The Gladiators – The Story of a Lost Hollywood Epic

We all know that Dr Rad’s main man is Spartacus. But recently, she has not been loyal to Kirk Douglas. For the past four years, Dr Rad has been part of a team that has been battling to bring the other side of this film’s production history to the world!

Douglas’ 1960 film had a serious rival in Yul Brynner and his proposed movie The Gladiators.

yul brynner - spartacus

A promotion poster for The Gladiators. Image courtesy of Peplums

The script of Brynner’s film, written by blacklistee Abraham Polonsky, was recently rediscovered and is now going into publication with commentary by Dr Rad, and a fascinating history of this duel to the death by Henry MacAdam and Duncan Cooper.

This two volume publication is packed with detail and intrigue!

The race to bring Spartacus to the big screen!

The Gladiators vs. Spartacus, Volume 1: Dueling Productions in Blacklist Hollywood

The Cover for The Gladiators vs Spartacus: Dueling Productions in Blacklist Hollywood, Volume 1: A Race to the Screen!

Volume I explores the backstory of rival movie productions of Brynner’s The Gladiators and Douglas’ Spartacus. Through previously unpublished correspondence and personal journal entries from screenwriter Abraham Polonsky, neglected notices in Variety, extracts from Hollywood trade publications, and other published sources, the rivalry comes to life!

The intense competition between the productions can now be understood with greater precision and clarity through this ground-breaking research. The key role that this little-known chapter of Hollywood’s blacklist history played, in connection with Dalton Trumbo’s successful effort to win screen credit for Spartacus, is now for the first time available to historians and lay readers.

Dr Rad’s commentary on Polonsky’s screenplay

The Gladiators vs. Spartacus, Volume 2: Abraham Polonsky’s Screenplay

The Cover for The Gladiators vs Spartacus: Dueling Productions in Blacklist Hollywood, Volume 2: Abraham Polonsky’s Screenplay

Volume II is devoted to Abraham Polonsky’s rediscovered screenplay. The script was inspired by the 1939 novel of the same name by Arthur Koestler, which grappled with idealism in the face of Soviet Communism.

This publication of Abraham Polonsky’s unproduced screenplay for The Gladiators is a tribute to one of Hollywood’s premiere post-WWII directors and writers whose career was severely impacted by the blacklist.

His script for The Gladiators survives to remind us that he could, and did, transform a difficult and complex novel of an ancient slave rebellion into a screenplay worthy of Arthur Koestler’s bold fictional vision. Through a combination of the ambivalence of its executive producer and star, plus bad timing, it never went before the cameras.

This book is published in the hope that The Gladiators will be produced for cinema or television. You can check out both volumes at Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Does all this excitement have you is a nostalgic mood to relive Douglas’ 1960 classic? We have a vintage episode on Spartacus (1960) just for you.

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Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!


  1. March 2, 2021

    Absolutely superb book. Highly recommended.

    • The Partial Historians
      March 2, 2021

      Thank you!

  2. […] the beginning of this year, we finally got to see The Gladiators vs Spartacus in print. It took a lot of determination and hard work on behalf of Henry MacAdam, as well as co-authors […]

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