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Blacklisted writer gets credit restored after 60 years for Oscar-winning film

Dalton Trumbo has, after 60 years, been given credit for the Academy Award-winning "Roman Holiday."
John Swope/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Dalton Trumbo has, after 60 years, been given credit for the Academy Award-winning "Roman Holiday."

It’s taken close to 60 years, but the late screenwriter Dalton Trumbo will finally get full credit for his work on the romantic comedy “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The Writers Guild of America announced today that it acted in response to a request from the screenwriter’s dying son.

In a key scene, the 1953 movie places its main characters in front of an ancient sculpture called "the mouth of truth." The princess who's escaped her minders for a day accepts a dare from the reporter who's onto her story to stick her hand into the stone face's open mouth - with startlingly funny results.

The real truth about Dalton Trumbo's involvement with this story isn't so funny.

His left-wing politics placed him before the U.S. House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), established in 1947 to root out communism in the motion picture industry. For awhile after, he languished in prison.

Trumbo and nine other screenwriters, actors and directors refused to identify their political allies to the committee. This now infamous group was dubbed the Hollywood Ten.

For many years, no Hollywood studio would hire them. At least not openly.

In exile, Trumbo worked under assumed names or without credit, including on "Roman Holiday" - winner of the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Another writer fronted for him and secretly sent him payment for the work.

At the urging of two longtime friends - that front writer's son and Trumbo's son Christopher who died earlier this year - the Writers' Guild has restored full screenplay credit, and a measure of truth, to the story of one of Hollywood's best-loved films.

The full credit to the film now reads: "Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and Ian McLellan Hunter; Story by Dalton Trumbo."

"It is not in our power to erase the mistakes or the suffering of the past," President Chris Keyser of Writer's Guild of America West said in a statement. "But we can make amends, we can pledge not to fall prey again to the dangerous power of fear or to the impulse to censor, even if that pledge is really only a hope. And, in the end, we can give credit where credit is due."