Saturday, January 11, 2014

Who's the Goat?

After more than a year of silence, I thought my father's 106th birthday would be a good day to start posting to this blog again. Especially since I acquired this photo yesterday. 

One would think that the headline for the caption that ran with the above photo would be something like "Oh, You Kids!" But one would be very wrong. Here's what's on the other side, date stamped Aug 6 1940:
LIONEL STANDER divorced Mrs. Lucy Stander in 1936. He charged she was hostile and belligerent and would call  him names in the presence of their friends. She also told him, according to his complaint, that she was tired of him and regarded her marriage as a handicap. The Standers  had been married eight years.
(Copyright 1939, Register and Tribune Syndicate Photoservice)
Why would such a story run four years after the divorce and some two years after my father had married again? Dad was still appearing on radio but his movie career had plummeted since 1938, when Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn called him a "Red sonofabitch" and said that any studio that renewed his contract should be fined $100,000. Consequently Dad was in just two pictures in 1940, down from eight in 1936. What an odd coincidence that just eight days after the above photo was stamped, "secret" testimony about him was leaked to the press in Los Angeles.

"HOLLYWOOD STARS ACCUSED AS REDS BEFORE GRAND JURY," trumpeted the New York Times on August 15. "The testimony identified the following as Communist members, sympathizers or contributors: Lionel Stander, actor; Jean Muir, actress... The witness who gave the Hollywood names was John R. Leech, alleged former 'chief functionary' for the Communist party in Los Angeles... Mr. Stander, himself, in recent appearances before the grand jury denied he ever knew Mr. Leech or was a member of the party."