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USA SCRIPTWRITERS LOOK TO SHERWOOD FOREST TO ESCAPE THE McCARTHY “WITCH HUNT”

American politician, Senator Joe McCarthy is probably best known for his obsessive and unsubstantiated accusations in the early 1950’s, when he repeatedly insisted that communists had infiltrated the State Department! Following his appointment in 1953 as chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he embarked on a crusade of persecution that involved aggressive cross-examination and damaging innuendo aimed at many innocent citizens, celebrities and officials.

The movie and television industry was particularly targeted and several US scriptwriters and technicians sought sanctuary in the UK, where commercial television was beginning to take-off. Using assumed names, they wrote scripts for many early ITV drama series, including the popular “Adventures of Robin Hood” black and white television series starring Richard Greene, which Sir Lew Grade’s ITC company had just agreed a deal to produce and so was eager to learn and benefit from some American expertise.

Because the series became extremely popular in America and eventually ran for a staggering 143 half-hour episodes, ironically, certain scriptwriters occasionally slipped in some hidden meanings within their plot-lines that indirectly made subtle comment about the McCarthy era “witch hunt” back home!

In 1989, the critically acclaimed thriller movie “Fellow Traveller”, starring Daniel J. Travanti (of Hill Street Blues fame) used the background to these Robin Hood links to great effect and the film was scripted by local Nottingham writer, Michael Eaton. Described by one reviewer as “crackling with great one-liners” the story cleverly intertwined the production of the television series with the intelligent plot.

Back in the USA, Senator McCarthy had found his power substantially diminished when in 1954, the Senate formally censured him for his methods.