LOS ANGELES — Richard Collins, a screenwriter during the McCarthy era who was blacklisted for several years before he cooperated with the Communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee, died Thursday in Ventura, northwest of Los Angeles.
The onetime Communist Party member was 98 and the last of the group of left-leaning writers and directors known as the Hollywood 19, 10 of whom went to prison for refusing to name names before the committee.
Collins, a longtime Los Angeles resident who went on to a three-decade career in television as a writer and producer of shows such as “Bonanza” and “Matlock,” died under hospice care after developing aspiration pneumonia, said his son, Michael Collins.
Called before the House committee twice, Collins was one of 19 unfriendly witnesses in 1947, when the congressional panel opened its investigation into subversive activity in Hollywood. He was not asked to testify but 10 who were called were cited for contempt after refusing to answer questions about their political beliefs. By 1950, all 10 — including Ring Lardner Jr., Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Alvah Bessie and Albert Maltz — were in prison.
Anti-communist hysteria spread throughout the movie industry, causing a witch hunt that ruined lives and careers. When Collins was subpoenaed again in 1951, he identified more than 20 colleagues — including his friend and collaborator Paul Jarrico and novelist-screenwriter Budd Schulberg — as belonging to or sympathizing with the Communist Party. Many Hollywood figures, including Jarrico, never spoke to him again.
“Richard was unapologetic about what he did. He felt people were betraying their country,” said “Matlock” executive producer Dean Hargrove, who knew Collins for 30 years.
Collins may not have been apologetic, but he expressed regret over turning in friends. In an interview for Victor Navasky’s 1980 book on the blacklist, “Naming Names,” he called himself “a son of a bitch, a miserable little bastard. It was unfortunate but true. I was a good boy, doing what you’re supposed to do.”