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Muir anecdote

Testing cut and paste.

Published onAug 23, 2018
Muir anecdote
Jean Muir

On August 27, 1950, American actress Jean Muir picked up a cake on her way to the premiere of the new televised version of the popular radio sitcom The Henry Aldrich Show on NBC. The cake was meant to be a surprise for the cast and crew of the television series, a celebration of Muir’s comeback after a decade devoted to being a wife and mother. Muir stowed the cake beneath her dressing table and joined the set for a final dress rehearsal before the live taping at 7:30 p.m. The dress rehearsal went smoothly and the seasoned cast returned to their dressing rooms for a short break. In an unexpected turn of events, they were immediately called back to the set, where a nervous, young assistant producer informed them that he had an announcement to make. “There can’t be any questions afterwards,” he added, “I’ve been instructed to ask you not to talk about it.” He continued, “The announcement is this: the show tonight has been cancelled.”[i]

            Muir was stunned and confused. As she later recalled, “Television was still a relatively new medium, but it had a long enough history, and I knew enough about it for me to be aware that the cancellation of a show, and particularly only an hour before airtime, was utterly unheard-of.” Despite her growing sense of unease, Muir insisted on sharing the cake that she had had lettered, “Long Live Henry Aldrich.” She then returned home, only learning much later that evening that the cancellation had “something to do with that Red Channels outfit.” New York Times journalist Jack Gould told Muir’s husband that anti-communists had made a handful of phone calls and sent two telegrams: “They’ve whipped up some sort of protest on your appearance.”[ii]

            According to Muir, this incident marked “the beginning of the infamous television blacklist” launched by what she described as “misguided, or foolish, or vicious people who called themselves ‘patriots.’” Muir’s name was among those of 41 women identified in Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television as “members or sympathizers” of the Communist Party. The authors of Red Channels were self-described anti-communists and patriots, few in number, but—as Muir put it—making up “for their lack of numerical strength through paranoiac zeal and funds they were able to obtain first from their richer cohorts and then from the very industry they were attempting to control.”[iii] The only way to clear their names, those accused would learn as the blacklist in broadcasting unfolded, lay in seeking out the editors of the book and, as musician, author, and Civil Rights activist Shirley Graham (also listed in the pages of Red Channels) put it, “groveling in the dust before them.”[iv]

[i] Jean Muir, “Autobiography” N.D., 2–3, Jean Muir Papers, University of Oregon. [ii] Muir, “Autobiography,” 5. [iii] Muir, 6. [iv] Graham, “Letter to Mr. Joseph Goldstein,” 2.

Carol Stabile:

Maybe this is how to have paragraph level comments?

Carol Stabile:

Lol. I guess not.

Carol Stabile:

Carol—this is super interesting.


Carol Stabile:

Carol—thank you!