Marguerite Roberts
Marguerite Roberts (1905 - 1989).jpg
Born(1905-09-21)September 21, 1905
DiedFebruary 17, 1989(1989-02-17) (aged 83)
Years active19331971

Marguerite Roberts (September 21, 1905 – February 17, 1989) was an American screenwriter, one of the highest paid in the 1930s. After she and her husband John Sanford refused to testify in 1951 before the House Un-American Activities Committee, she was blacklisted for nine years and unable to get work in Hollywood. She was hired again in 1962 by Columbia Pictures.[1][2]


Roberts was born in 1905 in Clarks, Nebraska.[2][3]

In the early 1920s, Roberts and her first husband traveled in the South selling imitation pearls. In California when their business failed, she found work at an El Centro local newspaper, The Imperial Valley Press.[4] She moved to Hollywood and became a secretary for 20th Century Fox in 1926,[5] and sold her first script in 1931.[6] In 1933, she collaborated on the screenplay of Sailor's Luck, directed by Raoul Walsh. That year she signed the first of a string of contracts with MGM, which made her one of the best paid screenwriters of Hollywood at $2500 per week. She explained how she preferred to write scenarios for tough men: "I was weaned on stories about gunfighters and their doings, and I know all the lingo too. My grandfather came West as far as Colorado by covered wagon. He was a sheriff in the state's wildest days."[6]

Roberts was working for Paramount Pictures in 1936, where she met the writer John Sanford. They married two years later.[7] After Sanford joined the Communist Party in 1939, Roberts followed him but left in 1947.[8] She encouraged him to pursue his independent writing and supported them both by her screenwriting.

Blacklisted in 1951 for refusing to answer the House Un-American Activities Committee,[4] Roberts had to wait nine years before working again in Hollywood. In 1957 she and Sanford moved to Montecito, California.

In 1962, she was hired by Columbia Pictures to work on Diamond Head (1963). She also wrote the screenplay for True Grit (1969), which earned its actor, John Wayne, his only Oscar. She wrote steadily through the next decade and had many of her films produced.[9]

She died in February 17, 1989 at 83 years old from arteriosclerosis.



  1. ^ Baumgold, Julie (November 1, 1996). "The last communist". Esquire. Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  2. ^ a b Morgan, Barbara (January 1, 2002). "Roberts, Marguerite (1905–1989)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  3. ^ Sanford, John B. (1995). We Have a Little Sister: Marguerite : The Midwest Years. Capra Pr. p. 270. ISBN 0884963993.
  4. ^ a b "Filmography of Marguerite Roberts".
  5. ^ MSN (ed.). "Marguerite Roberts: Overview". Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  6. ^ a b "Marguerite Roberts". Archived from the original on 2011-10-21.
  7. ^ "John A. Sanford". HarperCollins.
  8. ^ Rutten, Tim (March 8, 2003). "Sanford's originality came through to the end". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "Marguerite Roberts; Writer Blackballed in 1950s Red Hunt". LA Times.