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White Knight of the blacklist, in shades of gray
by RSBERT KrksCH
Sa[tem
ner

Trumk

by- Bruce"

Cook (Scrib-

s

$12.5q ilustrated)

frumbo, one of the lloliywood i0 and a longl.hue target of the blacklist, with its Laurel Award on March 13, 1ffi0. Tru:abo knew this was a drau:alic opportunity and he addressed the morai issue directly: ", . . Ttre blacklist was a
side came through untouched by evil" Caught in a situation that had eassed beyond ttie control of rnere indtviduals, each person reaeted as tris natttre, his rreeds, his couvictions and his particu-

f

ffi n an emotional and symbolie gesture, E the Writers Guild bonored Dalton

time of evil, and no one on either
who survived

i[

lar 'circumstances compelled him ts.

Eslton Trumbo
'

There was bad faith and gmd, hmestY and dishonesty, courage and cowardice,
selfk&negs and opportunisro, wisdom and stupidity, g00d and bad on both sides; and aksost eyery individual involved, n0 matter where he stmd, combined some ur all of these antitbetical qualities in his own person, io his own ac[s." Itre weut on: "1Vhen you who are in your {0s or younger look back with euriosity on that fuk time, as I think oecasionally you should, it will do no good to search for villains or heroes sr saints or devjls becaum t.bae were none; there f,rere only victlms." There srere tlose, some old friends,

x&o had been among the Hollywood 10, who ohi#ed, felt [hat, he had sold out his principles or at least altered them {or a $ew era. Albert Mattz, in particular, rpoke out when he felt it migbt ffiear that T}umho nnrght, be thotght to the Holiywood 10. The &frrispeak m$tious mrre$omdence between T?.lmb0 enCI Ualtu led ts r break betwffitl the
solne

ts

two.

Yet,

but not uncntical biryaphy, the

h reflding Bruce
b

Cook's admiring

kurel

Awud Seech ces be smn
tant clue

Dalton Trumfo, lefr, and John Howard

Lw*,so,re

lesve ffelv York

f*r

prisaw.

as an importhe guqvth and naluratiom of Pbwe Turn to Poge

I

0onliftusd tr*m Firsf PsW
Tmmbo. Ele was a eomplex and unpredie * table tti&il, an explosryfi'personality only partiaily kept in eomtrol hy a powerful wiil. At the eore sf Ilumlrc s'a$ & quality which made the either,ror, good B"uys&ad tr;y$ simptieities hard to take. Some of this ambivalence heiped his pictures. He isa^s a SCIod smee$wnter, probably eonsidered greater than he was beeause of hls legendary oulprit, during the biackfust and because of his reputation as a charaeter, a man CIf wit and intelligence" lle worked hard fcr his money; he was tr-rrof c s s i onal " Ili.r *c lor Frank I i n Sch affner, ri hc wr:rked with hirn *n "Fapillon," said Trumbo "tsok every l*nd of positive and negatii,e eritirism," fouid be ruthkssl3, eri[ical of his own work**objeetive, and not a salvatiouist of his own riialngue," Though aiready sick with tl'ie lung cerlcer whieh would kill hirn, he kept working. Once, in the garag* nf his rloctor's office, lie met Larry Parks whil, under great pressure, had conperated witl: the House lin-Ameriean Aciivitles er:mmittee,
Parks too was
tJtr.

aeffs ltim a "eharapion" in the sense of the mrord ftflailer uses "Charnpions are prodi" gies of t&e wilL"

Trumbo was tough, independent, Fersistenl FIe wanted to be a novelist, wrote four novels, of whieh only one-"JohnRy
Got His Gun"*won some recogniiion. He went int,o screenwriting as a temporary egpedient, t"hough he never looked down on it the way some of his eontemporaries did, i{e saw it as eraftsman's work, not to
be despised"

Colorado popr*ist" When the cmnch it was nnevitable that he wcluld re* fuse to a"m$wer questions, to inforrn on his friends. trt, secms just as obvions that, iJ there had been no Cold War, no UR" Amenican Aclivitics Cornmittee, he would have heen as criticai of lhe Ccmmunist Party and flhe Soviet Llnion as he was of
camen

He became a Cornmunist to e:ryress some of the social cr:nseience he had as a

anel, of eourse, he was eubits higher tban J. Pmnell Thomas, the chairman of the Itrouse Un-American Activities Committee, who went to jail soon after the Hollywood l0 for payroll padding. Tmmbo esuld be ditficult and vitriolie" He was weli aware of a darker side to hintself. {One unfuished fioy" el Cook describes is a fictional autobiography of a Nad who starts out as an ideaiist and ends up on the staff at Auschwilz.) He wanted to master his own clemon Cook believes that he did in the Laurel Awud $peech, that he rose above vengeance and banalities t, the kind of heroism whicb belorys iu life rather theq ri,irlxs alone.

hetter man than his aecusers

-

'Prurnb,o said, putLing out his i:and. Parks shry:k il slowly, "FIelio, Dalton. You louk the s&mr, only oldflr.", ?rumbo: "We'tre both a trot ulder fre,w-" In the car, Trulmbc tolqi his wrfe illco: 'I couJd n0 rnsre have turned my back cn Larry Parks than I couid on t;srne of the men i went to pr:lson witli." ?here is somelhrng movie-llke about the ir:ridefit, a toueh of ernotron, a Louch of tluih, a bittersweet ending. That quality p*rvades this biograpiay. I don'r suggest that rt is fictionatr: ralher that T?umbo's iife and even his talent are in son:e way exempiary, an &mencan story. Cook

"llello, {.fiIty,"

?rumbo'g radrcaiism was rnarally in achievement, a keea eompefitor, imbued witlr fdth ifi the work ethic. He felt he had to bCI a
ha"qe& ffie was a believer

vla$ nrlver a conformist, did not have the zeal of l,he True Eelieyer" The key tCI his laurel Award statenent is in a leter he wrote to Maltz: "0ur primlery ainn wa.s to avoid becoming inforllrtr$" T'o defend and justify our refusals w* used tjre Constitutlon as a shield" We needed that shield so we fought for it" Our cCInduet rvas not quite as bold, noble ,mnd inlrepid as it would have been had we yoluntarlly leaped t0 defense ol the ffpnstitutiom without, regard of the blood we might }ose . . . It is quite enough that w* aequitted ourseives honorably on the rigtrt side of n good fight . " . But our hehavior was not, by definition, heroie " , *"

tI:* hiacklist" IIe