Life & Culture

Vermont Conversation: Red, white and blacklisted: The Red Scare in Hollywood and Vermont

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

vermont conversation logo

The anti-communist Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s spared no corner of the country or the culture. The FBI combed the Green Mountains looking for communists, and the University of Vermont ousted a suspected faculty member. In Hollywood, 10 screenwriters and directors refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC, which led to a highly publicized hunt for supposed communist sympathizers and “subversives” throughout the entertainment industry.

The Hollywood 10, as they came to be known, used the HUAC hearings in 1947 to condemn the committee. Among them was Dalton Trumbo, one of Hollywood’s highest paid writers. His credits included “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944). As result of their defiance and principled stands, Trumbo and other members of the Hollywood 10 were convicted of contempt of Congress, fined, imprisoned and blacklisted from working in the film industry. Trumbo was unable to make a living under his own name for more than a decade, though he continued to write scripts under pseudonyms and use other writers as a front. He won an Oscar for “The Brave One” (1956), which he wrote under the name Robert Rich.

In 1959, former President Harry Truman denounced HUAC as the “most un-American thing in the country today.” The Hollywood blacklist ended in 1960, when Trumbo was publicly credited with writing two films, “Spartacus” and “Exodus.” In 1975, the Academy Awards officially recognized Trumbo as the writer of “The Brave One.”

Image courtesy of Pushcart Productions

“Trumbo: Red White & Blacklisted” is a two-person play featuring Trumbo’s letters that was written in 2003 by Trumbo’s son Christopher. The play is being performed in Vermont beginning Feb. 11 in Plainfield, Waterbury Center and White River Junction. It is directed by Monica Callan, narrated by Nick Charyk, and actor and former State Rep. Donny Osman plays Trumbo. Rick Winston, author of “Red Scare in the Green Mountains: Vermont in the McCarthy Era 1946-1960,” is an adviser to the play.

Trumbo served 11 months in prison for contempt of Congress. 

“As far as I was concerned, it was a completely just verdict. I had full contempt for that Congress,” he wrote.

David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.


Send us your thoughts

VTDigger is now accepting letters to the editor. For information about our guidelines, and access to the letter form, please click here.


Recent Stories

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Vermont Conversation: Red, white and blacklisted: The Red Scare in Ho..."
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.