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John Kennedy and McCarthyism


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 01:20 PM

In the early 1950s the Kennedy family was closely associated with Joe McCarthy and his anti-communist crusade. Joe Kennedy shared McCarthy's political views and encouraged his sons to join the campaign. Robert Kennedy was so impressed with McCarthy that he asked him in 1951 to be godfather to his first child, Kathleen. In 1953 McCarthy appointed Robert as one of the 15 assistant counsels to the Senate subcommittee on investigations. As a result, Robert was closely identified with the witch-hunt of liberals, socialists and communists in the 1950s.


By the time he began his campaign to become the presidential candidate in 1959, John Kennedy decided to try and distance himself from McCarthyism. However, at the same time, he was worried that he would be accused of moving too far to the left. In 1959 Frank Sinatra announced that he proposed to break the blacklist by employing Albert Maltz as the screenwriter of the proposed film, The Execution of Private Slovik.


Sinatra soon came under attack for his decision. He nearly came to blows with John Wayne, who called him a "Commie" when they met in the street. However, what really hurt Sinatra was the criticism he received in the press. This included claims that his friend, John Kennedy, also wanted an end to the blacklist. Sinatra issued a statement to the press: "I would like to comment on the attacks from certain quarters on Senator John Kennedy by connecting him with my decision on employing a screenwriter. This type of partisan politics is hitting below the belt... I make movies. I do not ask the advice of Senator Kennedy on whom I should hire. Senator Kennedy does not ask me how he should vote in the Senate."


Michael Freedland, the author of Witch-Hunt in Hollywood (2009) argues that "Kennedy didn't like the association with the name of one of the Hollywood Ten. He would soon run from President and he was worried that he could harm him." A few days later Sinatra took out another paid-for advertisement in the newspapers: "In view of the reaction of my family, friends and the American public I've instructed my lawyers to make a settlement with Albert Maltz. My conversations with Maltz indicate that he has an affirmative, pro-American approach to the story, but the American public has indicated it feels that the morality of hiring Maltz is the most crucial matter and I will accept this majority opinion."


Kirk Douglas had more courage than Sinatra and decided a few weeks later to employ another of the Hollywood Ten, Dalton Trumbo, to write the screenplay for his proposed film, Spartacus. Based on the novel by another left-wing blacklisted writer, Howard Fast, it is a film that examines the spirit of revolt. Trumbo refers back to his experiences of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. At the end, when the Romans finally defeat the rebellion, the captured slaves refuse to identify Spartacus. As a result, all are crucified. This was a reference to those Hollywood figures who named other members of left-wing organizations in the 1930s in order to continue their own careers.

As Ring Landner Jr., another member of the Hollywood Ten, pointed out in his autobiography, I’d Hate Myself in the Morning (2000): “Sinatra caved in, paying off Maltz in cash and eventually scrubbing the project, perhaps partly out of fear of harming his friend John F. Kennedy, a candidate for President at the time. (Following the election that fall, however, the President-elect and his brother, Attorney-General-to-be Robert Kennedy, crossed a picket line to see Spartacus at a theater in Washington D.C., and pronounced it good.)”


http://www.spartacus...uk/USAmaltz.htm


http://www.spartacus...k/USAtrumbo.htm


http://www.spartacus...hollywood10.htm

#2 David Andrews

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 07:29 PM

Kirk Douglas had more courage than Sinatra and decided a few weeks later to employ another of the Hollywood Ten, Dalton Trumbo,

I have a slight quibble with categorizing Douglas as more courageous than Sinatra in this instance. (I don't care much about other instances, however.) Sinatra was playing for different stakes and would have been under pressure from the Kennedy campaign, from which he wanted concessions for himself and certain associates There are accounts of a scathing command to fire Maltz from Joseph P. Kennedy.

Edited by David Andrews, 29 August 2012 - 07:29 PM.


#3 John Simkin

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 06:52 AM

There are accounts of a scathing command to fire Maltz from Joseph P. Kennedy.


Interesting. Have you got a source for this?

Trumbo believed that JFK had been a victim of a conspiracy and joined forces in 1973 with Donald Freed and Mark Lane to write the political thriller, Executive Action. The film opened to a storm of controversy with the suggestion that Kennedy had been a victim of the Military-Industrial Complex and was removed totally from the movie theaters by early December 1973.

#4 David Andrews

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 04:51 PM

Give me a couple weeks, and I'll find an original source for Joe Kennedy ordering the Maltz firing - or report that it's a canard.

It's been repeated in books, one of which is likely His Way, Kitty Kelley's underappreciated Sinatra biography. The legend in American publishing is that Sinatra, like Oscar Wilde, was urged by his attorneys not to file suit, because the majority of items Sinatra objected to in Kelley's book were bound to be judged substantially true.

I will look beyond Kelley's book for the source, though

Edited by David Andrews, 30 August 2012 - 07:33 PM.


#5 David Andrews

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 03:48 AM

Sorry to be delayed by libraries and such, but here are two popular historians and biographers of Sinatra on Joe Kennedy getting Albert Maltz fired from The Execution of Private Slovik production. Perhaps only popular historians have been interested in the subject, more's the pity. The sources for the tale are appended for critique.


Summers, Anthony, & Robbyn Swan Sinatra: The Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005, p. 282-283

“The selection of Maltz, the conservative press suggested, tainted not only Frank but his friend Jack Kennedy. Frank fought back for a while, then dropped Maltz – under pressure from Joe and Robert Kennedy.”

SOURCES

Sinatra, Tina, with Jeff Coplon. My Father’s Daughter. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000, p. 68

Gehman, Richard. Siantra and his Rat Pack. New York: Belmont Books, 1961, p. 188


Kelley, Kitty. His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra. New York: Bantam Books, 1986, p. 274

“When priests stood up in their pulpits to sermonize against Frank, Ambassador Kennedy became alarmed and called Cardinal Spellman in New York and Cardinal Cushing in Boston, only to be told that Sinatra’s consorting with Communists could damage his son’s campaign among Roman Catholics. A few days later governor Wesley Powell of New Hampshire accused Senator Kennedy of ‘softness toward communism.’

“’That’s when old Joe called Frank and said, “It’s either Maltz or us. Make up your mind.”’ said Peter Lawford. ‘He felt that Jack was getting rapped for being a Catholic and that was going to be tough enough to put to rest. He didn’t want him to get rapped for being pro-Communism as well, so Frank caved in, and dumped Maltz that day.’”

SOURCE

Author’s interview with Peter Lawford, June 4, 1984.

Edited by David Andrews, 11 October 2012 - 05:36 AM.


#6 Don Jeffries

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 05:56 AM

The Kennedy family was friendly with Joe McCarthy. McCarthy dated one of JFK's sisters. Both JFK and RFK worshiped their father, and although they never shared his right-wing politics, they respected his views and usually followed his advice. Thus, it wasn't surprising that a young Robert Kennedy was given a big break by joining McCarthy's Senate committee. It also wasn't surprising to find JFK torn over how to respond to McCarthy by 1959, given his loyalty to his father.

During McCarthy's last few years, he had become a figure reviled by virtually the entire establishment. It would actually probably have been more politically expedient for JFK to publicly renounce him at that point. I seriously doubt that either of the Kennedy brothers ever shared McCarthy's ideology. However, they certainly must have felt some loyalty towards someone who was a family friend.

#7 Len Colby

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:27 PM

The Kennedy family was friendly with Joe McCarthy. McCarthy dated one of JFK's sisters. Both JFK and RFK worshiped their father, and although they never shared his right-wing politics, they respected his views and usually followed his advice. Thus, it wasn't surprising that a young Robert Kennedy was given a big break by joining McCarthy's Senate committee. It also wasn't surprising to find JFK torn over how to respond to McCarthy by 1959, given his loyalty to his father.

During McCarthy's last few years, he had become a figure reviled by virtually the entire establishment. It would actually probably have been more politically expedient for JFK to publicly renounce him at that point. I seriously doubt that either of the Kennedy brothers ever shared McCarthy's ideology. However, they certainly must have felt some loyalty towards someone who was a family friend.


So refusing to denounce McCarthy was evidence of JFK's integrity? Kennedy was generally a good person especially at the end of his presidency but this was not one of his shining moments. And '1959' McCarthy died in '57 and was censured in '54. 'It would NOT have been more politically expedient for JFK to publicly renounce him at that point.'

Edited by Len Colby, 10 October 2012 - 01:28 PM.


#8 John Simkin

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 01:44 PM


The Kennedy family was friendly with Joe McCarthy. McCarthy dated one of JFK's sisters. Both JFK and RFK worshiped their father, and although they never shared his right-wing politics, they respected his views and usually followed his advice. Thus, it wasn't surprising that a young Robert Kennedy was given a big break by joining McCarthy's Senate committee. It also wasn't surprising to find JFK torn over how to respond to McCarthy by 1959, given his loyalty to his father.

During McCarthy's last few years, he had become a figure reviled by virtually the entire establishment. It would actually probably have been more politically expedient for JFK to publicly renounce him at that point. I seriously doubt that either of the Kennedy brothers ever shared McCarthy's ideology. However, they certainly must have felt some loyalty towards someone who was a family friend.


So refusing to denounce McCarthy was evidence of JFK's integrity? Kennedy was generally a good person especially at the end of his presidency but this was not one of his shining moments. And '1959' McCarthy died in '57 and was censured in '54. 'It would NOT have been more politically expedient for JFK to publicly renounce him at that point.'


I am sure that if JFK had denounced McCarthyism in 1960 he would have been defeated as Nixon would have described him as sympathetic to communism. It has to be remembered that the blacklist was still in operation in 1960 and virtually all journalists, screenwriters on the left were denied access to the mainstream media. That is one of the reasons why it was so easy for the media to cover-up the JFK assassination.




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