February 01, 2013
The 1940's in Las Vegas shared some Hollywood history. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays:
A lot of commentators think of Las Vegas as the crossroads of the universe. At some point, everybody and everything will have something to do with the city. If you want proof that it’s a small world, here it is.
Recently, The Hollywood Reporter, an entertainment publication, reported in great detail on its role in creating the blacklist. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the United States went through a red scare. Americans were concerned about the spread of communism. After World War II, the Soviet Union had taken over most of eastern Europe. In 1949, communists took control of China and the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb. Stories of spies and communist infiltration filled the air and the airwaves. Various parts of the entertainment industry barred suspected communists from performing or appearing.
The Hollywood Reporter was at the center of things. On July 29, 1946, its founder and publisher ran a column that listed eleven Hollywood screenwriters as communist sympathizers. Their number included Howard Koch, who co-wrote Casablanca, and Ring Lardner, Junior, the son of the famous writer. The Hollywood Reporter went on to warn about the threat posed by communism. The formal blacklist came to Hollywood in November 1947, after the Hollywood Ten refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Later, they served prison sentences for contempt of Congress. Others testified that communists posed a major threat in Hollywood. The committee heard that from Walt Disney and Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan. Among those attacking the House committee were Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Already, you can see some Nevada and Las Vegas connections. Consider Disney. We tend to forget that the fantasies and themes promoted by the Strip owe just a bit to Disneyland … no wonder Las Vegas has been called an adult Disneyland. Ronald Reagan’s ties to Nevada are obvious, and not just because he once headlined at the Hotel Last Frontier. When he was governor of California, he became a close friend of Nevada’s governor at the time, Paul Laxalt, who went on to chair his presidential campaigns.
Bogart and Bacall aren’t known for their politics, but they had a connection to Las Vegas. They hosted parties and carousing at their home in Holmby Hills, and apparently, one time, Bacall called them a rat pack. The name has stuck through history. After Bogart’s death, Frank Sinatra became the group’s leader. Their performances at the Sands and the film Oceans Eleven became the stuff of legend.
But it gets even more interesting. That Hollywood Reporter column may have triggered the movie industry’s involvement in rooting out communists. The red scare would have happened anyway, and so might have Hollywood’s connection to it. But the publisher who wrote the column was named William R. Wilkerson, better known as Billy. He may have been one of the most important men in the history of Nevada, if you think about it. Apparently, he had the idea and put up the original money to build the Flamingo. When he wrote the first column about communists, he had given up control of the property to one of his partners, Benjamin Siegel. Was that all tied somehow to the anti-communist crusade? We’ll explore that, and other aspects of how all of these threads tie together, next time.
More on News 88.9 KNPR
6/21/02: Bugsy at the Beginning
3/11/11: Ronald Reagan: Part I
3/25/11: Ronald Reagan: Part II
12/19/12: Who's The Greatest Las Vegas Headliner?
See discussion rules
|Jan 24, 2015 | 1964 Election, Part 2|
As politics go, winning one election doesn't necessarily mean an easy victory in the next one. The first Las Vegas resident to be elected to the Senate faced more challenges the second time around.
|Jan 16, 2015 | 1964 Election, Part 1|
By the looks of one election, Nevada's political climate in 1964 may have appeared somewhat contrary to what was going on in Washington where there was talk of "the Great Society." The election in Nevada reflected strains in the Democratic Party.
|Dec 6, 2014 | 1912 Election, Part 2|
About one-fifth of Nevada's population went to the polls in 1914. And they made some notable decisions. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Nov 29, 2014 | 1914 Election, Part I|
Statewide elections in Nevada can certainly get interesting as was the case in 1914. A remarkable election when the results are really, really close. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Nov 13, 2014 | Women's Suffrage in Nevada|
A century has gone by since 'women's suffrage became a reality in Nevada. The push to give women in Nevada the right to vote was not an easy endeavor. We take a look at how that change came about on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Oct 31, 2014 | One Hundred Fifty Years|
Was it 'silver' or politics that tipped the scales in favor of Nevada statehood, 150 years ago. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Sep 5, 2014 | The Beatles|
It's been a half century since the Beatles had a 'hard day's night,' right here in Las Vegas. The real thing - John, Paul, George and Ringo - arrived on August 20, 1964. Their performance lasted for about 30-minutes as part of a show that included the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon.
|Aug 22, 2014 | Civil Rights Act|
When the Civil Rights Act was passed a half century ago, not everyone within Nevada's political circles was onboard with it. The decision was not a simple one for some Nevada Senators.
|Aug 1, 2014 | Bob Bailey|
How much can one person accomplish? If you're like Bob Bailey, quite a bit. From show business to civil rights on the Strip, Here's Senator Richard Bryan with a look back at the life of Bob Bailey.
|Jul 11, 2014 | Remembering Bob Faiss|
Mixing law with the gaming industry seemed a natural fit for one Las Vegas attorney, who passed away recently. Here's a look back at the influence of attorney Bob Faiss on the gaming industry.
|May 16, 2014 | Viva Las Vegas|
"Viva Las Vegas" turns 50 in a few days. We'll hear how Las Vegas itself starred in the iconic movie, along side Elvis. Moviegoers got a taste of Southern Nevada and a song to go with it!
|May 9, 2014 | Sagebrush Rebels|
A rancher challenging federal authority over land rights in Nevada has been in the news recently, but it's not the first time the subject has been a hot topic. Remembering the "Sagebrush Rebellion" on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Apr 18, 2014 | Metro Battles Corruption and the Mob|
Efforts to drive organized crime out of Las Vegas, left one former Metro officer, Kent Clifford, with some controversies of his own.
|Mar 21, 2014 | Natalie Rittenhouse|
Family connections run deep for some pioneer families of Southern Nevada. Perhaps they aren't too well known these days. They should be. They are among the important pioneer families of southern Nevada.
|Mar 7, 2014 | Test Ban|
Strange as it may seem now, there was a time when detonating a nuclear bomb was healthy for Nevada's image.
|Feb 21, 2014 | Green Felt Jungle|
The pen is mightier than the roulette table? Some books over the years have tested that notion. Fifty years ago, a book about Las Vegas became a best-seller. But not everyone was happy with what the book had to say about the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas casinos.
|Jan 16, 2014 | Martin Luther King, Jr.|
Fifty years have gone by since Martin Luther King, Jr. made his way to Las Vegas, in a visit that had an impact. Local leaders had won the right to patronize once segregated casinos, but they hoped King would reinvigorate the local movement.
|Jan 3, 2014 | Treaty of Ruby Valley|
A treaty that was signed in the territory of Nevada 150 years ago is still raising questions. The Western Shoshone tribe has been offered tens of millions of dollars by the US government, but they say no thanks. In 1974, sisters Mary and Carrie Dann of Beowawe, became symbols of the tribes resistance.
|Dec 5, 2013 | Lon Simmons|
We take a look at how a legendary sports-broadcaster forged a path from Las Vegas to Candlestick Park. Switching from pitcher to broadcaster turned out to be a home run decision for Lon Simmons. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Nov 20, 2013 | JFK and Las Vegas Connections|
Elements of John F. Kennedy's ties to Las Vegas have been mixed in with the
puzzle-pieces surrounding his death. Las Vegas and Nevada were part of the orbit of the Kennedys, their allies, and their enemies. Senator Richard Bryan connects the dots on Nevada Yesterdays.