August 11th, 2009
Dalton Trumbo
Scenes from the Film

Veteran film actors, including Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane, and Joan Allen, interpret Dalton Trumbo’s writing in these scenes from the film.

WGA Laurel Award Acceptance Speech (David Strathairn)

Letter to the Telephone Company (Paul Giamatti)

Letter to My Darling (Josh Lucas)

Letter to Mrs. Murphy (Joan Allen)

Letter to Chris Trumbo (Nathan Lane)

Note: This clip contains content intended for mature audiences.

HUAC Testimony (Dalton Trumbo)

Excerpt from Johnny Got His Gun (Donald Sutherland)

Closing Arguments (Ensemble)

  • Thomas J. Nagy

    If PBS cared about the fate of the U.S., it would be compelled to air the story the 1000s of American writers, professors, and even serving military whose careers have been destroyed for daring to denounce the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, & Pakistan which are bankrupting America economically and morally.
    If PBS dared to question the slaughter of the careers and lives of its patriots (civilian and armed forces alike), then America might yet achieve greatness rather the infamy of empire which erodes what remains of its soul.
    Does PBS have even the modicum of commitment to Constitutional values to allow this modest comment to appear on its web site?

  • Judith Simon

    You seem to be implying that airing this program on Dalton Trumbo means that PBS does not “care about the fate of the US”. While that may or may not be true, this program has nothing to do with it. Personally, I am fascinated by the mass hysteria of the anti-Communist witch hunts. I agree with you that treatment of those denouncing the current spate of US invasions is not what should be happening in a country that calls itself a democracy but why not study our history of repression to learn from it?

  • Joan Ghiselin

    Bravo PBS for airing “Dalton Trumbo” as part of its American Experience series and for allowing comment #1 to appear on its website. The purity of Trumbo’s commitment to truth, courage and humanity is inspirational for all generations.

  • Asa Zatz

    Bravo PBS for yor none-too-son tribute to a great American who fought with wit and courage against the likes of Joe McCarthy and the forces that seek to control the government for their own benefit.

  • R.J.Wolfe

    My fantasy: place Dick Cheney in a room lit by one uncovered light bulb and have read to him over and over again “Johnny Got his Gun” until he confessed his war crimes. No water, no board necessary!

  • William Vollinger

    The only person I can only change is myself. But I can keep evil safely external. I can denounce those bad guys out there. They might be right wing or left wing. They might be radical unions or phone companies. I can choose my half of the story and tell it to others. If I’m literate and witty about it, those on my half will love it. And those on the other side will hate it. They’ll want to tell their half. Wit is not the same as wisdom, because it is partial, and often self-serving. For a drama to be wise it must show both sides of a person, not one side. Or even an argument, although arguments are less important than people. The character of such a drama is neither god nor demon, but human. Then the eloquence of fine actors approaches a deeper reality than mere sympathy. I wouldn’t want to be in prison. I wouldn’t want to turn in my friends. And I’d have a very hard time forgiving those responsible. But forgiveness isn’t for their sake. Forgiveness is for my sake. Otherwise I remain handcuffed to my enemies. I would have to think a lot deeper to reach such a place, to the point that if, say, I was a member of the same political organization and at the same time as Joseph Stalin, I might actually apologize. I might grow in my heart’s definition of the word proletariat to those in the other prisons besides mine, including that estimated 20,000,000 people who died under Stalin. Then they too would have my eloquent voice to say on their behalf: “We won’t let you butcher us, no matter what you say, no matter what speeches you make, no matter what slogans you write.” And then I would be COMPLETELY eloquent.

  • John Sietsema

    In what context can the first 2 paragraphs of comment #1 be considered a “modest” comment? IMHO, tThose statements can in no way be considered modest. They seem to me to be arrogant and extreme and not conducive to an atmosphere of reasoned discussion.

  • Tod McCartney

    Mr. Trumbo was implicitly a communist and undoubtedly persecuted. How nice it would be if we could tidily dismiss him as merely either/or. The fact is that he was an artist whose donne was integral to his work. But, this is true of all artists. Art prides itself on progressivism, while the very nature of conservatism is to remain stable. When art and politics collide, it is always the artist who has the upper-hand in capturing the heart of youth, for the young always crave what is new. Still, this is no reason to deprive a man of his livelihood and his peace. In a culture built upon the principle of freedom, one can only view the persecution and privation of Trumbo as injustice. However, a commitment to the predominately Christian world view and wisdom of our forefathers necessitates a skeptical view of his accomplishments apart from his function as a champion of the persecuted.

  • Noel Kent

    Of course, I remember how powerful Johnny Got His Gone was (from years ago) and knew something of Trumbo’s magnificent fight to keep his integrity and remain true to his art during the time of the Blacklist. But this was truly a memorable Ameican Masters and it touched me. The life and work and redemption of this special American were marvelously presented. Indeed, it made me proud to be an American. Congratulations to you all!

  • Darla

    Johnny Got His Gun is the most compelling anti war film I’ve ever seen. Everyone, especially those in the military, should see it. Trumbo story is amazing. Kudos to PBS! I love the American Masters series! Here’s the trailer to Johnny Got His Gun -

  • Melvina Jones

    I am proud that PBS aired this today. I learned a GREAT deal. I would very much like a copy of the complete program. Please have someone call me 916 482 1992 I would like my FAMILY to watch and learn from this broadcast. GREAT! Melvina Jones

  • Mike in Houston

    My brother’s recently deceased father-in-law met B. Traven down in Mexico. At the bar were also John and Walter Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Tim Holt. Strange tales ensued about how John Huston was ‘lightly’ coerced into forking over some monies to the local mayor to help pay for a water-well ‘fund’. I mention this because of Huston, Bogart & Bacall’s link to Trumbo when they travel to the HUAC hearings to help defend Trumbo & the rest. Huston later commented it was a disaster for them.

  • John Pietaro

    An incredibly powerful document of one man’s tenacious stand against the embattlements of neo-fascism—a neo-fascism promulgated by our own government in concert with the power-brokers of monopoly capital, “America Firsters”, racists, anti-Semites, xenophobes, homophobes, anti-Communists and every attempt to thwart the march of organized Labor rolled into one. HUAC, McCarthy, Hoover, Cohen, Tenney, and the opportunistc informants who were on their payroll shamed our nation terribly. The good news is even now with a new wave of reactionary sensationalism occuring within our borders, the public can learn of what came before…and what we must do to stop it from happening again.

  • Alice Hillyard

    Suffering from frequent insomnia, I often keep my bedroon television on to light up the night. Luckily, I escape the endless “informercials” by staying tuned to PBS. Last night was such a time and how delighted I was with the program about Dalton Trumbo. Thank you.

  • Kim McConnell

    I was not yet born when the “Blacklist” was invoked. Although I knew of it by discussion with my Mother while watching old movies, I never imagined the devastation it caused. This American Masters episode was enlightening. The Actors chosen (sans Matthew McConaughey who cannot be taken seriously, IMO) were captivating. This should be shown to High School students who might learn the impact of ostracizing and to political leaders who seem to conveniently forget past transgressions.

  • Fay

    I like the clips, but I want to see the entire thing! Help. Where can I find it?

  • Craig

    The most moving part of the episode, by far, was the letter to the School Board read by David Strathairn. I hope that PBS makes this clip available online soon.

  • Kit

    I just watched Trumbo on DVD. In the special features there was a letter to Ring Lardner, Jr., read by Paul Giamatti. I have many writing friends who would appreciate it. Is it available online?


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