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Are you now or have you ever been: The Dalton Trumbo story

Updated on January 18, 2016

Dalton Trumbo

Bryan Cranston stars as Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo
Bryan Cranston stars as Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo | Source

Credits

Trumbo: “R” (124 min)

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K.

Directed by: Jay Roach

The Dawn of U.S. Communism

Believe it or not, in 1919, The American Communist Party (which was recently formed at the time) was actually a legitimate political party in this country. The reason for this was that it was at a time before of the rise of Russia as a Communist state and the beginning of the Cold War. In 1947, Hollywood was still run by the studio system and Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood — and thus the world. Only Trumbo, unlike many other wealthy men, is genially concerned with the plight of the workers, and that’s why he joined the Communist Party.

Trumbo Trailer

Are you a Communist?

In one telling moment early on in the film, Trumbo is talking to his eldest daughter Niki, (Madison Wolfe) at age eight, who wants to know if she herself is a Communist. Trumbo asks his daughter if she had her favorite lunch and a classmate had no lunch what would she do? Ignore the classmate? Tell them to go out and get a job to buy their own lunch? Loan them money at 6% interest? Niki opts to sharing her sandwich with her friend, to which her father informs her that she is a good Communist. It was at this point that we (although we already knew large portions of this story) acquired a better appreciation, and new perspective of Communism.

Trumbo: Book

Trumbo
Trumbo

Trumbo is a unique book about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and his heroic journey from Hollywood royalty to blacklisted writer to Academy Award winner. Based on a play by his son Christopher.

 

The rise of McCarthyism

Well, Trumbo and several other screenwriters got called out by an over-eager group of “Pro America” politicians (Joseph McCarthy), journalists —gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Mirren), and actors — including John Wayne (David James Elliott), all geared up to squash the Commie threat (“Don’t look now, but there is a Commie hiding under your bed.”). All of these folks got their panties in a twist over the fact that the working-class proletariat had the audacity to actually want a piece of the American dream.

Joseph McCarthy

The verdict on the late Senator's anti-communist cause -- and the tactics with which he pursued it.
The verdict on the late Senator's anti-communist cause -- and the tactics with which he pursued it. | Source

Blacklisted

For their effort, Trumbo and other artists were fired, blacklisted, and jailed for their political beliefs. Trumbo, as their leader, lead the fight for this cause, convincing the others that the 5=-to-four liberal majority on the Supreme Court would rule in their favor, only unfortunately when one of the liberal Justices dies (and is replaced with a conservative), the tide turns against them and the Hollywood 10 are sent to prison.

The Hollywood 10

The 10 were Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo.
The 10 were Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo. | Source

Redemption

When Trumbo was released, he resorts to giving the screenplay for Roman Holiday to his friend Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk), which goes on to win an Academy Award for Best Story. Unable to write under his own name, Trumbo (and his friends) resort to banging out “B” films for the King Brothers Productions where Trumbo eventually pens The Brave One which also wins an Oscar. Eventually both Kirk Douglas (Dean O'Gorman) and Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) tap him to do re-writes on scripts for Spartacus and Exodus respectively, both of whom credited Trumbo as the writer, thus finally breaking the back of the Black List

Protests

Free the Hollywood 10
Free the Hollywood 10 | Source

A Historical perspective

The film most excellently gets across the point of how horribly these men were treated (and by way of extension how the Right is still demonizing those it can in order to advance its own agenda). In retrospect, while a point can be made that their battle was always going to be a Sisyphean task, being labeled as Communists was simply never going to help their cause. While this isn’t Reds, it certainly does paint an interesting picture of what was going on in the country as it helps expose the hatefulness and hypocrisy of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), nor is it the first film to deal with this topic. Most notably — although in a more humorous fashion — Woody Allen’s The Front also took on this topic back in 1976, as did an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s 2006-07 TV show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Dalton Trumbo

The Unrepentant Marxist
The Unrepentant Marxist | Source

Our Recommendation

We highly recommend this film as it deals (evenly) with a very dark period of our history, giving an alternate (and admittedly) less popular view of that those events that only the distance of the passage of time can render. For those of who would disagree with us, we would have to refer back to Trumbo’s words to his daughter, as well as the knowledge that the early Christian church was essentially a “communistic” society, where it was from each according to their means, and to each according to their needs.

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