Tag Archives: Dalton Trumbo

Happy 100th Birthday to Kirk Douglas!

One of the original leading men, Kirk Douglas came along in the final days of the major studio system, and he was one of the first box office stars to take charge of his own destiny by  becoming involved in the production and marketing of the films in which he appeared.

He was a vital force in such classics as Out of the Past (1947), Champion (1949), Detective Story (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Lust for Life (1956). He formed his own company, Bryna, and made such major films as Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964).

Along the way, he distinguished himself in a number of westerns, including The Big Sky (1952), Man without a Star (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), and The War Wagon (1967), while also tackling several action roles in historical period pictures like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954), Ulysses (1955), and The Vikings (1958).

conversations_with_classic_film_stars_coverRenowned for his support of liberal causes, Douglas is often credited with helping break down the dreaded Hollywood anti-Communist “blacklist” by hiring blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (who also celebrates a birthday today!) to write the screenplay for Spartacus.
In a conversation with Douglas in conjunction with Draw!, a 1984 HBO TV western, Ronald Miller asked the iconic actor about his work with other leading actors and actresses, antiheroes, and working within the studio system. You can find a full transcript of their conversation in Conversations with Classic Film Stars—a perfect gift for the film buff this holiday season.

In the excerpt below, Miller and Douglas discuss the unique art of filmmaking, and its pitfalls, as well as Douglas’s involvement in the Oscar-winning, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Excerpted from Conversations with Classic Film Stars:

Miller: You’ve worked with every kind of movie director and you don’t have a reputation for getting into disputes with them, but you are known for demanding a collaborative atmosphere on the set. Explain that.

Douglas: I’ve worked with [Joseph] Mankiewicz, [Howard] Hawks, [Elia] Kazan, [William] Wyler, [Billy] Wilder. I’ve been very fortunate. All of them work differently. I’ve even directed a couple of pictures, so I have respect for the work. But no matter what anyone says, it’s a collaborative art form. No matter how much one person is a binding force, it’s still a collaboration.

I think the problem today is that we’ve been contaminated by the European concept of the auteur system. I’ve had movies where I bought the book, developed the script, and cast the whole picture, but then the director walks in and says, “It must be a John Smith film!” I think sometimes we emphasize that too much.

Miller: Though you’ve avoided big hassles with your directors, you’ve had a few disputes with studio managements, haven’t you?

Douglas: Let me give you an example of that: Lonely Are the Brave. You need the proper selling of a picture like that. I thought Universal just threw it away. They didn’t give it a chance. They took it out of circulation. Then there were all those great reviews and people said, “Where’s the picture?” Their ego prevented them from making a different campaign for the picture. The longer I’m in this business, the more amazed I am that a movie can be made, good or bad.

Miller: You’ve taken lots of chances in your career, but I imagine one of your greatest frustrations was not being able to play McMurphy on the big screen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest after acquiring the rights to the book from Ken Kesey and playing the part on the stage in New York.

douglas-kirk_03Douglas: It was way ahead of its time. When I took it to Broadway, the critics didn’t know what to make of it. The audience loved it, but it didn’t do very well. I tried for nearly twelve years to make it as a movie. I took it to every studio. But they wouldn’t do it, even with a limited budget. Finally, I went into partnership with my son, Michael, and we were able to find somebody outside of the industry to put up the money and we made a little picture that I never predicted would be a hit. So it did over $200 million! Nobody knows what will really be successful.

Miller: What do you think of Michael as a producer?

Douglas: I told him, “Michael, you’re the kind of producer I’d like to work with because you give everything to the other person even when you’re in the movie.” He did that in Romancing the Stone [1984]. He focused all the attention on the girl [Kathleen Turner]. I haven’t been that generous. I’ve been a producer, but I find a product like Spartacus or The Vikings or Seven Days in May or Paths of Glory and somehow there always seems to be a good part for me.

Father’s Day Books on Dad Written by their Children

Protective. Goofy. Heroic. Hardworking. Stoic. Knowledgeable. Jovial. There are a number of adjectives that can be used to describe fathers and the significant role they play in their children’s lives. But each father has his own unique story –- a story that may never be told.

Below are some of our favorite books written by children about their dads. Whether a father is interested in sports, film, history, suspense, or the military, he’s sure to find some of the subjects (and stories) interesting and appealing.


More information:

My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey through Hollywood

Portrait Of A Father

My Father, Daniel Boone: The Draper Interviews with Nathan Boone

Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical

Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting

Battlefield Surgeon: Life and Death on the Front Lines of World War II

Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder

Hitchcock’s Partner in Suspense: The Life of Screenwriter Charles Bennett


Trumbo at the Oscars

We’re taking a brief pause from our Golden Galley contest today to put the spotlight on one of the men who has been sweeping the 2016 Oscar scene: Dalton Trumbo.The writing legend has returned from the dead in the 2015 biopic, Trumbo, which has landed Brian Cranston a nomination for the coveted Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. While the man himself is not present in the film, new life is brought to his story, one that is filled with trials, snubs, and social oppression beyond belief.

Although Trumbo is widely recognized for his work as a screenwriter, playwright, and author, he is also remembered as one of the Hollywood Ten who opposed the House Un-American Activities Committee. Refusing to answer questions about his prior involvement with the Communist Party, Trumbo sacrificed a successful career in Hollywood to stand up for his rights and defend political freedom.

The blacklist ended for Trumbo in 1960, when he received screen credits for Exodus and Spartacus. Just before his death, he received a long-delayed Academy Award for The Brave One, and in 1993, he was posthumously given an Academy Award for Roman Holiday (1953). This is what his wife, Cleo, had to say at the ceremony that presented his posthumous Oscar, which is excerpted from the UPK book, Dalton Trumbo:Blacklisted Hollywood Radical:

“I don’t want to leave you with the impression that living under the blacklist was a steady procession of motion picture assignments and secret honors. It was not. Earning a living was a precarious business. The Hollywood blacklist put hundreds of people out of work, and, across the country, loyalty oaths forced thousands more out of their jobs in all walks of life, from the factory to the university. It was a time of fear and no one was exempt. Dalton called it ‘The Time of the Toad’…

This award makes the declaration that “The Time of the Toad” in our community has passed. But if we are not wise enough to learn the lessons of the blacklist, I am afraid that at some future time another generation will be faced with the same circumstance. Once again men and women will find themselves compelled to risk everything in a fight they did not choose, and stand up for the principles so eloquently stated in our Constitution.”

For more information about, Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical, click here.

Happy Birthday and Congratulations to Dalton Trumbo and the ‘Trumbo’ Team

December 9, 1905, Dalton Trumbo was born in Grand Junction, Colorado. A reader and a writer from a young age, Trumbo would go on to an incredible career as a screenwriter, playwright, and author, until the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to bring him down for his involvement with the Communist Party.

Trump’s very public fight against HUAC as one of the Hollywood Ten is now the basis for the movie, Trumbo, which was nominated for 3 major Screen Actors Guild Awards this morning–more than any other film in the field. A very happy birthday present, indeed!

Congratulations to Jay Roach, Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, and the rest of the cast who labored so diligently to bring the life of one of Hollywood’s most infamous and influential radicals to the silver screen. You deserve a slice of birthday cake!

For more on Trumbo’s life, Dalton Trumbo is currently discounted during UPK’s Holiday Sale:

Dalton Trumbo

Dalton Trumbo's Fight for Hollywood

On the 69th Anniversary of the First, Unofficial Blacklist, Dalton Trumbo Steps Back into the Spotlight with a New Biography and a Biopic Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival

On July 29, 1946—sixty-nine years ago today—Billy Wilkerson, founder of The Hollywood Reporter, published an editorial naming 11 alleged Communists working in Hollywood. Among the notable figures included on this list was screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who at the time was the acclaimed writer of films like Kitty Foyle (1940) and novels such as Johnny Got His Gun (1939). In the article “A Vote for Joe Stalin,” Wilkerson claimed that those listed were a threat to the “free world” and the “millions of readers” dependent on the free trade of ideas.

Trumbo, who was a member of the Communist Party, was soon called to testify to his political affiliation before the House Un-American Activities Committee. As a result of refusing to answer questions, he was sentenced to prison for a year, blacklisted from working in Hollywood, and, after a thirteen year struggle, fought his way back to become one of the most sought-after and respected screenwriters in the industry.

Dalton Trumbo Speaking Out University Press of KentuckyA fight was something Trumbo was not afraid of. In 1962, in a cover letter attached to an archive of his papers donated to the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, he addressed this theme that dominated his adult life:

“I’ve always thought of my life as a sequence of conflicts, each a separate battle, segregated in my mind under the heading, “My fight with these guys” or “My fight with those guys.” . . . I now realize it was all one fight . . . It just happened in my case that the original fight once undertaken, expanded marvelously into what seemed like many fights.”

Now, Trumbo’s fight is about to hit the big screen with Trumbo, a new Bryan Cranston-starring biopic set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. While the biopic, directed by Jay Roach, focuses on Trumbo’s battle against HUAC and the resulting fallout, historian Larry Ceplair and Trumbo’s late son, Christopher, have written a recently released biography that gives a full account of Trumbo’s life and impact on American culture, politics, and the film industry.

Dalton Trumbo Blacklisted Hollywood Radical University Press of KentuckyDalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical follows the beleaguered screenwriter from his youth in Grand Junction, Colorado to his film career both on and off the blacklist and his death in 1976—seventeen years before he would receive a posthumous Oscar for writing Roman Holiday (1953). A prolific letter-writer his entire life, Trumbo’s son Christopher, collected these missives of his father’s ideas and politics, his irascible personality, conversations with notable collaborators like Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas, and his campaign to break the blacklist, to compile an honest portrait.

Through it all, Trumbo used his barbed tongue and slashing pen to combat his adversaries, especially Billy Wilkerson, who wielded his own pen against the perceived Red Scare in Hollywood. Trumbo’s propensity for speaking out was well known, and he and Wilkerson had been baiting each other in print for the past year—Trumbo, as editor of Screen Writer, and Wilkerson through his “Tradewinds” column in The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson was one of the most outspoken, vehement anti-Communists in Hollywood, and he used his platform at the magazine often to call out “Hollywood’s Red Commissars!”

To Wilkerson and his allies, the Screen Writers Guild was the main propaganda arm of the Communist Party in Hollywood, and Screen Writer—at the time, a new publication published by the guild—was widely seen in the industry as a “party line” journal. With Trumbo as editor, two other party members as managing editor and editorial secretary, and two Communists on the editorial committee, Screen Writer was an easy mark for those looking to root out “anti-American” sentiment.

When Democratic congressman John Rankin from Mississippi first called on HUAC to investigate the motion picture industry, Billy Wilkerson enthusiastically welcomed his call in The Hollywood Reporter. In response, Trumbo excoriated Wilkerson in Screen Writer for “endorsing in advance an appraisal of Hollywood by one of the most dangerous fascist-minded men in America.” Trumbo felt that Wilkerson, HUAC, and the recently formed Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals were conspiring with studio heads to vilify Communist Party members in Hollywood in exchange for advertising dollars and scoops from the inner circle. What followed was a series of hostile letters to the editor and advertisements placed by the two factions in each other’s publications. Screen Writer and The Hollywood Reporter became the ideological battleground where Hollywood waged war against itself.

Dalton Trumbo Bathtub University Press of Kentucky

Bryan Cranston will portray the blacklisted screenwriter in the Jay Roach-directed biopic ‘Trumbo,’ set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“A Vote for Joseph Stalin” was actually the first in a series of “Tradewinds” columns designed to red-bait the Screen Writers Guild. In the editorials, which came after The Hollywood Reporter’s initial list of exposed Communists, Wilkerson posed a series of questions to Trumbo: “Are you a Communist? Are you a member of the Communist Party?” Additionally, he published as evidence, a few of Trumbo’s “Communistic” activities, including his novel The Remarkable Andrew; his membership in the American Peace Mobilization, the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties, and American Youth for Democracy; and his support for LaRue McCormick’s campaign for the US Senate.

Trumbo, who by that time been hamstrung by Screen Writer’s new editorial board and could not publish a response, drafted a letter to Wilkerson which he never sent. In it, he charged Wilkerson with failing to prove the existence of Communist propaganda in any of Trumbo’s films and criticized his censure of the Screen Writers Guild. Trumbo ended his diatribe with a note on freedom of speech:

“We live in a country founded upon the principle that a man’s race, his religion and his politics are his private concern, protected as such by law. Any answer to your “questions,” either positive or negative, would constitute an admission on my part of your right to assume the function of industry inquisitor. I deny that right, and have no intention of collaborating with you to establish it.”

For all of his attempts to stave off the personal, professional, and philosophical attacks from Wilkerson and his fellow anti-Communists, Trumbo’s name, seven additional names from Wilkerson’s informal list, and two others were officially Blacklisted on November 25, 1946 by the studio chiefs and the Motion Picture Association of America in the infamous Waldorf Statement. Among those who assembled at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and drafted the statement against the so-called “Hollywood Ten” were names like Louis B. Mayer, Henry Cohn, Samuel Goldwyn, and Albert Warner.

Their decree terminated current or future employment and called on the guilds to “eliminate any subversives.” The guilds ultimately capitulated to the Waldorf Statement, casting out their besieged members. In addition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences passed a bylaw that prohibited Oscar nominations for anyone who invoked their Fifth Amendment rights in their testimony before HUAC.

Dalton Trumbo Mugshot University Press of KentuckyRefusing to answer questions about his involvement with the Communist Party, Trumbo sacrificed a successful career in Hollywood to stand up for his rights and defend political freedom. He was found guilty of Contempt of Congress, and as a result of the deepening Red Scare, was sent to the Federal Corrections Facility in Ashland, Kentucky, where he spent ten months writing letters for his fellow inmates and attempting to continue to write novels and screenplays when he could.

Though barred from being employed by the studios, after his release, Trumbo continued to write and assist with scripts, primarily under the pseudonym “Robert Rich,” or using other screenwriter’s names as a front. Roman Holiday, for example, had been completed by Trumbo prior to his conviction and incarceration, but was released in 1953 with Ian McLellan Hunter credited as the screenwriter. The film went on to be nominated for, and win, multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story.

Roman Holiday was the first Academy Award Trumbo could not accept. Later, when Robert Rich won the Oscar for best motion picture story for The Brave One at the 1957 Oscars, a mere month after the AMPAS bylaw was enacted, Jessie Laskey Jr., vice president of the Screen Writers branch of the Writers Guild accepted the award. “On behalf of Robert Rich and his beautiful story,” Lasky said, “thank you very much.”

The blacklist finally ended for Trumbo in 1960, when he received screen credits for Exodus (1960) and Spartacus (1960). When Otto Preminger was asked why he had hired Trumbo to write Exodus, Preminger stated that “It is absolutely un-American. . . to ask people what political beliefs they have,” adding that in giving Trumbo screen credit, he was acting much more honestly than other producers who had employed blacklisted writers and did not give them credit.

Just before his death, Trumbo’s name was amended to the credits for The Brave One, and he received his long-awaited Academy Award. His wife, Cleo, received the Oscar for Roman Holiday at a special ceremony in 1993 with Trumbo’s name added to the award plaque. Though the names “Robert Rich” and “Ian McLellan Hunter” were called as Academy Award winners during his time, with Trumbo making its early award season bid in Toronto, perhaps Jay Roach and Bryan Cranston will finally bring Dalton Trumbo to the Oscar’s stage where he belongs.

Father's Day Reads University Press of Kentucky

Happy Father’s Day! Books on Dad Written by their Children

Oh, Dads…a seemingly limitless source of bad jokes (have you heard this one? What do you call an Alligator wearing a vest? An investigator!), bear hugs, and well-meaning advice. Some Dads are goofy, some serious, and my Dad will probably spend all day watching the U.S. Open, yelling at golf balls to “Get in there!” If I were to write a book about my Dad, it would include his terrible scrambled eggs recipe and endless battle against the rabbits that eat the flowers in his yard. Below are a few of our favorite books written by children about their fathers…I promise, the stories are much more interesting than scrambled eggs.

More Information:

Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder

Hitchcock’s Partner in Suspense

Voice of the Wildcats

Dalton Trumbo

My Life as a Mankiewicz

Portrait of a Father

My Father, Daniel Boone

His Life on the Blacklist, or How Communists Brought Us the “Cran-stache” #UPWeek

Fans of the hit television show Breaking Bad have grown accustomed to seeing Bryan Cranston donning a mustache to play Walter White. But, at this year’s Emmy Awards, the “Cran-stache” came out for a different reason. . .


. . . for his starring role as blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the forthcoming film Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach. The new mustache was perhaps just as memorable as Cranston’s Emmys makeout session with Best Actress-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Trumbo made a name for himself as a screenwriter, playwright, and author, but he is also remembered as one of the Hollywood Ten who opposed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Refusing to answer questions about his prior involvement with the Communist Party, Trumbo sacrificed a successful career in Hollywood to stand up for his rights and defend political freedom.

Roach’s screenplay for Trumbo is based on the book Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook. Cook’s 1976 biography was largely based on a series of interviews with Trumbo himself, in which Cook admitted he was too “embarrassed” to ask the writer about his Communist Party affiliations.

Dalton Trumbo BookForthcoming in January 2015Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical, builds on Cook’s previous work through extensive research by Trumbo’s son, Christopher, and coauthor Larry Ceplair, primarily through the reams of carefully-worded letters Trumbo wrote throughout his life. Trumbo wrote thousands of letters that served as a journal of sorts, keeping track of the important events and people in his life and the battles he fought.

According to Christopher Trumbo, “That he was writing humorous and graceful letters at the same time as he was handling all that other stuff gave the audience a larger picture of what he was like.”

With regard to all “that other stuff,” Trumbo’s political beliefs continually evolved. He joined (and later left) the Communist Party twice in his life. But, in the anti-Communist boiler that was mid-century Hollywood, Trumbo’s membership in the party told them all they need to know about his politics. In a cover letter that accompanied several dozen boxes of his papers sent to the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in 1962, Trumbo wrote:

I’ve always thought of my life as a series of conflicts, each a separate battle, segregated in my mind under the heading, “My fight with these guys” or “My fight with those guys.” In thinking back I now realize I have regarded each fight as distinct and unrelated to the other, and have sometimes marveled how one man could have so many of them. I now realize it was all one fight; that the relation of each to the other was very close; and I am really no more combative than any other man. It just happened in my case that the original fight once undertaken, expanded marvelously into what seemed like many fights and the most recent in a sequence of fights is actually no more than the current phase of the primary engagement.

The blacklist ended for Trumbo in 1960, when he received screen credits for Exodus and Spartacus. Just before his death, he received a long-delayed Academy Award for The Brave One, and in 1993, he was posthumously given an Academy Award for Roman Holiday (1953).

And as for Bryan Cranston’s faithful display of facial hair for the upcoming biopic?

From the introduction:

He almost always wore a mustache. . . . He periodically changed the shape and style of his mustache, going from a pencil-thin one in the 1930s to one that was bushier, carefully shaped, and, of course, whiter. He was very fastidious about his mustache. “He shaved every morning,” Mitzi [his daughter] said, “and he had a little comb for his mustache. Once, he became annoyed that nobody had noticed a change he had made in his facial hair.”

Dalton Trumbo Writing

Dalton Trumbo writing in his bath tub. Photo by Mitzi Trumbo.

Bryan Cranston Dalton Trumbo Mustache

Bryan Cranston at the 2014 Emmy Awards











See what’s happening for #UPWeek from other #AAUP Member Presses:

  • Princeton University Press on their book Alan Turing: The Enigma and the new, highly-acclaimed movie tie-in starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Georgetown University Press has built an impressive list of espionage titles. You may have noticed quite a few spy thrillers (TurnSleepy HollowThe Assests) on your DVR of late.
  • The University Press of Mississippi highlights their book, Walt Before Mickey. Now a major motion picture opening Thanksgiving weekend.
  • University Press of Wisconsin‘s blog is Ripped from the Headlines! Featuring timely, newsbreaking titles.
  • University of Pennsylvania Press features some of their books that appeal to a general audience. But they’re also trying to find ways to speed up the publishing process and release books that address topical issues as they are happening. University Presses aren’t simply places where dry tomes on minutiae get into print; they are places where all the world’s knowledge finds a voice.