Dalton Trumbo Papers, 1905-1962

Scope and Content Note

The papers are arranged as Correspondence and Biographical Miscellany, Writings, Financial and Legal Records, Blacklist Files, and World War II Files. Because the collection was donated in 1962 there is no documentation concerning the last fourteen years of Dalton Trumbo's life.

CORRESPONDENCE AND BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL includes general correspondence (paper), dictated correspondence and other materials covering the period 1961 to 1962, microfilmed scrapbooks, memorabilia, and photographs. The general correspondence is arranged in chronological order, and it combines letters touching on personal, literary, and political topics. For the early years the correspondence consists largely of incoming letters, but later in his career Trumbo began consistently retaining copies of his outgoing letters. A portion of this correspondence has been edited by Helen Manful in Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962.

Processor's Notes on the Correspondence

Communications from agent Elsie McKeogh, family letters, publishing correspondence
Letters concerning Johnny Got His Gun
Letters to family while a war correspondent in the Pacific
Correspondence with Gordon Kahn, George Pepper, and various professional and political organizations
Correspondence with Earl Felton, Dore Schary, Sam Sillen
Correspondence with Herman Shumlin and Lee Sabinson on The Biggest Thief in Town, also regarding the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisting
Letters from other members of the Hollywood Ten and about The Biggest Thief in Town
Prison letters between Trumbo and Cleo Trumbo, also exchanges with John Huston, Garson Kanin and others
Prison letters
Mexican correspondence
Correspondence with Paul Jerrico, George Willner, Mike Wilson, Joseph Losey, and others
Correspondence with Alvah Bessie and Hugo Butler, several letters on the black market
Correspondence on the Robert Rich Academy Award, with Ian Hunter, and information on the black market
Correspondence with David Merrick and Guy Endore
Correspondence with Endore, Carey McWilliams, Oscar Serline, and Murray Kempton
Correspondence with family, Ingo Preminger, Paul Trivers, and Alvah Bessie
Correspondence with family, Stephen Fritchman, John Bright, Aubrey Finn, Kenneth Tynan, and B.B. Kahane
Correspondence with Ingo Preminger, also letters regarding Exodus
Correspondence with John Wexley, Alan D. Williams, Leo Kerz, Bud Westmoreland, and Nelson Algren

In addition, letters from Herbert Biberman, Hugo Butler, Angus Cameron, E.Y. Harburg, Ian McLellan Hunter, Gordon Kahn, Maury and Frank King, Hy Kraft, John Howard Lawson, Ring Lardner Jr., Elsie McKeogh, Albert Maltz, George Pepper, William Pomerance, Samuel Sillen, George Willner, and Sam Zimbalist appear throughout the papers.

Some of Trumbo's general correspondence from 1961 and 1962 is documented only in recorded form. Also recorded only on dictabelts is correspondence relating to Morgana and fragmentary material relating to the scripting of Hawaii, Mr. Adams, and The Other Side of the Coin. In 1991 the dictabelts were found to be physically deteriorated, and this material was partially copied onto reel-to-reel tapes, although much of the information was already lost. The mastering was halted, however, because of the breakdown of the dictabelt equipment and the navailability of replacements. The few transcriptions in the papers that could be matched to the dictabelts were refiled with the papers in separate folders.

Trumbo's biographical scrapbooks and clippings are available only on microfilm. The scrapbooks were largely comprised of reviews and biographical newspaper and magazine clippings. Of special note are pages from Welford Beaton's Hollywood Spectator that Trumbo wrote or edited. After filming the scrapbooks were dismantled and the original photographs contained therein were removed to the WCFTR Name File. The clipping pages were then destroyed except that all memorabilia was returned to the Trumbo family.

Photographs in the collection, now stored as part of the WCFTR name file, include portraits, snapshots of family life, and some publicity stills. Separately catalogued are photographs documenting Trumbo's work as a correspondent during World War II. Other memorabilia includes copies of autographed photographs and a baby book.

WRITINGS, which cover the period from about 1920 to 1962, are arranged by genre and include motion pictures, non-fiction articles and pamphlets, novels, plays, poetry, short stories, speeches and interviews, and miscellaneous writings. In addition, Memorial Library holds published copies of Johnny Got His Gun,The Remarkable Andrew, as well as the posthumously-published Night of the Aurochs.

Motion picture screenplays are the largest portion of the series (approximately eight cubic feet). Here are filed produced and unproduced titles, some of which credited him as writer and others written under an assumed name. In addition during the Blacklist era, Trumbo worked many productions as a consultant helping with rewrites. Before this collection was sent to the Society he made numerous notes and annotations on the scripts which provide some insights into his personality and the artistic evolution of the works. In some cases these comments may be the only documentation of Trumbo's connection to the finished script.

This section is arranged alphabetically by title and contains treatments, notes, and mimeographed and typed scripts, many of which are annotated. (Because Trumbo frequently revised his work using a cut-and-paste technique and because of the physical deterioration of the originals, many of the scripts have been photocopied to preserve their informational content. When necessary all layers of revisions have been carefully lifted and copied.) Some productions are also documented by correspondence and agreements. In general, the scripts of the period of the Blacklist are most thoroughly documented (although there are single scripts for such early successes as A Guy Named Joe, Kitty Foyle, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo), and of these blacklisted works Spartacus is most complete. This film is documented by many re-writes, notes, memos, and variant drafts of the full script, as well as the long report Trumbo wrote upon viewing the film's first screening. Also heavily documented are The Brave One (originally The Boy and the Bull), for which Trumbo won an Academy Award under the name of Robert Rich; Bunny Lake Is Missing and Exodus, both directed by Otto Preminger; Lonely Are the Brave;Mister Adam;The Day of the Gun; and The Young Philadelphians.

Non-fiction writings are arranged chronologically and consist of magazine articles and pamphlets. Topics covered include the film industry, blacklisting, treatment of minorities by Hollywood, and the Academy Award selection process. The Devil in the Book, a pamphlet written by Trumbo on blacklisting and the Smith Act of California, is the title best documented in this section, with notes, research materials, draft manuscripts and the published pamphlet. Some research materials for a pamphlet on Morton Sobell are represented. The collection includes a copy of his well-known pamphlet The Time of the Toad, with a few background materials for it. Also arranged here are miscellaneous memoranda regarding his editorship of The Screen Writer during the mid 1940s.

Trumbo's novels are represented by drafts and notes for published and unpublished works and are arranged alphabetically by title. This arrangement plan is not exact, however, because many of the drafts were not completed and because themes and drafted fragments were often carried from one novel to another. The “Bakery Novel” is the most thoroughly documented, containing earlier drafts entitled “American Sonata” and later versions entitled “Bleak Street.” While some of the drafts are mere revisions, others suggest the intention of a sequel or a different storyline with many of the same characters. Also significant are the notes and typed drafts for his first published novel Eclipse. Other titles documented here include Genius from Kingsley, Girl from Hollywood, and Ma Finley. Noticeably absent is similar documentation for the award-winning Johnny Got His Gun,Washington Jitters, and The Remarkable Andrew. Published copies of these three books are available, however, in the University of Wisconsin Library.

The section of Trumbo's stage plays contains scripts and related materials arranged alphabetically by title. The documentation is primarily for The Biggest Thief in Town (earlier “Aching Rivers” and “The Emerald Staircase”), consisting largely of notes, treatments, many drafts, typed scripts, actors' scripts, and miscellaneous financial materials. Also documented are Morgana and Orpheus.

Poetry is a small section within the WRITINGS. Only a few of the titles have variant versions, and most are not annotated. The poem entitled “The Chief” takes a sarcastic look at MGM's management at the time of L.B. Mayer's death in 1957. For “Confessional” the collection includes a recorded reading.

Short stories are represented by manuscript writings and published clippings arranged chronologically. The majority of these date from the 1930s. Titles include “Darlin' Bill” and its sequel “Trouble on Horsefly,” “Bootlegging for Junior” (his first sale of any account), and “Double in Diamonds” and “Caprice,” which were purchased by Columbia and MGM respectively. Of special interest is the correspondence and manuscript/drafts for “The Child Beater,” which he sold to McCall's during the blacklist period under the name of Cleo Fincher.

Speeches and interviews, which are also arranged chronologically, include references to screenwriting and screenwriters, blacklisting and the Hollywood Ten, fascism, immigration and discrimination/racism, and the Motion Picture Alliance. Some speeches and statements, primarily those documenting Trumbo's appearance before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee or his reaction to the Hollywood blacklist, are available in recorded form. Many of the written speeches are undated and unidentified. Also filed in this section are drafts and a recording of the speech he prepared for Edward Stettinius in 1945 about the United Nations, miscellaneous writings as a high school and college student, research notes, and ideas.

FINANCIAL AND LEGAL RECORDS includes correspondence of this type from the period 1940 to 1961, monthly statements of Equitable Investment Corporation, material for a 1959 IRS audit, household inventories, wills, and financial ledgers for 1941 and 1943. The Equitable Investment material provides a detailed view of Trumbo's financial difficulties during and immediately following his imprisonment. The IRS file consists of a substantial amount of material Trumbo gathered to reconstruct his income and financial status during the period he wrote under an assumed name.

Information in the BLACKLIST FILES is complemented by material throughout the collection, especially the sections containing correspondence and the recorded speeches and interviews. Filed here are materials relating to the HUAC hearing, subsequent appeals, and the defense of the Ten. (Printed court documents, appeals, and amicus curiae briefs are in the Kenny-Morris Papers.) For the House Committee hearing the collection includes a transcript and recording of proceedings; notes; material used in preparation of the defense; and publicity issued in support by the Screen Writers Guild, National Lawyers League, and the Hollywood Ten Defense Committee. Also here is a recording of a satire of the proceedings produced by NCASP.

The WORLD WAR II FILES include notebooks, memorabilia, material gathered during the period, and an unpublished recollection of wartime experiences.