Reds (1981)   

 

 

 

Director:    Warren Beatty

Starring:     Warren Beatty (John Reed), Diane Keaton (Louise Bryant), Edward Herrmann (Max Eastman), Jerzy Kosinski (Grigory Zinoviev), Jack Nicholson (Eugene O'Neill), Paul Sorvino (Louis Fraina), Maureen Stapelton (Emma Goldman), Nicolas Coster (Paul Trullinger), M. Emmet Walsh (Speaker, Liberal Club), Ian Wolfe (Mr. Partlow), Bessie Love (Mrs. Partlow), MacIntyre Dixon (Carl Walters), Pat Starr (Helen Walters), Eleanor D. Wilson (Mrs. Reed),  Max Wright (Floyd Dell),  George Plimpton (Horace Whigham).  

Oscars: Best Director; Best Supporting Actress (Maureen Stapleton); Best Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro)

Story of Jack Reed's career, with special emphasize on his love affair with Louise Bryant.   The last part deals with his experiences in the Russian Revolution.

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

The scene is set in Portland, Oregon at an art gallery showing the work of photographer Louise Trullinger.  Her husband is a dentist named Paul.   They do not see eye to eye as Paul is a traditionalist and Louise a bohemian artist type.  To get away from her husband, Louise goes to the meeting of the Liberal Club.  The reporter Jack Reed is there and after the meeting she introduces herself.  She wants to interview Jack.  She takes him to her studio and they stay up talking until 6 a.m. the next morning.  She learns that Jack is raising money for the radical magazine the Masses.  The two parted company with Louise almost throwing him out of her studio. 

The next day Jack meets Louise at his home where his parents are having a fancy dinner party.  After the dinner, they have sex.  He tells her to come to New York  which is better suited to her bohemian attitude.  Then one day she just shows up at Jack's Greenwich Village apartment.  Also in his apartment are the radicals Emma Goldman and Max Eastman.  (Other radicals of the time and in the area were the I.W.W.s (the Wobblies), I.W.W. organizer Big Bill Haywood, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, columnist Walter Lippman, muck-racker Steffens, dancer Isodora Duncan, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, writer Eugene O'Neill and novelist Floyd Dell.) 

Jack is surprised, but pleased to see her.  Big Bill Haywood and Jack try to organize some working men, but the police break up the meeting forcibly. 

After awhile, Louise starts to get very frustrated over her writing career.  She tells Jack that "I'm not taken seriously when you're around."  Jack sidesteps the issue by suggesting that they get out of New York for awhile.  They go to Provincetown and join in another bohemian circle.  Eugene O'Neill is also here and the group puts on some very experimental plays. 

Jack travels to the mid-west to attend the Democratic Party National Convention where Wilson is expected to win.  While he is away, Louise has an affair with O'Neill.  When Jack comes home unannounced he sees Eugene and Louise together.  Instead of confronting Louise about the issue, he asks her to marry him. 

The scene changes to Croton-on-Hudson, New York where Jack and Louise have leased a house.  O'Neill suddenly shows up and tells Louise that he loves her.  He complains that she left without saying good-bye.  She tells him that she and Jack are now married.  Before leaving, he gives her a love poem and she sticks it in a book.  It doesn't take long before Jack finds the poem.  Louise tries to explain, but Jack only makes things worse by saying he has a list of women with whom he had sex.  This shocks Louise to the core and she leaves Jack, but she keeps in touch with him through letters. 

Paris, 1917.  The talk of another of Jack's groups is Russia's Bolsheviks and Kerensky and his provisional government.  He learns from a buddy that Louise has not been doing so well. She has been fired from here writing job.  Jacks finds her working for the Allied soldiers in support services.  They have a brief meeting and he asks her to go with him to Russia to see the exciting happenings of a possible Bolshevik revolution.  Louise says no thanks, but later she flops herself into the railway seat right across from Jack as he travels to Russia.  He is very happy to see her, but she tells him there will be no sex between them.  That's alright with Jack.

At the Russian border their introduction is the sight of wounded men everywhere on the platforms, victims of the Russian battles against Germany in World War I.  They travel on to Petrograd.  They meet and/or interview many of the top Bolshevik leaders including Zinoviev, Trotsky and Lenin.  They even get in to the Winter Palace to interview Kerensky.  Excited, one evening Louise tells Jack: "Jack, thanks for bringing me here." 

Jack gets so involved with the meetings of the Bolsheviks that he is forced up onto the stage to speak about the American worker and the possibilities of revolution in the United States.  Louise is excited to see him up on stage.  Later the couple have sex. 

The October Revolution occurs.  Christmas arrives.  Jack and Louise go back to the United States.  At customs they confiscate all his notes on his time in Russia.  They live asgain in Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County.  As a radical, Louise testifies before Congress.  America is very afraid since the Bolshevik Revolution because they actually believe that a Bolshevik Revolution could happen in America.  It is the period of the Red Scare with the Palmer raids with its arrests of American radicals simply for their being radicals.  She gives very intelligent and critical answers to Senator Overman.  Jack visits Emma Goldman in prison. 

Jack publishes his book Ten Day that Shook the World about the Bolshevik Revolution.  It makes him famous.  Big trouble starts for Jack and Louise when Jack changes from journalist to radical Communist activist and politician.  He gets himself embroiled in the creation of and the fight between two parties:  the Communist Party of America and the slightly more radical Communist Labor Party of America.  Jack is with the latter party.  His party wants him to go to Russia as an international delegate to get the Comintern to recognize their party as the true Communist party in the United States.  Upon hearing the news, Louise becomes very mad at Jack.  She hates the idea that he is giving up journalism for politics and fighting over what she sees as petty differences between two groups of leftist Communists.  She flat out tells him: "I'm not going with you."   Foolish Jack goes anyway. 

It is going to be hard to get to Russia.  Russia has closed itself off and has been closed off by sixteen armies from different countries attacking the great Russian bear.  Jacks gets fake documents to get himself over to Russia.  He travels through Finland to Russia. 

Someone in law enforcement is trailing Louise.  One night the law breaks into her house saying they have an arrest warrant for sedition and demanding to know where Jack is. 

The Comintern tells Jack that they want the two Communist parties to merge into one.  Discouraged Jacks tells Zinoviev that he is going home.  But he can't go home.  Zinoviev tells him that the revolution needs him.  He is too valuable to be allowed to go home.  Jack had promised Louise that he would return by Christmas.  But now he learns that he must remain in Russia until July.  Jack wants go get home so bad that he uses one of those railroad push carts to travel along the railway into Finland.  But at the Finnish border they arrest him and hold him in jail. 

Louise becomes very worried about the whereabouts of Jack.  No one has heard from him in quite awhile.  Louise gets a stow-away ride on a Norwegian ship.  Meanwhile, the Finns trade Jack for two Finnish professors.  Back in Russia, Emma Goldman, deported in the Red Scare, tells Jack how the Bolsheviks are killing the revolution.  They have closed down the newspapers and have arrested many people for exercising free speech.  And their government doesn't even function well.  Since the Revolution, some four million people have died of starvation or typhus.  She finishes with "I'm getting out!" 

The Russians then send Jack to Baku in the Middle East to inspire revolutionary fervor there.   Louise reaches Finland, but they tell her that they do not know of the whereabouts of Jack Reed. 

Zinoviev changes some of Jack's words for his speech.  For instance, they change "class war" to "holy war".  Jack's curiosity is aroused when he gets such great cheers all of a sudden during his speech.  As he is telling Zenoviev not to change his words, the Whites (counter-revolutionaries) attack the train. 

Louise arrives in Russia where Emma Goldman finds her.  She tells her to remain  with her because Jack will soon be back from Baku.  When the train arrives at the station,  she is shocked and worried to see all the damage done to the railway cars by the attack of the White forces.  She sees Zinoviev and others get off the train, but no Jack.  Then she sees a dead man being carried off on a covered stretcher.  At her lowest point, she and Jack see each other.  They embrace and hold on. 

in bad shape, Jack has to be taken to the hospital where Louise tends to him.  He is not doing well at all and when she goes out to get him some more water he dies. 

 

Great movie.  It's a big spectacular that covers a great deal of American and Russian history.  And it's a first-class love story.  Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton were great as Jack and Louise Reed respectively. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

John Reed

American journalist and supporter of revolution; (he becomes a hero in U.S. radical circles).

1887  -- born John Reed in Portland, Oregon.

Educated at Harvard University.

after 1913   --  member of the staff of the radical periodical The Masses.

1914  --  war correspondent for Metropolitan Magazine; wins wide recognition for his articles on the Mexican revolution.

1914  -- reports on the miner strike in Colorado.

WWI  -- war correspondent.

1916  -- writes The War in Eastern Europe.

Visits Russia and becomes a close friend of Lenin.

1917  --  is there to see the Russian Revolution in Petrograd.

1919  -- best-known work, Ten Days That Shook the World, an eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution.

1919, Aug  -- back from Russia, he is expelled from the National Socialist Convention. The splinter group forms the Communist Labor Party.

During the era of the infamous Palmer Raids, Reed is indicted for sedition; escapes to the Soviet Union; dies of typhus; is buried, with other Bolshevik leaders, at the Kremlin.

 

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