17. Kirk Douglas and Spartacus helped end the Hollywood blacklist
Two parties vied to be the first to bring Howard Fast’s novel, Spartacus, to the screen. One, led by Kirk Douglas, secured Fast’s services to write the screenplay. The other, driven by Yul Brynner, raced to produce the film for United Artists. When it became evident that Fast’s script required extensive rewrites, a time-consuming process, Douglas turned to Dalton Trumbo. Initially the writer did not receive a guarantee of a screen credit. After Trumbo satisfactorily completed the rewrite in just two weeks the production team, including Douglas and director Stanley Kubrick, discussed how the scriptwriter should be credited. Trumbo suggested the pseudonym, Sam Jackson. Stanley Kubrick suggested he credit himself as screenwriter. Douglas, disgusted with Kubrick’s suggestion, and aware of Preminger’s hiring of Trumbo, suggested giving the writer the credit with his real name.
During the months of production, Walter Winchell learned of Trumbo’s involvement, and reported it in his column. The subject immediately generated controversy. Numerous supporters of the blacklist, including among the Hollywood community, condemned the use of the writer. Douglas informed Trumbo that his name would remain in the credits. In August, 1960, Universal announced the film would list Dalton Trumbo as screenwriter. Several conservative groups announced they would boycott the film, including the American Legion. Nonetheless, when the film was released, Trumbo’s name appeared in the credits, and Kirk Douglas later claimed to have broken the blacklist. In 2012, in an article appearing in the Jewish Chronicle, Douglas told a reporter, “the thing I am most proud of is breaking the blacklist”.