1947 October 28

Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo Confronts HUAC, Is Blacklisted


Dalton Trumbo, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, confronted the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on this day in public hearings on alleged Communist influence in Hollywood. The hearings began on October 20, 1947, with a series of “friendly” witnesses. The committee then had a series of confrontations with a group of “unfriendly” witnesses who refused to answer the committee’s questions about their political beliefs and associations, which began on October 27, 1947. This group became known as the Hollywood Ten. All were cited for contempt of Congress, convicted, sentenced to prison, and blacklisted by the film industry. See the announcement of the blacklist on December 3, 1947, and the ACLU criticism of the blacklist on December 14, 1947.

The Hollywood Ten hearings are probably the most famous even in the entire history of HUAC, and one of the most famous events in the history of the Cold War.

Contempt of Congress indictments became a heavy weapon against alleged subversives during the Cold War. While it had rarely been used before World War II, HUAC issued 21 contempt citations in 1946, 14 in 1947, and 56 in 1950. All other House Committees in those years issued a total of only 6 contempt citations.

After leaving prison, Trumbo continued to work, using pseudonyms. He won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay on March 27, 1957, under the name of “Robert Rich” for the film The Brave One. He was eventually awarded the Oscar on May 2, 1975. Director Otto Preminger finally broke the blacklist when he publicly announced he had hired Trumbo to do the script for the film Exodus on January 20, 1960.

Watch Trumbo’s HUAC testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFR4RIyekis

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

See the 2015 film: Trumbo (2015)

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

Watch the film, “Trumbo”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Fb1bL67J8&feature=mv_sr

Learn more about the history of HUAC: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/huac

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