The Waldorf Conference • A Play

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Cast of Characters

Eric Johnston

Barney Balaban

A former President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, Eric Johnson was hired by the film companies to head the Motion Picture Producers Association (now the MPAA, which is run by Jack Valenti). Hailing from Spokane, Washington, Johnston was just what the movies needed in the wake of the resignation of Will H. Hays: he was well-connected, he was pro-business, and he wasn't Jewish.

Johnston's statements speak for themselves:

November 20, 1947: (Speaking to the Picture Pioneers, an association of 25-year motion picture veterans): The Ten have done "a tremendous disservice to the industry. I believe their actions hurt the cause of democracy immeasurably. I believe they played into the hands of extremists who are all too willing to confuse the honest progressive with the dishonest Red.

"We did not defend them. We do not defend them now. On the contrary, we believe that they have done a tremendous disservice to the industry which has given them so much in material awards (sic) and in opportunity to execute their talents. Their refusal to stand up and be counted for whatever they are could only result in a confusion of the issues before the committee -- and it did." They "may have had a right to challenge the committee as they did" on Constitutional grounds, but this will have to be tested in court.

"There is no subversive propaganda on the American screen and there isn't going to be. Management accepts the responsibility for the content of pictures. It's a sacred trust. In the final analysis, government must adopt a national policy with respect to the employment of Communists in private industry. But labor and management must not shirk their responsibilities by waiting for the government to act."

June 5, 1947: (Speaking to the Screen Writers Guild): "I don't like American Communists. Bluntly, I think they are treasonable and subversive. They are potential foreign agents -- they are dopes and suckers for the 14 men who sit in the Kremlin and pull the strings which make Communists toe the party line everywhere. Let me make it clear that I do not mean to imply that an American citizen has no right to advocate a collectivist form of society in America if he so desires. That's his privilege under the Constitution. But there is no Constitutional immunity for sedition, subversion or treason. I want to see it become a joke to be a Communist in America. I want it to be fashionable to radiate conviction and pride in our democratic capitalism.

"We ought to ridicule the so-called intellectuals who have made a good living denouncing those who believe in the American system as having economic halitosis and political b.o. Hollywood can take the lead." (the term means body odor, not box office).