Published: Thomas A. Levitt - September 28th, 2017
Los Angeles native Thomas A. Levitt was not yet five years old when, in 1951, both of his parents were caught in the net of the House Un-American Activities Committee as it probed alleged Communist influence in the motion picture industry. Tom’s mother, Helen Slote Levitt, had worked as a secretary in the left-leaning Hollywood Actors’ Laboratory, many of whose graduates became stars; she’d also worked as personal secretary to the actor John Garfield. Tom’s father, Alfred Lewis Levitt, was a World War II veteran and an up-and-coming young screenwriter in 1951, having authored or co-authored the screenplays for numerous feature films, the best known of which was The Boy with Green Hair. Alfred Levitt’s HUAC subpoena—and his refusal to give “cooperative” testimony when he came before the congressional committee—brought his screenwriting career to an abrupt end, leaving him a casualty of the infamous Hollywood blacklist.
Tom Levitt began to distinguish himself as a gifted writer while still in elementary school, but it was during his years as a “pioneer” student at then-newly-opened UC Santa Cruz that he really caught the writing bug. Knowing how difficult it would be to make a living as a writer, he took up teaching, a “day job” that turned into a rewarding 33-year career as a K-12 teacher in some of Los Angeles’ toughest neighborhoods. Soon after his retirement, he began working on a novel he’d conceived decades earlier based loosely on his experiences as the child of a blacklisted writer; in 2017, at age 70, he completed his historical romance The Wire Recorder, his first piece of published work. By coincidence, the book’s publication coincided with the 70th anniversary of the “Hollywood Ten” hearings that signaled the beginning of the blacklisting era in the American film industry.