Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dalton Trumbo and Banned Book Week

Last weekend I happened to catch American Masters on PBS. The episode focused on Dalton Trumbo- one of the "Hollywood Ten" during the Red Scare of the 40's and 50's. Trumbo won the National Book Award for his novel, Johnny Got His Gun. He was asked to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the late 1940's. When he refused to inform on other writers, he was charged with Contempt of Congress. When he was interviewed about it years later, he responded with something like "the verdict was just, I did feel contempt for that Congress- and several others since."

Trumbo and the other members of the Hollywood Ten spent about a year in prison. Unfortunately, their sentence didn't end when they were released. These men spent many years blacklisted in Hollywood. Trumbo used 11 different aliases and resorted to collaborating with other writers in order to get work. The scripts he wrote included Exodus, Spartacus and A Bill of Divorcement. He also had the original concept for Roman Holiday. He wrote the script for The Brave One under the name of Robert Rich. He was nominated for an Oscar for that movie and when it was finally exposed that he was the writer for the script, his time on the blacklist finally ended, though his name wasn't restored on many of the scripts he wrote until the 1970's.

As an aspiring writer, I can't imagine having your work celebrated and not being able to take credit for it. The program was really well done. If you have a chance to watch it, you won't regret it.

Also September 26th-October 3rd is Banned Book Week. You would not believe some of the books that have banned. Check out the list here.




  1. Nice piece, Nancy. The poor little kitty in jail helped too!