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Hollywood Divided: The 1950 Screen Directors Guild Meeting and the Impact of the Blacklist

by Kevin Brianton

Availablecloth$45.00s 978-0-8131-6892-0
Screen Classics
174 pages  Pubdate: 11/15/2016  6 x 9  13 b/w photos

Publicity Inquiries: Mack McCormick

On October 22, 1950, the Screen Directors Guild (SDG) gathered for a meeting at the opulent Beverly Hills Hotel. Among the group’s leaders were some of the most powerful men in Hollywood—John Ford, Cecil B. DeMille, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, John Huston, Frank Capra, William Wyler, and Rouben Mamoulian—and the issue on the table was nothing less than a vote to dismiss Mankiewicz as the guild’s president after he opposed an anticommunist loyalty oath that could have expanded the blacklist. The dramatic events of that evening have become mythic, and the legend has overshadowed the more complex realities of this crucial moment in Hollywood history.

In Hollywood Divided, Kevin Brianton explores the myths associated with the famous meeting and the real events that they often obscure. He analyzes the lead-up to that fateful summit, examining the pressure exerted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Brianton reveals the internal politics of the SDG, its initial hostile response to the HUAC investigations, the conservative reprisal, and the influence of the oath on the guild and the film industry as a whole. Hollywood Divided also assesses the impact of the historical coverage of the meeting on the reputation of the three key players in the drama.

Brianton’s study is a provocative and revealing revisionist history of the SDG’s 1950 meeting and its lasting repercussions on the film industry as well as the careers of those who participated. Hollywood Divided illuminates how both the press’s and the public’s penchant for the “exciting story” have perpetuated fabrications and inaccurate representations of a turning point for the film industry.

Kevin Brianton is a lecturer in strategic communication at La Trobe University.

This is an authoritative reassessment of the meetings held by the Screen Directors Guild in 1950 to consider the adoption of a loyalty oath. Brianton traces the implications for the film industry and the reputations of key filmmakers, including Cecil DeMille and John Ford. He also offers sharp and illuminating reflections on the making of Hollywood history and myth. -- Brian Neve, author of The Many Lives of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, the Blacklist and Zulu

Hollywood Divided is a breakthrough book on a topic that historians, for the most part, have considered settled. Brianton’s landmark study is fresh, thorough, and balanced, a model of Hollywood historiography. In clear prose, he takes the reader through the detailed twists and turns that created both the myth and the subsequent legend of the fateful Directors Guild Meeting that occurred during a critical time in American history. -- James D’Arc, Curator, Cecil B. DeMille Papers, Brigham Young University

Kevin Brianton has done an exceptional job at bringing the facts of this meeting and the role of the Screen Directors Guild in the “Red Scare” to light. This is an interesting book and belongs in the reader’s library. -- New York Journal of Books

Huffington Post Best Film Books of 2016

An intriguing and provocative examination of a pivotal moment in Hollywood history. -- Publishers Weekly

Brianton’s research has been extraordinarily thorough, but the result is a wonderfully good read. -- Associate Professor Brian McFarlane -- LG Focus

Brianton's book is incredibly detailed. Everything you could possibly want to know about SDG's 1950 meeting can be found within its pages. It’s meticulously researched and told in a very unbiased way. If you're researching the Hollywood blacklist, Kevin Brianton's Hollywood Divided is an invaluable resource. -- Out of the Past - A Classic Film Blog

Hollywood Divided is a vital piece of scholarship that judiciously addresses the myths surrounding Mankiewicz and DeMille’s clash, one by one, and extracts the facts from the legend. Brianton organizes his material beautifully, beginning with the broad strokes of the meeting as it is commonly remembered and then providing a step-by-step account of its incidents, examining how the mythology of the event came to replace the reality. -- Film Quarterly

Evident in every page are the hours Brianton must have spent pouring through the Joseph Mankiewicz papers at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills and at Harold B. Young Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where the Cecil B. DeMille papers are archived.

Hollywood Divided cuts through the conflicting sentimentality and rancor that still surround the Blacklist era. By citing original documents and comparing conflicting stories, Brianton demonstrates how reasoned scholarship offers ways to make sense of seemingly overwhelming political confusion. -- CineMontage

One of the best and most important Hollywood histories to come out in years. -- Roundup Magazine