I’m writing you today regarding the piece, “WGA Restores Blacklisted Writer Dalton Trumbo’s Screen Credit On ‘Roman Holiday,’” by Mike Fleming which appeared on Deadline New York online Monday, December 19, 2011.
My father, Lester Koenig, was a writer and producer principally known for being second in command on Willy Wyler’s films from WWII (my father was the principal writer of The Memphis Belle) through Roman Holiday. He was blacklisted on the grounds that he had been named by someone as having questionable ties and then, on being subpoenaed, he refused to name names. He was a friend and colleague of Dalton Trumbo. Taking nothing away from Dalton, my father told me that the screenplay for Roman Holiday was a collaborative effort. When Willy Wyler, my father, and several other writers left port in New York on the Queen Mary bound for Europe, Willy was not satisfied with what they had. So Willy, my father and the other writers worked assiduously together every day of the voyage on rewriting the script and they continued to labor over it at Cinecitta (with the addition of some Italian writers) before Willy decided the script was in good enough shape for him to begin to shoot the picture.
Because Willy insisted to the studio that my father was essential to the production of Roman Holiday, he was permitted to be hired for the picture (his role would be credited today as writer and producer; in those days, for complex reasons, his credit on Willy’s pictures was typically “associate producer”), but for Roman Holiday he received no credit at all. In my opinion, the attached photos of my father working with Willy, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on Roman Holiday testify eloquently that he was, indeed, at the creative core of the film, yet even they, as telling as they are, they can’t tell the whole story. (more…)