Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical

Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo. Univ. Press of Kentucky, $40 (688p) ISBN 978-0-8131-4680-5
One of the famous “Hollywood 10” blacklisted for an affiliation with the Communist Party, Trumbo (1905–1976) emerges from this well-rounded biography as a larger-than-life figure, not unlike the characters he scripted for the screen. Finishing a draft that was started but left incomplete by Trumbo’s son Christopher, who died in 2011, Ceplair (The Marxist and the Movies) begins with Trumbo’s early years as a movie reviewer for the Hollywood Spectator and a reader of scripts and books for Warner Brothers. By 1939, when his critically acclaimed anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun was published, Trumbo had been recognized as one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters. Excerpts of his letters, notes, articles, speeches, and pamphlets throughout the book amply testify to his boundless energy and talent. Anti-Communist fervor led to Trumbo’s imprisonment in 1950 for contempt of Congress and an official absence from the screen for the next decade. But, as detailed in the book’s most fascinating sections, he still managed to win over 60 screen assignments between 1954 and 1960, two of which, Roman Holiday and The Brave One, won Academy Awards. Ceplair resists other writers’ tendencies to either lionize Trumbo as a martyr or criticize him as a hypocrite, finally humanizing a celebrity often reduced to a one-dimensional icon of his era. 75 b&w photos. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 01/16/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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