I had never heard of Dalton Trumbo until today, and I daresay you haven’t heard of him either. He was a member of the “Hollywood Ten,” which was a group of writers and directors who were blacklisted after being deemed Communist sympathisers. Trumbo was sent to prison and later he moved to Mexico. He continued to write but had to use a writer friend as a frontman. Thus his script for the film “Roman Holiday” was credited to Ian McClellan Hunter. Hunter received payment from the studio and forwarded it on to Trumbo in Mexico. When the film won a screenplay Oscar, Hunter continued the pretence and picked up the award. IMDb mentions that:
In December 1992 the Academy decided to change the records and to credit Mr. Trumbo with the [Oscar]. Ian McLellan Hunter was removed from the Motion Picture Story category and the Oscar was posthumously presented to Trumbo’s widow on May 10th, 1993.
I wonder whether authorship corrections will take off in science? Nobel prizes always generate a bit of controversy about who was responsible for the prize-winning leap forward (think Rosalind Franklin, Douglas Prasher and this year’s immunology prizewinners), but I am sure there are many other squabbles about authorship that bubble under the surface. I am aware too that sometimes generous PIs omit their names from papers in order to give a boost to their up-and-coming proteges.
Just goes to show that you can never be sure who actually wrote something. And don’t even mention that Earl of Oxford.