Dalton Trumbo biography
Famed author and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was born on December 9, 1905, in Montrose, Colorado. Trumbo joined nine colleagues in refusing to testify before Congress regarding their Communist ties. The "Hollywood Ten" were blacklisted from 1947 until the early '60s. Trumbo died of a heart attack on September 10, 1976, in Los Angeles, California.
James Dalton Trumbo was born in Montrose, Colorado, on December 9, 1905. Trumbo worked as a cub reporter while attending Grand Junction High School. He continued his journalistic pursuits during his college years at the University of Colorado. He left Colorado and settled in Los Angeles following his father's death.
Career and Family Life
Trumbo began writing professionally in the early 1930s, publishing several articles and stories in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Vanity Fair and the Hollywood Spectator. In 1934, he was named managing editor of the Hollywood Spectator—though he left this position after a short time to work as a reader in the story department at Warner Bros.
By the late 1930s, Trumbo was one of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters. His credits from this period include Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Kitty Foyle and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes. He earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on Kitty Foyle. Trumbo wrote novels in addition to screenplays. His first novel, Eclipse, was published in 1935. His most famous work was the 1939 anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun, which won a National Book Award.
Also in 1939, Trumbo married Cleo Fincher. The couple went on to have three children: a son named Christopher, who went on to become a filmmaker and screenwriter, and daughters Melissa and Nikola.
Communism and Blacklist
Trumbo was an official member of the Communist Party from 1943 until 1948. This political stance—shared by many intellectuals and artists at the time—led him to take some unpopular positions and nearly destroyed his career. He first received FBI attention after contacting the agency about some letters he had received from Nazi sympathizers who were fans of Johnny Got His Gun. Instead of investigating the fans, the FBI began to investigate Trumbo.
In October 1947, Trumbo was among a group of 10 Hollywood directors and writers called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). The committee was investigating whether Communist sympathizers had propagandized American audiences. Trumbo and the other nine individuals summoned all refused to testify. As a consequence, the "Hollywood Ten" were convicted of contempt of Congress, imprisoned for a short period and blacklisted by the heads of the major studios.
Unable to find work in California, Trumbo moved his family to Mexico City. There, he continued to write screenplays under pseudonyms. Over time, the blacklist began to weaken. In 1960, Trumbo received credit for the screenplay adaptation of Exodus.
Kirk Douglas publicly announced that Trumbo had written the screenplay for Spartacus, in which Douglas starred. This revelation hastened the end of the blacklist. Trumbo was readmitted to the Writers Guild and properly credited for all subsequent scripts.
Trumbo won two Academy Awards, though he only received one of these during his lifetime. In 1956, he won his first award for The Brave One, written under the name Robert Rich. Trumbo was formally recognized as Robert Rich in 1975.
In 1993, Trumbo posthumously received a second Oscar for the Roman Holiday screenplay.
Death and Legacy
Dalton Trumbo died of a heart attack on September 10, 1976, in Los Angeles, California. He donated his body to science.
In 2003, Christopher Trumbo mounted a Broadway play based on his father's letters called Trumbo: Red, White and Blacklisted. In September 2013, media outlets announced the production of a Trumbo biopic starring the actor Bryan Cranston.