Mary Virginia Farmer and Will Geer at HUAC

Mary Virginia Farmer and Will Geer against HUAC

- ETERNAL VIGILANCE IS THE PRICE OF LIBERTY

Amen. This article is displayed in red, blue and black type against a white background. The black signifies the long years of struggle, pain, illness and even death of many artists, writers, actors, producers and others who persevered against an evil perpetrated upon the American people by the late Senator Joseph McCarthy and his fellow-travelers and co-conspirators, upon the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Not since the witch hunts of Salem, Massachusetts was so much damage done to so many innocent Americans under the shockingly hypocritical banner first of "God" (Salem) and then "patriotism" (the last refuge of the late Senator McCarthy). The colors of the American flag denote the ultimate triumph of true American patriotism against the Senator's temporarily powerful forces for evil. Pray God that eternal vigilance is the watchword for the coming Millennium.

- FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

Our family's and Harold Fithian's personal friend, the late Will Geer as Mark Twain in 1966. He is shown in costume, working in the theatre again, his principal artistic love. (He had been blacklisted during the Fifties because of the HUAC and Senate committee investigations brought about or augmented through the political machinations of the ambitious Senator Joseph McCarthy). When Will was subpoenaed and subsequently appeared before HUAC, he came to the hearing dressed in costume (at the time he was playing Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road on Broadway) wearing red flannel underwear beneath his overalls. In theatre an important element of a performance is the entrance: Thus clad, Will walked into the hearing room chewing gum (as if it were tobacco), looked around, and said, "Where is the hot seat?"

During the "Dark Age" of Hollywood, Will worked as a gardener, leaving, upon his death, the horticultural and theatrical legacy that had been his home, garden and theatre, the Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga, California. Indeed, the times were a dark age in American history as well, as dark as the Watergate era, when what we had previously thought to be the eternal constitutional processes of our nation's government were subverted for the sake of something so transitory as short-term political gain: the reelection of Richard Nixon.

Click on the following underlined title to see a scanned 1950's speech as basic, in its way, to our freedoms as the Bill of Rights and the Gettysburg Address. The original copy of the document resides in my safe-deposit box. It was hand-typed by our family friend, Virginia Farmer, mimeographed, then submitted to the congressional committee by her prior to taking the stand (be patient downloading; this is a facsimile scan): Statement of Mary Virginia Farmer before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The manuscript is tattered as well as yellowed with age and with the passing around and down that such a document deserved and in fact received. Virginia was later blacklisted and never worked again to my knowledge, instead devoting her time to horticulture, which she loved as much as Will Geer did.

Will's work lay in tending the gardens of those generous entertainment industry souls who had not been blacklisted, as well as the private cultivation of all of the herbs, spices and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. (Will was devoted to the production of Shakespeare's plays and promoted the production of the great comedies, tragedies and histories in the Los Angeles area, San Diego and New York.) Virginia's work lay in the cultivation and sale of authentic bonsai trees.

Will did return to theatre, film, and TV to create some of his most memorable roles (Mark Twain in the Broadway play; the film 1776, as well as the long-running TV family series The Waltons (he played Grandpa Walton) and the short-running but quality dramatic series East Side West Side, co-starring George C. Scott, who passed away even as this article was being finalized. Requiescat in pace.

- Walter Rufus Eagles, September 23, 1999 (2nd Revision)

Link:  The Federal Theater and the theater of protest

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