Adrian Scott

Adrian Scott

Adrian Scott was born into a middle-class Irish Catholic family in Arlington, New Jersey, on 6th February, 1912. He worked as a writer on various magazines before moving to Hollywood. Scott wrote Keeping Company (1940), The Parson of Panamint (1941), We Go Fast (1941) and Mr. Lucky (1943).

Scott now became a producer where he helped to create the genre later known as "film noir". Movies produced by Scott included My Pal Wolf (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), Cornered (1945), Deadline at Dawn (1946), So Well Remembered (1947) and Crossfire (1947), a film that won four Academy Awards. The actress, Marsha Hunt commented: "Robert (my husband) and I knew and loved Adrian. He had married my dearest friend, Anne Shirley, a lovely actress. They did some of their courting at our house. We were very close to Adrian. He was the new boy wonder, the new Thalberg."

On 20th October, 1947, the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened its hearings concerning communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. Harley Kilgore of West Virginia, Claude Pepper of Florida, Elbert D. Thomas of Utah, and Glenn H. Taylor of Idaho joined forces to protest about the hearings: "We the undersigned, as American Citizens who believe in constitutional democratic government, are disgusted and outraged by the continuing attempt of the House Committee on Un-American Activities to smear the Motion Picture Industry. We hold that these hearings are morally wrong because: (1) Any investigation into the political beliefs of the individual is contrary to the basic principles of our democracy; (2) Any attempt to curb freedom of expression and to set arbitrary standards of Americanism is in itself disloyal to both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution."

The chief investigator for the HUAC committee was Robert E. Stripling. The first people it interviewed included Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper, Ayn Rand, Jack L. Warner, Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Walt Disney, Thomas Leo McCarey and George L. Murphy. These people named several possible members of the American Communist Party. The HUAC also called Lela Rogers, the mother of Ginger Rogers. She claimed that Clifford Odets, had introduced communist propaganda into the film, None but the Lonely Heart (1944): "I can't quote the lines of the play exactly but I can give you the sense of them. There is one place in which - it is unfair, may I say, to take a scene from its context and try to make it sound like Communist propaganda, because a Communist is very careful, very clever, and very devious in the way he sets the film. If I were to give you a line from that play straight out you would say 'What is wrong with that line?' unless you knew that the Communist is trying in every way to tear down our free-enterprise system, to make the people lose faith in it, so that they will want to get something else-and the Communists have it waiting for them. I will tell you of one line. The mother in the story runs a second-hand store. The son says to her, 'You are not going to' in essence, I am not quoting this exactly because I can't remember it exactly-he said to her, 'You are not going to get me to work here and squeeze pennies from people poorer than we are.' Many people are poorer and many people are richer. As I say, you find yourself in an awful hole the moment you start to remove one of the scenes from its context."

As a result their investigations, the HUAC announced it wished to interview nineteen members of the film industry that they believed might be members of the American Communist Party. This included Herbert Biberman, Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Samuel Ornitz, John Howard Lawson, Larry Parks, Waldo Salt, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Collins, Gordon Kahn, Robert Rossen, Lewis Milestone and Irving Pichel.

Scott appeared before the HUAC on 28th October, 1947, but like Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Samuel Ornitz and Ring Lardner Jr, refused to answer any questions. Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The House of Un-American Activities Committee and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of Congress and Scott was sentenced to twelve months in Ashland Federal Correctional Institution and fined $1,000.

Scott married Joan LaCour, the executive secretary of the Television Writers of America in 1955. As Scott was blacklisted his wife agreed to submit his work under the name Joanne Court. Patrick McGilligan, the film historian who co-authored Tender Comrades (1997) has claimed: "I think of her as a stand-in for all the wives - and, in some cases, husbands - who were affected by the blacklist profoundly, horribly in her case, and never found their voice. Joan found her voice partly as a consequence of the blacklist, as a front for her husband. She emerged as a very sharp writer in her own right, not Oscar-nominated or famous but with a very interesting career." This included writing for television programmes such as Adventures of Robin Hood, Ironside and Lassie.

Blacklisted by the Hollywood film studios, Scott sued RKO Pictures for wrongful dismissal. The case continued until rejected by the Supreme Court in 1957. The couple moved to London but after the blacklist was broken by Dalton Trumbo, the writer of Spartacus (1960), Scott was invited back to Hollywood by Jennings Lang, who was supervising new products at Universal Studio. Joan later recalled: "He was deliriously happy. I was not. I wept all the way back on the plane; he was ecstatic to be coming back home and working in Hollywood. It was redemption. I was miserable, but he didn't want to know. I hated change. But also I'd fallen in love with London."

Adrian Scott soon became disillusioned with life in Los Angeles. "He got assigned to work under this little pipsqueak of a kid who was young enough to be his son, an awful young guy. He was not nice and it was such a putdown, so demeaning. And that's when he was 61 and got diagnosed with lung cancer... The triumphant return was a disaster."

Adrian Scott died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, on 25th December, 1973.

Primary Sources

(1) Albert Maltz, one of the Hollywood Ten, was interviewed in 1972.

There is currently in vogue a thesis pronounced by Dalton Trumbo which declares that everyone during the years of blacklist was equally a victim. This is factual nonsense. Adrian Scott was the producer of the notable film Crossfire in 1947 and Edward Dmytryk was its director. Both of these men refused to co-operate with the HCUA. Both were held in contempt of the HUACand went to jail.

When Dmytryk emerged from his prison term he did so with a new set of principles. He suddenly saw the heavenly light, testified as a friend of the HUAC, praised its purposes and practices and denounced all who opposed it. Dmytryk immediately found work as a director, and has worked all down the years since. Adrian Scott, who came out of prison with his principles intact, could not produce a film for a studio again until 1970. He was blacklisted for 21 years.

(2) Paul Jarrico was interviewed by Elizabeth Farnsworth in 1997.

Elizabeth Farnsworth: Paul Jarrico, once you found out you were blacklisted, once you could no longer work in Hollywood, what did you do? How did you manage to produce Salt of the Earth.

Paul Jarrico: The hard way. I and Herbert Biberman and Adrian Scott, both of whom were - had been members of the Hollywood Ten and were blacklisted, of course, formed a company to try to use the growing pool of talent of the blacklistees. And we had several projects underway with - that is to say being written and came across - I came across by coincidence - this strike and in New Mexico in which Mexican-American zinc miners were on strike, the company got an injunction, saying that company - that striking miners may not picket - the wives said the injunction doesn’t say anything about their wives - we’ll take over your picket line, and the men were reluctant to, as they put it hide behind women’s skirts. But there really was no other alternative. The women found themselves on the picket line being attacked by force, arrested in droves.

Elizabeth Farnsworth: And did people try to stop you from making this film?

Paul Jarrico: Well, of course. There was a concerted effort to stop the making of the film after it became known that we were making the film. We had started the film in quite a normal fashion with contracts with Pate Lab to develop our film and rental of the equipment from Hollywood, people who supplied such things. A whistle was blown by Walter Pigeon, the then president of the Actors Guild, and the FBI swung into action and movie industries swung into action and we found ourselves barred from laboratories, barred from sound studios, barred from any of the normal facilities available to film makers, and we found ourselves hounded by all kinds of denunciations on the floor of Congress and by columnists.

The public was told that we were making a new weapon for Russia, that since we were shooting in New Mexico, where you find atom bombs, you find Communists, and every kind of scurrilous attack - vigilante attacks - on us while we were still shooting developed.

Our star, who had come up from Mexico to star in the film - LeSoro Regueltos - was arrested and deported before we were finished shooting her role. We had difficulty getting permission to shoot the remaining scenes with her in Mexico, which we absolutely had to have, and so on.