Marguerite Roberts; Writer Blackballed in 1950s Red Hunt

Marguerite Roberts, who was forced to abandon a promising screenwriting career when she refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, yet returned to films to write the screen treatment of “True Grit,” has died.

Paul Jarrico, a friend and fellow scenarist, said she had died Feb. 17 in Santa Barbara where she and her husband, novelist John Sanford, had moved after the Red hunt that plagued the film industry. She was 84 and died of atherosclerosis.

Miss Roberts, whose refusal to testify cost her the screen credit for “Ivanhoe,” took the Fifth Amendment when she appeared before the House committee in September, 1951. According to the book “The Inquisition in Hollywood,” she was beseeched by her employer, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, to cooperate, but when she refused, her contract was terminated.


Miss Roberts, who had written such films as “Dragon Seed,” “Ziegfeld Girl” and “Sea of Grass,” had told the committee that she was not a Communist but refused to testify further, citing her constitutional rights.

Jarrico said that after nine years on the blacklist, she was hired by Columbia to write “Diamond Head.” Her later pictures included “Love Has Many Faces,” “5 Card Stud” and “Red Sky at Morning,” in addition to the 1969 adaptation of the novel on which “True Grit” was based. The film won John Wayne his only Academy Award.

Her husband survives, as does a sister.