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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 March 2016

Film review: 'Trumbo' - from the red carpet to the blacklist and back again

Scott Jones
Dalton Trumbo, photo Huntington Theatre Company/Creative Commons

Dalton Trumbo, photo Huntington Theatre Company/Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge)

Imagine losing your job for the views you hold. Imagine being imprisoned for membership of a legal political party. Imagine being vilified and physically assaulted for being a socialist. Imagine it takes place in the name of 'democracy', in the 'land of the free'.

This was the reality of life in 'McCarthyite' America in the 1950s for thousands of people who went to prison, or were prevented from working or even travelling. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy was prosecuting a vicious, public campaign against socialists and democratic rights.

The movie Trumbo tells the story of the 151 film industry stars who were blacklisted for alleged communist sympathies. Specifically the 'Hollywood Ten' whose fame and wealth didn't stop them being jailed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

The title character, Dalton Trumbo, was a screenwriter who joined the Communist Party of the USA in the 1940s.

He opposed fascism and supported workers in struggle. Like many of his generation, he was radicalised by the Great Depression and political polarisation of the 1930s. Trumbo aligned himself with the labour movement.

Bryan Cranston, a latecomer to Hollywood stardom following his starring role in Breaking Bad, plays Trumbo fantastically. He brings to life a man who was obviously very passionate, funny and talented in a relevant and insightful film.

Assisted by comedian Louis CK, who plays a fictional character, he leads the Hollywood Ten when they are subpoenaed by the HUAC to testify before Congress regarding communism in the movie industry.

They refuse to directly answer questions leading to 'contempt of Congress' charges. Trumbo serves eleven months in prison.

Ironically in prison he meets J Parnell Thomas, former head of the HUAC, who like a 'true patriot' was imprisoned for tax evasion!

After his release, the blacklisted Trumbo struggles to find work. Along with other blacklisted writers he is forced to write screenplays under false names. This eventually leads to Trumbo winning two Oscars, for Roman Holiday and the Brave One.

This success leads those in the know to recruit him to write Spartacus. Star Kirk Douglas insists Trumbo is named when the film is released and the effectiveness of the blacklist is therefore broken.

However, the blacklist was much more effective in ruining the lives and careers of an estimated 12,000 union activists, workers and teachers, something not mentioned in the film. And blacklisting of union activists and socialists still goes on today, even in Britain.

Despite the vehement and ruthless demonising of socialist ideas and socialists during the McCarthy era, the USA of today is seeing millions embrace 'democratic socialist' Bernie Sanders in the race for president. Seattle has twice elected revolutionary socialist Kshama Sawant to city council. And socialism became the most looked-up word of 2015.

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In The Socialist 9 March 2016:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Housing crisis: can't pay, will stay!

TUSC names first 2016 election challengers

Young people could have to work to 75

Union confirms TTIP will boost EU NHS sell-offs

'Heathrow 13' climate activists avoid jail time

Osborne's £10.4 billion tax lie

Benefit fraud: 85% of allegations untrue

Them & Us


Workplace news and analysis

"Our wages have been frozen for nine years" - a day in the life of a court worker

"Pay the rate" demand construction workers

Thousands to strike in defence of sixth form colleges

Yorkshire union reps and members share experiences

Workplace news in brief


Junior doctors

Junior doctors: striking to win

Junior doctors' strike: organise to kill off Hunt's contract

Solidarity with junior doctors!


What we think

Refugee crisis: cruel capitalist regimes responsible

A chance for the trade unions to lead the EU referendum debate


Housing crisis

We need socialist policies to end the housing crisis

Life on Cameron's 'sink estates': "This is my home!"


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Take out a May Day greeting!

Thousands march in solidarity with Kurds in Turkey

Far right frustrated and embarrassed in Newcastle

Glasgow council use scare tactics under pressure to fight cuts

Enthusiastic reception for anti-austerity ideas in south Wales

Campaigns round-up


Socialist readers' comments and reviews

Film review: 'Trumbo' - from the red carpet to the blacklist and back again

Theatre: 'Tinned Goods' - women during miners' strike

TV: 'Deutschland 83' - spy thriller's capitalist bias

Letters


 

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