Friday, July 29, 2011


There has been a lot of chatter of late about what Ronald Reagan would think of all the state-by-state union busting going on by his Republican brethren. After all, he did serve as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 to 1952 and again in 1959. But, just because Reagan was a member of a union or even its president doesn't mean he was above devastating people's lives for his own benefit.

As Reagan recalled in his memoir, An American Life, FBI agents approached him in 1946 to share their information about the communist effort to infiltrate Hollywood. Reagan's book suggests that the visits with agents inspired him to fight communism, which led him to run for president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and "indirectly ... set me on the road that would lead me to politics."

Reagan was known to the FBI as Confidential Informant "T-10", and testified before the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee but never publicly named names. Instead, according to an FBI memorandum in 1947: "T-10 advised Special Agent [name deleted] that he has been made a member of a committee headed by [MGM chief] Mayer, the purpose of which is allegedly is to 'purge' the motion-picture industry of Communist party members, which committee was an outgrowth of the Thomas committee hearings in Washington and subsequent meetings . . . He felt that lacking a definite stand on the part of the government, it would be very difficult for any committee of motion-picture people to conduct any type of cleansing of their own household".

Fear engulfed Hollywood as the Blacklist came into being. Careers were destroyed, lives were lost. During a 1997 ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the Blacklist, then SAG president Richard Masur said in part, "Only our sister union, Actors Equity Association, had the courage to stand behind its members and help them continue their creative lives in the theater. ... Unfortunately, there are no credits to restore, nor any other belated recognition that we can offer our members who were blacklisted. They could not work under assumed names or employ surrogates to front for them. An actor's work and his or her identity are inseparable. Screen Actors Guild's participation in tonight's event must stand as our testament to all those who suffered that, in the future, we will strongly support our members and work with them to assure their rights as defined and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights."

 This wonderful image is copyrighted by Jonathan Schmock.

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