John Henry Faulk discusses his book "Fear on Trial" ; part 2
BROADCAST: Dec. 1, 1964 | DURATION: 00:28:43
Folklorist and radio show host John Henry Faulk discusses his book "Fear on Trial," covering his experiences being on the Hollywood blacklist and his lawsuit against AWARE; includes Christmas story at the end of part 2.
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Studs Terkel Now we come to the decent man of status, of respectability, of power of the industry, bowing to him and rationalizing. I think the ra-- throughout the book there's an element of the way they could rationalize. You're a fool. You were as -- crazy fool, John Henry Faulk, for challenging this sick man who was running this aspect of our society. Throughout, yet there was this rationalization.
John Henry Faulk And that's precisely the reason I named my book "Fear on Trial," because you see these men were possessed of fear as, as Hartnett in here recites in his testimony in the book. Time and again, his meeting with the head of corporations that everybody in this country knows, big national corporations, powerful men. He met with them, and he describes his luncheon with them. He describes, as you know, Susskind in his testimony in the book here, David Susskind is describing how he had to submit before he could cast any of the shows that he was casting, he did a great many dramatic shows. He had to submit every sing-- the name of every single actor and actress he proposed to use, and writer, to the ne-- to the, to the agency which in turn submitted it to Mr. Hartnett for Mr. Hartnett to approve of the names or disapprove of them, and Susskind testifies in the book here again that he had to sometimes submit three and four names of well-known actors because Hartnett might knock out three of 'em and say three of 'em were politically unacceptable.
John Henry Faulk And Susskind wasn't allowed to tell these people, to tell these actors and actresses that they had been charged with something. Or something had been alleged against them, see? So they walked off into this dark night of blacklisted unemployability, not knowing. They couldn't, they couldn't attack anything because there's nothing there to attack, as Garry Moore in his testimony points out,
John Henry Faulk Yes.
John Henry Faulk Fascinating thing is this: this, you know, happened to me, but Hartnett -- Nizer backs off across the courtroom, as I describe here in the book, and said, "Mr. Susskind, did you ever use a child actress on your program?" And Susskind says, "Yes, sir, we had a role that was a very demanding role for a talented child actress seven years old, and we searched the industry, searched the profession to find one, and finally after six weeks located the child capable of playing this role." And Nizer said, "Well, surely you didn't have to submit her name for clearance, for political clearance?" And Susskind said, "We not only had to submit her name, but her name came back 'politically unacceptable.'"
John Henry Faulk Seven.
Studs Terkel Seven.
M5 And Nizer gets Hartnett on the stand then and says, "Mr. Hartnett, you heard Mr. Susskind's testimony. What did you -- why would you refuse to, to clear a child? How would you say they were politically, a child was politically unaccepted?" And Hartnett with a great deal of directness says, "Well there were two categories of children, you know: those whose parents had possibly done something that was politically questionable, and of course, we couldn't accept them. And then there are those children that are precocious."
Studs Terkel Of course there's one very affirmative and glowing aspect is these, your 12 of your peers on that jury, who actually wanted to award you more money than your attorney had asked for. And at the end I'm thinking about that moment when the award came, unprecedented, three and a half million, which John Henry Faulk will not collect, I better make that clear. And I'll ask you about that, how that stance it's, minor -- well it's a major point, too, but the triumph. These 12 people at the end when you shook the hand of each one, did anybody there see the face of Hartnett? Reactions or anything? Curious.
John Henry Faulk About the same reaction that he had had throughout the trial. Absolutely no emotion, there was no shock on his face. There was no sense that it even, that it even related to Mr. Hartnett, and as he was leaving the court he happened to be walking alongsides of Nizer. And he said, "Well, from now on the matter's in the hands of God." And
John Henry Faulk He's oh -- "I know a fella's just crazy about him down home. Uncle Buck! Uncle Buck, he's just crazy about him, listen, you know, Uncle Buck was tellin' me, that I ain't never had nothing but hard time, you know Roosyvelt ruint me. He, he was agin opportunity in America, Roosyvelt was, yes spoiled opportunity for me. I'd try to make an honest livin', and he killed off my initiative. I started up what you call one a these here patent medicine business, me and a feller invented a medicine that can cure baldness and stomach disorders, and old Roosyvelt, some a his people from Washington went and run a test on it, and they claimed it wouldn't cure neither one but caused both. And he shut us down, and I got so tired of the dad-blamed way they was interferin' with my independent American business, my businessman business, that I just switched religion! I've taken up preachin', and I's doing good at it, makin' a lot of money. You know the Methodist and Baptist churches is worse than these dad-blamed labor unions, they won't ordain you lest you can read and write, and I said, 'Well, go to the mischief. If I ain't goin' to go to that trouble.' And so I ordained myself, and started my own church, and I was doing good at it, too. Just making money hand over fist, and a fella come along with just a wonderful, wonderful invention. It was a do-it-yourself baptismal kit, it would sprinkle you or immerse ye, either one, and we sold it over the radio, over Del Rio station and through the mail for four dollars and 85 cents, and we'd send along if they'd send the money pre-paid, we'd send him an autographed picture of Jesus Christ, it glowed in the dark, you know, and was doing good at it, and making a heap of money. And then that old government stepped in on us and called it a racket or something and shut us down, so I finally just give up, and I just set down, I said, 'America ain't got no opportunities for me no more, well, I ain't gonna fret it, and I just set. And fer a long time I didn't do nothin', happened to be up to, happened to hear Billy Joe Hargis one night, a-tellin' about how all the Protestant preachers in this country's communist, and I didn't realize, I knowed there's something the matter with it, but I didn't realize what it was because he pointed that out, and that how close communism was a-gettin' to us and I was up to courthouse the next day, I forget what I's doin' up there, but anyway they was holdin' a hearin' on one of these old schoolteachers that teach about the United Nations. Yes, sir! And she did it without any shame, either. She didn't mention that the new-nited Nations is full of foreigners, you know. She kept all that quiet. But she is teachin' it, and they'd caught 'er in the schoolroom, American Legion somebody else was holdin' a hearin' on her. And I got up and testified against her, I'd mowed her lawn once, and I told how I'd seen her with a globe of the world, spinnin' it around right in front of children, you know. And they fired her good and proper, and then, and the men and women of Texas in the Texans for America come to me and they said, 'You do that so good, to identify these people so good, you ought to take it up as a regular line of business.' So I told them I'd want to pray over it and get, you know, make sure the Lord called me for the work, but I did, and he did. And so I taken it up and they said, but I said how do you be a good identifier, and they said, "Well, it was best to be an ex-communist,' and so I said, 'Well, how you go about doin' that, and he said, 'We gotta find some to gine.' And you know they're the hatefulest things, old communists are, you can't hardly find none to gine! Why, it took us six months locate a little dab of 'em down there in San Antone, and I gined 'em, there was 12 head in the thing. No, it's 13 countin' me. And you know if the Lord hadn't been on my side I'd a been in trouble. I stayed with that outfit for, for six months, and it's torsionest thing I ever got tied into. They'd just set there and jaw ever week, you know, and I could go to sleep pretty easy, that's the only way I could stand it, listenin' to 'em run their mouths, but at the end of six months it turned out, just when I was fixin' to reveal all and have a big exposure on the thing, that do you know that 'leven of those fellers? No, they wasn't -- wasn't but one true-blue, red-blooded American communist in the whole shootin' match, the rest of 'em was FBI agents, and she was no woman, hateful ole heifer, and she thought she's Stalin's mother-n-law half the time and Miss America the rest of the time, you know. And we start holdin' our hearings? And had television cameras and all newspaper men there and everything and just had, gonna have a real good hearin', you know, an exposer? And here she come a-sidlin' in a-singin', 'Arise, ye prisoners of starvation,' and then about that time she switched into, 'Here she is, Miss Americur,' just like Bert Parks a-goin' at it, you know, it was tiresome. It just ruined everything, you know, but I felt called for the work, and I knew the Lord was a-workin' somewhere, and the FBI and American Legion all give up on her, we exposed her threadbare and said, 'Well, we got all the mileage out of 'er we're going to get,' but I didn't. Her family went and had her committed to an institution as 'non compos mentis'? Well, I stayed with it and I found out that the janitor's third cousin was married to a feller that had a dog that had formerly belonged, this dog had, to a man that voted for Henry Wallace, and I demand a full-scale investigation of that sanitarium, and was back in the papers. And I've gone up the road of success since then. I've testified, you know, and I expose anywhere now. And am good at it, too. I don't piddle around with individual exposin' no more. I expose by whole towns. Washington,D.C.! And like I say, there's a lot of opportunity in America if you opportunist enough to take advantage of it."
Studs Terkel You writ it, and I think they also sometime would like to hear John Henry Faulk on concert tour or something. John Henry Faulk just talking, because somehow these tales you tell, Johnny, are all the faces at the hu-- if ever there was a need I suppose to ridicule that which needs ridicule, you're the guy to do it. We haven't had enough of that, have we?
John Henry Faulk No.
John Henry Faulk The laughing -- well, it was the laughingstock of the civilized world at the time. Remember, we were a people that were going to elect our own leaders, and they said, "Well, they're not even going to have a privileged governing class. Hereditary privilege will be out, they're gonna -- these fools are going to try to elect their own leaders from their own people. We're going to open our shores to all the people of the world, the back alleys of London, the sewers of Paris, the ghettos of Eastern Europe can flow in there, and they are bound to fail. We weren't going to have a state-established religion. Well, that was un-- that was, you know, a state religion, a country without a state religion can't exist three minutes. We said every man could worship his maker as he saw fit or not worship Him at all as he saw fit. We wrote all these into the Constitution. And running with this, running with this, see, they said we were doomed to failure. And interestingly enough, the only literature that you could sell in Europe for the first hundred years of Americans' existence that concerned America at all as it was a philosophical work, you know, some of the, some of the heavy works for the thinkers, but the only popular literature was the Miss Trollope-type thing, you know, that ridiculed our manners, American manners, and what a hopeless failure we were. In his latest, Charles Dickens came to this land, you know, and he lost them, he missed the American Dream altogether, said it didn't -- that we were a bunch of hypocrites and hopeless savages over here, and -- but we made it. And running with this was laughter. We could laugh at ourselves. We could puncture pomposity and fraud with laughter.
Studs Terkel Hypocrisy.
John Henry Faulk Yes, and we could laugh at ourselves, and we were a laughing nation, and we -- the, we could ridicule our institutions that they deserved ridicule, and as late as, in the nineteenth century Josh Billings, Bill Nye, Mark Twain of Saint Artemus
John Henry Faulk Mr. Dooley, see. Would do these magnificent satires on -- and we could laugh, and late is, Will Rogers, see. Will Rogers could laugh at our institutions, but for some reason we quit laughing all of a sudden, we're
Studs Terkel I just realized who your enemy is, John Henry Faulk, it's the thin-lipped humorlessness, the humorlessness that goes along with the hypocrisy and naturally a brutishness must go along with humorlessness, feel, and is not called that. I think, I think this is, this is your real target, Johnny and this is perhaps this is -- but when you puncture the bubble of pomposity and all this is, it's tremendous work. And that's what "Fear on Trial's" about. It's this trial, and we haven't talked about the beginnings of it, what happened -- it opens up with a telephone call. Very simply. John, if I may say this, there's a man named Eric Hodgins, a quite remarkable guy. It's a book called "Episode," that another press puts out, it deals with a stroke. He had a stroke and he overcame the stroke, and it opened up with a phone call. He called, he was on the phone and he got this stroke and the rest is his overcoming it. And a sense you open -- it's a phone call, someone says you've just been accused, and you're writing pretty well, because you've just been accused, and this is a stroke in a way. It was sort of a stroke, a national stroke
John Henry Faulk You see, what happened, what, what Studs is referring to, is the way I opened my book "Fear on Trial," is, say, on a Sunday afternoon I was sitting there in my apartment in New York and I got a call from a "New York Times" reporter, Val Adams, who was a radio and television columnist for "The New York Times," and he said, "Johnny, have you seen this bulletin that Aware, Incorporated has put out on you?" And by George, until you had one put out on you, see, you know I'm very big on race matters. I've always been a great champion of, of, of better race relations, but I've never been a Negro, see?
John Henry Faulk And I've been quite incensed at Hitler. But he didn't haul me and my family off to a concentration camp, see? And until you've actually been the victim, you really, you really don't know, see, you just -- it's scars, you can sympathize with scars but until you've really borne one, until a man has really said, and that's what I knew happened when Val Adams
Studs Terkel Just as you point out some of the darker aspects of this period and the light that did not fail in this case, there are also some very remarkable and good figures there, you mentioned Charles Collingwood and Ed Murrow, who were deeply involved with
John Henry Faulk I would say Ed is the greatest. The greatest figure because you see, Ed saw through this whole side, he with me saw through it, I saw through it, so it didn't take any courage to challenge these men. I didn't like the idea of being blacklisting and unemployed. I liked my three bathrooms and my large apartment, see, and my -- fact that people asked me to sign autographs, and I liked the smile of the world.
Studs Terkel If we just a parenthetical comment, John Henry Faulk probably, and this is Garry Moore's test-- others, undoubtedly would have been one of the most celebrated of TV figures in our country, because as you can gather, he's a fantastic storyteller.
John Henry Faulk But you see, Ed saw through these people. Now, Ed was more cynical than me. I would say in this respect, because we discussed it. We discussed many times what is the role of a citizen who sees through them, sees that they have nothing to do but traffic in fear. And once you draw the magic line of unfear around you, they become, you become impervious to 'em. So they can do nothing to you. They can rail and rant, but they can't touch you as long as you know that they're hollow men, they're straw men that are screaming in the dark.
Studs Terkel Sam [Cisman], who mentioned Elmer Davis in "We Were Born Free," [sic: the title is "But We Were Born to be FREE"] Elmer Davis said, "I'm too old to be scared." And in this instance, just too hip to what the country's all about to be scared, was John. There's one other thing before Johnny, the time is, it's an hour! But it doesn't matter, because there's one -- a couple of questions, one: we haven't mentioned the grocer. And again we come to the emperor without clothes, the codefendant who died at the end of the trial was a man named Lawrence Johnson, whose name just evoked terror, because he was from Syracuse. Well, you tell
John Henry Faulk He owned a group of supermarkets up in Syracuse, and he was their economic fist. In other words, when Mr. Hartnett or "Aware" put the finger on some actor, phoned the board of directors of one of the big corporations that had a program on there, advertising their products and said, "Lookee here, you've got on your program Bill Jones, who in 1947 signed a petition or entertained at a, an organization that has since become suspect of having pro-communist leanings" or some idiotic thing like that, sometimes the corporations would say, "Well, go chase yourself. We're not interested in that. We're not interested in what the man's politics are, we're interested in putting on shows to sell our toothpaste or our detergent or our frozen food." And in that case they'd call in Mr. Lawrence Johnson, the supermarket operator, who would go directly to the sponsor, and he'd say, "Lookee here. I want you to get rid of that man. And if you don't get rid of him, and if you think this product is -- the American public doesn't care, we'll run a test. We'll put a sign up over your product in my supermarket saying, 'Part of the purchase price of this product goes to support the international communist conspiracy.' Well, you can imagine what saying that to a sponsor would do, it would scare the daylights out of him. He'd say "Heavenly days, we don't want to get mixed up in something like this. This is idiocy." And so it came to be almost a ritual that they would only, all they needed after that was just the protest, and they'd already learned -- but they did more. They said, "Well Mr. Johnson, we can't tell what the politics of Bill Jones are, he's, our agency cast him in a role because he's a well-known singer or he's a well-known actor or she's a well-known actress, and how are we gonna know what they did in 1947, or even whether it was right or wrong?" And Mr. Johnson would say, "Well now, there's a gentleman named Mr. Vincent Hartnett, who is an official consultant in these matters, and he will be glad to have your, your advertising agency submit the names to him, and he, he knows. He can run a test on these people, he can check their backgrounds and tell you who, who can be employed and who can't." Well, you see this got to be a fixture, that's how so many hundreds of people got blacklisted, both in Hollywood and in New York. And that's what "Fear on Trial" is about.
John Henry Faulk Yes. One vice president of a big agency after another gets up and testifies that, "Well, we had to submit to this man." The president of CBS writes him a letter and thanks him for calling his attention to a certain performer who had replaced Arthur Godfrey, and said, "We'll never use him again. We made a mistake. Mr. Johnson, be assured that we appreciate your Americanism for having called our attention to this man's dubious
John Henry Faulk Yes,
Studs Terkel Annie Mae, and your haint -- and "Fear on Trial," it's Simon & Schuster, and John Henry Faulk is our guest, and you know, Johnny, you can't -- this is around the Christmas season and I'm asking you this as a personal favor aside from the power of this book that you talked about that is available and I think is a very rewarding, frightening at the same time, exhilarating book because of the triumph of Johnny Faulk and I might say of all of us really in a way, Johnny, you tell a -- there's a Christmas story you once told me, remember that? About -- do you remember that? Story about the South?
John Henry Faulk Well, it was simply one, one day after Christmas down in Texas. It was a cold and bitter day. I picked up a little boy about 12 years old in my car. Cheerfulest smile, his smile fairly warmed the car up, and, and took the chill off the day. He was so, his, his whole body radiated joy. And he said, "You see Santy Claus yesterday?" And I says, "Yeah, he came up to our place." He said, "Boy, we had the wonderfulest Christmas in the whole United States of 'Merica at our house. You know, Santa Claus never did come out to our place before, there's nine us children, and Papa said he reckons ole Santy Claus is scared to come out there and park them reindeer 'round, 'cause somebody'd liable to steal one and butcher it afore he can get away with it. And Papa's always joking like that, but here just before Christmas time last week, well, Papa got word that they was givin' things away in town for people that wasn't going to have no Christmas, that Santy Claus was gonna leave somethin' with the Shriners or somebody like that, Salvation Army, and if you go in town you could get it, so he hit up, hooked up the mules day before yesterday on Christmas Eve, and he told us not to go gettin' all upset and tore up about this because they might not be a thing to it, 'I ain't sure I'm going to bring nothin' back.' But shuckins, we couldn't hardly wait. Well, we couldn't get our mind on playin' nothin' else, you know, we just kept lookin' up the lane waitin' for that wagon team to come back. And Mama, she was just bad as we was, she'd say, 'Now, y'all quit gettin' so tore up about this, 'cause you don't -- you heard your Papa say you might not get nothin'.' And sure enough, along about four o'clock in the afternoon, here we hear the wagon a-comin' and Papa had them mules in a full trot, and them harness was just a-janglin', and when he come in sight, he's standin' up in the wagon, a-holdin' two great big ole chickens without no feathers on them up, and a-yellin', 'Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas,' and he stopped the mules right in front of the gate, and us children just went a-crawlin' out through the fence, you know, and Mama come a-hurryin' down the walk, and we run out there and climbed, swarmed over that, that wagon just like a flock of chichis, you know, a-lookin' in it, and Papa standin' up there holdin' them two big ole nekkid chickens, a-yellin' 'Merry Christmas,' and just a-grinnin' like a new ray of sun, and -- you oughta seen all the things that was in that wagon. Apples and real oranges, you know, and stripedy candy and nuts, and Mama, when she, she's holding a baby in her arms and she peeked over in there, and she just caught her breath, and she looked up at Papa and he's standin' there, and he reached down and dropped them chickens, caught that baby out of Mama's arms and just lift him up and said, 'Merry Christmas! Santy Claus to you!' And we all started talkin' at the same time and askin' Mama what this was and that was, and she's pointing out them nuts, it wasn't just peanuts, is nuts with foreign names, you know, and everything in there, and she just wonders, and all of a sudden, Papa, he sang out, we heared him sing out, 'Merry Christmas, Sam Jackson! Did you go in town and get some Santy Claus, too?' And Sam Jackson, you know, he's that colored farmer that sharecrops right next to our place? And he was leadin' that old crippled mule of his'n down the lane, and we all of us stopped and looked up there toward him, and he kind of shook his head and he said, 'No, sir, Mr. Wells, sure didn't. I didn't know it was for everybody, I just thought it was for the white folks and didn't go in.' Papa says, 'Well, I declare.' And he looked at -- you know, Sam Jackson, his family's helped us out with crops a lot of time when Mama got down in her back and couldn't do, and we think a heap of them, and Papa looked at Mama, and Mama looked at him and just kinda smiled like, and Papa just sang out, all of a sudden said, 'Sam, I like to forgot to tell ya, old Santy Claus left part of this here in there for you, and he said to be sure and get word to you that you and your wife and young'uns supposed to come down and have Christmas with us tomorrow now, because we're gonna Christmas gift it all day long.' And Sam Jackson said, 'You sure about that, now Mr. Wells?' Papa said, 'Sure about it? I don't want get Santy Claus mad at me lessen he liable to tar me up if you don't get down here. Y'all come early and stay late,' and Mama, she sang out and said,'You bring -- tell your wife to bring now some pots and pans, 'cause we're going to have a heap of cookin' to do tomorrow. It's gonna be Christmastime in this house.' And Sam Jackson said, 'All right, sir.' And boy, he went a-walkin' off and all, and we's just talkin' again, and that night we couldn't hardly sleep, you know, we just couldn't get, get to bed. We was layin' there on the pallets, me and old Ernie, and we'd nudge each other and just giggle, you know, and then creep up and crawl on our, on all fours in there and look in the kitchen and see if that was in there, boy, and you know, Mama and then Papa'd say, 'Y'all better shut up and go into bed now, 'cause Santy Clause is goin' get mad at y'all,' and then he'd laugh hisself. And afore the next morning, just, just sun just come up and look Christmas-timey, you know, just smiling all over the earth. And here we hear the wagon a-comin', here comes Sam Jackson and his five children and his wife sittin' up there on the spring seat with him. And they come bailin' out, you know, Willie Jackson, we go rabbit huntin' all the time, anyhow, and I think a heap of him, boy, we started playin' Christmastime there around the house, and we had more fun just playing Christmas gift, you know, wrapping pine cones up and givin' 'em to each other, and we [unintelligible] but it just come natural to you. And we just laughin', and when we wasn't doin' nothin' else, we'd run up and smell in the kitchen door and then just turn around, look at each other and just laugh. You'd just roll over, you know, you just, just tickle you to be at Christmastime, just old Santy Claus there were, and Papa and Sam Jackson fixed up long boards and put sheets over 'em for a table, prettiest table you ever seen in your life, looked just like a cathedral or somethin' in there, and, and Eller, my sister Eller and Marlay Jackson, that the oldest Jackson girl, they broke off cedar sprigs and pine sprigs and everything, and put 'em up in there, boy, it's, you just never did see nothin', it just looked Christmastime in there, and Mama and them, pert after about noontime, they said, 'All right now, let's all come and eat.' And boy, we went in there and I's sittin' right next to Willie Jackson, you know, and we just couldn't hardly keep from laughin'. And at everybody's plate there was an apple and an orange and some nuts and some stripedy candy. Even at the baby's place, and Mama and them started bringin' everything in, put it, and you just, just, it almost kill you to smell it, it smelled so good, boy, and they put it all up and down the table, and then Papa said, 'Now, brother Jackson, you deacon in the church. You say grace.' And Sam Jackson, you know, wearing them real clean overhauls and that jumper of his. And he didn't bow his head like a heap o' folks do when they say grace, he just smiled up at heaven, you know? And said, 'I just want to say one thing to you, Lord. Merry Christmas. Hope you enjoyin' it much as we are.' Then we all fell to in it. It was wonderfulest Christmas in United States of America, you know it?"
Studs Terkel John Henry Faulk's story of Christmas. And as with all John's stories, they're parables. What can be. And this is Johnny's gift to me at the moment. This is sort of a, you might call this an epilogue to "Fear on Trial," the book by John Henry Faulk, Simon & Schuster. Quite a book. Contribution I'd say to American writing today, any day. Johnny, thank you very much again. We gotta have another session some other time. We continue, the story never ends, you know.