Lee Grant co-stars with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep in the current film comedy "Defending Your Life."
And now she's in Pittsburgh directing Mel Shapiro's play "The Lay of the Land" for Pittsburgh Public Theater.But for several years in the '50s and '60s, Grant was hired only irregularly. She was married to the blacklisted writer Arthur Manoff, now deceased, and raising their daughter, Tony winner Dinah Manoff.
Grant, 64, worked on stage and got an occasional film role ("Middle of the Night"), but she faded into obscurity from the kind of blacklisting depicted in the current film "Guilty by Suspicion."
"The committee and the people involved were such circus clowns and fools," Grant says. "At any point you'd say: `How could they let these people dictate who was going to work and who was not going to work?' It wound up with Sen. Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn literally running this country."
One reference source says that in 1957 Grant was the last person called to testify by the House Un-American Activities Committee in its search for communists and communist sympathizers.
"I don't know whether I was (the last to testify). It wasn't until 1965 or '66 that they let me off the list, and by then I was practically the last person listed. The lists were many and varied. Each studio, each network had a list which they checked against the committee's list, against Red Channels' lists, against Aware's list."
People were put on the lists for various infractions.
"Either they said something to someone, or they voted for somebody, or they got up at a union meeting, which became a big center for blacklisting at that time. You didn't need to do much to be put on a list.
"In a union situation, you were allowed to apologize publicly. It had a very kind of Inquisition feeling about it. Or a witch hunt. The people who put out the books of lists were made members of the unions so that they were there when you spoke. It all really centered around the radio and television union."
Grant never said she was associated with the Communist Party.
"The fact was, I had accused the committee for being responsible for the death (in 1951) of J. Edward Bromberg. He had a heart problem and was a terrified man. They asked me to speak at his memorial. I said I felt his death was due to this hounding by the committee . . . .
"This was intelligence in crisis. It was people standing up under the most impossible conditions and living with the results of those positions.
"At that time, nobody knew that period would be over. No one knew it was a cycle. People would not go back on their principles. Those principles for me at that time were: You don't get ahead by ratting on people. (They wanted you) to give the name of someone you suspected. It was like a POW situation: As long as you involved someone else, you were their thing."