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Through a focus on the life of Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976), this film examines the effects on individuals and families of a congressional pursuit of Hollywood Communists after World War II. Trumbo was one of several writers, directors, and actors who invoked the First Amendment in refusing to answer questions under oath. They were blacklisted and imprisoned. We follow Trumbo to prison, to exile in Mexico with his family, to poverty, to the public shunning of his children, to his writing under others' names, and to an eventual but incomplete vindication. Actors read his letters; his children and friends remember and comment. Archive photos, newsreels and interviews add texture. Written by
fantastic story about holding to what you believe in, despite the odds
"Trumbo" is an amazing documentary about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a man who won an Oscar under another name in 1965 and couldn't go and pick it up.
What a story, told mostly by Trumo himself through his letters, segment of his book "Johnny Got His Gun," and interviews he gave. The letters and book portion are read by a wonderful cast: Michael Douglas, Josh Lucas, Nathan Lane, Paul Giametti, Diane Lane, David Strathairn, Brian Dennehy, Liam Neeson, and Donald Sutherland.
There are also interviews with his children, Mitzi and Christopher, Walter Bernstein, Otto Preminger, Kirk Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Kate Lardner, and others.
We're shown a brilliant man who is an equally brilliant screenwriter. His career is stopped thanks to the blacklist, because he refused to answer "are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?" - not taking the fifth amendment which would protect him from self-incrimination, but, like the rest of the "Hollywood Ten," the first amendment where the government is prohibited from inhibiting free association, and their right to silence.
Trumbo liked a good fight, and he stuck to his beliefs, even though it meant going broke, having to move to Mexico, and ultimately writing 18 screenplays under other names or being uncredited.
It wasn't until the late '50s, when some producers began hiring blacklisted people and 1960, when Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas broke the blacklist by crediting Trumbo for their films, that the blacklist began to lose its sting. It would take others much longer to regain their reputations, if they ever did. Many lives were ruined in its wake.
This is such a compelling documentary, but if you weren't around in that era, it probably won't have the impact it did on someone like me. When I was growing up, the most terrifying thing in the world was Communism.
In truth, it was a philosophy that sounded good to people during the depression. Philosophies on paper always sound good - unfortunately they don't work when you have human beings involved. Most people became disillusioned with it and, after attending some meetings or even joining, gave it up.
Sadly, if. like Lee Grant, you even went to the funeral of someone who was suspected of being a communist, you were blacklisted.
As Trumbo put it, the Elks were probably as influential in the end. But J. Edgar, McCarthy, and others saw Communists under every chair. It was a furor that caused a lot of damage and denied us the work of some great artists.
Highly recommended for an excellent look at what was going on during that time.
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