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).
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.
A group of Hollywood stars, representing five hundred of their colleagues, leaving Los Angeles for Washington to protest the manner in which Washington’s Investigation of Un-American Activities is being conducted.
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:)
Hedda Hopper - Gossip Columnist May 2, 1885 – February 1, 1966
Wikipedia Hedda Hopper was one of America’s best-known gossip columnists, notorious for feuding with her arch-rival Louella Parsons. She had been a moderately successful actress of stage and screen for years before being offered the chance to write the column Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood for the Los Angeles Times in 1938. In the McCarthy era she named suspected communists. Hopper continued to write gossip to the end, her work appearing in many magazines and later on radio.
watching that video about the Hollywood Ten got me thinking about the McCarthy Era, and as I began looking into it, I was shocked at how many government officials turned on their fellow citizens, not because they were bad but because of the system they were living in. What kind of mistakes/sacrifices do you think Peggy made to stay with SHIELD during the Cold War?
Personally, I think the biggest mistake/sacrifice that Peggy has yet to answer for is her complicity in the Operation Paperclip program that eventually led to the HYDRA takeover of SHIELD.
Winter Soldier heavily implies that Arnim Zola, who is really being set up as the mastermind of the HYDRA infiltration, was brought into SHIELD while it was under the direction of Peggy, Howard Stark, and Col. Phillips. How and why Peggy could have allowed this to happen is a great unknown in the MCU.
Steve’s arc in Winter Soldier is focused on the idea of freedom vs. fear, with Steve firmly on the side of “freedom.” And that tends to be how we see Peggy, too. But at some point, she must have given into the idea of compromising freedom for the sake of fear, and this may be a place where it began. Operation Paperclip is, in many ways, a fear-based program - based on a fear that the Soviet Union would have access to superior science and technology - and represents an American willingness to compromise our own values because of a perceived need to protect Americans. Beyond Operation Paperclip, there are plenty of mid-century events that, in hindsight, reveal an astonishing amount of deception perpetrated by government officials on the American people. When looking at this history through the lens of this fictional character, I think it’s fair to wonder what she might have known, and when.
I see (and indulge in) a tendency in the Peggy Carter fandom to see her as this awesome, ass-kicking role model (which she is!), but I think there are definitely clues that hint to a much darker side to her character. I should note that I haven’t yet seen Ant-Man, which I think portrays Peggy during the later Cold War period(?), and I’m not sure if her appearance in the movie addresses any of this. But it’s something I think would definitely be interesting to explore, either in the Agent Carter series or in Civil War.
On a final note, for people more interested in this idea, I’m going to recommend a film I haven’t seen in a few years, but now I think I’ll have to track down again: Errol Morris’ documentary The Fog of War, which is essentially a feature-length interview with Robert McNamara, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Lyndon B. Johnson. This quote from Morris’ interview seems especially relevant here, and illustrates the attitude Peggy may have had to adopt as the head of a major federal agency in the last half of the 20th century:
I was serving at the request of the President [Johnson], who had been elected by the American people. And it was my responsibility to try to help him to carry out the office as he believed was in the interest of our people. We have certain ideals, certain responsibilities. What is morally appropriate in a wartime environment? How much evil must we do in order to do good? Recognize that at times you will have to engage in evil, but minimize it. People did not understand at that time there were recommendations and pressures that would carry the risk of war with China and carry the risk of nuclear war. And he [Johnson] was determined to prevent it. I’m arguing that he had a reason in his mind for doing what he did.
Did you know that Julia was once a member of the Office of Strategic Services?
By bestselling author Jennet Conant, A Covert Affair is a stunning account of Julia Child’s early life as a member of the OSS in the Far East during World War II, and the tumultuous years when she and Paul Child were caught up in the McCarthy witch hunt and behaved with bravery and honor.
Clashing with the Past
old movies and patriarchy, from the days of HUAC
by Daniel Borgström
Watching old movies has been a series of journeys back through time, paying visits to the movie version of the era I grew up in, the early 1950s. A lot has changed since then, much of it for the better. Thank goodness I don’t have to wear a white shirt and necktie just to go downtown nowadays, but back in those days it was the norm, part of the required façade. The differences between then and now are many, but what seem most significant to me are the gender roles of that time, presented particularly well in Fritz Lang’s 1951 film “Clash by Night.”
“Clash by Night” was filmed on location in Monterey and opens with picturesque shots of the seacoast, the fishing fleet, and Cannery Row. The characters in this movie are fishing folk, and the story centers on a love triangle, in which Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman who has an affair with her husband’s best friend. The lover, played by Robert Ryan, is an angry, cynical fellow, the kind of guy who’d seduce his best friend’s wife. The husband, Paul Douglas, is just the opposite; he’s a trustworthy, amiable guy, good hearted, but rather childlike and simple-minded. Ryan says to Stanwyck, “Your man is the salt of the earth, but he’s not the right seasoning for you.”
While Stanwyck, Douglas and Ryan are an ill-starred threesome who get things wrong, the movie also presents us with a counter-example of a couple who get things right, at least according to the ethos of the time. This couple, played by Marilyn Monroe and Keith Andes, have their differences, but they work things out: she accepts him as the boss, the dominant partner. Andes portrays the proper manly ideal for that era – a guy who knows how to handle his woman and keep her in line.
There’s a scene where Monroe proudly shows Stanwyck the engagement ring she has just received from Andes, and she says, “We had a fight and were never going to see each other again. At 10 o'clock [he] came to the house and was going to kick the door down. I never thought I’d like a guy who’d push me around.” Stanwyck admires the ring, and tells Monroe that she’s made the right decision. “[He] will make you happy. He knows who he is and what he is. Some of us don’t. Always take the man who’ll kick the door down. Advice from Mama.”
Andes can be very sweet, Monroe says, but in scene after scene, he comes across as rigid and self-righteous. Such a guy could hardly be a joy to live happily ever after with, but he does possess the manly qualities that were respected and even idealized in the ‘50s. Attitudes began to change in the 1960’s, but older ways of thinking did persist. A 1969 biographer of Marilyn Monroe described the Andes character as “a stern young man of high ideals.” And in the view of film critic Lotte Eisner, in her 1976 book on director Fritz Lang, Andes and Monroe “provide a tender comedy of the taming of a shrew.”
I do think there has been a major change in gender roles. Such sexism used to be the prevailing cultural norm; today it is much less so. Watching this movie, I find it a disturbing portrait of the world I grew up in, and I’d really like to be able to say that such attitudes were never mine, that I was never part of such a society. But I was, and this movie took me back to remembering a lot of attitudes that were uncomfortably familiar, however much I would like to distance myself from them. Maybe that’s why I found this movie such an extraordinary film, a dark masterpiece.
It’s hard to see things through the lens of a different culture, even, as in this case, one that I actually lived in and was part of. But many young movie-goers of the '50s must have seen the characters played by Andes and Monroe as proper role models.
This movie could be viewed as a perverse morality play, lauding the supposed virtues of male dominance. But was that the message director Fritz Lang intended? Lang was himself a dominant male, a movie director, a guy with power over the cast; and he was famously difficult to work under. He scolded actress Marilyn Monroe when she showed up late for work, and he showed little patience with her when she couldn’t remember her lines. The scolding probably made things worse. She was scared of him, so much so that she would vomit and break out with red blotches on her face. Other actors also suffered under him, and considered him an autocrat.
But autocrat or not, Fritz Lang was an artist, capable of putting such negative traits to work in a positive way, bringing his characters to life on the screen. Some of the characters he presents unsympathetically, especially the role played by Robert Ryan, might well have been partial self portraits. My guess is that Monroe’s abusive boyfriend may also have been a reproduction of Lang himself, and the same may even have been true of the rest of the male roles in that movie, none of them much to be admired.
I do not think Lang saw the Monroe-Andes relationship as any sort of ideal. But I can imagine he appreciated irony and might’ve smiled to hear film critic Lotte Eisner calling it “a tender comedy.”
I’d like to compare “Clash by Night” with another movie Lang made the same year. In “Rancho Notorious” a strong woman dominates the men in her realm. Marlene Dietrich’s character runs a hideout for outlaws. Unlike the dangerous men around her, Dietrich doesn’t carry a gun, doesn’t seem to need one. Through the force of her personality she runs the show, dominating the violent gunslingers who hide out at her ranch. It’s tantalizing to consider that such a role may have represented his feminine ideal. If so, then “Clash by Night” can be seen as a tragedy.
The tragedy in “Clash by Night” is that we see a feisty woman, the Monroe character, capable of defending herself in a scrappy manner, but who ends up dominated, beaten down and accepting of her diminished role. It’s a subtle but very incisive look at a patriarchal culture where people wind up in dead-end relationships where they’re lonely, unhappy and abused.
Relationships, not romance, are the theme of “Clash by Night.” Patriarchy is the kind of relationship this movie’s about, and it was not made in a political vacuum. I think it’s significant that it was written and filmed in the McCarthy era, during the heyday of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), the jailing of the “Hollywood Ten,” and the blacklisting of actors, screenwriters and directors – a very repressive and scary time, especially for movie people. Sadly, many did cave in, did to some extent compromise their principles and did collaborate with the inquisitors. That was even true of Fritz Lang and the movie’s screenwriter Alfred Hayes.
Alfred Hayes was a former supporter of the Communist Party; he’s the person who wrote the lyrics of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.” Fritz Lang was a refugee from Hitler’s Germany. Though not a radical, he was clearly disinclined to go along with government oppression in any country. These filmmakers were strong-minded, feisty persons who, during the 1930s, had stood up to the powers-that-be, but had now finally knuckled under to HUAC – rather like the Monroe character in this movie.
“Listen to me Blondie!” Andes bursts out in a scene near the end of “Clash by Night.” He rages on, berating her. This is not a gentle, kind and considerate lover, asking for a commitment. He’s a patriarchal, authoritarian figure, demanding an oath of loyalty. “Now which way is it gonna be?” he barks. Monroe looks at him aghast, then sobbing, throws herself into his arms. We see the expression on her face – sad, terrified, humiliated.
I was only nine when this movie was made, and I don’t remember seeing it back then. But I do remember the HUAC hearings, the loyalty oath requirements, and the experience of growing up in an atmosphere where you simply did NOT criticize the government. You would not even think of suggesting that it was a tool of the corporations. Fear alone was not what really kept people in line. War, peace, depression, prosperity and the automobile, plus the A-bomb, all contributed to an incredible mystique amounting to a moral force that held people in awe, so much so that the adults around me perceived the powers that be as our benevolent protector, as the ultimate patriarch. People wanted to be in good with it, the way Monroe wanted to be in good with her abusive boyfriend.
Let’s not forget. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was asked a question about Marxists in Congress. West didn’t dodge the question or offer a sentimental statement about President Reagan in reply. Without shying away from even one dusty cobweb, West raided the political tomb of the McCarthy era.
I have just learned that the husband has never even heard of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We came across it (or the 1978 remake, anyway) on Netflix and he asked what the hell this movie was, and I thought he was joking at first. When I realized he was perfectly serious and had never heard of this movie, a whole speech on the McCarthy era and Golden Age science fiction got lodged in my throat trying to tumble out of my mouth. (Judith Merril was trying to snatch my body from beyond the grave, I’m sure of it.)
How can anyone not have even heard of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I mean, not having seen it is understandable (only so many hours in a day), but not having heard of it at all? If I didn’t know him like I do, I’d say this was fake. As a fan of sff film and fiction, I have seriously failed in educating this man.