The 1950s Blacklist era of Hollywood has always been a shameful blot on American and cinematic history with dozens of citizens being called before a Congressional committee to answer questions pertaining to even the slightest affiliation to any organization its rabid members may have considered communistic. Several in the movie business refused to answer these questions and as such either faced prison time or found that they could no longer publicly work in the Hollywood studio system, studio executives too afraid of the bully power of Congress to let them work.
One such talent was screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and after he refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee, he was imprisoned and upon his release, found that he could not openly be credited for his work. Instead, he submitted screenplays through a “front,” who would take the credit for the work. Over the years, he has retroactively had his name restored to many of the films he wrote while in Blacklist exile. In 1975, he was awarded the Academy Award that his 1956 script The Brave One earned for Best Original Screenplay and in 1993 he was posthumously awarded a second Oscar for writing 1953’s Roman Holiday.
However, despite the awarding of the Academy Award for Roman Holiday in 1993, it took until just recently for the Writers Guild of America, West to finally recognize and restore Trumbo’s credit to the film.
The Guild made the announcement in the latest issue of their Written By magazine.
After being Blacklisted by HUAC, Dalton moved to Mexico to continue writing. His friend and fellow screenwriter Ian McClellan Hunter volunteered to be Dalton’s front and submit screenplays to the studios for him. One such script was for the romantic comedy Roman Holiday, which introduced the world to Audrey Hepburn. But when it came time to share in the glory of winning an Oscar for the film, Trumbo could not publicly receive any accolades.
(It wouldn’t be until 1960 when Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas would publicly give Trumbo credit for writing the epics Exodus and Spartacus that the power of the Blacklist would first be challenged and ultimately swept away.)
The process to get the Writers Guild to acknowledge Trumbo’s work started in 2010 when his son Christopher joined with Hunter’s son Tim petitioned the Guild to set the record straight. The guild responded with an investigation which ultimately lead to the change in credits. The film’s writing credits now officially read “Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton, Story by Dalton Trumbo.”
It does appear that the Writers Guild publication is mum on the subject as to why the Guild made no apparent moves to restore Trumbo’s credit to Roman Holiday in between the time that the Academy awarded him the Oscar in 1993 and when his son Christopher approached them in 2010. But their feet dragging aside, it is nice to see that the record has finally been set straight.