In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee rudely interrupted the successful career and life of Edward Dmytryk, citing him with contempt of Congress. As a result, Dmytryk was fired by RKO and spent three years in England before returning to the United States to serve a six-month jail sentence and undergo a second round of hearings, during which he recanted and provided evidence against several of his former colleagues.
In this personal and perceptive book, Dmytryk sharply chronicles the history of a particularly turbulent era in American political life while examining his own life before and after the events universally called the witch hunts. He details his brief membership in the Communist Party of America, explaining his initial commitment to what he perceived as communist ideals of civil liberties, economic justice, and antifacism, followed by his eventual disillusionment with the party as it betrayed those ideals. He goes on to provide a fair assessment of what then happened to him and the effect it had on the rest of his life.
Dmytryk describes the activities, prejudices, and personal behaviors of all the parties enmeshed in the congressional hearings on communism in Hollywood. His reactions to other members of the Hollywood Ten and his recollection of conversations with them lend his book an immediacy that is not only informative but also absorbing. Most importantly, he does not uphold an ideology but rather presents the events as he perceived them, understood them, and responded to them. Dmytryk’s account is characterized by an openness born of a mature awareness of personal trial as history.