The Writers Guild of America West has given the late blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo screenplay credit for the 1953 film “Roman Holiday.”
The WGA West made the announcement Monday, disclosing that Trumbo had been given first-position screenplay credit with Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton. Trumbo also received “story by” credit.
The blacklist grew out of the refusal by writers, directors, actors, producers and others to testify during the 1940s and 1950s before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about whether they were communists and whom they knew in Hollywood who was a Communist.
In 1986, the WGA began to revise the writing credits on films written by blacklisted writers. It announced in 2000 that it had corrected the credits for seven films written by Trumbo including “Terror in a Texas Town,” “The Boss,” “The Green-Eyed Blonde,” “He Ran All the Way,” “The Brave One,” “Cowboy” and “The Prowler.”
Trumbo, who died in 1976, had used fronts on four of those movies, and his name was omitted from the others. The guild said at that point in 2000 that it had revised the credits on a total of 95 films.
The WGA said Monday that it had given Trumbo the “Roman Holiday” credit as a result of efforts by Trumbo’s son Christopher and Hunter’s son Tim. Their fathers were both blacklisted in the 1950s by HUAC as communist sympathizers and first became friends in Mexico, where their parents were fugitives from HUAC.
Before Ian McLellan Hunter was blacklisted, he volunteered to act as Dalton Trumbo’s “front” writer, accepting studio payments for “Roman Holiday” and other films and then secretly passing those monies to Trumbo.
The WGA said that when Chris Trumbo grew increasingly ill in 2010, the two friends approached the guild and proposed that the screenplay credit for “Roman Holiday” be changed to reflect that their respective families believed that the initial script was by Dalton Trumbo.
The WGA West investigated, and its board subsequently voted to revise the “Roman Holiday” screenplay credit. (Christopher Trumbo died in January of this year.)
“It is not in our power to erase the mistakes or the suffering of the past,” said WGA West president Chris Keyser. “But we can make amends, we can pledge not to fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor, even if that pledge is really only a hope. And, in the end, we can give credit where credit is due.”
“In acknowledging the contributions of Dalton Trumbo, Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton to the writing of ‘Roman Holiday,’ the WGA has not undone the hurt, but it has, at last and at least, told the truth,” Keyser said. “That fact is a tribute to the friendship of two fathers and then two sons and to a thing we can hold on to, which is that the friendship was stronger than and outlived the hate.”
The 1991 action by the WGA — which is the ultimate arbiter of screenplay credits – to give Trumbo “story credit” came a year before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences revised the winner of the “motion picture story” Oscar for “Roman Holiday,” which had been given to Ian McLellan Hunter.
In 1992, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted to change the records and award Trumbo with that Oscar, removing Hunter’s name with the Oscar presented posthumously to Trumbo’s widow in 1993. Hunter and Dighton also received an Oscar screenplay nomination for the script.