrich Family” based on a popular radio show. Jean Muir was originally hired to play Mrs. Aldrich, but almost instantly the rabid anti-communist wingnuts made it their mission to reverse this situation that, it would seem, threatened to destroy the very integrity of America. In fact, the Jean Muir case was a turning point in the Hollywood Blacklist because she became victim that could be directly tied to Red Channels. Never mind that Muir, probably caving to pressure, publicly affirmed before HUAC all the most ridiculous things the McCarthyites had to say about the destructive influence of communism. Her career was effectively over after, like Wicker, twenty years in the business.
In January of the same year that would see “The Aldrich Family” debut in the fall, the Jewish humor of “The Goldbergs” premiered and took the country by storm. Philip Loeb had played Molly Goldberg’s husband Jake, but behind the scenes everything was far from Jake. A cloud was hanging over Loeb. Gertrude Berg, the star of the show, insisted behind closed doors that firing Loeb on the basis of unsubstantiated charges would be the real un-American thing to do. But Loeb was resisting advice to go all Kazan on his friends’ asses . CBS was grudgingly supporting Loeb and General Foods seemed to be incapable of distinguishing between the high road and the low road. Finally, when “The Goldbergs” ended its 1950/1951 season, General Foods dropped its sponsorship and the sitcom leaped from CBS with a brand new actor in the role of Jake Goldberg. Eventually the show would end its run on the always-struggling DuMont Network with yet a third actor cast as Jake.