After the end of the Second World War, the former allies, the United States and Russia turned against each other. Each wanted to become the only surviving superpower in the new world order. The traditional war was over, but a new war was emerging. It was to be known as the “Cold War” which ended when the Berlin Wall crumbled in August 1989.
There was a spread-out fear of Communism all over the United States. Everyone feared that the Soviet Union had organized communist organizations throughout the nation in an effort to take over the country. Hollywood was targeted by Edgar J. Hoover and Joseph McCarthy as the propagating epicenter of this dangerous ideology. Hollywood studios like Warner Brothers, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and United Artists were closely scrutinized in search of communist agents. Actors, Actresses, script writers, producers, directors—all were fair game for Congress House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in the United States in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. He is known for alleging that numerous Communists and spies and sympathizers had infiltrated the United States federal government, universities, film industry, and elsewhere
The fear became more intense during the Rosenberg Trials of 1951. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American citizens who were executed on June 19, 1953 after being convicted of committing espionage for the Soviet Union. They were accused of transmitting nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union; at that time the United States was the only country with nuclear weapons. They also provided top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the USSR. Of course this event generously covered by the media added gasoline to the fire.
Thousands of lives were shattered and hundred of careers destroyed by what came to be known as the Hollywood Black List. It was not until 1970 that these men and women were vindicated for standing up—at the greatest personal cost—for their beliefs.
This red witch hunt was brilliantly depicted in the film, “Guilty by Suspicion“ played by Robert Deniro. I recently streamed it from Amazon Prime Video. It is a sad story of how justice can go awry.
If you are a history buff, I know for sure, you will enjoy this one-of-a-kind motion picture of how the cold war was fought in the United States..
By the way, the Rosenbergs were convicted on March 29, 1951, and on April 5 were sentenced to death by Judge Kaufman under Section 2 of the Espionage Act of 1917, 50 U.S. Code 32 (now 18 U.S. Code 794), which prohibits transmitting or attempting to transmit to a foreign government information “relating to the national defense.”
At that time the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons did not operate an electric chair so the Rosenbergs were transferred to the New York State-run Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining for execution. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted by executioner Joseph Francel at sundown on June 19, 1953. The Rosenbergs spy chapter was finally closed.