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No Single Person Broke the Hollywood Blacklist

I was deeply disturbed by Jack Valenti’s Feb. 9 letter concerning the Hollywood blacklist. Valenti states that “the blacklist was irretrievably broken by an actor-producer named Kirk Douglas” when my husband Dalton Trumbo’s name appeared on the film “Spartacus.” Valenti proclaims, “Douglas broke the blacklist, forever.” In January 1960, Otto Preminger announced that Trumbo would receive screenplay credit for the film “Exodus.” It wasn’t until August 1960 that Douglas announced my husband’s name also would appear on the credits of “Spartacus.”

While it took men of principle and courage like Preminger and Douglas to at long last defy the Hollywood studios, it is my unwavering conviction that it was primarily the efforts of blacklisted writers themselves that caused the blacklist to be broken. For more than 12 years these men and women continued to write without credit at a fraction of what they had earned before. It was the quality of their work that attracted producers--scripts like “Roman Holiday,” “Bridge Over the River Kwai” and “The Defiant Ones,” which all received pseudonymous Oscars for writing. For more than a decade they brought lawsuits, gave speeches, wrote articles, published pamphlets and pleaded their cause on television and radio. By the time Trumbo’s name appeared on “Spartacus” and “Exodus” the ground had been well prepared by the ceaseless efforts of blacklisted writers.

It goes without saying that no single person can be credited with “breaking” the blacklist.

My husband’s affection and respect for Douglas was great, and there is a body of correspondence that attests to this. However, Valenti’s assertion that one of these letters was tear-stained with gratitude is simply untrue, and misrepresents both my husband’s character and conduct.

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Cleo Trumbo

Los Altos, Calif.

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Michael Cregan (letter, Feb. 10) asked what the Hollywood blacklist controversy would look like if we changed “Communist Party” to “Nazi Party.” Well, what if we did? It would still be a legal entity in the U.S., entitled to stage its offensive marches through Jewish neighborhoods. That is what the U.S. is about. We don’t have to agree with everyone’s harebrained ideas, but we absolutely cannot stop them from expressing those ideas. Outlawing political beliefs with which one doesn’t agree was fine in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, but not here.

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Diane Silver

Lake Los Angeles


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