Subverting the Hollywood Blacklist: Kirk Douglas’s Modest Contribution | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Subverting the Hollywood Blacklist: Kirk Douglas’s Modest Contribution

Douglas recalled the chilling effect of the Cold War as it iced writers and actors in a 2015 interview. His co-star in Detective Story (1951), Lee Grant, was refused work for twelve years after refusing “to testify against her husband before the House Un-American Activities Committee.”

The case of Dalton Trumbo’s ostracising was one that particularly exercised Douglas. HUAC had eyed him as a notable enough threat (he had been a member of the Communist Party in the 1940s) to require scrubbing from the industry. He went into pseudonymous territory, scripting Roman Holiday and The Brave One, winning an Oscar for the latter under the name Robert Rich. Along with nine other writers and directors, he made up the Hollywood Ten, jailed for contempt of Congress in 1950 for refusing to collude in the collective hysteria of political cleansing.

When the time came for the release of Spartacus, Douglas, having assumed the role of both protagonist of the film and its direction, insisted that Trumbo’s name appear in the credits. The act was both testament to the exaggerated quality of protest inherent in film, and the strength of illusions in the Dream Factory. The masquerade,” concluded Douglas, “was over.” Despite being told that placing Trumbo in prime position on the credits would terminate his career, “the blacklist was broken.”

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