Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Writer Restored: Trumbo Finally Gets The Credit He Deserved

In the 1950's the "Red Scare" forced otherwise law abiding citizens to account for their political beliefs and testify against their friends, all of whom were accused of being Communist sympathizers (at best) or spies (at worst.)

People went to prison for refusing to participate in the kangaroo court-like proceedings,headed-up by Senator Joseph McCarthy. "McCarthyism" as it became known, was focused on removing communist or socialist influences on American society and focused primarily on Hollywood writers, directors, producers and actors.

Good people were harangued, forced to testify against their friends, wrongly accused, imprisoned; had their careers destroyed, their family lives shaken to the very foundations and their hopes and dreams (American Dreams) shattered.

Among the victims of this Black Plague disguised as patriotism was a screenwriter named Dalton Trumbo. If you are a fan of classic films then you are familiar with his work: Roman Holiday (1953). Unfortunately, his name was not attached to that project, appearing nowhere in the credits until just this week.

Because Trumbo was targeted by the McCarthy trials he was Blacklisted in Hollywood, forced to flee to Mexico with his family and was only able to follow his passion in secret, working with a "front" who was actually credited for Trumbo's work and accepted payments (secretly) on his behalf.

Trumbo's son, Chris Trumbo, and the son of the man who acted as Trumbo's "front", Tim Hunter Jr., worked tirelessly for decades to restore the proper screenwriting credit. Their success is a story of love, endurance and a commitment to restore the dignity and reputation of a man who did nothing wrong, except refusing to indict his friends at a time when it seemed the entire nation was against him.

After investigating the matter, the guild's board, which had given a story credit to Trumbo in 1991, voted to posthumously give Trumbo a full screenplay credit for "Roman Holiday," sharing the honor with McLellan and John Dighton.

"It's not in our power to erase the mistakes or the suffering of the past,'' WGA, West President Chris Keyser said in a statement. "But we can make amends, we can pledge not to fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor, even if that pledge is only a hope. And, in the end, we can give credit where credit is due."

The story of how the sons of the famous screenwriters worked behind the scenes to get Trumbo credit is told in the January edition of the guild's "Written By" magazine.

Click here to read the entire article and get the link to "Written By" magazine.

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