Combining familiar newsreel footage with freshly shot material, David Helpern's Hollywood on Trial is a documentary concerning the "communist witch-hunt" era. In the years following World War II, several ambitious Washington politicos were anxious to dissipate the last traces of Roosevelt's New Deal, and in so doing labelled virtually everything hinting of liberalism as communistic. These cynical crusaders couldn't make the headlines if they merely concentrated on such "radicals" as college professors and pamphleteers, so they targeted the most public industry of all: Motion Pictures. That's why the House UnAmerican Activities Committee conducted one-sided "investigations" of the Hollywood Left, and that's why so many actors, writers and directors found themselves on the Blacklist that no producer would ever admit existed. Most of Hollywood on Trial concerns itself with the misadventures of the "Hollywood Ten," a group of writers and directors who refused to answer the committee's questions and wound up in jail as a result. John Huston, himself briefly under scrutiny from the HUAC for being "unfriendly," narrates this surprisingly objective, multi-viewpointed film.
by Hal Erickson synopsis