1957 March 27

And the Oscar Goes to . . . A Blacklisted Screenwriter- Dalton Trumbo


“Robert Rich” won the Academy Award for Best Original Story for the 1956 film, The Brave One. At the Oscars ceremony, however, no “Mr. Rich” appeared to accept the award. “Rich” was the pseudonym for Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted because of his political views and his refusal to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), on October 28, 1947. Trumbo was one of ten witnesses in October 1947, who became known ast the “Hollywood Ten” for refusing to answer HUAC’s questions about the political associations. All ten were convicted of contempt of congress, sentenced to prison, and then blacklisted.

While blacklisted, Trumbo wrote a number of screenplays anonymously or under pseudonyms, for which he was paid a fraction of what he had previously made during his successful screenwriting career.

The major Hollywood studios imposed a blacklist on anyone who was a member of the Communist Party or who refused to answer questions to a legislative investigating committee on December 3, 1947.

On May 2, 1975, the Academy officially recognized Trumbo as the screenwriter and presented him with the Oscar statuette. Director Otto Preminger helped break the blacklist when he publicly announced he was hiring Trumbo to write the script for the film Exodus on January 20, 1960.

The entire “Robert Rich episode was a comic opera that a gifted screenwriter might have dreamed up. When “Rich” did not appear, Jesse Lasky, Jr. of the Motion Picture Academy stepped forward to take the Oskar and explain that Mr. “Rich” was at his wife’s bedside at a hospital. The next day, telephone lines all over Hollywood were buzzing over the mystery. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper said, “Who the hell is Robert Rich and why are we giving him an Oscar?” Some writers, with their tongues deep in their cheeks, later described the search for the mysterious writer as a “Rich hunt.”

Read about the episode: Peter Brown and Jim Pinkston, Oscar Dearest (Ch. 12, “Little Red Oscar”) (1987)

Watch an Excerpt From the Film With the Opening Credits:

Learn more about Trumbo’s life and career: Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical (2015)

Learn more: Michael Freedland, with Barbara Paskin, Witch-Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism’s War on Tinseltown (2009)

Read about The Brave One on Internet Movie Data Base:

See Dalton Trumbo’s HUAC Testimony http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFR4RIyekis

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