August 11th, 2009
Dalton Trumbo

Watch a preview:

Airs Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 8pm EST on PBS

Adapted from his son Christopher’s 2003 play and based on the remarkable letters Dalton Trumbo wrote during the devastation wrought by the ‘Red Scare’ in mid-20th century. With credits for Kitty Foyle and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo to his name – and the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun – the young Trumbo was one of the highest paid Hollywood writers. Refusing to testify before HUAC in ‘47, he was part of the group known as the Hollywood Ten – convicted for contempt, he spent 11 months in federal prison and lost all right to ply his craft. Writing 30 scripts under pseudonyms – he won an Oscar in ’56 for The Brave One as Robert Rich – he was not recognized publicly again until 1960, when Otto Preminger credited him on Exodus and Kirk Douglas did so on Spartacus – actions considered to mark the end of the blacklist. As late as 1993, Trumbo was awarded a posthumous Acadamy Award for Roman Holiday (’53.)

  • Thomas J. Nagy

    Please tell me if my comment is still under moderation or if it has been rejected for posting. If the latter, please advise me of the rationale for the rejection & what recourse, if any, I have for reconsideration.

  • Andrea Switzer

    I can’t wait to see this. I think it’s great that PBS is showing this. APPLAUD.

  • Sandra Carrington

    To Thomas J. Nagy: Your original and follow-up comments have been posted. I’ve seen them both via PBS’s newsletter, clicking on tomorrow night’s program on one of my heros – Dalton Trumbo.


    For required reading on the brilliant mind of Dalton Trumbo read his treatise Time of the Toad, three essays on the infamous time period. Dalton shows how democracy in the forms of the executive, the legislative, and especially the judicial was out-to-lunch.

  • Patricia Lawler

    It’s about time that Dalton Trumbo is recognized for many films that he scripted.Kudos Kirk Douglas. looking forward to tonights showing. Patricia
    Lawler…member of channel 13.

  • Janique Mednis

    I always thought the US has free speach I guest wrong. Also I belived the US is a free country,I am wrong again.NO fredom of speach in a democratig country?????

  • janice pitts

    It is important to show the story of Dalton Trumbo. It represents a time in American history when unreasonable and irrational beliefs were allowed to turn the law and rational thought around by McCarthyism and the “communist zealots.” They were way out of control and I believe that the type of government sponsored Mccarthyism definitely had some similarities to the Bush and Cheney administration in their promotion of irrational war in Iraq.

  • James Varela

    I have studied the era after WWII and the bitter labor struggles and the Communist Party’s involvement in it. I do not believe a free society can combat totalitarianism by adpoting the same methods of the enemy. Ironic when I heard Mr. Trumbo’s comments regarding if people are forced to choose between food for their children or freedom of speech they will choose food. That was the situation people in the Communist nations were forced to make every day. The lesson of the blacklist is no person should be discriminated against for political belief regardless of what that may be. Even today this goes on in Hollywood but not on the scale as in the 1940’s and 50’s.

  • Eugene A. Lizotte

    A magnificent view of our latter day Salem. TOADS, indeed!

  • David C. Greenspan

    If you can find it, read ‘Additional Dialogue’, letters from Dalton Trumbo. It covers this entire period. Thank you, PBS – This was a great show and until it aired, I almost forgot about that horrible period in our history. It is something to always remember, and never repeat!

  • joanna

    This was fantastic. I missed the first 20 minutes and hope it replays at a time i can watch it. What an individual. I am proud of NPT’s recent programming choices for the first time in a while (sauf Nova Science Now and POV)!

  • Pete Litterski

    Watching the show on Trumbo and reflecting upon the dark times wrought by the Red Scare in the 1950s is just another reminder that our nation was beset by fear-mongers and would-be oppressors who bear a strong resemblance to some of the demagogues who have risen to the forefront of what passes for public discourse in the 21st Century. I have to admit that I have at times in recent years felt despair about the future of our nation because of the nature of current politics. But as someone born in the midst of the blacklisting era, I take heart from Trumbo’s story because he and others like him did as much to protect “the American way” as patriot who ever marched off to war.

  • Sandy Ashworth

    Johnny Got His Gun should be required reading in high school. My students found it thought provoking. A must read for everyone. Please show this program again.

  • pbsfanjon

    Thank you PBS for airing such a thought provoking show. My wife and I will be talking about it for weeks. Mr. Trumbo’s legacy will be that of a true patriot.

  • Rick Porea

    It is such Americans as Dalton Trumbo that we should be most proud, not less. Unfortunately, McCarthyism is alive and active in this country but I guess there will always be an on-going fight between the people of light (with principles) and the people on the dark-side such as McCarthy (and Limbaugh and Cheney) in this country. Being eloquent is not an indicator of which side you’re on, but it’s uplifting to have someone like Dalton Trumbo speak for your side. Bravo!

  • Fred Kann

    I lived in the Grand Junction, Colorado area for about 15 years, much of that time being in the late seventies through the eighties. Trumbo, as I understand it, was a writer for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel newspaper in the fifties, and a good friend’s father was actually his boss for a spell, as he was city editor. Another friend, a married woman, informed me that her maiden name is Trumbo. For years, Dalton Trumbo was reviled in Grand Junction, due to his first novel titled “Eclipse”, which casts the town in a less than brilliant light. He is finally receieving some recognition there, as the Grand Junction Public Library has published a reissue of “Eclipse”. It is a sordid story, in a “Peyton Place” sort of way, but I am told by more than one person that it is true, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Trumbo’s recorded diatribes in the PBS show are amazing! Thank you for this production!

  • Derry

    Fantastic. PBS your in the league of your own. Such an important recognition needs to be done properly.

  • Peg Wherry

    I missed the first few minutes but loved this program. Where can I find a full list of the actors who read his words?

  • Marlene

    I wish to purchase the DVD of this film but I cannot locate information about doing this on the web.

  • kagnu

    re’s comment, it’s certainly true that USdemocracy’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches at that time had serious blindspots and prejudices. It’s also true that that exact criticism applies today.

  • Rebecca DeWitt

    I thought it was a great show. I made some comments, but I don’t think my roommate believes me. It’s a really sad chapter in u.s. history. I do not like to see one man pitted against another man. I am sure a u.s. citizen can decline legally to answer to congress with out reprocussions and also cannot be jailed for declining to answer to congress, as it’s not just a constitutional violation but what makes it ilegal is for one to look a little deeper into laws, rights, responsibilities, how the legal justice system is actually set up, and what congress can and cannot do. After watching the program, it is by far that Dalton Trumbo was an extreamly talented man that did not appear or suggest to me any involvement with ilegal activity what so ever. I think that Dalton Trumbo might of been some one who knew to much, so people such as this were targets and were mistreated some thing terrible. ‘Blue Birds’ after the Trumbo Family, well, that should tell you a lot. I really like the impression the show gave me about how the Trumbo Family seemed to hang on to American principles even though American principles were working against them that is very unfortunate, so if it seemed like Trumbo was running it probably is not what it seems as I see a great humanitarian in Trumbo that did not have to go to jail for sticking up for what he believed in.

  • luis e. cuevas

    The program about Dalton Trumbo is one of the most moving stories I have ever seen on TV. The effect of his profoundly felt beliefs on all the actors doing the readings is a tribute to the courage and integrity of this truly patriotic American.

  • Rachel Bookman

    I was riveted to the screen tonight. It all went by so quickly though, and there were so many beautifully crafted words and thoughts to absorb. I want to buy a copy of the DVD so I can watch it again. Why don’t I see it available in the “shop” section?

  • Hardy Scott

    I walked to the computer immediately after watching Dalton Trumbo, American Masters, as I was in tears while hearing various actors speaking toward the end of the presentation.
    I grew up in the U.S. with a father who also was a blacklisted communist. Like Mitzi, (and my heart goes out to her) I had a very difficult time surviving school and was at times chased home by groups of kids calling out: “communist boy, communist boy”.
    Enough……I had mixed feelings about my home country and moved to Canada during the Vietnam war, after deciding I was not emotionally strong enough to survive prison. I have lived here ever since.
    I know there are many like myself who had similar experiences, whose parents were organizers or other party activists, where we had secrets that we had to maintain that separated us from those who should have been our friends.
    I hope you will continue showing such documentaries that will educate the American public as to this shameful part of their history. Thank you.
    Forgive my ramblings,
    Hardy Scott

  • Martin Drapkin

    I would like to get a copy of the text of Trumbo’s letter, written to his daughter’s elementary school principal, decrying the bullying of his daughter. Can anyone assist? With thanks…

  • Gammalisgi




  • Everett Rice

    I have just finish watching the last forty five minutes of the show and must find when it airs again to see it’s begining. Trumbo’s words which would have great power alone are made stronger and more vibrant by the actors that read them. The message of warning to us all is just as relevant, no, more relevant, today when the guise of ultra patriotism once again tries to crush the freedoms of Americans. I have a new hero in Dalton Trumbo.

  • Eric Zirbel

    Really sorry I missed this episode. I tuned in at the end and I found it stunning. The writing sounded like Abraham Lincoln but I presume it was from one of Trumbo’s letter. Is the text posted anywhere? Thanks PBS

  • Walter Burien

    I have never asked anyone to go out of their way to watch a PBS documentary before.

    Today is the exception.. The following I watched tonight, and then watched it a second time.

    The comments made, especially towards the end are profound.

    I strongly recommend that you watch and record this for others to watch also. The words said per the circumstances of the not so distant past may be lost and not comprehended by the young, but to the seasoned soul, the words expressed, the stories told, are profound and should be remembered as words to inspire per the circumstances each and every one of us finds ourselves unfortunately in today.

    If you are a true American as you were supposed to be under a constitutional republic, you are now quietly placed on the Blacklist of today. Let the words from this documentary sit firmly in your mind for our vigilance needed to see a better tomorrow.

  • pilgrim1776

    This once great Republic has floundered under the traitorous espionage by the elitists since before the so-called great war. the money people want control of the world and it does not matter who they harm. Mr. Trumbo was/is only one of the many that have had their reputations destroyed; and it will continue!

  • Joan Rosenfelt

    This was a STUNNING piece – NOT TO BE MISSED! It is riveting and will make you feel outrage and sorrow that such events took place in our country – as well as absolute delight at the man, his brillilant, wonderfully creative, fabulously articulate mind and his superior value system. Unforgettable!

  • Joan Rosenfelt

    P.S. Should be required viewing (and discussion) in all American High Schools!

  • Leticia Amaro

    I watched this extraordinary program last night, and would love to see it again, would you please advise if there is a possibility of a rerun anytime soon.

  • Win Bowron

    This is a must-see for anyone who ever dared to be “different” or speak out against the injustices in our so-called “democracy”. Thank you PBS for airing it; I only hope that you will repeat it again and again and again….

  • anthony salvatore

    Just remember that Senator McCarthy was vindacated in later life, he was on to something very sinister in our country and the Commie propaganda stopped him in his tracts.
    The Red Scare was real, and dangerous, the country is under its thumb right now with there right wing politics………..we have been taken over from withing without anyone noticing.
    That is the way the commies predidted they would take over our country.
    And president Reagen destroying communism is a farce, they went under ground and came up in Washington DC

  • Tommy

    Today at 2pm pacific on direct tv. Same as during the blacklisting back then, today, all we see are the lies and scare tactics from the media, as in Mcarthy all over the media back then developing a following with lies and scare tactics. As long as Americans can be fed crap, they will eat crap. It’s amazing, but true. We need, in large bold words or stated loudly prior to TV or radio being allowed to pour out crap to people, the disclaimer that the forecoming “show” is strictly opinion, and has no facts to base these opinions. If a show can prove what they will say is a proven fact, they do not need this disclaimer. Lies might not seem as a big deal to some, but lies from the “right” people cause much damage and death to our country, it’s people, and it’s reputation in the world. The “right” lie can destroy our country. Think about that.

  • Jack Pinion

    one of the best documenty of how our gov realy worksTrumbo was a gift from god.

  • Jess Airaudi

    I got a little hope for American from the last election, but I see now in its aftermath that I also need courage, and the American Masters portrayal of Trumbo has given me that.

  • Clinton Macgowan

    I watched this program last night, and was moved more than I can say. I knew little of Dalton Trumbo other than he was one of the victims of the infamous Hollywood blacklist. Perhaps most moving was the letter he wrote to his daughter’s school principal regarding the treatment of his daughter by her schoolmates, children of members of the PTA and the “Bluebirds”. I was puzzled, however, by the reference to the Bluebirds, an organization I had never heard of. Can anyone provide some information about the Bluebirds? What was it, and does the organization still exist? Thanks.

  • steven ashmore

    I have a new hero…..Dalton Trumbo…..and i guess it’s no big surprise that I had never heard his name before. Thank you pbs for showing this documentary of a brave, heroic, intelligent and heroic american. Trumbo’s writing made me laugh, made me cry….dazzled me with his insight, precise and poetic articulation of the obvious and not so obvious…..again, thank you.
    PS…..His letter to his son re masturbation had me rolling on the floor…..

  • Janice Jean von Raabe

    Thank you, PBS, for airing the remarkable story of Dalton Trumbo. I loved the format and how it was presented. Our nation is under attack from conservative people who want everyone to live and abide by their very rigid rules. I am an aethiest and everyday I see glimpses and reflections of Dalton Trumbo’s times and it is very disturbing. So, thank you PBS for showing us what true patriotism and personal conviction looks like. Many kudos to you. Janice Jean von Raabe

  • Wendy E. Shepard

    As a 70-year-old writer who is currently writing a play about war, this program on Dalton Trumbo gave me courage. You have to be willing to give up everything, he said, inspiring me to keep on keepin’ on no matter what. Thank you to his son for bring alive a shameful part of our history and showing clearly the kind of determination and commitment it takes to preserve our freedoms.

  • Michael Schramm

    I missed the beginning of this last night, but saw most of it. An amazing story. Earlier in the evening I had listened to a rebroadcast on Alternative Radio of a 1993 talk given by Noam Chomsky in which he discussed how the ruling class defined who was a threat to the nation and what to do about them. Then I watched this on PBS and saw how this ruling class carried out their business. It is still going on, so don’t relax your vigilance. Thanks PBS!

  • Daniel St.John

    After the watching the Trumbo program last night, I kept asking if this was the best program I’ve ever watched on TV. This morning I heard a resounding yes!Thank you.

    Today, I’m hearing again the fear in people. This time is about healthcare reform and I wonder about the outcome of these townhall disruptions.

  • Helene Blake

    Bravo! And I don’t mean the network. Just listening to Mr. Trumbo’s words was so inspiring. I have a thing for those geniuses who know how to use the English language to its ultimate. He was certainly one of those people. And what a sad time in this country. What is disturbing is that I found so much to still be true. Thank you Mr. Trumbo for making America a little better. And thank you KCET for teaching us once again.

  • Linda Bodak

    I loved this! When will it be on again?

  • Julianne

    Well Done, American Masters! A story that needs to be heard. Please re-air it soon or make this available for purchase. Such an incredible story, that needs to be heard.

  • Andrew J Glass

    Quite possibly, Dalton Trumbo did not choose the pseudonym Richard Rich, under which he won an Oscar best screenplay in 1957 capriciously. Rich was the odious snitch in the court of King Henry VIII who informed on Sir Thomas More. The story is well told in the film A Man for All Seasons.



  • Faye George

    How can I get a copy of the anti-war speech quoted on the PBS program shown September 3, 2009? Please provide the source and/or the brief text used in the documentary. And thank you enormously for the program. The evils of political witch-hunts and rabid rhetoric sadly did not die with the Joseph McCarthy; we see in our own time the vile efforts of ideologues working to destroy the presidency of Obama. These people use fear masked as protecting our “freedom” to imposen an authoritarian repression of any and all opositon to their beliefs, however misguided and deleterious to true freedom.

  • Dan Murray

    Wonderful program. His writing (especially the personal letters) was wonderful, witty and profound.

  • steve kellogg

    A great screen writer probably, but an American Hero, doubtful. The man was a committed communist who had no problem naming names when it came to his political enemies. The American Communist Party–of which he was a member–advocated the standard Comintern Party Line–burgoise democracies had to go, by force if necessary. While the ACP was trash can of losers by the time of HUAC, the government had every reason to determine if its citizens were bent on the Republic’s destruction. The fact that Hollywood big shots didn’t think that he should work because he refused to talk had nothing to do with what the government had a right to do. Americans can’t join al Qaeda today either.
    McCarthy may have been an unscrupulous demogogue, but he was somewhat prophetic–a Communist would try and make a dent in the Republic when Oswald shot Kennedy.
    Let’s just say that Trumbo was an excellent screen writer and leave it at that. If anyone wants to tag him as a Hero, then maybe they should learn the whole story first. Do I smell a PBS follow up? Doubtful.

  • Martin Bresnick

    Who wrote the wonderful score? The credits rolled by too fast for me to see…

  • Heidi Schulman

    Brilliant!! I am so happy to have taped this program, as I plan on viewing it again. It’s just as relevant in today’s political climate. I’m in absolute agreement with the gentleman who responded in Comment #12 (Peter Litterski). Trumbo was a patriot “protecting the American Way”, where are our patriot’s today??!! Is there anyone left in government with backbone to do the right thing, rather than continually caving in to the far right and the fear mongers? I also concur with Comment #33, this program should be shown and discussed in every high school in the country and should be a pre-requisite to graduation.

  • Stacy Benner

    I am in awe of Dalton Trumbo’s heartfelt articulation. The breadth of feeling within his words left me speechless….

  • Howard W. Smith

    I have seldom been so moved and inspired. Today’s politics reek of the same despotism of Trumbo’s era and I intend to do my utmost to stand for those same rights and principles as he.

  • George Kuhn

    This is a film that certainly needed to be made and it was done very well by an excellent cast. Sets the record straight. My only question would be—why did it take so long to GET it made and released? I think I know the answer to that. Same old, same old. But would appreciate any comment you might have on the subject. Most of the people it would have helped most are dead. Therein lies the answer to my question, I fear. I agree that TRUMBO should be required viewing, and discussing, in American high-schools. I won’t hold my breath, thoughl.

  • Lisa T.

    Many viewers have inquired about ways they can view this program again; whether through purchasing the video, or being advised if/when it will ever air again. Does anyone ever get answers to their questions here on this ‘comment’ page (since – technically – it’s not a ‘question’ page.) I wonder this, because I am desperate to see the program, and have spent the last four hours surfing the net to find the/a video, including WNET.ORG and (co-producers of the video) to no avail. Would someone PLEASE help us by ‘commenting’ on on our ‘questions’?

  • Robert Atkins

    I have to admit this program gave me nightmares, as I saw just how easy it is to sway a people with fear. I have the sense that we seem to be moving closer to the danger of repeating these reprehensible events. I agree with the former poster who suggested this be required study in high schools. Only by continuing to share his and the others’ stories can we ensure our society’s adherence to the principles of the Constitution in the treatment of the individual.

  • Howard Brandwein

    Read his Additional Dialogue and the correspondence with Steve Allen to enjoy his great mind and irrepressible spirit. I was of the generation that was held to loyalty standards in college and that saw our so called liberal profs canned. Remember it can happen again as we have seen with the Bush crowd and their contempt for civil liberties.

  • Maria Acevedo

    I want to buy the DVD of this excellent program but it’s not available in your Shop section. Where can I get a copy?



  • kevin

    What is the reference in the letters to the ‘lash’ of the blacklist. I am trying to find the original letter in Additional dialogue.

    Any ideas.

  • Ben

    Hi I was wondering about the music used in this episode. If anybody could point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate it.

  • Lloyd Arriola

    Rich and informative! And who wrote the lively musical score? It’s wonderful, and driving me crazy–can’t find it on imdb, either!

  • suzie gold

    I can not remember seeing such a wonderful program on TV. I cried, I laughed.. .But mainly I was filled with admiration for his honesty, his ethics and his true friends. Please please will someone tell me where can I get a DVD ?

  • William DeLoach

    Does anyone know where I mught find the actual Trumbo letters? I am specifically interested in the one written to the school teacher concerning his daughters health.

  • Alex

    First time I saw the film/documentary involving his son Chris and such luminaries as Donald Sutherland etc. I wept buckets of tears. I have watched it several times since and it still brings me to tears. What a man of thoughtfulness and integrity and what an awful episode in American history.


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