imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Acting on principle: John Randolph’s life and legacy

by Scott Marshall and Jim Wilkerson Saturday, Jun. 05, 2004 at 5:16 AM

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – John Randolph, a great light of stage and screen, was laid to rest here Feb. 24 at age 88. Actor and activist, Randolph shined his light through the anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthyite 1950s.

Noel Rabinowitz

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – John Randolph, a great light of stage and screen, was laid to rest here Feb. 24 at age 88. Actor and activist, Randolph shined his light through the anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthyite 1950s. He was systematically banned from film and TV for over a decade by the Hollywood blacklisting of those named as Communist, but made a triumphant 30-year comeback with his principles intact.

Young Randolph, of middle-class Jewish immigrant stock grew up in the Bronx in the 1930s. This was a hard time for anyone to find work, as the Great Depression still gripped the country in massive unemployment.

Randolph’s first stage work came via the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), which created work projects for the unemployed in their field of skill.

“I was in the theater project part of the WPA and we did original works,” said Randolph. The Federal Theater Project (FTP), formed in August 1935, performed across the country. Its mission was to bring affordable theater productions to working class communities. Two-thirds of the FTP productions were free and the rest were cheap. Their Negro Theater Unit’s “Macbeth,” which electrified Harlem, for example, had a price scale from 15 to 40 cents, compared to a ticket price of to for a Broadway show then.

One of the FTP’s children’s plays was called “Revolt of the Beavers.” Randolph describes the 1937 production. “There were beavers stripping the bark. They made the food, but they were always hungry. And I was on the other side. I played a reactionary beaver. There was ‘Rough,’ ‘Tough’ and ‘Gruff.’ I was ‘Tough,’” said the smiling Randolph.

His first brush with stardom was also his first brush with anti-communism. We were “hounded by Boy Scout Troop 237 in the Bronx who said “Revolt of the Beavers” was a Communist play,” said Randolph. And the FTP would soon be engulfed in the gathering tempest of right-wing attack.

In 1938 Rep. Martin Dies of Texas established a committee in the House to investigate “un-American” activities, especially of the FTP that Dies claimed was “nothing but straight Communist propaganda.”

With corporate monopolies of 1938 facing a rising tide of union victories and progressive social changes, the right wing could not afford public arts programs that spread pro-worker politics. Dies’ hostile “red-baiting” attack on the FTP from his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) led to the 1939 WPA appropriations bill to specify none of its funds “shall be available … for the operation of any Theatre Project.”

However, three other WPA arts projects – music, art and writing – held on to their embattled funding until 1941. It was in this context that Randolph gained political and union experience.

“I met all these wonderful people. Then I became the editor of the newspaper in the union that was formed in the City Projects Council. Unheard of. A union? The government giving you money and you formed a union?”

While HUAC continued to operate through World War II, Randolph served in the Army Air Force as a control tower operator and firefighter, never sent overseas due to health reasons – the same that had kept him from joining the Abraham Lincoln Brigades (ALB) fighting in Spain against Franco Fascism. In later years, he was made an honorary ALB veteran for his fundraising dedication.

Randolph was active in the early civil rights struggles and participated in efforts to open up the stage and screen to actors of all races. He said, “I’ve been with African American actors all my life. I was in ‘Native Son’ and we went all over the country.” In fact, he married his wife, actress Sarah Cunningham, in the break between two performances of “Native Son” in Chicago in 1945.

Soon after the Cold War was declared, the venomous Republican Joe McCarthy chaired the new Senate version of HUAC. McCarthy’s HUAC, formed in 1951, lived off hunting “reds” in high places of government power and Hollywood glamour.

“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” was the battering ram of the red scare. Hollywood studio bosses actively ran their part by sharing a list of accused Communists (the “blacklist”) with each other and the FBI.

Blacklisted actors, writers and directors could not work and could only “clear their name” by naming others for HUAC. Hollywood was poisoned by an atmosphere of fear and paranoia where thousands lost their work and some, their lives. In so doing, the studios gained power over the unions and their workers by muzzling the most outspoken and setting worker against worker.

As a known progressive unionist and activist and rising actor of the screen, Randolph was betrayed to the blacklist by another actor who was “under suspicion.” He and Cunningham were subpoenaed by HUAC in 1955. They both refused to answer any questions, pleading the 5th Amendment – the only way not to incriminate others nor get thrown in jail.

Randolph was a proud member of the Communist Party. His defiance of HUAC was based not on fear, but on principles plainly written by Randolph to the Committee prior to the hearing, “I may think what I want, and associate with whom I please, either in the union, on the stage, or in politics.”

Like before the blacklist, Randolph was a steady activist as he worked to overcome it. “I’ve been in every struggle in my day. I go back to the early days of the civil rights movement. … I picketed against war. I marched for peace. I was elected to union office. I loved what I was doing. I didn’t try to dodge it. So, I say, ‘Speak up, say how you feel. Don’t just sit in the back and let somebody else take it.’”

Randolph said he survived because “I grabbed any job I could and I fought the whole time against blacklisting and so did my wife.” By the 60s, TV commercials opened up to him when the TV union (AFTRA) stood against blacklisting.

Dozens of TV roles would follow, including in recent years as Roseanne’s father on the long-running sitcom “Roseanne.” In the 70s and on, after the Screen Actors Guild finally dropped its anti-Communist clause, he was back in film: King Kong (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), Prizzi’s Honor (1985), You’ve Got Mail (1998) and many others.

His long comeback was capped by a Tony Award in 1986 for his work in Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound.”

Accepting the Tony, Randolph joked, “I didn’t get into acting to win awards; it’s just that I couldn’t do anything else.”

On March 21, 1999, the Academy Award for lifetime achievement was given to director Elia Kazan, who cooperated with HUAC in 1952 and destroyed the careers of friends and fellow workers by naming them.

That tense night at the Academy Awards set the stage for a vindicating encore by Randolph. With millions watching news of the Kazan controversy on TV, Randolph spoke at a press conference of protesting actors.

He said that by Kazan’s “choice and by his words, people’s careers were virtually eliminated and lives shattered. No amount of filmmaking can change the unpleasant uncomfortable truth. This was also part of his lifetime achievement.”

Kazan, without apology, saying few thanks, took the award and exited stage right. The deafening orchestra couldn’t mask the loud jeers and the cameras couldn’t avoid the many who stayed in their seats in protest. Randolph remembered that night, “To see so many people not applauding … was an example of the world not accepting rotten and stinking and hurtful people … When nobody’s afraid, that’s a good feeling.”

Looking back on his own career and life, Randolph said, “You know you can’t act if you’re afraid. So I became a better actor because of my politics. It was a tough fight, but there’s no answer to anything except you fight together. I have not given up my political convictions to this day and I didn’t give in to anybody, and neither did my wife.”

Looking forward to the tough road ahead, Randolph reminded us that German Communist playwright Berthold Brecht said, “When you see them rising up, the ones who hate the Jews, hate the Blacks, they are bringing back the lie and the lie will support them to a certain extent. And we have to fight against that lie. If you just talk and you don’t fight back, what good are you?”

If measured by fightback, Randolph was damned good. Throughout his life, he lent his name, energy, resources and love to the cause of workers, equality and socialism. In today’s atmosphere of fear and suspicion, of secret military tribunals, and corporate, right-wing media control and film censorship, we can help see our way through with light from Randolph’s smile and his example.

The author can be reached at

*(more on this story below)

Voices from the LA memorial

Martha Randolph, daughter

“Are you now, or have you ever been?... My parents refused in 1955 to answer HUAC, using the 5th Amendment, so as not to implicate others. It is my great privilege to answer tonight ...Yes, they were members of the Communist Party.”

Hal Randolph, son

“Dad, thanks for your politics, the civil rights marches, the Vietnam War protests. You marched for or against just about everything. You took me with you, even if it was raining to remind me rain is only water and the causes and our voices are more important.”

Mike Farrell, actor,

Screen Actors Guild VP

“I think of myself as a craftsperson, but there are some artists among us, like John Randolph. He ‘filled the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run.’ He would holler at me if I referred to him as a saint, but wherever he went, John shed the light.”

Lee Grant, producer,

director, actress

“You never saw John fight without a smile, a smile which said, ‘Watch out, I’m gonna getcha.’ ... In this period of corruption, confusion, and danger, I hope John Randolph converts will continue to honor him, fighting for justice and a decent world.”

Actor Brock Peters reads condolence from Sydney Poitier.

“You will be remembered for kindness and courage ... like the day you stood on the floor of our Actors Equity and fought for the rights of African American actors to job opportunities.”

– from Sydney Poitier

Jerry Stiller (“King of Queens”) and Anne Meara

“John’s unwillingness to squeal to the Committee still sticks with me. He never was down. The smile was always there, and he was always steadfast.”

Roscoe Lee Brown, actor, reading poem for Randolph by Ruby Dee

“Sarah and John. We think of them together. As it was, in the past so be it now. Sarah and John together. Struggle in human form, the living beating heart, the conscienmce of the cause ... Strength to fight and fall and rise to fight again. Against race hate and anti-Semitism and McCarthyism, and lynchings, and children hurt, and not enough bread on some working body’s table, and people with no names and no jobs ... Sarah and Sarah’s John. We think of them together. We always will. So, don’t break rank. Join hands. And keep the line moving.”

– from poem by Ruby Dee

The following is from an interview with daughter Martha Randolph.

Q: What did being in the Party mean to your parents?

They read a wide range of opinions and views, including the Daily World, on many subjects and shared their honest opinions without forcing it down anyone’s throat.

The CP is where they got their political education. The knowledge of how to cause political change was part of the instruction manual, if you will … and the concept of linking small steps to larger ones.

All of this is what the government called a conspiracy to overthrow the government. It certainly was a discussion for revolution, but not a violent one. It was a revolution of thinking. They did call for the uprising of the workers, but it wasn’t “rise up and make war.” It was “rise and demand your rights, go march and protest and strike.” All that definitely came from the Party.

Q: Is McCarthyism repeating itself?

McCarthyism was an all-out attack on one way of thinking. It’s more subtle today as right-wing thinking is respun to appear far more reasonable. I don’t know if we’ve been in such a dangerous time, in part because the majority of the media so actively supports the right-wing view.

- Noel Rabinowitz

Originally published by the People’s Weekly World

Report this post as:

Local News


lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Tech workers organize A24 6:24PM

Architect Stephen Francis Jones A24 3:01PM

UN Forum Wrestles with Economic Policies 10 Years After Financial Crisis Islands Call for A24 12:34PM

Xyloglossie attitudinale A23 8:07AM

Shadowgun Legends Hack and Cheats A23 7:24AM

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety A08 10:29PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy