Hollywood Blacklisted A “Roman Holiday” Screenwriter, But He Was Saved By A Famous Actor
Dalton Trumbo was one of the best screenwriters of his generation. He was famous for his astonishing works and political views that led him to 11 months in prison and struggles in finding a job under his own name. He was saved by Kirk Douglas, an actor, who broke the blacklist.
Spartacus is a 1960 American historical drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier are the stars of the film and, consequently, the biggest stars at that time. The film was one of the greatest hits in Universal Studio’s history. It’s cultural and historical significance was admitted by the Library of Congress, which selected the film for preservation in the American National Film Registry.
What is also remarkable about that film is the fact that Kirk Douglas, who played Spartacus, decided to choose Dalton Trumbo as a screenwriter. Doing so, the actor removed him from the blacklist by publicly announcing that he was the person who wrote the script for the film. Moreover, President John F. Kennedy, despite the protest of the American Legion, went to see the movie, which helped end blacklisting.
Dalton Trumbo was the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood until the Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy had started his Anti-Communist witch-hunt, which caused many artists to hide or emigrate, including big stars, such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Paul Roberson.
Trumbo had to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was sent to prison for 11 months for refusing to give the names of his colleagues who were suspected to have pro-communist views. This extraordinary story was made into a film in 2015.
The screenwriter was portrayed by the Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston.
Dean O'Gorman, a famous actor from New Zealand, played Kirk Douglas.
Kirk Douglas was very pleased with Trumbo. He commented:
Its spirit is true to the man I admired.
1950’s was a devastating period marked by many unfair accusations. Dalton Trumbo had been a member of the Communist Party for 5 years and was one of the 10 screenwriters and directors who were put in prison for refusing to testify.
After the jail, finding a job for people like Trumbo was a struggle because they were added to the Hollywood blacklist. The screenwriter had to constantly change his name in order to sell his work and provide for this wife and three children.
Only in 1960, when Spartacus was released, Trumbo received a public credit for his work, and blacklisting was no longer credible. And thanks to Kirk Douglas, the era of unfair treatment was over.
In 2012, Spartacus had and Anniversary screening at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.
In Spartacus, Douglas fought the Romans and in real life - the House Committee on un-American Activities, and he was victorious in both battles.
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