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"Storm Center": Standing up to Censorship and McCarthyism During the "Second Red Scare"


In 1956 Storm Center, an American drama film directed by screenwriter Daniel Taradash, from a screenplay by Taradash and Elick Moll, and starring Bette Davis as the librarian, Alicia Hull, was first overtly anti-McCarthyism film to be produced in Hollywood during the height of the "Second Red Scare" (late 1940s through late 1950s).  During the Second Red Scare hundreds of Hollywood entertainment professionals lost their jobs as a result of the unofficial Hollywood blacklist, and thousands of people in other occupations also lost jobs.

"Alicia Hull is a widowed small town librarian dedicated to introducing children to the joy of reading. In exchange for fulfilling her request for a children's wing, the city council asks her to withdraw the book The Communist Dream from the library's collection. When she refuses to comply with their demand, she is fired and branded as a subversive. Judge Ellerbe feels she has been treated unfairly and calls a town meeting. Ambitious attorney and aspiring politician Paul Duncan, who is dating assistant librarian Martha Lockeridge, uses the meeting as an opportunity to make a name for himself by denouncing Alicia as a Communist. His forceful rhetoric turns the entire town, with the exception of young Freddie Slater, against her. The boy, increasingly upset by the mistreatment his mentor is suffering and affected by the influence of his narrow-minded father, finally turns on her himself and sets the library on fire. His action causes the residents to have a change of heart, and they ask Alicia to return and supervise the construction of a new building" (Wikipedia article on Storm Center, accessed 05-30-2009).

Raven, "Introduction: The Resonances of Loss," (Raven [ed.] Lost Libraries. The Destruction of Great Book Collections Since Antiquity [2004] 31).

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