Study Guide

G. David Schine in Have You No Sense of Decency?

By Joseph R. McCarthy, Joseph N. Welch, et al.

G. David Schine

While it's easy to divide history into those who were doing the acting and those who were acted upon, that's not accurate. Everyone is the main character in their own story, right?

The same is true for G. David Schine, who is mostly remembered for being the reason the Army and McCarthy squared off in the first place. He's one of the most fascinating guys in the whole ugly affair, even if his role was just as a catalyst.

Schine hailed from a wealthy family who owned a chain of hotels. Like many rich boys at the time, he attended Phillips Andover Academy followed by Harvard. His classmates at Harvard remember him as an ambitious, flamboyant guy whose favorite subject of conversation was himself and who lived a Gatsby-class life. He helped run the family business out of his dorm room, and was asked to leave after his first year because his grades were so bad. (Source)

He took the year off to work as a civilian on an Army transport, and came back to school (Harvard re-admitted him) claiming to have served as a lieutenant. His classmates, most of whom were actually veterans, started hating the guy. He managed to wrangle a private dorm room, which he furnished to the nines, including an electronic piano, and ate at fancy Boston restaurants rather than the college dining commons. He enjoyed walking around campus with thousands of dollars in a suitcase just for the fun of it.

People remember Schine as obsessed with power and influence. Ayn Rand was his favorite author, of course. Nobody was surprised that he managed to get connected with the influential Roy Cohn and Joseph McCarthy.

Schine came to McCarthy's attention a few years after his graduation from Harvard, when Schine authored an anti-Communist pamphlet called "Definition of Communism," which he had placed in every room of his family's hotel. Sort of like a Bible, but political. Cohn liked the looks of Schine (Shmoop thinks he has a Marlon Brando vibe) and brought him into the McCarthy camp as an unpaid advisor.

In 1953, Schine and Cohn went off to Europe together on assignment from McCarthy to investigate possible subversive activities in American agencies across the pond. They managed to terrify agency employees and even got some of them fired for reading books by an author suspected of being pro-Communist (source). People generally thought this trip was a ridiculous caper.

When Schine was drafted into the Army in the 1953, the same year he was brought into McCarthy's employ, Cohn tried to lean on the military to get Schine preferential treatment. A Senate subcommittee was set up to look into these allegations, and this set the stage for the McCarthy-Welch celebrity death match. McCarthy picked the first fight of his career he would lose. And the last fight he'd ever have.

Schine was largely undamaged by his involvement in the hearings. He quit politics for good and went on to manage his father's hotel and real estate empire and had success in the entertainment world as a film and music producer. He even had a bit part as himself in an episode of the TV show Batman. A talented musician, he produced hit records for artists like Lou Rawls and guest-conducted the Boston Pops Symphony. He was the executive producer of the film The French Connection. He married Miss Universe of 1955 and had a passel of kids. (Source)

Schine and Roy Cohn unsuccessfully sued Universal Studios for defamation over their TV movie Tail Gunner Joe. He died at 69 in a plane crash in 1996 along with his wife and son, on his way to scope out a theater in California for a play he wanted to stage.

When people today think about the Army-McCarthy hearings, they don't really remember David Schine, even though he was the catalyst for the famous exchange between Welch and the senator. Playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) did, though. He memorialized him in a short play, published in 1996 in the New York Times as A Backstage Pass to Hell, where we find an aged Schine in, yep, hell, chatting it up with Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover, among others whom Kushner thought belonged there.

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