On location: Dalton Trumbo’s Hollywood

As Trumbo is released on DVD, Michael Hodges goes in search of the blacklisted screenwriter played by Bryan Cranston

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Dalton Trumbo was a Hollywood giant. The man behind the screenplays of Roman Holiday, Spartacus and Papillion also found time to write the great anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun.

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Trumbo was fond of both the high life and social justice: he was a member of the Communist Party just as the Cold War with the Soviet Union was beginning. When the Red Scare swept through the US in the late 1940s, the famously right-wing John Wayne joined forces with Hollywood columnist and former actress Hedda Hopper to bring Trumbo down. The writer known as “the swimming pool Soviet” was blacklisted. 

While the right-wingers plotted at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the left-wingers were meeting at the home of Edward G Robinson, star of gangster sensation Little Caesar, at 910 Rexford Drive, just north of Sunset Boulevard. Robinson and his renowned art collection (Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Van Gogh and more) are long gone, but you can drive by with most of the reputable tours.

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After spending the 1950s in the shadows, Roman slave revolt epic Spartacus re-established Trumbo as a public presence in 1960 after its star, Kirk Douglas, insisted that Trumbo’s name be put on the credits. (Director Otto Preminger put Trumbo’s name on Exodus in the same year, effectively ending the blacklist.) The film’s interior scenes were shot at Universal Studios, which are now 100 years old. They also have one of the best Hollywood studio tours, featuring the Psycho house and the shark from Jaws.

Hopper, the woman who tried and failed to destroy Trumbo, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6300 Hollywood Boulevard. Dalton Trumbo, the man who took on the Hollywood establishment and forged a path for left-field film-makers like Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick, has no star. 

Trumbo is out on DVD on 20th June


 Read our review of Trumbo: “Bryan Cranston brings stature and eccentricity to the role”

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