The following ten individuals were cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted after refusing to answer questions about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party:
Alvah Bessie, screenwriter
Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director
Lester Cole, screenwriter
Edward Dmytryk, director
Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter
John Howard Lawson, screenwriter
Albert Maltz, screenwriter
Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter
Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter
Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter
In late September 1947, HUAC subpoenaed 79 individuals on a claim that they were subversive and the supposition that they injected Communist propaganda into their films. Although never substantiating this claim, the investigators charged them with contempt of Congress when they refused to answer the questions about their membership in the Screen Writers Guild and Communist Party. The Committee demanded they admit their political beliefs and name names of other Communists. Nineteen of those refused to co-operate, and due to illnesses, scheduling conflicts, and exhaustion from the chaotic hearings, only 10 appeared before the Committee. These men became known as the Hollywood Ten.
Belonging to the Communist Party did not constitute a crime, and the Committee's right to investigate these men was questionable in the first place. These men relied on the First Amendment's right to privacy, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought, but the Committee charged them with contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions. Later defendants - except Pete Seeger - tried different strategies.
Acknowledging the potential for punishment, the Ten still took bold stands, resisting the authority of HUAC. They yelled at the Chairman and treated the Committee with open indignation, emanating negativity and discouraging outside public favor and help. Upon receiving their contempt citations, they believed the Supreme Court would overturn the rulings, which did not turn out to be the case, and as a result, they were convicted of contempt and fined $1,000 each (or, over $10,700 USD in 2016 dollars, when adjusted for inflation), and sentenced to six-months to one-year prison terms.
HUAC did not treat the Ten with respect either, refusing to allow most of them to speak for more than just a few words at a time. Meanwhile, witnesses who had arranged to co-operate with the Committee (such as the anti-Communist screenwriter Ayn Rand) were allowed to speak at length.
Martin Redish suggests that at this time, the First Amendment's right of free expression in these cases was used to protect the powers of the government accuser(s), instead of the rights of the citizen-victims. After witnessing the well-publicized ineffectiveness of the Ten's defense strategy, later defendants chose to plead the Fifth Amendment (against self-incrimination), instead.
Public support for the Hollywood Ten wavered, as everyday citizen-observers were never really sure what to make of them. Some of these men later wrote about their experiences as part of the Ten. John Howard Lawson, the Ten's unofficial leader, wrote a book attacking Hollywood for appeasing HUAC. While mostly criticizing the studios for their weakness, Lawson also defends himself/the Ten and criticizes Edward Dmytryk for being the only one to recant and eventually co-operate with HUAC.
In his 1981 autobiography, Hollywood Red, screenwriter Lester Cole stated that all of the Hollywood Ten had been Communist Party USA members at some point. Other members of the Hollywood Ten, such as Dalton Trumbo and Edward Dmytryk, publicly admitted to being Communists while testifying before the Committee.
When Dmytryk wrote his memoir about this period, he denounced the Ten, and defended his decision to work with HUAC. He claimed to have left the Communist Party before having been subpoenaed, defining himself as the "odd man out". He condemns the Ten's legal tactic of defiance, and regrets staying with the group for as long as he did.