In 1957, LIFE magazine published a real-life mystery titled “Hollywood Whodunit: An Oscar, Whowonit?” A screenwriter named Robert Rich had won an Oscar for best original screenplay for the 1956 movie The Brave One. The problem was, Rich never came forward to collect his award. No one actually knew who he was, for that matter.
Rich, it would later be revealed, was the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose life will get the biopic treatment with the release of Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston, on Friday. Trumbo wrote The Brave One under a pen name because he was blacklisted for his involvement with the Communist Party and could not find work under his real name.
When asked whether he was the writer behind The Brave One, Trumbo responded, “I’ll neither deny nor confirm that I wrote it. In that way I am able to steal part of the credit for practically every good picture ever made.” One of the movie’s producers, Morry King, lamented Rich’s anonymity: “If only we could find Rich, we’d have a party for him, have some great drinks, invite the press—should be great.”
It would be nearly two decades before such a party could be thrown—the Academy officially recognized Trumbo in 1975, the year before he died.