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Bacall, Bogart and the Hollywood Ten

By Martin Smith | 15 August 2014

Lauren Bacall, in a beautiful shutter painting

Lauren Bacall, in a beautiful shutter painting

There have been some beautiful and thoughtful obituaries remembering Lauren Bacall.

It’s been very heartwarming that many have mentioned that she was part of the famous delegation that visited Washington to defend the Hollywood Ten at the time of their appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthyite witchhunt.

Some have been quick to highlight the fact that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren were forced to backtrack very quickly. But all is not as simple as it is now recorded.

It is true that after the visit to Washington Humphrey and Bacall were called into to see the brothers Warner and were told “Recant – or else”.

This is a transcript of the letter Humphrey sent to the press.

Dear Sir,

My recent trip to Washington, where I appeared with a group of motion-picture people, has become the subject of such confused and erroneous interpretations that I feel the situation should be clarified.

I am not a Communist.

I am not a Communist sympathizer.

I detest Communism as any other decent American does.

My name will not be found on any Communist front organization as a sponsor for anything Comunistic.

I went to Washington because I thought fellow Americans were being deprived of their constitutional rights, and for that reason alone.

That trip was ill-advised, even foolish, I am ready to admit. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

I have absolutely no use for Communism nor for anyone who serves that philosophy.

I am an American. And very likely a good many of the rest of you, sometimes a foolish and impetuous American.

(Signed) Humphrey Bogart

Yes the HUAC and the Hollywood management broke the Bogarts. But there is one thing I missed – although it wasn’t missed by those who faced far more severe punishment: Lauren didn’t sign!

It was the Bogarts’ way of saying they weren’t completely broken.



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