In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, the Hollywood studio system produced and distributed more than 500 films. In an average week, 90 million Americans (out of a total population of 151 million) went to see a movie, paying around 40 cents for a single ticket. At the Shrine on that March night, the Oscar for Best Picture of 1947 went to Gentleman’s Agreement, produced by Fox. The film starred Gregory Peck as a journalist who poses as a Jewish man in order to investigate and report firsthand on anti-Semitism in America. Gentleman’s Agreement was an example of a new type of film that came out of Hollywood in the post-World War II years. Far removed from a typical genre film (musical, Western, gangster, etc.), it was a realistic, socially conscious drama that reflected some of the country’s darker realities. The film’s director, Elia Kazan, a former stage director, took home the Best Director Oscar.
As in 1929, the movie industry stood at another crossroads in 1948. Aside from the threat of a new, exciting entertainment medium--television--looming on the horizon, Hollywood was in the grip of anxiety over the attempts of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to root out Communist influence in the movie industry. For his part, Kazan earned the enduring contempt of many of his peers in 1952, when he complied with HUAC’s request to give the names of colleagues in New York’s Group Theater who had been secret members of the Communist Party. The era of the so-called “Red Scare” would change Hollywood forever, as the studios began blacklisting suspected Communists under pressure from Washington, ending the careers of many talented artists