Milestones: Dalton Trumbo

“The only kind of love worth having is the kind that goes on living and laughing and fighting and loving.” Dalton Trumbo

Colorado screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, 1947 (Public Domain)

On December 9, 1905 James Dalton Trumbo was born. For those who are unfamiliar with this name, you would know Dalton Trumbo’s work and know of the pivotal time in history in which he lived.

Dalton Trumbo was a brilliant American screenwriter who scripted famous and award-winning films that we still watch today: Roman Holiday (1953), Exodus, Spartacus (both 1960), and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944).

Dalton Trumbo was one of the “Hollywood 10” who were placed on the first systematic Hollywood blacklist created on November 25, 1947. This blacklist was in response to the refusal of ten writers and directors to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

The story of humanity is fraught with complex challenges. These are the times for heroes to emerge.

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

14 thoughts on “Milestones: Dalton Trumbo

  1. This is fascinating, Rebecca Budd. You may be interested to know that, recently, when I was searching for information on The Adventures of Robin Hood, the UK TV series, I discovered that “The Adventures of Robin Hood was produced by Hannah Weinstein, who had left-wing political views. The series was explicitly created by Weinstein to enable the commissioning of scripts by blacklisted American writers.[10] Among these were Ring Lardner Jr., Waldo Salt, Robert Lees, and Adrian Scott. Howard Koch, who was also blacklisted, served for a while as the series’ script editor. The blacklisted writers were credited under pseudonyms, to avoid the attention of studio executives.”

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    1. Thank you for this interesting information, Mandy. I have never heard Hannah Weinstein. Her Robin Hood series was the one with Richard Green – both Don and I know that series very well. It was a brilliant production. Thank you for the introduction to Hannah Weinstein. I just read a brief bio – a remarkable, courageous, determined woman. Heroes do indeed come forward.

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  2. Dalton Trumbo was a talented, gifted author and famous screen writer of his time His movies used the most famous of Hollywood actors.
    This was not the only thing for which people still remember him. He was a member of the “Hollywood TEN’ and a member of the Communistic Party, not a good choice for the time. As you mentioned he was black listed and spent time in prison. Thank you for your bringing this gifted person to our attention. I remember him from my younger years and we can still enjoy his movies!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Frances, for your comments. I am certain these were disheartening days for Dalton Trumbo and his family. I read that on December 19, 2011, the Writer’s Guild, acting on a request for an investigation made by his dying son Christopher Trumbo, announced that Dalton Trumbo would get full credit for his work on the screenplay for the romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953), almost sixty years after the fact.

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  3. Another sad thing about these witch hunt type committees is they detract from real danger by creating straw men. Behind the scenes, among so-called enemy nations, governments and corporations illegally trade and sell weapons and technology to prepare countries for the next conflict. Corruption is what rots a nation, not divisive headlines.

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    1. Thank you, Mary Jo for your insightful comment. You reminded me of a quote from Ernest Hemingway from his book For Whom the Bell Tolls (I have been following Robbie Cheadle’s post on her thoughts on this book) that speaks to the idea of corruption. “He did not care for the lying at first. He hated it. Then later he had come to like it. It was part of being an insider but it was a very corrupting business.” It seems that small negative choices, though appearing insignificant at the time, have an exponential way of becoming a systemic disaster.

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  4. Thank you for this excellent post, Rebecca! Dalton Trumbo was definitely one of the many talented, humanistic, social-justice-minded people unfairly smeared during the McCarthy era. (My wife’s father was another.) Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” is one of the most searing anti-war novels ever written.

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    1. This was a very difficult and complex time, Dave. A reminder that it is not easy to go against the status quo. I was amazed by the people who denounced their friends and lived to regret their decision. This from Wikipedia: Lee J. Cobb and director Michael Gordon, who gave friendly testimony to HUAC after suffering on the blacklist for a time, “concede[d] with remorse that their plan was to name their way back to work”. Others were haunted by the choice they had made. In 1963, actor Sterling Hayden declared, “I was a rat, a stoolie, and the names I named of those close friends were blacklisted and deprived of their livelihood.”

      Thank you for your comments – very much appreciated.

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