Dalton Trumbo

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Trumbo and his wife Cleo at a HUAC hearing (1947)

James Dalton Trumbo (born December 9, 1905 in Montrose , Colorado , † September 10, 1976 in Los Angeles , California ) was an American screenwriter and novelist.

Trumbo was part of the Hollywood Ten who refused to testify before the Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, citing the first amendment to the US Constitution , and received fines and imprisonment. He spent eleven months in prison and was blacklisted so that he had to work under pseudonyms for years . Two of the works he created in this way were awarded an Oscar , but his authorship was not officially recognized until much later.


In 1908 the Trumbo family moved to Grand Junction, Colorado , where Dalton grew up until he went to the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1924 . The following year, Trumbo's family moved to Los Angeles after Orus' father lost his job as a shoe seller . Dalton's father fell ill shortly afterwards and died of anemia in 1926 . Dalton, who had started writing at university, gave up his studies to help his mother and two sisters financially with a job in a bakery in Los Angeles.

Dalton Trumbo continued to write. In the early 1930s he managed to publish a few short stories and essays, and in 1935 his first book, Eclipse , appeared . The 1939 published anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun ( Johnny Got His Gun ) was a prize, the forerunner of the National Book Award , excellent. He had started to work for the film industry and in 1935 received an employment contract as a screenwriter with Warner Brothers . Trumbo was soon a sought-after writer in Hollywood , even though Warner fired him after joining the Screen Writers Guild , the predecessor organization of the Writers Guild of America . So based Miss Kitty (1940), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) and The Yearling (1945) in his work; for Fräulein Kitty he was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Script Based on Literature.

When Trumbo, who joined the Communist Party in 1943 , was summoned to appear before the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1947 , he, as an unfriendly witness, refused to testify, citing the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America . Convicted of disobeying Congress , he spent eleven months in prison and was blacklisted in Hollywood . After his imprisonment he moved with his family - he had married Cleo Fincher in 1938, the children Nikola, Christopher and Melissa ("Mitzi") were born in 1939, 1940 and 1945 - for two years to Mexico and wrote under a pseudonym for years. Both Roman Holiday ( A Heart and a Crown ; starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck ) and The Brave One ( Red Dust ) were in the Best Story category - at that point there were individual script categories , not just today's for Best Screenplay  - Awarded an Oscar. The Oscar for Red Dust was presented to him in 1975, a year before his death; in A Heart and a Crown , the original Oscar award to Ian McLellan Hunter was subsequently changed to Trumbo in 1992 .

In Kubrick's Spartacus and Preminger's Exodus from 1960 for the first time his own name reappeared in the opening credits .

Johnny goes to war , filmed by Trumbo himself, was only included inthe official Cannes programin 1971 with the intervention of Jean Renoir , Luis Buñuel and Otto Preminger and received the Grand Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize of the FIPRESCI film critics .

Trumbo died of a heart attack in 1976 at the age of 70 .

In 2015 his life was filmed for the cinema by Jay Roach with Bryan Cranston in the leading role under the title Trumbo .


Films (selection)



  • 1939: National Book Award for Johnny Got His Gun .
  • 1954: The Oscar for the best story for Roman Holiday ( A Heart and a Crown ) originally given to Ian McLellan Hunter alone - only changed to Trumbo / McLellan in 1992.
  • 1957: Oscar for best story for The Brave One ( Red Dust ); as "Robert Rich" - it was not until May 1975, a year before his death, that Trumbo was presented with this Oscar.
  • 1970: Writers Guild of America Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • 1971: Grand Jury Prize and FIPRESCI International Film Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Johnny goes to war .


  • Bruce Cook: Dalton Trumbo . Scribner, New York 1977, ISBN 0-684-14750-5 .
  • Peter Hanson: Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood Rebel. A Critical Survey and Filmography. McFarland, Jefferson NC 2001, ISBN 0-7864-0872-3 .
  • Giuliana Muscio: Witch Hunt in Hollywood. The time of the black lists . New Critique Publishing House, Frankfurt a. Main 1982, ISBN 3-8015-0174-4

Web links

Commons : Dalton Trumbo  - collection of images, videos and audio files