Gordon Kahn

Active - 1931 - 1948  |   Born - Jan 1, 1901   |   Died - Jan 1, 1962   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American author Gordon Kahn was best known for such breezy works as 1932's Manhattan Oases: New York's 1932 Speakeasies when he inaugurated his Hollywood screenwriting career. Most of Kahn's film work was unremarkable: Death Kiss (1933), Newsboy's Home (1939), World Premiere (1941) and Buy Me That Town (1941) were perhaps the best of this indifferent lot. But though he was hardly in the front ranks of Hollywood's talent pool, Kahn managed to make his mark in other ways. An avowed communist, he helped organize such reactionary groups as the League of American Writers. From 1945 to 1947, Kahn and fellow leftist Dalton Trumbo edited "The Screen Writer," the house organ of the Screen Writers' Guild, which Kahn helped formulate in the 1930s. When the House UnAmerican Activities Committee began its anti-Red investigations in 1947, Kahn promptly lost his job at Warner Bros. As one of the "Hollywood 19," he was subpoenaed and brought to Washington by the HUAC as an unfriendly witness. When the "19" was whittled down to ten, Kahn, who was never called to testify before the Committee, worked on the sidelines on behalf of his colleagues, even though his influence in Tinseltown's Left Wing had dramatically diminished. In 1948, he published the first book-length history of the HUAC hearings, Hollywood on Trial, which boasted a foreword by Thomas Mann (the book was reprinted on a mass-market basis in 1972). During the second HUAC hearings in 1951, which by all accounts were far more brutal and demoralizing than the first hearings, Gordon Kahn moved to Mexico rather than face another subpoena.

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