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Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976)


American screenwriter and novelist, who began his career in Hollywood in the 1930s, and was blacklisted in the 1950s. Dalton Trumbo was one of the so-called Hollywood Ten, prominent scriptwriters and directors, who were arrested for contempt of Congress during the McCarthyist crusade against Communists.

"He worked at night, often in the bathtub, the typewriter in front of him on a tray, a cigarette in his mouth (he smoked six packs a day). On his shoulder perched a parrot I had given him, pecking Dalton's ear while Dalton pecked at the keys." (The Ragman's Son:An Autobiography by Kirk Douglas, Pan Books, 1989, p. 310)

Dalton Trumbo was born in Montrose, Colorado, but the family moved soon to Grand Junction, about 65 miles from Montrose. Later Trumbo referred to his hometown as Shale City in Eclipse (1935) and Johnny Got His Gun (1939). Trumbo's father, Orus Bonham Trumbo, tried different occupations, such as shoe retailer and beekeeper, but without much success.

While still at high school, Trumbo started to contribute to the local newspaper, the Daily Sentinel. He studied at the University of Colorado from 1924 to 1925. When his father died in 1925, Trumbo moved to Los Angeles to support his mother and two little sisters. He worked for nine years on the night shift at the Davis Perfection Bakery. (Quote: "I never considered the working class anything other than something to get out of.")

During this time, he also studied at the University of California and at the University of Southern California and completed a 463-page typescript dedicated to his father. The story had grown out of his experiences in the bakery, where there is "an endless certainty about getting out the bread twenty-four hours a day, so that time does not leap ahead by the week or month, but slips past like a swift calm river." (Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten by Bernard F. Dick, 2009, p. 184)

His first stories and essays Trumbo published in Vanity Fair. In 1932, he began contributing to the Hollywood Spectator, and left the bakery when he was offered the post of managing editor of the magazine. Financially, the paper was not succesful, and Trumbo never received his full salary. Trumbo quit his job in 1934.

As a novelist Trumbo made his debut with Eclipse, a satire in the spirit of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt (1922) about a self-made businessman, John Abbott, in confrontation with provincial culture - thinly veiled real-life persons from Grand Junction. In the same year, he entered the film industry as a reader and a screenwriter at Warner Bros. Trumbo wrote twenty-one screenplays in the next six years, many of them low-budget remakes for the B-picture units at Warner's, Columbia, and RKO. One of the exceptions was adaptation of Christopher Morley's novel Kitty Foyle. This story, about a white-collar girl and her troubled love life, won an Oscar nomination.

Fugitives for Night (1938), set in the world of entertainment industry and adapted from Richard Wormser's screen story, was Trumbo's first RKO film. At the RKO Radio Pictures B-movie unit, where the interest lay on crime subject, "exploitation" films and sentimental romances, Trumbo worked primarily with producer Robert Sisk. In Five Came Back (1939), Trumbo shared credit with  Nathanael West, whose script was unfilmable, and Jerome Cady. 

From an early age, Trumbo was determined to be a novelist. The inspiration for his anti-war story Johnny Got His Gun came when he read an article about a British officer, who was horribly disfigured during World War I. The book won a National Book Award, but had its greatest success in Japan, where it came out before the attack on Pearl Harbour. It was widely discussed among peace groups after the USA declared war on Japan. Trumbo himself was not in fact unhappy, when the work went out of print, on account of its possible use in obscuring the war effort.

Joe, the protagonist, is a soldier of the first World War. His body has been destroyed in a battle on the last day of the war. First he doesn't realize his situation: "He had no legs and no arms and no eyes and no ears and no nose and no mouth and no tongue. What a hell of a dream. It must be a dream. Of course sweet god it's a dream. He'd have to wake up or he'd go to nuts. Nobody could live like that." After becoming aware of the extent of his disfigurement Joe, a living dead man, tries desperately to find a way to communicate with his surroundings. Using the occasional stream of consciousness, Trumbo follows Joe's thoughts, feelings, and memories as he lies helpless in his nightmare.

Johnny Got His Gun remained for long an underground classic. Republished first in 1959, it influenced the emerging generation of Beats, and such protest singers as Bob Dylan. In the 1960s, the Spanish film director Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) planned to make a film adaptation out of it, and co-wrote the script with Trumbo. They had first met during Trumbo's Mexican sojourn. Excited by the opportunity to work with such a world reknowned figure, Trumbo said that Buñuel is the only director he could "implicity trust" with his novel. "I'd do a screenplay, and be his recretary, amd carry his briefcase and do his laundry". (Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, 2015, p. 488) After Buñuel's parrot bit his hand and his lips, he returned to Los Angeles. This production never took off, but Trumbo himself found backing to the adaptation and debuted in 1971 as a director. Although the film, starring Timothy Bottoms, Jason Robards, Diane Varsi, and Donald Sutherland as Jesus Christ, won several awards at Cannes, it did poorly at the box office in the U.S. Noteworthy, the screenplay had only Trumbo's name on it.

In 1938, Trumbo married Cleo Fincher, whom he had been courting since 1936. The couple were introduced by Earl Felton, a Warner Bros. screenwriter. Trumbo bought a 320-acre ranch, named Lazy-T, at Lockwood Valley, some 140 kilometers from Hollywood. Trumbo's first pamphlet Harry Bridges (1941) was a defense of the West Coast labor leader and president of ILWU, the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union. Bridges was facing a deportation to Australia. The Time of the Toad (1949) attacked HUAC and criticized American anti-Communism. The Devil in the Book (1956) was about the conviction of fourteen California Smith Act defendants; the statute made it illegal for advocating the overthrow of any United States government.

During World War II, Trumbo served as a war correspondent with the US Army Air Forces. In Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) Trumbo avoided racist overtones in his script. The film, which had the quality of a documentary, depicted the first American attack on Japan. Spencer Tracy played Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the commander of the bold bombing raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. "A big studio, big scale film, free of artistic pretensions, it is transformed by its not very imaginative but very dogged sincerity into something forceful, simple and thoroughly sympathetic." (James Agee, in Film Writing and Selected Journalism, 2005, p. 153) In 2001, this episode of World War II filled the latter part of the mega-budgeted Pearl Harbor, directed by Michael Bay, starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale. The movie was dismissed by Lou Lumenick as a "third-rate schmaltz that pays only lip service to history." (Pearl Horror - insufferable romance sinks high-priced WWII epic, New York Post, May 25, 2001)

Trumbo joined the Communist Party in 1943. Though his contract with RKO had expired and he had returned to MGM, the studio produced Tender Comrade (1943), a Ginger Rogers film, which her mother Lela Rogers called an example of Red propaganda in 1947. After the war, Trumbo supported a strike organized by the Conference of Studio Unions.

However, from 1948, Trumbo's relationship with the party became more distant, mainly because he did not have time for it. Communism meant for Trumbo freedom and brotherhood, and struggle against fascism, but he did not care much about Marx or Lenin or Stalin. Lela Rogers, Ginger Rogers's mother, reportedly testified that she believed writers Trumbo and Clifford Odets were Communists. Ginger had refused to say a line from a Trumbo's screenplay - "Share and share alike, that's democracy." As a scriptwriter Trumbo was highly successful and well paid, but he was also a campaigner for union rights, the National Chairman of Writers, and member of the HICCASP (Hollywood Independent Citizens' Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions).

In 1947, Trumbo was sentenced to a jail term for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Along with others from the "Hollywood Ten" group of writers and actors (Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Robert Adrian Scott), Trumbo refused to answer the question: "Are you now, or have you ever been, a Communist?" The Ten were charged with contempt and later convicted. Trumbo was fired from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and imprisoned for a year in 1950. In his cell, Trumbo read Tolstoy's 1000-page classic War and Peace.

After his release, Trumbo was blacklisted and unable to find work in the United States. In Gun Crazy (1949), Millard Kaufman had served as a front for Trumbo. The film has enjoyed fame as one of the great B-pictures. Cummins and Dall are two doomed lovers, who owe much to the real-life characters of Bonnie and Clyde. The hero's fascination with guns is an early warning about the role of firearms in American culture.

Trumbo sold his California ranch and moved with his family to Mexico, living with a colony of other blacklistees. He continued writing scripts at cut-rate prices under various pseudonyms, mostly for low-budget films. He also contributed stories to women's magazine under his wife's name. Trumbo's employers included the King Brothers, who produced The Brave One (1956), based on his story 'The Boy and the Bull.' To hide his identity, Trumbo opened a checking account at the United States National Bank on Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, under the names of James and Dorothy Bonham. Banks rewarded clerks for giving information about anyone suspected of being subversive.

Ian McLellan Hunter has said, that Trumbo made the original story for William Wyler's film Roman Holiday (1953), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. "He asked me to front for him," Hunter later said. Hunter was given an Academy Award for the story. "Had it been for the screenplay, I could have convinced myself that I had done most of it." (Witch-Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism's War On Tinseltown by Michael Freedland with Barbra Paskin, 2014) Hunter turned over his fee from Paramount to Trumbo.

Trumbo was a phenomenally fast scriptwriter. He could turn out a full, polished 150-page script in a week. Usually he wrote first the dialogue, and then the shots, description, and action. His story for The Brave One (1956) won an Academy Award, under the alias 'Robert Rich'. Nobody came forwrd to receive the trophy. Trumbo revealed in a television interview in 1959 in Los Angeles that he was the author under the pseudonym. Trumbo's name was seen in the screen credits of Spartacus (1960), about a rebellious slave, and Exodus (1960), both appearances to the embarrassment of the film industry. 

With the help of the director Otto Preminger, Trumbo broke away from the blacklist. He was hired to write the script for Exodus from Leon Uris's bestseller, but he was not the director's first choice: Preminger had turned down Albert Maltz's 400-page script. Everybody in Hollywood knew,  that Trumbo has the capability to produce first quality work at breakneck speed. More scriptwriting credits came from The Last Sunset (1961), Lonely Are The Brave, and The Sandpiper (1965), perhaps better remembered for its song 'The Shadow of Your Smile' than for its famous stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In Hawaii (1966), based on James Michener's bestseller, Trumbo shared the credits with Daniel Taradash. However, he he did not write the script for The Abominable Snowman (1957), though he had outlined an idea for the film, and he had done a great deal of research on the Yeti.

For Spartacus Trumbo was hired through Kirk Douglas, who had always liked his stories. The movie was adapted from Howard Fast's didactic novel. Trumbo considered Fast just as narrow-minded in his Marxist views as the people, who did not tolerate leftist views. The manuscript was passed to Fast as the text of Eddie Lewis, who worked for Douglas for eight years. "This blacklisting is going to collapse because it is rotten, immoral and illegal. I am one day going to be working openly in the motion picture industry. When that day comes, I swear to you that I will never sign a term contract with any major studio. I will, proudly and by preference, do at least one picture a year for King Brothers, and I will try to make it the best picture that I have it in me to do" (from Trumbo's letter to the King Brothers, in The Penguin Book of Hollywood, edited by Christopher Sylvester, 1998, p. 461)

Douglas produced the film; the director Stanley Kubrick did not have absolute control on the set. He later complained: "The script could have been improved in the course of shooting but it wasn't. Kirk was the producer. He and Dalton Trumbo . . . and Edward Lewis, the executive producer, had everything their way." (Stanley Kubrick: A Biography by Vincent LoBrutto, 199, p. 193)

Lonely Are The Brave (1962), based on Edward Abbey's novel from 1956 and starring Kirk Douglas as the last of the cowboy rebels, was made almost "shot-for-shot" from Trumbo's script. Douglas has cited .Lonely Are The Brave as his favorite movie. "Of the seventy-five movies I've acted in, and all the others I've produced, and all the movies I've ever heard of, it's the only time that I know of a writer producing a perfect screenplay: one draft, revisions." (The Ragman's Son:An Autobiography by Kirk Douglas, Pan Books, 1989, p. 338) In 1961 Preminger sent Trumbo a copy of Harold Robbins's novel The Carpetbaggers. He did not like the book and rejected the assignment. 

When the Italian-born film producer Dino De Laurentiis offered Trumbo $150,000 to write a treatment and screenplay based on Mika Waltari's historical novel The Dark Angel, he declined: he had other assignments and no time to travel to Rome and adapt a long novel. Moreover, at that time he was drinking more heavily than usual, he had poor health (Trumbo's diabetes was diagnosed later), and he had a great deal of trouble with his personal finances. "The truth is that I cannot afford to live in Beverly Hills, or in another of the better residential districts in that general area," he wrote in a letter to Eugene Frenke, his business manager. "I can scarcely afford to live in the heavily mortgaged house I have  just barely been able to maintain in Highland Park". (Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, 2015, pp. 442-444) Eventually Trumbo was forced to go to Rome, where he finished a second draft of the screenplay in February 1963. The movie was never made.

The Fixer (1968) was an adaption of Bernard Malamud's Pulizer Prize -winning novel. It tells of a Jew in Tsarist Russia, Yakov Bok, who had been imprisoned. The prosecuting attorney Grusbeshov tries to make Yakov confess to the murder of a child, and that he is the tool of an international Jewish political organization dedicated to revolution. After years of suffering Yakov, becomes the embodiment of human dignity and strength to resist injustice. "I committed no crime, I need no pardon. I want trial. If you try to make me leave here without one, you'll have to shoot me first. You have called me a criminal, now you must try me." (from Trumbo's screenplay) Also Papillon (1973), filmed from Henri-Antoine Charrière's autobiographical bestseller, took place in a prison, this was set on Devil's Island.

In the early 1970s, Trumbo brought onto screen his 1939 antiwar novel Johnny Got His Gun, and the book also was reprinted. The film won the International Critics Award at the Cannes Festival. However, Trumbo's comeback was shadowed by poor health. He died in Beverly Hills on September 10, 1976. His last novel, Night of the Aurochs, written in the form of an autobiography of a Nazi, was left unfinished and prepared for posthumous publication (1979) by Robert Kirsch. The plot was reconstructed  from Trumbo's synopsis and notes; by the time of his death, Trumbo had finished barely a third of the novel.

Trumbo's letters to his children, auto dealers, creditors and others, edited by Helen Manfull, were published under the title Additional Dialogue  (1970). Ishi, the Last of His Tribe (1978), Trumbo's screenplay for television, was completed by his son Christopher. Trumbo left behind a huge amount of unfinished projects and scripts.

For further reading: Dalton Trumbo by B. Cook (1977); The Ragman's Son by Kirk Douglas (1988); Radical Innocence: A Critical Study of the Hollywood Ten by Bernard F. Dick (1989); Writers in Hollywood by I. Hamilton (1990); Johnny Got His Gun: Dalton Trumbo by Mary Ellen Snodgrass (1993); 'Trumbo, Dalton,' in World Authors 1900-1950, vol. 4, ed. by Martin Seymour Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996); Dalton Trumbo, Hollywood Rebel: A Critical Survey and Filmography by Peter Hanson (2000); Spartacus: Film and History, edited by Martin M. Winkler (2007); Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo (2015); Trumbo by Bruce Cook (2015); 'Dalton Trumbo, the blacklist, Steinbeck and Mexico,' in Made in Mexico: Hollywood South of the Border by Luis I. Reyes; foreword by Jorge Rivero; edited by Frank Thompson and Jan Pippins (2019) - Other blacklisted screenwriters in Authors' Calendar: Paul Jarrico, Abraham Polonsky.  

Selected film works:

  • Road Gang, 1936 (screenplay with Abem Finkel and Harold Buckley, dir. by Louis King)
  • Tugboat Princess, 1936 (story, dir. David Selman)
  • Love Begins at 20, 1936 (co-sc. with Tom Reed, based on Martin Flavin's play Broken Dishes, dir. by Frank McDonald, with Hugh Herbert, Patricia Ellis and Warren Hull)
  • That Man's Here Again, 1936 (uncredited, contributor to treatment, dir. Louis King, with Hugh Herbert, Mary Maguire and Tom Brown)
  • Don't Cry, 1937 (uncredited, script polisher, dir. Alfred E. Green , starring Judy GarlandMickey Rooney)
  • Devil's Playground, 1937 (co-sc., dir. by Erle C. Kenton, with Richard Dix, Dolores del Rio and Chester Morris )
  • Fugitives for a Night, 1938 (sc., dir. by Leslie Goodwins, with Frank Albertson, Eleanor Lynn and Allan Lane)
  • Everybody Sing, 1938 (uncredited, contributor to dialogue, dir. Edwin L. Marin, with Allan Jones, Judy Garland and Fanny Brice)
  • Paradise for Three, 1938 (uncredited, based on Erich Kästner's novel, dir. Edward Buzzell, starring Robert Young, Frank Morgan, Mary Astor)
  • A Man to Remember, 1938 (screenplay, based on the novel Failure by Katherine Haviland-Taylor, dir. by Garson Kanin, with Anne Shirley, Edward Ellis and Lee Bowman)
  • Five Came Back, 1939 (with Nathanael West and J. Cody, dir. John Farrow, with Chester Morris, Lucille Ball and Wendy Barrie )
  • Sorotiry House, 1939 (co-sc., dir, John Farrow, with Anne Shirley, James Ellison and Barbara Read)
  • The Flying Irishman, 1939 (co-sc., dir. Leigh Jason, with Douglas Corrigan, Paul Kelly and Robert Armstrong)
  • The Kid from Kokomo / Orphan of the Ring, 1939 (story, dir, Lewis Seiler, with Pat O'Brien, Wayne Morris and Joan Blondell)
  • Career, 1939 (co-sc., dir. Jason Leigh, with Anne Shirley, Edward Ellis and Samuel S. Hinds)
  • Heaven witn a Barbed Fence, 1939 (co-sc., dir. Ricardo Costez, with Jean Rogers, Raymond Walburn and Marjorie Rambeau)
  • Half a Sinner, 1940 (story, dir. Al Christie, with Heather Angel, John 'Dusty' King and Constance Collier)
  • The Lone Wolf Strikes, 1940 (co-sc.,, dir. Sidney Salkow, with Warren William, Eric Blore and Joan Perry)
  • Curtain Call, 1940 (sc,. dir. by Frank Woodruff, with Barbara Read, Alan Mowbray and Helen Vinson)
  • A Bill of Divorcement, 1940 (dir. by John Farrow, remake of the 1932 film, dir. by George Cukor, based on a play by Clemence Dane)
  • We Who Are Young, 1940 (sc., dir. Harold S. Bucquet, starring Lana Turner, John Shelton and Gene Lockhart)
  • Kitty Foyle, 1940 (screenplay with Donald Ogden Stewart, based in the novel by Christopher Morley, dir. by Sam Wood, starring Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan and James Craig)
  • Accent on Love, 1941 (story, dir. Ray McCarey, starring George Montgomery, Osa Massen and J. Carrol Naish)
  • You Belong to Me, 1941 (story, dir. Wesley Ruggles, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda and Edgar Buchanan)
  • The Remarkable Andrew, 1942 (sc., based on Trumbo's novel The Remarkable Andrew, 1940, dir. by Stuart Heisler, starring Brian Donlevy, William Holden, Ellen Drew )
  • I Married a Witch, 1942 (uncredited, dir. René Clair, starring Fredric March, Veronica Lake and Robert Benchley)
  • Tender Comrade, 1943 (sc., dir. by Edward Dmytryk, starring Ginger Rogers, Robert Ryan)
  • A Guy Named Joe, 1944 (co-sc., dir. by Victor Fleming, starring Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne. Original story by David Boehm abnd Chandler Sprague. Remade in 1989 as Always)
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, 1944 (sc, based on the book by Ted W. Lawson, Robert Considine, dir. Mervyn Le Roy, starring Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, Robert Walker)
  • Jealousy, 1945 (story, dir. Gustav Machatý, starring John Loder, Jane Randolph and Karen Morley)
  • Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, 1945 (sc., based on the novel by George Victor Martin, dir. Roy Rowland, starring Edward G. Robinson, Margaret O'Brien)
  • Gun Crazy, 1949 (with MacKinlay Kantor and Millard Kaufman, as front for Trumbo, dir. Joseph H. Lewis, starring John Dall, Peggy Cummins and Berry Kroeger) - "The main drawbacks are the stars themselves, who look more like fugitives from a 4-H Club than from the law... At the risk of being drilled between the eyes by one of these sureshots, we must say that it takes more than a crime and the King Brothers to make sows' ears out of silk purses." (Howard Thompson in the New York Times, August 25, 1950)
  • Emergency Wedding, 1950 (story, dir. Edward Buzzell, starring Larry Parks, Barbara Hale and Willard Parker)
  • The Prowler / The Cost of Living, 1951 (co-scriptwriter Hugo Butler as front for Trumbo, dir. Joseph Losey, starring Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes and John Maxwell )
  • He Ran All the Way, 1951 (co-scripter Hugo Butler as front for Trumbo, dir. John Berry, starring John Garfield, Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford)
  • Carnival Story, 1952 (co-sc., Marcel Klauber as front for Trumbo, dir. Kurt Neumann, starring Anne Baxter, Steve Cochran and Lyle Bettger)
  • Roman Holiday, 1953 (co-sc., originally uncredited, screenplay by Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton, story by Ian McLellan Hunter as front for Trumbo, dir. William Wyler, starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn and Eddie Albert)
  • Rummelplatz der Liebe / Circus of Love, 1954 (co-sc., Marcel Klauber as front for Trumbo, dir. Kurt Neumann, starring Johanna Matz, Scott Brady and Ingrid Stenn)
  • The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, 1955 (uncredited, dir. Otto Preminger, starring Gary Cooper, Charles Bickford and Ralph Bellamy)
  • The Boss, 1956 (story, Ben L. Perry as front for Trumbo, dir. by Byron Haskin, starring John Payne, William Bishop and Gloria McGehee)
  • The Brave One, 1956 (under pseudonym Robert Rich, dir. by Irving Rapper, starring Michel Ray, Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. and Elsa Cárdenas)
  • Citizen Soldier / The Big Attack, 1956 (television film, dir. by George Templeton?)
  • The Brothers Rico, 1957 (uncredited, story by Georges Simenon, dir. Phil Karlson, starring Richard Conte, Dianne Foster and Kathryn Grant)
  • The Deerslayer, 1957 (uncredited, based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper, dir. Kurt Neumann, , starring Lex Barker, Rita Moreno and Forrest Tucker)
  • The Green-Eyed Blonde, 1957 (sc., Sally Stubblefield as front for Trumbo, dir. Bernard Girard, starring Susan Oliver, Linda Plowman and Beverly Long)
  • Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, 1957 (uncredited, dir. John Huston)
  • Cowboy, 1958 (sc., Hugo Butler and Edmund H. North as front for Trumbo, dir. Delmer Daves, starring Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon and Anna Kashfi)
  • Terror in a Texas Town, 1958 (co-sc., Ben L. Perry as front for Trumbo, dir. Joseph H.Lewis, starring Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot and Carol Kelly)
  • Ten Days to Tulara, 1958 (uncredited, dir. George Sherman)
  • Enchanted Island, 1958 (uncredited, dir. Allan Dawn)
  • From the Earth to the Moon, 1958 (uncredited, dir. Byron Haskin, based on a Jules Verne story)
  • The Two-Headed Spy, 1958 (uncredited, dir. Andre de Toth)
  • The Young Philadelphians, 1959 (uncredited, dir. Vincent Sherman)
  • Last Train from Gun Hill, 1959 (uncredited, Les Crutchfield as front for Trumbo, dir. John Sturges, starring Kirk Douglas)
  • Career, 1959 (writer, dir. Joseph Anthony, starring Dean Martin, Anthony Franciosa and Shirley MacLaine)
  • Conspiracy of Hearts, 1960 (Robert Presnell, Jr. as front for Trumbo, dir. by Ralph Thomas; filmed in Italy)
  • Spartacus, 1960 (sc., dir. Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Jean Simmons. The film was one of the top five box-office hits of 1960, and received an Academy Awards for best Cinematography, Supporting Actor (Peter Ustinov), and Art Direction. "... bursting with patriotic fervor, bloody tragedy, a lot of romantic fiddle-faddle and historical inaccuracy. Also, it is pitched about to the level of a lusty schoolboy's taste... Apparently, too many people, too many cooks had their ladles in this stew, and it comes out a romantic mish-mash." (Bosley Crowther in the New York Times, October 7, 1960)
  • Exodus, 1960 (sc., based on Leon Uris's novel Exodus, 1958, dir. Otto Preminger, starring Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Richardson)
  • The Last Sunset, 1961 (sc., based on the novel Showdown at Crazy Horse by Howard Rigsby, dir. Robert Aldrich, starring Rock Hudson, Kirk Dougas, Dorothy Malone)
  • Town without Pity / Stadt ohne mitleid, 1961 (uncredited, dir. Gottfried Reinhardt)
  • Lonely are the Brave, 1962 (sc., based on the novel Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey, 1962, dir. by David Miller, starring Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, Gena Rowlands)
  • The Sandpiper, 1965 (screenplay with Michael Wilson, dir. Vincente Minnelli, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Eva Marie Saint, Charles Bronson)
  • The Cavern / Sette contro la morte, 1965 (uncredited, written by Michael Pertwee, Dalton Trumbo, Jack Davies, dir. Edgar G. Ulmer and Paolo Bianchini, starring Rosanna Schiaffino, John Saxon, Brian Aherne, Larry Hagman, Nino Castelnuovo)
  • Silahar patlayinca, 1966 (uncredited, screenplay: The Last Sunset, dir. Orhan Elmas, starring Selda Alkor, Tanju Gürsu and Hayati Hamzaoglu)
  • Hawaii, 1966 (co-sc., based on James Michener´s novel Hawaii, 1959, dir. George Roy Hill, starring Max von Sydow, Julie Andrews, Richard Harris, Jocelyn La Garde)
  • The Fixer, 1968 (sc., based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, dir. John Frankenheimer, starring Alan Bates, Dirk Bogarde) - "I think Dalton Trumbo's screenplay is a masterpiece. If I had messed up that screenplay, I should have been shot, it is such a beautiful work." (John Frankenheimer in The Cinema of John Frankenheimer by Gerald Pratley, 1969)
  • Johnny Got His Gun, 1971 (sc., also dir., starring Timothy Bottoms, Jason Robards Jnr, Marsha Hunt, Craig Bovia, Don 'Red' Barry)
  • The Horsemen, 1971 (sc., based on the novel by Joseph Kessel, dir. John Frankenheimer, starring Omar Sharif, Jack Palance, Leigh Taylor-Young, Jack Palance)
  • F.T.A, 1972 (excerpt from Johnny Got His Gun, dir. Francine Parker, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Pamela Donegan)
  • The Way We Were, 1973 (additional writer, uncredited, dir, Sidney Pollack, starring Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford and Bradford Dillman)
  • Executive Action, 1973 (sc., dir. David Miller, starring Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Will Geer )
  • Papillon, 1973 (screenplay with Lorenzo Semple Jnr, based on Henri-Antoine Charriére's novel Papillon, 1969, dir. by Franklin Schaffner, starring Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen) - "So solemn one would think it the story of a pope at the very least." (New Yorker, 1980)
  • Ishi, the Last of His Tribe, 1978 (TV movie, co-sc., screenplay finished by Christopher Trumbo, dir. Robert Ellis Miller, starring Dennis Weaver, Eloy Casados and Devon Ericson)
  • Roman Holiday, 1987 (TV movir, story under the name Ian McLellan Hunter, dir. Noel Nosseck, with Catherine Oxenberg, Tom Conti and Ed Begley Jr.)
  • Always, 1989 (co-sc., from 'A Guy Named Joe', dir. Steven Spielberg, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and Brad Johnson
  • Johnny Got His Gun, 2008 (sc., adapted by Bradley Rand Smith, dir. Rowan Joseph, starring Matty Ferraro, Rowan Joseph and Meredith Kendall)

Novels, plays, and essays:

  • Eclipse, 1935 (novel)
  • Washington Jitters, 1936 (novel)
  • Johnny Got His Gun, 1939 (novel) - Sotilaspoika (suom. Pentti Saarikoski, 1973)
  • The Remarkable Andrew, Being the Chronicle of a Literal Man, 1941
  • The Biggest Thief in Town, 1949 (play)
  • The Time Out of the Toad, 1972 (essays)
  • Night of the Aurochs, 1979 (novel, unfinished, edited by R. Kirsch)
  • Eclipse, 2018 (Echo Point Books & Media; Reprint ed. edition)


  • Harry Bridges, 1941 (pamphlet)
  • The Time of the Toad, 1949 (pamphlet)
  • The Devil in the Book, 1956 (pamphlet)
  • Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942–62, 1942-62, 1970 (edited by H. Manfull)

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