Dalton Trumbo: Wikis


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Dalton Trumbo

Trumbo with wife Cleo at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, 1947
Born James Dalton Trumbo
December 9, 1905(1905-12-09)
Montrose, Colorado,
United States
Died September 10, 1976 (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California,
United States
Spouse(s) Cleo Beth Fincher

Dalton Trumbo (December 9, 1905 – September 10, 1976) was an American screenwriter and novelist, and one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of film professionals who testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 during the committee's investigation of Communist influences in the motion picture industry.



Trumbo was born in Montrose, Colorado, and graduated from Grand Junction High School. While still in high school, he worked as a cub reporter for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, covering courts, the high school, the mortuary and civic organizations. He attended the University of Colorado for two years (the central fountain at the University was named the Dalton Trumbo Free Speech Fountain in his honor in the mid-1990s), working as a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera and contributing to the campus humor magazine, the yearbook and the campus newspaper. He got his start working for Vogue magazine. His first published novel, "Eclipse" was about a town and its people, written in the social realist style, and drew on his years in Grand Junction. He started in movies in 1937; by the 1940s, he was one of Hollywood's highest paid writers for work on such films as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945), and Kitty Foyle (1940), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay.

Trumbo's 1939 anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, won a National Book Award (then known as an American Book Sellers Award) that year. The novel was inspired by an article Trumbo read about a soldier who was horribly disfigured during World War I.[1]

Involvement with communism

Trumbo aligned himself with the Communist Party USA before the 1940s, although he did not join the party until later. After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, American communists argued that the United States should not get involved in the war on the side of Great Britain, since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of nonaggression meant that the Soviet Union was at peace with Germany. In 1941, Trumbo wrote a novel The Remarkable Andrew, in which, in one scene, the ghost of Andrew Jackson appears in order to caution the United States not to get involved in the war. In a review of the book, Time Magazine sarcastically wrote, "General Jackson's opinions need surprise no one who has observed George Washington and Abraham Lincoln zealously following the Communist Party Line in recent years."[2]

Shortly after the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, Trumbo and his publishers decided to suspend reprinting of Johnny Got His Gun until the end of the war. After receiving letters from individuals, including pacifists, isolationists, as well as those with apparent ties to Nazis requesting copies of the book, Trumbo contacted the FBI and turned these letters over to them.[3] Thus did Trumbo, in effect, "name names", something that would come back to haunt him years later when others would name him before the House Un-American Committee. Trumbo regretted this decision, which he called "foolish", after two FBI agents showed up at his home and it became clear that "their interest lay not in the letters but in me."[3]

Trumbo was a member of the Communist Party USA from 1943 until 1948.[4] He bragged in The Daily Worker that among the films that communist influence in Hollywood had quashed were adaptations of Arthur Koestler's anti-communist works Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar.[5]



In 1947, Trumbo, along with nine other writers and directors, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee as an unfriendly witness to testify on the presence of communist influence in Hollywood. Trumbo refused to give information. After conviction for contempt of Congress, he was blacklisted, and in 1950, spent 11 months in prison in the federal penitentiary in Ashland, Kentucky.

After Trumbo was blacklisted, some Hollywood actors and directors, such as Elia Kazan and Clifford Odets, agreed to testify and to provide names of fellow communist party members to Congress. Many of those who testified were immediately ostracized and shunned by their former friends and associates. However, Trumbo always maintained that those who testified under pressure from HUAC and the studios were equally victims of the Red Scare, an opinion for which he was criticized.

Later life

After completing his sentence, Trumbo and his family moved to Mexico with Hugo Butler and his wife Jean Rouverol, who had also been blacklisted. There, Trumbo wrote thirty scripts under pseudonyms, such as the co-written Gun Crazy (1950) (Millard Kaufman acted as a "front" for Trumbo). He won an Oscar for The Brave One (1956), written under the name Robert Rich.

With the support of Otto Preminger, he received credit for the 1960 film Exodus. Shortly thereafter, Kirk Douglas made public Trumbo's credit for the screenplay for Spartacus, an event which has been cited as the beginning of the end of the blacklist. Trumbo was reinstated in the Writers Guild of America, West, and was credited on all subsequent scripts.

In 1971, Trumbo directed the film adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun, which starred Timothy Bottoms, Diane Varsi and Jason Robards.

One of his last films, Executive Action, was based on various conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination.

His account and analysis of the Smith Act trials is entitled The Devil in the Book.

In 1993, Trumbo was awarded the Academy Award posthumously for writing Roman Holiday (1953). The screen credit and award were previously given to Ian McLellan Hunter, who had been a "front" for Trumbo.[6]


He died in Los Angeles of a heart attack at the age of 70 on September 10, 1976.[7]


Trumbo had three children: one son, filmmaker Christopher; and two daughters, photographer Melissa, known as Mitzi, and psychotherapist Nikola.[8] Mitzi once had a relationship with actor/comedian Steve Martin; Martin later confessed that, at that time in his "tunnel-visioned life," he had never heard of her father.[9] In his memoir, Born Standing Up, Martin credits his time spent with the Trumbo family as having aroused his interest in politics and art.


Selected film works
Novels, plays and essays
  • Eclipse, 1935
  • Washington Jitters, 1936
  • Johnny Got His Gun, 1939
  • The Remarkable Andrew, 1940 (also known as Chronicle of a Literal Man)
  • The Biggest Thief in Town, 1949 (lay)
  • The Time Out of the Toad, 1972 (essays)
  • Night of the Aurochs, 1979 (unfinished, ed. R. Kirsch)
  • Harry Bridges, 1941
  • The Time of the Toad, 1949
  • The Devil in the Book, 1956
  • Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942–62, 1970 (ed. by H. Manfull)

See also

  • The Hollywood Ten documentary
  • Trumbo, a 2007 documentary by Peter Askin based on Christopher Trumbo's stage play
  • "Dalton Trumbo" biography by Bruce Cook
  • "Dalton Trumbo: Hollywood Rebel" biography by Peter Hanson


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Counsel from Hollywood, Time Magazine, February 3, 1941
  3. ^ a b Dalton Trumbo. Johnny Got His Gun. Citadel Press, 2000, pg 5, introduction
  4. ^ Naming Names, Victor Navasky, 2003
  5. ^ Hollywood's Missing Movies: Why American films have ignored life under communism. - Reason Magazine
  6. ^ "Great To Be Nominated" Enjoys a "Roman Holiday" AMPAS
  7. ^ "Dalton Trumbo, Film Writer, Dies; Oscar Winner Had Been Blacklisted". New York Times. September 11, 1976. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F7091EFE395C137B93C3A81782D85F428785F9. Retrieved 2008-06-18. "Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screen writer who was perhaps the most famous member of the blacklisted film industry authors called "the Hollywood Ten," died of a heart attack early today at his home here. He was 70 years old."  
  8. ^ Michael Cieply (2007-09-11). ""A Voice From the Blacklist: Documentary Lets Dalton Trumbo Speak"". The New York Times (New York). http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/movies/11trumbo.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2008-01-04.  
  9. ^ Steve Martin (2007-10-29). "Personal History: "In the Bird Cage"". The New Yorker (New York). http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/10/29/071029fa_fact_martin. Retrieved 2008-01-04.  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dalton Trumbo (December 9, 1905September 10, 1976) was an American screenwriter and novelist, and a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group of film professionals who testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 during the committee's investigation of Communist influences in the motion picture industry.


Johnny Got His Gun (1938)

  • Never again to wiggle your toes. What a hell of a thing, what a wonderful, beautiful thing, to wiggle your toes.
  • No sir, anybody who went out and got into the front line trenches to fight for liberty was a goddamn fool and the guy who got him there was a liar. Next time anybody came gabbling to him about liberty - what did he mean next time? There wasn't going to be any next time for him. But the hell with that. If there could be a next time and somebody said "let's fight for liberty", he would say "mister my life is important. I'm not a fool and when I swap my life for liberty I've got to know in advance what liberty is, and whose idea of liberty we're talking about and just how much of that liberty we're going to have. And what's more mister - are you as much interested in liberty as you want me to be? And maybe too much liberty will be as bad as too little liberty and I think you're a goddamn fourflusher talking through your hat, and I've already decided that I like the liberty I've got right here. The liberty to walk and see and hear and talk and eat and sleep with my girl. I think I like that liberty better than fighting for a lot of things we won't get and ending up without any liberty at all. Ending up dead and rotting before my life is even begun good or ending up like a side of beef. Thank you mister. You fight for liberty. Me, I don't care for some.
  • There's nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you're so great your name will never be forgotten and who's that great? The most important thing is your life, little guys. You're worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don't let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we've got to fight for liberty, or whatever their word is. There's always a word.
  • Just say 'mister I'm sorry, I got no time to die, I'm too busy' and then turn and run like hell. If they say coward why don't pay any attention because it's your job to live not to die. If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life, you say 'mister you're a liar. Nothing is bigger than life'. There's nothing noble in death. What s noble about lying in the ground and rotting? What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again? What's noble about having your legs and arms blown off? What's noble about being an idiot? What's noble about being blind and deaf and dumb? What's noble about being dead? Because when you're dead, mister, it's all over. It's the end. You're less than a dog, less than a rat, less than a bee or an ant, less than a white maggot crawling around on a dungheap. You're dead, mister, and you died for nothing.
  • Inside me I'm screaming, nobody pays any attention. If I had arms, I could kill myself. If I had legs, I could run away. If I had a voice, I could talk and be some kind of company for myself. I could yell for help, but nobody would help me.
  • There's a game out there, and the stakes are high. And the guy who runs it figures the averages all day long and all night long. Once in a while he lets you steal a pot. But if you stay in the game long enough, you've got to lose. And once you've lost there's no way back, no way at all.
  • Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots, you fierce ones, you spawners of hate, you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives. We are men of peace, we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace, if you take away our work, if you try to range us one against the other, we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us, we will use them to defend our very lives, and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent. It lies within our own boundaries here and now. We have seen it and we know it.
  • Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one, not ten, not ten thousand, not a million, not ten millions, not a hundred millions but a billion, two billions of us all - the people of the world. We will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. Make no mistake of it, we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquillity, in security, in decency, in peace. You plan the wars, you masters of men - plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.

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