Richard Collins, a writer and producer whose career work was later overshadowed by his involvement with the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare of the 1940s and ’50s, has died at his home in Ventura, California yesterday. He was 98.
As a member of the so-called Hollywood 19, in 1947 Collins was summoned to Washington to appear before HUAC in the committee’s attempt to root out a perceived communist menace in the country. Although he was not called upon to testify, ten other screenwriters refused to cooperate and were jailed for contempt. However, just by virtue of being called to appear before HUAC, he found himself blacklisted in Hollywood, unable to get work under his own name. Collins was subpoenaed again in 1951. This time, 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.
Collins started his career in Hollywood as a script reader at Columbia Pictures before landing a writing position a few months later at Twentieth Century Fox. Unlike many writers, Collins was able to float between studios for work.
In 1943 he co-wrote the film Song Of Russia for MGM. It would be the work that would bring him to HUAC’s attention for being pro-Soviet Union. Ironically, the film was produced in order to help develop American sympathy for the Soviet Union while they were still one of our Allies during World War Two.
Following his run-ins with HUAC, Collins transitioned his career over to television where he wrote for a number of series and served as producer on Bonanza and Matlock. One of the last things he wrote for film was the initial story treatment for the 1956 science-fiction classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, which has been viewed as a parable about the Communist witch hunts.