Trumbo by Christopher Trumbo

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BBC Radio 4, 15 August 2009
This two-handed biodrama told the story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Corin Redgrave), who achieved some kind of notoriety during the 1950s as a member of the so-called 'Hollywood Ten,' who refused to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and went to jail as a result. In Redgrave's performance Trumbo was a man of sound principle who refused to compromise, despite the suffering caused both to himself and his family. He never named names - although it led to the temporary suspension of his career as a highly-paid member of the Hollywood community. Throughout the 1950s he led a nomadic existence, moving from Los Angeles to Mexico in the vain hope of finding emotional peace. His children became social pariahs, while his wife struggled to keep the family together. For a while it seemed that Trumbo's life had been ruined, until the Oscar ceremony of 1957, when 'Robert Rich' won the award for Best Screenplay. Eventually it emerged that this was actually Trumbo writing under a nom de plume; from then on it was only a matter of time before he re-established his reputation using his own name, as first Otto Preminger and then Stanley Kubrick gave him screen credit for Exodus and Spartacus respectively.
The play was narrated by an anonymous figure (Nick Waring), who set Trumbo's life in context as well as recounting the historical circumstances that shaped it. Most of Trumbo's words were directly quoted from his letters and diaries; from these we learned that he was an uncompromising fighter for political feedom, as well as being someone of massive contradictions - at once abrasive yet funny, wise yet impossible. He was not an easy man to live with, but we had to admire his determine to overcome even the most adverse circumstances. The production was directed by Roger Michell.