Dalton Trumbo's Granddaughter Reveals Where She Keeps His Oscar: A Symbol of "His Courage"
Samantha Trumbo Campbell has the best writing Oscar for 1953's 'Roman Holiday' in her Pasadena bungalow: "I think my grandfather's Oscars are especially significant because they represent the eventual demise of the Hollywood blacklist, which he fought so hard to undermine."
This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
"If I could have one wish, I'd like to have known him as an adult," says Samantha Trumbo Campbell of her grandfather, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who died when she was 4. Campbell reminisces while sitting on the porch of her 1909 bungalow — which is not unlike those seen in Trumbo (for which Bryan Cranston is Oscar nominated), the 2015 biopic about the scribe who was thrown in jail by Congress' House Un-American Activities Committee. After Trumbo served a year's term, he went from Hollywood's highest-paid writer to being blacklisted as a communist and spent a decade writing pseudonymously until receiving credit in 1960 for Spartacus and Exodus.
Trumbo's first Oscar, for 1953's Roman Holiday (he also won for 1956's The Brave One), was bestowed upon his friend Ian McLellan Hunter, who acted as a front for him, but didn't actually write the script. It was nearly 40 years before a separate posthumous Oscar was accepted by Trumbo's wife of 38 years, Cleo (played in the film by Diane Lane), on his behalf. Says Trumbo's elder daughter, Niki, who lives in Seattle and was a consultant on the 2015 film, "I felt proud that my father was given that Oscar, but I wished he could have accepted it in person."
In 1975 Academy president Walter Mirisch (right) brought the Oscar for 1956 script 'The Brave One' — written by Trumbo under the alias Robert Rich — to the scribe’s Hollywood house. Trumbo, who was ill with cancer, died the following year.
Today, the Oscar moves around his granddaughter's house with regularity. "We've never had a good place for it," says Campbell, 43, an elementary school teacher and mother of two who inherited the award upon her grandmother's death in 2009. "It's usually in the corner of the dining room. Whenever we go out of town, I put him in the linen closet." Campbell, who, with her mother Mitzi, lived with her grandparents until she was 4, recalls of Trumbo: "My grandfather was very sick. He had one of those elevator chairs that goes up the stairs — that's what kids remember."
But Campbell is all too clear on the Oscar's historical value: "I think my grandfather's Oscars are especially significant because they represent the eventual demise of the Hollywood blacklist, which he fought so hard to undermine. To me, they are symbols of his courage in the face of those who would have him betray his friends and his ideals. I guess you could say this Oscar is something of a moral compass."
Meanwhile, Campbell has produced her own living tributes to her grandparents: her daughter, Annabel Cleo, and her son, Milo Dalton. "My mom says: 'What will you do with it? You have two children. You could always donate it.' But I don't want to ever donate it. My kids can share it. It should stay with us. It's a cherished family heirloom."