In its obituary for actress Betsy Blair (real name Winifred Boger) a British newspaper wrote that Blair "stayed true to her left-wing ideals." But by her own admission, she self-effacingly described her allegiance as that of a "Gauche Caviar," literally a leftist who eats caviar. Blair said she wanted to join the Communist Party, but the Party said not to, that it gained credibility by her marriage to actor Gene Kelly, at that time one of the highest paid actors in the business.
All that may be true, but I suspect knew she could not join, because the Party would interrogate her, as it interrogated all prospective members—how much money did she have, what did her father do for a living, and what did she do with her money? The Party interrogators would harp on her wealth and her double-standard until she withdrew her membership request.
I have learned to distinguish between Communist Party members and sympathizers. The members, for all their destructive and nihilist tendencies, nevertheless had qualities I admire. They had balls and guts. They went through the gauntlet of interrogations by Party supervisors to find out who they really were, and they tolerated imprisonment for their cause.
The post-adolescent, left-wing rebels in Hollywood can flirt with Marxism, express sympathy for the Communist Party, protest "Red Scares," right-wing "Witch-hunts," and all that, but if they tried to join the Party, they would never survive a membership interrogation; and they know that, so they could never actually try to join.
Arthur Miller also ranks high among the many in Hollywood close to the Communist Party, but not in it. I feel a lot of anger toward people like Miller, and wish I had had the opportunity to confront him with his hypocrisy on live TV. Before the TV camera, I would have offered Miller a one-way ticket to Russia. "Here's your chance to visit your communist Mecca."
Flustered, he would have refused it.
"Why?" I would have asked. "Someone offers you a free ticket to visit Russia. As a communist, you should jump at the opportunity." Perhaps he has an inkling of the terrible life that Russians had to endure under the Soviet yoke, and how readily they would have escaped to the United States. I also would have confronted him with the fact that he "sympathized" with the bloodthirsty Soviet regime, even if he did not actually join the Communist Party.
He might have defended his actions, saying he sympathized with the Soviet cause but hesitated to actively support its cruel policies toward its own people and in other nations. "Sympathy!" I would have hooted. Even that he "liked" a nation best remembered for its bloodthirsty dictatorship led by a psychopath, more than he loves a wealthy, freedom-loving society. Did he simply lack the guts to join, because the formal association would damage his profit picture?
I would have called Miller a fucking-asshole anti-American, which would have made him walk out. Perhaps he would have taken a swing at me. That Miller lived the American Dream as a Communist sympathizer? How do you figure it? How did equality and distribution of goods fit into his scheme?
"Can't you see that the Soviet regime is no better than the Nazi one?" I would have asked. Maybe a congenitally anti-authoritian rebel like Miller just needs allies—any ally.
After Miller's death in 2005, The New York Times wrote an article about his home in Connecticut.
The Times lightly peddled his worldly wealth. There are certainly differences between Communist membership and Communist sympathy, but talk is cheap. The Times article infers that if you really want to find out who people are, find out where they live, first.
Miller lived in a spacious 18th century house on 350 acres in richest Roxbury. Connecticut. "Miller was hardly immune to the trappings of wealth and fame," the Times commented ruefully. At least his immigrant parents would have been pleased.