As I said in part-1 of this article, part-2 focuses on the now-declassified files of the FBI that involve famous people. The number of such people is huge. I’ll address a few of the files that are now available at the FBI’s website The Vault. Of particular interest is the FBI’s paperwork on none other than legendary writer, Ernest Hemingway. As the FBI reveals: “Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a noted American author and journalist. This release consists of one FBI main file on Hemingway with documents ranging from 1942 to 1974. The bulk of it concerns Hemingway’s intelligence work on behalf of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba between 1942 and 1944.” This is a fascinating aspect of Hemingway’s life that many might not be aware of.
In late 1942 – while he was situated in Cuba – Hemingway spoke with the FBI to offer his services as, in effect, an agent of the Bureau. The FBI noted that Hemingway had become friends with Consul Kenneth Potter and the Second Secretary of Embassy, Robert P. Joyce. In a memo to Hoover, R.G. Leddy – the FBI’s legal attache at Havana – wrote that “…at several conferences with the Ambassador and officers of the Embassy late in August 1942, the topic of using Hemingway’s services in intelligence activities was discussed.” The records reveal that there were some in the FBI thought it was a good thing. Others, including J. Edgar Hoover, were less impressed. Nevertheless, as the records reveal, Hemingway did undertake such work for a while. One example, an FBI document from 1943, states: “At the present time [Hemingway] is alleged to be performing a highly secret naval operation for the Navy Department. In this connection, the Navy Department is said to be paying the expenses for the operation of Hemingway’s boat, furnishing him with arms and charting courses in the Cuban area.” On this same matter of the Navy, the FBI recorded the following on June 23, 1943: “[Hemingway] is on a special confidential assignment for the Naval Attache chasing submarines along the Cuban coast and keeping a careful observance on the movements of the Spanish steamers which occasionally come to Cuba.”
Born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., in 1925, Rock Hudson became one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1950s and 1960s, thanks in part to his role in 1956’s Giant, in which he starred alongside screen rebel James Dean. Hudson also appeared in a series of highly successful movies with actress Doris Day. Throughout much of the 1970s, Hudson co-starred with actress Susan Saint James on the long-running NBC television show McMillan and Wife. Later, he appeared in the TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi series The Martian Chronicles, and the long-running soap series, Dynasty. Hudson lived a secret, gay life – one of the reasons why, in the 1950s and 1960s, the FBI watched him. Of course, the man’s sexuality should not have been an issue at all. We are, however, talking about a period that is long gone and when homosexuality was frowned on by many. Today, fortunately, things are far different.
In 1965, the FBI took an interest in Hudson, albeit for reasons that are not fully explained in the available files. The FBI’s Los Angeles Office recorded the following: “…it is general common knowledge in the motion picture industry that Hudson [is] suspected of having homosexual tendencies.” Agents also spoke with Hudson’s ex-wife, whose name was Phyllis Gates. What is particularly intriguing is the fact that some of the material in the Hudson file is deleted under clause “B1” of the Freedom of Information Act. It’s a clause that specifically governs “the protection of data that might seriously harm the national security of the United States of America.” It’s a story that will likely never surface in its entirety.
There’s an amusing entry in the FBI’s Abbott and Costello file. Yep, even the legendary, long-gone comedians were the subject of FBI surveillance. Now-declassified FBI papers state: “In October of 1944 during the course of an investigation of a purported ring of obscene motion picture operators in Hollywood, information was received that the best-known customers for obscene film in Hollywood were Red Skelton, Lou Costello, George Raft and others. One informant, who, it has been shown, tends to exaggerate the facts, said that Lou Costello had the largest library of obscene film in Hollywood. The informant remarked that Costello ‘had it running out of his ears.'”
Want to see a bit of gossip from the Mickey Mantle file? A July 1969 FBI report on the legendary baseball star states: “Mickey Mantle, former well-known baseball player of the New York Yankees, has not been the subject of an investigation by the FBI. However, our files reveal that information received in June, 1956, indicated that Mickey Mantle was ‘blackmailed’ for $15,000 after being found in a compromising situation with a married woman. Mr. Mantle subsequently denied ever having been caught in a compromising situation. Mr. Mantle readily admitted that he had ‘shacked up’ with many girls in New York City, but stated that he has never been caught.”