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Arts & Culture

American Masters: Trumbo

Photo of Dalton Trumbo smoking a cigarette taken in 1971.
American Masters
Photo of Dalton Trumbo smoking a cigarette taken in 1971.

Airs Wednesday, September 2 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

With credits for Kitty Foyle and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo to his name — and the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun — the young Dalton Trumbo was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid writers. Refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947, he was part of the group known as the Hollywood Ten; convicted for contempt, he spent 11 months in federal prison and lost all rights to ply his craft. Writing 30 scripts under pseudonyms — he won an Oscar in 1956 for The Brave One as Robert Reich — he was not recognized again publicly until 1960, when Otto Preminger credited him on Exodus and Kirk Douglas did so on Spartacus — actions considered to mark the end of the blacklist. As late as 1993, Trumbo was awarded a posthumous Academy Award for Roman Holiday (1953). This program is adapted from his son Christopher’s 2003 play and based on the remarkable letters Trumbo wrote during the devastation wrought by the “Red Scare” in mid-20th century.

Watch a preview, scenes from the film and the outtakes.

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