Film Screening April 18, 2021

Homage to Native Son Dalton Trumbo

Born in neighboring Montrose, CO, Dalton Trumbo grew up in Grand Junction, where he graduated from high school and worked as a cub reporter for the Daily Sentinel.  While attending the University of Colorado, he worked on the Boulder Daily Camera as well as  the campus newspaper, yearbook and newspaper.

After his father died, Trumbo worked  the night shift for 9 years in a  Los Angeles bakery and attended UCLA, then USC.  Never losing his zeal for writing,  he continued to pen movie reviews, short stories and novels,  which were rejected.

He kicked off his professional career in the 1930s contributing to popular magazines the Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s, Vanity Fair and the Hollywood Spectator, where he became managing editor in 1934.    He left the Spectator to become a script reader for Warner Brothers Studios.

His first published novel Eclipse, which focused on the Depression years and relied heavily on his early life in Grand Junction, brought local scorn for the fictional account of life in his hometown and the thinly disguised characters he had known.    Other works, such as Johnny Got His Gun in its depiction of the aftermath of World War I, were no less controversial

Trumbo also wrote award-winning screenplays and became the highest paid scriptwriter in Hollywood in his early years.   He worked on important films like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Kitty Foyle and Our Vines have Tender Grapes in the 1940s.

During the ‘40s. his alleged affiliation with  the Communist Party and isolationist political views, particularly his sympathy for the Russian people over the Nazi invasion, brought him to the attention of anti-Communist writers and the notorious Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI).   Trumbo and other writers who refused to testify before Congress were blacklisted in 1947 and could not work openly in the industry as a result.  He moved his family to Mexico City and cranked out a steady stream of scripts under other names  for B-movie studios, work he didn’t think was particularly good.

While blacklisted, Trumbo did write some top-quality scripts like The Brave One  (1956) and Roman Holiday (1953) both of which won Oscars that were awarded to pseudonymous authors.  Thanks to Otto Preminger, Kirk Douglas and others, the blacklisting collapsed in the 1960s and he was given credit for many of his works including the iconic films Exodus, Spartacus, Papillion, Johnny Got His Gun and Hawaii,  to name a few.

Trumbo married Cleo Fincher in 1938.  Their three children include Nikola (1939), a psychotherapist; Christopher (1940), a screenwriter, filmmaker and expert on the blacklisting era, and  Melissa (1945), a photographer.   Trumbo died of a heart attack in 1976.  Cleo passed in 2009 at age 93.  Christopher died  in 2011; Nikola in 2018.

Brian Cranston won the Best Actor Oscar in 2016 for his portrayal of Dalton in the biographical movie Trumbo (2015). He also won the SAG-AFTRA best actor award, as did the cast for Best Ensemble, and Helen Mirren for Best Female Supporting Actor.

Dalton Trumbo’s legacy in the film industry lives on.

Screening of Roman Holiday

A special screening of Roman Holiday, a romantic comedy directed by William Wyler, will highlight the lighter side of Trumbo’s screenwriting accomplishments. In 1954 he won an Oscar for Best Writing for the movie,  while then newcomer Audrey Hepburn won for Best Actress and Edith Head, for Best Costume Design.

The film is a departure from Trumbo’s typically serious social commentary.    It’s a light-hearted rom com shot in black and white when color was popular for that genre.  Also, the leading lady was a young actress who had not attained her apex of stardom.  Wyler defied convention again and hired the blacklisted Trumbo and Assistant Director Bernard Vorhaus, who also worked under a pseudonym.

’Coincidentally, Trumbo also won for Best Screenplay with co-writer John Dighton, but couldn’t accept it because he was blacklisted.   The award went instead to Ian McLellan Hunter who fronted for him. His credit was reinstated in 2003 when the movie was released on DVD. He  was given full credit in 2011, as was Vorhaus.

The movie also starred Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Other nominations included the categories of best directing, motion picture, cinematography/black and white, art direction, best film editing and screenplay.   It won multiple awards in Great Britain, the Golden Globes, Venice Film Festival. New York Film Critics. Directors’ Guild and others.  It’s been named a Top Ten Film, by the National Board of Review and National Film Registry.

Judged by their peers at the Writers Guild of America, Trumbo, Dighton and even Hunter won Best Written American Comedy. The American Film Institute ranks Roman Holiday at #4  in both its 100 Years…100 Passions as well as its Top Ten romantic comedies. Not bad for a small-town boy!

The film was shot on location and at Cinecitta studios in Rome.

Your Host, Miffie Blozvich

Miffie is uniquely qualified to guide you through an exploration of Dalton Trumbo’s life and undeniable contributions to the film industry.   Her involvement with Trumbo and his family came about in 2005 when she was the Community Relations Manager for Mesa County Public Libraries.

In that position, she coordinated the reprinting of Dalton Trumbo’s first novel, Eclipse as a fundraising effort for the library. That was the catalyst for honoring Trumbo with a sculpture two years later, an Art on the Corner piece that welcomes patrons to the city’s Avalon Theatre on Main Street.

Trumbo in Tub, as we affectionately call the work,  was the springboard to a 13 year-long effort to recognize historically significant leaders in the community through the Legends of the Grand Valley Historic Sculpture Project.  The irony of Trumbo’s much maligned early novel Eclipse sparking such honors would not be lost on its author.

Miffie has been involved in fundraising and non-profit organizations in the Grand Valley for over 25 years. But, serving as Co-Chair for Legends Project has been a highlight of her life, especially getting to know the Trumbo Family. Because of her relationship, Trumbo’s  family is contributing  a  number of limited-edition of family photos to the Hooray for Hollywood online auction.