07/06/2012 02:53 pm ET

Kirk Douglas Blacklist: Did 'Spartacus' Actor Break The Blacklist For Dalton Trumbo?

"Spartacus" is one of the most successful films in the history of Universal Studios. The 1960 film earned $60 million at the box office, received six Oscar nominations and is credited with breaking the Hollywood blacklist.

As legend has it, actor and producer Kirk Douglas brazenly hired screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to write "Spartacus," even though the acclaimed author was one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of people who refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) about Communism. Trumbo spent 11 months in jail for contempt of Congress, and was summarily blacklisted from Hollywood. It wasn't until 1960, when Douglas announced that he had been hired for "Spartacus," that the blacklisting ended. Over the years, Douglas has been credited for "breaking the blacklist"; he won an award from the Writers Guild of America for his trailblazing work and even wrote about his good deeds in a new book, I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist.

Now, though, Douglas' claims are coming under fire from Trumbo's family. "He wanted us to acknowledge him as the breaker of the blacklist," Trumbo's daughter, Melissa Trumbo, told The Atlantic. "Kirk Douglas has become so vocal and insistent that this was such an easy thing for him to do and he just did it because it was right. It just makes you a little crazy. I did throw Douglas's book across the room at one point."

According to Trumbo's family and others involved in the production of "Spartacus," Douglas' claims and boasts are overblown; the actor was not, in fact, instrumental in getting Trumbo a screenwriting credit on "Spartacus," and had to be pushed and convinced to let it happen.

For his part, Douglas, who is now 95, has stood by his story.

For more on this six-decade old game of he said/they said, head over to The Atlantic, which has an exhaustive breakdown of the events.

[via The Atlantic]

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