All self-respecting Ricochet readers will want to go read this amazing story published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine (!) about how President Ronald Reagan came to understand the threat of Communism in Hollywood and develop effective strategies for fighting it.
After cultivating a relationship with former movie-industry union chief Roy Brewer, reporter John Meroney obtained access to his voluminous archives filled with private correspondence, speeches, congressional documents, Communist Party newspapers, transcripts of testimony from executive sessions and minutes from closed union meetings. Meroney discovers Reagan's "Rosebud," as he puts it, since the information explains so much about why President Reagan entered politics, what animated him, what strategies he learned and how he deployed them.
Meroney uses these to tell a fascinating story about Reagan. Here's a snippet:
"In one-on-one meetings with workers, he would explain what he saw as the fallacies of the painters’ union and its claim to be for democratic unionism. “They want control,” Reagan would say as he presented facts to support his position. Eventually, he began to speak publicly to scores of union members and anyone else who would listen. He and Brewer found liberals and conservatives such as Allen Rivkin in the Screen Writers Guild and Cecil B. DeMille in the Screen Directors Guild who agreed with their view that this was a struggle not just for integrity in trade unionism but for the soul of Hollywood.
"Reagan and Brewer convinced them to build a coalition across the partisan divide in their locals and guilds. That strategy essentially stopped the Communist Party in Hollywood.
"Hayden confirmed as much in 1951, when he revealed in sworn congressional testimony that he had been a covert operative for the Communist Party, with the specific mission to swing the Screen Actors Guild to join up with the painters.
"In the archive is a copy of the testimony (along with never released recordings of Hayden being interviewed by a Saturday Evening Post reporter), in which Hayden said Reagan “was a one-man battalion against this thing. He was very vocal and clear thinking on it. I don’t think many people realized how complex it was.”
"By vanquishing the painters’ union, Reagan and Brewer preserved IATSE and SAG and the larger American Federation of Labor structure in Hollywood. Their strategy also essentially saved the motion-picture industry, which was struggling financially because television was siphoning moviegoers and courts were ruling that studios could no longer own movie theaters, as they had for decades.
"With that financial specter haunting Hollywood, the last thing needed was a national boycott claiming movies were full of Reds. “We fought them on and off the record,” Reagan wrote in 1951. “We fought them in meetings and behind the scenes.” That same year, Brewer said he considered his friend Ron to be the most effective person in the movie industry at fighting Communism."
The best part about this story is the note at the end of the piece that says Meroney is completing the book Ronald Reagan in the Hollywood Wars. My only complaint with the piece was that I wanted each anecdote fleshed out more and more. I will definitely be reading the book
There's also this mini-documentary that accompanies the piece, which I'll try to embed as well as link here. OK, I'm having trouble embedding it so you'll have to go check it out. In tapes that have been under wraps for 60 years, you can hear Reagan and Brewer discuss their battles with the Communist Party in Hollywood. It's utterly fascinating.