Dalton Trumbo - Writer

Writer. Pseudonyms: Robert Rich, Arnold Schulman, Sally Stubblefield, and Les Crutchfield. Nationality: American. Born: Montrose, Colorado, 9 December 1905. Education: Attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, 1924–25; University of California, Los Angeles, 1925–27; University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1927–29. Family: Married Cleo Beth Fincher, 1939; children: two daughters and one son. Career: 1930–34—newspaper reporter; 1934—script reader, Warner Bros.; 1935—first novel published; 1936—first film as writer, Love Begins at Twenty ; then writer for Warner Bros., RKO, and MGM; 1945—founder and editor, The Screenwriter ; 1947—investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee: cited for contempt of congress, 1949, and served 10-month prison sentence; blacklisted; then wrote under pseudonyms; 1960—resumed writing under his own name; 1971—directed his own script, Johnny Got His Gun . Awards: Academy Award for The Brave One , 1956 (awarded in 1975 because of the blacklisting); Writers Guild Laurel Award, 1969. Died: 10 September 1976.

Films as Writer:


Love Begins at Twenty (McDonald); Tugboat Princess (Selman); Road Gang (L. King)


Devil's Playground (Kenton); That Man's Here Again (L. King)


A Man to Remember (Kanin); Fugitive for a Night (Goodwins)


Sorority House (Farrow); Career (Jason); The Flying Irishman (Jason); Five Came Back (Farrow); The Kid from Kokomo (Seiler)


Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (Cortez); A Bill of Divorcement (Farrow); Curtain Call (Woodruff); Half a Sinner (Christie); The Lone Wolf Strikes (Salkow); We Who Are Young (Bucquet); Kitty Foyle (Wood)


Accent on Love (McCarey); You Belong to Me (Ruggles)


The Remarkable Andrew (Heisler)


Tender Comrade (Dmytryk); A Guy Named Joe (Fleming)


Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (LeRoy)


Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (Rowland)


Jealousy (Machaty)


Gun Crazy (Lewis) (credited to Millard Kaufman); The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (P. Sturges) (credited to Earl Felton)


He Ran All the Way (Berry) (credited to Hugh Butler); The Prowler (Losey) (credited to Hugh Butler); The Brave Bulls (Rossen) (credited to John Bright)


Roman Holiday (Wyler) (credited to Ian Hunter)


Carnival Story (Neumann) (uncredited)


The Brave One (Rapper) (story, as Robert Rich); The Boss (Haskin) (credited to Ben Perry)


Wild Is the Wind (Cukor) (as Arnold Schulman); The Green-Eyed Blonde (Girard) (as Sally Stubblefield); The Abominable Snowman (Guest) (credited to Nigel Kneale)


Cowboy (Daves) (credited to Edmund North)


Last Train from Gun Hill (J. Sturges) (as Les Crutchfield)


Exodus (Preminger); Spartacus (Kubrick)


Town without Pity (Reinhardt) (uncredited); The Last Sunset (Aldrich)


Lonely Are the Brave (Miller)


The Sandpiper (Minnelli)


Hawaii (Hill)


The Fixer (Frankenheimer)


Johnny Got His Gun (+ d); The Horsemen (Frankenheimer)


F.T.A. ( Foxtrot Tango Alpha ; Free the Army ; Fuck the Army ) (Parker) (co)


Papillon (Schaffner) (+ ro); Executive Action (Miller)


Ishi, the Last of His Tribe (Miller)


By TRUMBO: fiction—

Eclipse , London, 1935.

Washington Jitters , New York, 1936.

Johnny Got His Gun , Philadelphia, 1939.

The Remarkable Andrew , Philadelphia, 1941.

Night of the Aurochs , edited by Robert Kirsch, New York, 1979.

By TRUMBO: other books—

Harry Bridges (nonfiction), New York, 1941.

An Appeal to the People (nonfiction), Los Angeles, 1942.

Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (script) in Best Film Plays, 1945 , edited by John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, New York, 1946.

The Time of the Toad (nonfiction), Hollywood, 1948.

The Biggest Thief in Town (play), New York, 1949.

The Devil in the Book (nonfiction), Los Angeles, 1956.

Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo , edited by Helen

Manfull, New York, 1970.

The Time of the Toad and Two Related Pamphlets , New York, 1972.

By TRUMBO: articles—

"Stepchild of the Muses," in North American Review , December 1933.

"Blacklist Equals Black Market," in Nation (New York), 4 May 1957.

Positif (Paris), no. 64–65, 1965.

Cinema Canada , January-February 1969.

Cinema Canada , September-October 1969.

Jeune Cinéma (Paris), May 1971.

Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1971.

"The Blacklist Was a Time of Evil," in Film Culture (New York), Fall-Winter 1971.

Ecran (Paris), April 1972.

In Blueprint in Babylon , by J. D. Marshall, Los Angeles, 1978.

"Who Killed Spartacus?" with D. Cooper, and Gary Crowdus, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 18, no. 3, 1991.

On TRUMBO: book—

Cook, Bruce, Dalton Trumbo , New York, 1977.

On TRUMBO: articles—

Présence du Cinéma (Paris), June 1962.

Hanson, Curtis Lee, "Dalton Trumbo—Writer, Director, Producer Relationships," in Cinema (Beverly Hills, California), July-August 1965.

Zinnemon, Jerry, in Esquire (New York), March 1971.

Madsen, Axel, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1971.

In The Hollywood Screenwriters , edited by Richard Corliss, New York, 1972.

Rivista del Cinematografo (Rome), August-September 1975.

American Film (Washington, DC), October 1975.

Cinemateca Revista (Montevideo), July 1981, additions in August 1981.

Moore, James, in American Screenwriters , edited by Robert E. Morsberger, Stephen O. Lesser, and Randall Clark, Detroit, Michigan, 1984.

Dick, Bernard F., in Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten , Lexington, Kentucky, 1989.

Smith, J. P., "A Good Business Proposition," in Velvet Light Trap (Madison, Wisconsin), no. 23, Spring 1989.

Cineaste (New York), vol. 43, no. 3, 1991.

Rectangle , no. 38–39, Spring 1992.

Time , vol. 141, 24 May 1993.

Advocate , 14 December 1993.

McGilligan, Patrick, "John Berry: Man of Principle," in Film Comment (New York), May-June 1995.

Cineaste (New York), Spring 1996.

Variety (New York), 9 September 1996.

Nation , 5 April 1999.

* * *

Dalton Trumbo's life is perhaps more exciting than any of the films he wrote. He was a successful screenwriter in the 1940s, one of the highest paid in Hollywood. He has been compared to Wilde and Shaw in his capacity as a witty man of letters. He wrote magnificent letters (collected in Additional Dialogue ) as well as one of the most stirring antiwar novels ever written, Johnny Got His Gun , a story written from the point of view of a quadriplegic. Then, as the House Un-American Activities Committee searched for Communists in Hollywood, he joined the ranks of the infamous Hollywood Ten.

Trumbo was forced into exile but this did not stop the spunky writer from working under a multitude of pseudonyms. He won Hollywood's highest honors while using the names of others. Finally, after 13 years in limbo and a change in the climate of the country, Trumbo returned a hero. The world finally acknowledged his previously uncredited pictures and he served as a director for the film version of his controversial masterpiece, Johnny Got His Gun .

Unfortunately for the history of cinema, Trumbo's life was more gripping than any of his film creations. His achievements include Spartacus , Exodus , The Sandpiper , and Hawaii . These films deal with important issues but are painted in such broad, melodramatic tones that they trivialize the very points they try to make. They are Hollywood "message" films, reflecting the conventions of a genre more than serious social reality. That is not to say that they cannot have moving moments. In Spartacus , when his men are asked to turn in their leader (Kirk Douglas), and Tony Curtis, and one by one each of the others, declares "I am Spartacus," it is a very poignant moment (in spite of Curtis's inappropriate Brooklyn accent which was hardly Trumbo's fault). Then there is the memorable scene in Lonely Are the Brave when Kirk Douglas, as the last cowboy, gets run over by a truck. Dalton's films are capable of great drama and poetic ironies. They can make great entertainment. However, these films never really make the significant social impact on the filmgoer that Trumbo would have liked. He had intended "to use art as a weapon for the future of mankind, rather than as an adornment for the vanity of aesthetes and poseurs." The book Johnny Got His Gun is capable of changing an opinion for life. The Trumbo films, however, only make great trivia questions for film buffs.

Trumbo's movies lacked sophistication. They hit you over the head with a sledgehammer. They tended to be preachy and "more liberal than thou." On the other hand. Trumbo's superpatriot war films, created shortly after he wrote Johnny Got His Gun , are even more astounding. In A Guy Named Joe , a highly chauvinistic screenplay written to propagandize the Second World War, he has his good-guy hero die and then return to earth to help teach other guys named Joe the art of better bombing.

The film critic Richard Corliss suggests several reasons for the disparity between Trumbo's literary efforts and his film works. It could have been the fault of the film industry, with Trumbo trying to conform in order to sneak through the important ideas he wanted to get across. It could have been Trumbo's attempt to reach as large an audience as possible by relying on the tried and true Hollywood dramatic conventions. In any case, the legend of Trumbo's life is a far more important statement to be remembered than any of his films, and no doubt will be.

—Edith C. Lee

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