The Great Pink Scare
Documentary details a homosexual witch hunt at Smith College in 1960
Film to premiere on PBS's Independent Lens, the Emmy Award-winning series hosted by Edie Falco on Tuesday, June 6 at 10 PM (Check Local Listings)
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(San Francisco)--THE GREAT PINK SCARE tells the story of a devastating persecution that took place in a small, idyllic college town in 1960. On the surface, it was the routing out of pornographers, but in reality, it was a witch hunt against homosexuals. By the time it was over, brilliant careers were destroyed and young lives ruined. The issues it raised about privacy rights and civil liberties still reverberate in our society today, more than 40 years later. And in a year when Brokeback Mountain dominated the national discussion and earned crossover acclaim and audiences, THE GREAT PINK SCARE is a sobering reminder of what went before in the struggle for acceptance. Produced and directed by Tug Yourgrau and Dan Miller, THE GREAT PINK SCARE will have its television premiere on the Emmy Award–winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Edie Falco, on Tuesday, June 6, 2006, at 10 PM (check local listings).
On Labor Day weekend in 1960, Massachusetts state police troopers swept through Northampton and hauled 15 men off to jail. Three of them were professors at elite Smith College. "Police Break Up Major Homosexual Smut Ring!" screamed newspaper headlines, first in Boston, then across the country and even internationally. The alleged ringleader, Professor Newton Arvin, was America's finest literary critic. The other two from Smith were junior faculty members Joel Dorius and Ned Spofford. All three were charged with possessing and dispersing obscene literature. They were tried in Northampton Superior Court and convicted as felons. All three lost their jobs.
The Smith professors never recovered from the scandal. Arvin, who was Truman Capote's great love, became suicidal and was hospitalized at the Northampton State Mental Hospital. He chose not to appeal his conviction and died of cancer just three years later. Dorius and Spofford struggled to overturn their convictions. With a few courageous faculty members and two crusading civil rights attorneys helping them, the appeals, which dragged on for three years, ended in victory after the Supreme Court's landmark rulings against illegal searches and its redefinition of obscenity. The criminal records were erased but the stigma remained. Both Spofford and Dorius, who died earlier this year, were in and out of mental hospitals for years and never recovered their once-promising academic careers.
THE GREAT PINK SCARE weaves together exclusive original interviews with Dorius, Spofford, former Smith College colleague Daniel Aaron, a former state police captain and a Smith alumna, along with rare archival film and commentary by author Barry Werth and historian Martin Duberman.
Funding for THE GREAT PINK SCARE is provided by Independent Television Service (ITVS), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the James Held and Kenn Karakul Charitable Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Massachusetts. The presenting station is WGBY-TV, public television for western New England, headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts.
THE GREAT PINK SCARE interactive companion website (www.pbs.org/independentlens/greatpinkscare) features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmakers and links and resources pertaining to the film's subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.