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Will Geer, Movie Actor, Keeps Silent on Past

WASHINGTON- (AP)- Screen Actor Will Geer said today it was all "ancient history" and refused to tell the House un-American activities committee if he was or ever had been a communist.

The grey haired, gum chewing witness, smilingly taking what he called the committee "hotseat" also stood on his constitutional privilege against answering questions which might tend to incriminate him.

When committee counsel Frank Tavenner, jr., asked Geer what he was doing in 1942, Geer grinned and said he was "campaigning for Wendell Wilkie"- the Republican presidential candidate.

But he refused to say if he had signed a communist party "nominating petition" on July 23, 1942, or if he had participated in other communist activities.

Attorneys for two other actors, J. Edward Bromberg and Marc Lawrence, said the health of their clients would keep them from coming here to testify at this time.

Chairman Wood (D-Ga.) extended their subpoenas pending a check on their condition.

Movie Star Sterling Hayden, brawny former marine corps hero, readily told the committee yesterday he joined the party in 1946 in Hollywood to fulfill an emotional desire to "do something for a better world" after the war.

He quit six months later, he said, disillusioned over a rigid belief of communists they alone "knew what is best for everyone."

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Will Geer, who most people today remember for his role as Grandpa Walton on the long-running television show, was black-listed by Hollywood after speaking before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s. Geer reported to the hearing dressed in the costume he wore playing Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road on Broadway and chewing gum like a wad of tobacco. Walking into the room he said "Where is the hot seat?" Geer invoked his Fifth Amendment right and refused to implicate others or to confirm or deny past membership in the Communist Party. Geer was but one of many people connected with the entertainment industry called before the HUAC and subsequently black-listed and could not find work. At the end of the 1950's, people who had been black-listed were gradually hired and the whole idea began to break down. Geer was hired by Otto Preminger in 1962 to be in Advise and Consent.

 

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"Will Geer, Movie Actor, Keeps Silent on Past" article from the Greenfield Recorder-Gazette newspaper

publisher   Greenfield Recorder-Gazette
date   Apr 11, 1951
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   1.25"
height   3.5"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L06.067


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See Also...

Editorial on "Sen. Joseph McCarthy" from the Greenfield Recorder-Gazette newspaper

WWII political letter to Henry L. Clarke

Letter to Ward and Annie Clarke about Communism


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