mccarthy-era

So many characters in 1960s sitcoms had a Terrible Secret which, if uncovered and made public, would have Disastrous Consequences: loss of livelihood, loss of position, loss of acceptance in society.

Fortunately, no 1960s sitcom character was actually a card-carrying Communist. No, the secret was something less political: a witch, a genie, a martian, a talking horse, an angel, a ghost, a talking car, a robot. etc.

Above: Ray Walston in a publicity photo for My Favorite Martian (CBS, 1963-1966).

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On this day in History December 2, 1954: The United States Senate has censured Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy by a vote of 67 to 22, with all the Democrats and about half the Republicans voting against him. He was censured for conduct unbecoming to a senator.

The investigation into McCarthy was undertaken by The Watkins Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Arthur Watkins which deliberated from August 31 until September 13.The charges included:

  • Contempt and abuse of a Senate committee that looked into his financial affairs in 1952
  • Insulting members of this committee on national television thereby bringing the Senate “into dishonour and disrepute” and obstructing the constitutional process.

The lynchpin was the manner in which McCarthy attacked both Secretary of the Army Robert T Stevens and General Ralph Zwicker in a hearing about espionage at Fort Monmouth Army base in April of the same year. 

This was the beginning of the end of the McCarthy era. McCarthy himself would pass away from cirrhosis of the liver September 1, 1957.

For Further Reading:

On This Day in History May 31, 1957: Writer and Playwright Arthur Miller was found guilty of contempt of Congress. The charge of contempt came in relation to an investigation by the House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) into a Communist conspiracy to misuse American passports. 

While Miller (who was married to actress Marilyn Monroe) was cooperative with HUAC during the hearing on June 21, 1956, especially when concerning his own personal dealings with Communists, he refused to divulge any names of those writers who attended meetings and activities related to the Communist Party. Why did he refuse to give any names? Very simply, Miller was quoted as stating: “I could not use the name of another person and bring trouble on him.”

After appealing the charge of contempt of Congress, Miller had the charged quashed on August 7, 1958 by Washington’s Court of Appeals. 

For Further Reading:

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Edward R. Murrow on Senator McCarthy, from See It Now, March 1954.

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Okay, here’s the deal with “Traveler."  I already have a thing for this period of history and so my opinion in no way can be trusted, but I thought they did a fabulous job on this one. It’s deliciously disturbing to see how far back the conspiracy goes, and some of the motivation behind it. Mulder’s father being in on it— we sort of knew but hadn’t really seen in flashbacks— was just icing on the cake, which was already chock-full of McCarthy being in on it.

Oh, and David Moreland, the man who played Roy Cohn— magnificent job, sir.

Grandpa Walton, AKA Will Geer - Artist Unknown - Photo by Laura

In the 1950s, Will Geer moved his family to Topanga Canyon to escape the evils of McCarthy era persecution in Hollywood. Once there, he began what eventually became the Theatricum Botanicum, an open air theatre complex surrounded by gardens and the magical woods of the Santa Monica mountains. The “secret garden” served as safe haven for his family, as well as other notables, like musician and union organizer Woody Guthrie. Today, in addition to staging summertime Shakespeare and other great plays for Los Angeles theatre lovers, the Theatricum staff, headed up by Geer’s descendents, offers dramatic arts education to children throughout the city, helping ensure that true theatrical freedom of expression remains alive for generations to come.

(PS - this photo is a bit unfocused - my apologies for that:)

I saw The Crucible on Broadway tonight! Now, I’m really obsessed with the other McCarthy era play Inherit the Wind. I’d never seen or read the Crucible before, and I’ve gotta say, it’s altogether a better metaphor for McCarthyism. I mean, it’s a literal witch hunt. The acting was very physical and the witchcraft scenes were incredibly creepy- not because of the alleged magic itself, but because of the way the girls acted it out, how they all followed Abigail. As far as characters, I liked John Proctor (played by Ben Whishaw) and Elizabeth Proctor (played by Sophie Okonedo). And also Rev. Hale (played by Bill Camp).