After signing with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1943, Trumbo ranked as Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter. The following year he joined the Communist Party of the U.S.A. and participated in film industry labor disputes. While investigating these disturbances, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) summoned Trumbo and nine other unfriendly witnesses to testify in Washington, D.C., in October, 1947.
HUAC eventually cited Trumbo for contempt for refusing to answer questions about his communist affiliations. Important to the case was the fact that witnesses before congressional hearings have fewer rights than defendants in criminal trials. Throughout the hearings Trumbo tried unsuccessfully to have his scripts entered into the record, arguing repeatedly, but futilely, that one should be accountable only for actions, not for purported thoughts.
After being blacklisted in the film industry as a member of the “Hollywood Ten,” Trumbo later resumed his career, writing under assumed names for reduced fees. His script for The Brave One (1956), written under the pseudonym Robert Rich, won an Academy Award; the fact that Trumbo himself wrote it was not publicly known for years. In 1960, with the blacklisting finally over, he again wrote in his own name, and completed screenplays for such notable films as Exodus and Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are the Brave (1962), Hawaii (1966), and Papillon (1973). In surviving government censorship and industry blacklisting, Trumbo embodied the courage and idealism of many of his own characters.