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Dalton got his gold

April 6, 2012

A radiant early spring morning to you.  We’re supposed to have somewhat sunny skies and

temperatures from 10 to 15 C. (50 to 60 F.) here this weekend.  I hope everyone celebrating

Easter and Passover finds extra significance in this rebirth of hope.  Jude and I plan to honour

the holidays by planting blueberry bushes.


Last weekend we watched Spartacus.  I had never seen it and Jude hadn’t for a long time.

This is the film that Stanley Kubrick made his bones with.  I tried with some sincerity to see

why it’s considered a classic.  It had well-choreographed battle scenes, Noble Messages and

a cast more populous than Mumbai.


But it also had some unfortunate miscasting, woeful acting and klutzy dialogue.  One of the

major male leads had a voice similar to Motel-6-shill Tom Bodett’s.  The guy who trained

Sparty to be a gladiator looked and sounded like Red Green.  Some of the Roman names

were almost as silly as “Biggus Dickus” from The Life of Brian.  The film’s money shot — the

I’m Spartacus!” scene — held no mojo for me because I’d first seen it in a Pepsi commercial.


What did impress me, though, was that the creator of the sometimes klunky screenplay was

Dalton Trumbo, the author of Johnnie Got His Gun, the brilliant anti-war novel.  At the time

of the film’s release, 1960, Trumbo was a member of the Hollywood Ten, a group of directors

and writers who had been blacklisted for their involvement in the Communist Party USA.


The Ten had been called before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947

to answer questions about the influence of communism in the film industry. They all refused

to cooperate and were sentenced to prison.  Trumbo served 11 months.


Banned from working in Hollywood, he moved to Mexico after serving his time.  He wrote

30 film scripts there under pseudonyms.  The Red Scare continued to flourish in the states,

brought to a peak in 1950 when U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy claimed he had the names of

Communists and Soviet spies entrenched in the federal government.


McCarthy craftily exploited post-war paranoia, but never proved his assertions.  After

four years of his demagogery, his power on the Hill began to wane.  In December, 1954,

the Senate voted to censure him for his antics.  The vote was 67 to 22.  One senator not

voting was John F. Kennedy, who was in the hospital for back surgery.


McCarthyism started to decline.  Trumbo won an Oscar in 1956 for The Brave One, but it

was under the nom de plume Robert Rich.  It wasn’t until 1975 that the Academy officially

recognized him.


In 1960, Trumbo got credit for writing the screenplay for Exodus, at the behest of director

Otto Preminger.  Then Kirk Douglas acknowledged that Trumbo had written Spartacus.

Newly-elected President Kennedy crossed an anti-communist picket line to attend the film.

These events marked the beginning of the end for the Hollywood blacklisting.


Trumbo directed the screen version of Johnny Got His Gun in 1971.  Portions of it were used

in a Metallica video in 1989. He died of a heart attack in 1976 and donated his body to science.


He received his final accolade in 1993 when the Academy posthumously awarded him an

Oscar for writing Roman Holiday, which had been released 40 years earlier.  The screen

credit and award had originally gone to Ian McClellan Hunter, who had fronted for Trumbo.

  1. April 6, 2012 7:43 pm

    Edward R. Murrow had a bit to do with mccarthy’s downfall too

    • April 7, 2012 9:52 am

      Absolutely he did, and the film Good Night, and Good Luck is a solid recounting of it. That dark stretch of U.S. history is fascinating.

  2. April 6, 2012 7:45 pm

    did you change your blog or what.. i never had to sign in thru facebook or wordblog or whatever before. it is a pita to have to do that and that is the way it is now on 3 or 4 other blogs too. wtf?

    • April 7, 2012 9:59 am

      Kirsten, I really wish I knew “wtf?” I’ll try to get an explanation. WordPress makes changes without notification. I prefer to post in boldface, but several times lately (like yesterday) it chose to change it back to regular font. Please hang in there. I appreciate you checking in.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    April 7, 2012 7:36 pm

    I’ve been having similar problems leaving comments on WordPress blogs and agree with Kirsten, it really is a pain in the derriere. Because, as I’ve bitched on K-Lo’s blog, even when you put in the info it asks for, unless you’re signing in through a WordPress account the blog doesn’t accept your comment.

    Blueberries! Mm! I’ve begun a morning ritual of fruit smoothies and when they include frozen blueberries they are not only delicious but gorgeous.

  4. April 7, 2012 7:40 pm

    And then it puts the comment through without letting me sign my name! Pfft.
    It’s Kate in Saskatchewan.

  5. April 8, 2012 11:02 am

    Kirsten, Anonymous, Kate and anyone else having problems accessing the blog: I have asked WordPress “wtf?” in a polite way about this situation. I will share any information I get back at the bottom of my newest post, whenever that may be. Please don’t give up trying.

    Anonymous: fruit smoothies are a big part of our diet, and let us not forget blueberry margaritas.

  6. beth reed permalink
    April 8, 2012 8:25 pm

    I put in another one of my email addresses and it worked when I posted at kathy’s blog so maybe it will work herer. I cannot for some reason access my own blog to sign in so maybe I can do it this way.
    Last year I read a book written by the daughter oof a man that was sent before the house of the unamerican. It was called In my mothers house or something like that and I found it interesting. I really enjoyed this post and hope to learn more. Thank you for all the research you do.
    Mike Wallace died yesterday. I hope you do a peice on him as well. I really loved that guy.

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