David Robb, Veteran Labor Reporter at Hollywood Trades, Dies at 74

The longtime journalist worked at The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and most recently at Deadline

Photo by Mike Fleming

David Robb, a veteran labor reporter whose tenure included stints at Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, died Friday at his home in Los Angeles, Deadline reported.

Robb suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with inoperable cancer of the brain stem and entered hospice care in late November, just before Thanksgiving.

Over his 45-year career, Robb also wrote for the New York Times, Associated Press and L.A. Weekly, heavily covering the labor beat.

In 1995, Robb broke the first of several stories revealing the blacklisted screenwriters who didn’t get credit for writing several films when they refused to testify about alleged Community Party membership. That story, published in the New York Times, gave credit to Michael Wilson for cowriting “Lawrence of Arabia” 17 years after his death.

Robb most recently covered the 2023 dual strikes in Hollywood for Deadline. The outlet reported that he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in late October after suffering what he believed was a small stroke.

In a lengthy and lovely obituary at the publication, Robb’s colleague Mike Fleming Jr. wrote, “I always called Dave Deadline’s cage fighter because if there was a wrong to be righted, he was the first man in the ring.”

“Along with his unparalleled knowledge of the Hollywood labor game honed from 45 years writing about it from Los Angeles, Dave would often surprise us with investigative stories on myriad topics that we found about only when he turned them in,” Fleming continued.

The subjects that Robb covered, Fleming said, all had a central theme: “rooting out wrongdoing.” His career began at a poker table, where he was hired to work as a copyboy for the San Francisco Examiner. A year later, Robb took a job as a labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter.

He extensively covered labor issues in Hollywood and “was an advocate for the under-represented and disenfranchised in Hollywood: African-American and Native American actors, child actors, stunt performers, women.”

In 1997, the WGA celebrated Robb at a luncheon for his work that “pricked the public conscience with his tales of the blacklist years and kept this issue alive.” He received a plaque signed by 24 blacklisted writers.

Robb specifically requested that Fleming author his obituary. As a result, the pair spoke “regularly and at length” before he died. Fleming added that Robb was “the happiest I’d ever seen him” before his death, and grateful for the opportunity to “reflect on his life, to say proper goodbyes to friends and those he loved, to be at piece with his lovely wife Kelly.”

The journalist told Fleming, “As strange as it might sound, these weeks have been some of the happiest and most meaningful of my life. There has been no pain, and no fear. I’ve accepted it and I’m at peace. I’m filled with gratitude at the love pouring in, and out of myself. It has been remarkable.”

Robb requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.


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