The Left and Popular Culture: Film and Television


  • Paul Buhle
  • Dave Wagner



Culture, Media


There's an almost unknown story about progressives and solid leftwingers near the centers of U.S. popular culture. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this can be found in Hollywood itself—in film and television (often regarded as the apex of U.S. popular culture). Since at least the middle 1930s, stars and their vehicles have added legitimacy, luster, and funding to progressive and radical causes. Not only Charlie Chaplin, John Garfield, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra (sometimes), Humphrey Bogart, and Katharine Hepburn, but also Lucille Ball, Judy Holliday, Marilyn Monroe, and Danny Kaye, and on some issues Rita Hayworth, Betty Davis, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, and Robert Ryan, not to mention character actors like Jack Gilford, Zero Mostel, Sam Jaffe, Morris Camovsky, Marsha Hunt, Howard da Silva, Jeff Corey, John Randolph, and Anne Revere, could all be counted upon until things got risky (and for most of the last group in particular, far beyond). Hundreds more writers, directors, editors, choreographers, and cinematographers, including some of the most prestigious in the business, were more often directly involved in left politics, although their names were never widely recognized.

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