Trumbo (2015)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Jay Roach.

Starring:     Bryan Cranston (Dalton Trumbo), Michael Stuhlbarg (Edward G. Robinson), David Maldonado (Rocco), John Getz (Sam Wood), Diane Lane (Cleo Trumbo), Laura Flannery (Party Goer), Helen Mirren (Hedda Hopper), David James Elliott (John Wayne), Toby Nichols (Chris Trumbo, age 6-10), Joseph S. Martino (Rally Participant), Madison Wolfe (Niki Trumbo, age 8-11), Jason Bayle (Young Father), James DuMont (J. Parnell Thomas), Alan Tudyk (Ian McLellan Hunter), Louis C.K. (Arlen Hird), Dan Bakkedahl (Roy Brewer), Richard Portnow (Louis B. Mayer), Roger Bart (Buddy Ross), Johnny Sneed (Robert Stripling), Rio Hackford (Reporter), Dane Rhodes (Reporter), Peter Mackenzie (Robert Kenny), John Neisler (Jury Foreman), Sean Bridgers (Jeff Krandall), John E. Moore (Prison Guard), P.J. Marshall (Prison Guard), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Virgil Brooks), Meghan Wolfe (Mitzi Trumbo, age 6-8), Mitchell Zakocs (Chris Trumbo, age 10-12), Elle Fanning (Niki Trumbo), John Goodman (Frank King), Stephen Root (Hymie King), Jason Kirkpatrick (Mover), Wayne Pére (Next Door Neighbor), A.J. Allegra (Messenger), Mattie Liptak (Chris Trumbo, age 13-17) , Becca Nicole Preston (Mitzi Trumbo, age 9-12), Dean O'Gorman (Kirk Douglas), Garrett Hines (Andrew Hird), Chris LeBlanc (Niki's Friend), Ron Fassler (Journalist), Christian Berkel (Otto Preminger), Mark Harelik (Ed Muhl), Jim Gleason (TV Interviewer), Rick Kelly (President John F. Kennedy), Billy Slaughter (DC Reporter), Griff Furst (Master of Ceremonies).

Academy Award winning screenplay writer, Dalton Trumbo, gets black-listed along with many of his friends

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"During the 1930s, in response to the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism, thousands of Americans joined the Communist Party of the United States.  After the U.S. allied with the Soviet Union during World War II, many more joined the C.P.U.S.A.  Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a long-time champion of workers' rights, became a member of the Party in 1948.  But the Cold War cast a new light of suspicion on American Communists."

1947.  North of Los Angeles.  Dalton Trumbo likes to write in the bath tub with a large tray spread across the tub.  He has his cigars and liquor and an upright board.  He  is an award-winning author and screenplay writer.

Trumbo is on the set of a movie starring Edward G. Robinson.  Robinson as narrator says that Louie B. Mayer lined up the A Team.  Mayer was co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios (MGM) in 1924.  At a Trumbo party, Trumbo gets into a political argument with film director Sam Wood and is called the "swimming pool Soviet".  Hedda Hopper, the gossip columnist, is there along with John Wayne.  Robinson intervenes between Sam and Trumbo. 

Trumbo and his family go to a movie.  On the screen, Hedda Hopper and John Wayne are very conservative and don't like communists. Hedda says that the actors and actresses Danny Kaye, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and others have all declared solidarity with film crews picketing for higher wages in walkouts that quickly turned violent.  These strikes, she says, are the work of dangerous radicals.  Other Hollywood people involved in the strikes are Edward G. Robinson and writer Dalton Trumbo, who is a registered communist.  Hedda says that Congressman J. Parnell Thomas and his House Un-American Activities Committee are examining to find out who is behind these strikes. 

On his way out of the theater, a man asks Trumbo if he's the guy up there on the screen and Trumbo says yes.  The man then throws his drink onto Trumbo's suit and shirt and calls him a traitor.   

Trumbo meets with fellow radicals, including Edward G. Robinson, Ian McLellan Hunter and Arlen Hird.  Dalton says he's going to have a little chat with the other side:  the Alliance. 

The Motion Picture Alliance holds a dinner with John Wayne as the primary speaker.  Hedda Hopper sits next to Wayne.  Wayne is a communist chaser and his talk is all condemnation of the communists, especially those in Hollywood.  Later Trumbo confronts Wayne and they argue.  Wayne gets so heated that Trumbo says if Wayne is going to hit him, he would like to take off his glasses.  One of Wayne's friends grabs John and pulls him out of the situation. 

Louie B. Mayer talks with Trumbo in his office and says on this next movie, Trumbo will be the highest paid screenwriter in the world.  The only thing Mayer asks is that Trumbo not get his name in the newspaper again.  Trumbo says he promises.  He then adds:  "Just stop reading Hedda Hopper."

Trumbo is having a picnic out in his large back yard, when three men pull up and serve Trumbo with a subpoena.  He then quips:  "I'll see you in Washington."

September 1947.  Congressman Thomas says that he has issued nineteen subpoenas to those they believe have knowledge of the ongoing communist threat in Hollywood  --  a conspiracy to corrupt democratic values.  Congress calls as witnesses:  Ronald Reagan, Congressman Thomas, film director Sam Wood and actor Robert Taylor.

Trumbo talks to his group of radicals, saying that there will be a trial for them and that means jail for them.  But, he assures them, they will win on appeal. Arlen Hird now quits the group.  In private with Trumbo, Arlen says he can't afford the legal fees and the going to jail.

Washington, D. C.   Ten of the nineteen subpoenaed will now testify before Congress.  Trumbo dances around the questions and condemns the committee.  Arlen Hird does the same. 

The headline for November 25, 1947 says that the Hollywood Ten are charged with contempt of Congress. 

Hedda Hopper threatens Mayer that if he doesn't cooperate with her, she will write a very negative article about him and how is coddling the communists in his studio.  She makes several anti-Semitic remarks and Mayer tells her to get out.  But now Mayer and the other studio heads decide to fire the Hollywood Ten.  Hedda especially tries to destroy Edward G. Robinson. 

Robinson has to side with the Hollywood Ten because they are going to court for the rights of all affected by the hysteria of anti-communism.  He hosts a request for money for the defense fund for the Hollywood Ten. 

A jury finds Trumbo guilty of contempt of Congress.  The press asks Trumbo about it and he says yes, he has complete contempt for this congress, but he just thought the jury ought to know why.

Trumbo is about broke and says he better start writing more screenplays.   Actors Gregory Peck and Lucille Ball speak out against the anti-communist hysteria.  Trumbo pays a visit to Arlen Hird in the hospital.  Hird's wife left him.

Buddy Ross is an up and coming future studio head. Trumbo explains to Buddy and the others just how hard it is to be accused of being a communist in the world of Hollywood.

Trumbo has written a script and approaches Ian McLellan Hunter to turn the script into a studio with Hunter's name on it.  The money paid for the script will then be split 50-50 between Hunter and Trumbo. And no one will know about it.  Hunter agrees to take 30% of the total money.  Hunter then changes the script name to Roman Holiday.

 September 1949.  Congressman Thomas says that in the case of a national emergency, all communists will be put in concentration camps.  Thomas, however, has a problem.  He has been paying his relatives in his home state and these relatives have not been paying taxes on these monies.

Trumbo gets money for Roman Holiday and now he can pay off his home contractor.  His happiness is stifled a bit, by the death of two Supreme Court Justices.  Now there is not a liberal majority on the court.  This means prison for the Hollywood Ten. 

June 1950.  Trumbo has to say goodbye to his wife and three children.  He's headed to a prison in Ashland, Boyd County, Kentucky.  Trumbo gets himself a job as a typist in the prison supply center.  That gets him out of a lot of heavy lifting. 

While in prison, Trumbo runs right into inmate ex-Congressman J. Parnell Thomas, convicted of tax evasion.  Thomas says they're just a couple of jailbirds.  Dalton says, yes, but Thomas actually committed a crime.

Robinson has to give names now to the Congress.  He names quite a few names including that of Trumbo, Hird and Hunter.  Hedda Hopper wants Robinson punished even more, but this time John Wayne stands up to her.  He asks, Eddie talked and now he gets nothing?  That ain't right. 

Joseph McCarthy is ramping up his investigation into alleged communists he believes are infiltrating our government, our military and our schools.  

April 1951.  Trumbo is released from prison and his wife is there to pick him up via a taxi.  Back home he's very happy to see his three children again. 

Trumbo goes to a bar and runs into Buddy Ross.  He says hello to him but Buddy says he has nothing to say to him.  Hird is at the bar and he laughs at Buddy's shunning of Trumbo.  Hird tells Trumbo that Buddy is in trouble:  three movies, three flops. 

Trumbo approaches King Bros. Production.  The brothers say they can't afford Trumbo, but Trumbo says he will write a 100 page script in three days for $1,200 dollars.  Trumbo has a deal. 

The head brother is thrilled with Trumbo's script that now he wants Trumbo to fix up about five scripts that need a lot of help. 

Highland Park, California 1952.  The Trumbo family moves to their new home. They like the area but someone or someones have written a note calling the family traitors, painting a GET OUT sign on their backyard wall and thoroughly messing up their swimming pool.

January 1953.  The movie Roman Holiday opens up in the theaters.  It stars Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.  The Trumbos attend the movie and like it. 

Now Trumbo wants the King brothers to hire friends of Trumbo, some of whom were part of the Hollywood Ten.  There's Alvah Bessie, Adrian Scott and Arlen Hird.  And there's Ring Lardner, Jr., Albert Maltz and others.  Trumbo says he will find the writer and work with him.  He'll deliver the script to Trumbo and then Trumbo will give the script, if it's good, to the King Brothers.  If it needs work, Trumbo will fix it. 

Now Trumbo has his whole family working with him to coordinate with the many script writers working through Trumbo. 

Trumbo's Roman Holiday wins an Academy Award.  Buddy Ross hears the rumor that Trumbo wrote it.  So now he wants Trumbo to write for him under another assumed name.

Trumbo has a hard time explaining to Hird what he is trying to do to  the blacklist.  He is doing what he's doing so he can tear down the blacklist.  He asks:  "Why can't you not see this.  If we get one big movie, we can get all the big movies.  And then this whole rotten thing could collapse on the sheer irony that every unemployable writer is employed."  Hird just can't see the bigger picture.  He thinks Trumbo is doing this so he can get an Academy Award with his name on it without really helping out all the blacklisted writers. 

Trumbo is working so hard that he's ignoring his family.  His 16 year old on her birthday deliberately disturbs her father in the bathtub at work to give her at least one minute of his time for him to at least acknowledge that it is her birthday today.  It's nt use.  Father only cares about his work being interrupted by his daughter, without paying attention to her wants and desires. Mother is furious with her husband too.

Trumbo finishes the script for Buddy Ross.  Now he goes to see Arlen Hird.  Hird's son tells him that his father has died.  The word for funeral in Judaism is levaya, which means accompanying. Hunter and Trumbo attend the levaya. 

Trumbo goes to see Robinson.  He gives back to Robinson the money given by Robinson to the defense fund.  Robinson sees this as a way for the Hollywood 10 to tell him off.  He explains to Trumbo that not one of the names he gave up to the congressional hearing was a name unknown to the congressmen.  Trumbo says still Robinson shouldn't have given them any names because they had no right to the names in the first place.  To get back at Trumbo, Eddie accuses Trumbo of shortening Arlen Hird's life by asking him to do hack work on bad scripts.  Trumbo just leaves Eddie's house. 

Trumbo goes to a bar.  Hedda Hopper is there to gloat over Trumbo's situation.  Trumbo walks out on her.

Trumbo's wife tells Trumbo that he is losing his own family.  All he does is snap and bark.  She adds that this is not just happening to Dalton Trumbo.  Every member of the family is hurt.  She lays down the law to Dalton:  "I will not let our children be raised by a bully."

Trumbo goes to a sit-in for integration that Niki is participating in.  Niki expects a fight with her father, but Trumbo has come to give her an apology.  He says he's afraid of scarring Niki and all the family.  And what if it's all for nothing?  What then?  He says all that he knows how to do anymore is fight.  He rages at anyone who gets in his way. 

The anti- communists try to put pressure on the King Brothers to stop them from working with the blacklisted writers. The man threatens to shut down the King Brothers.  The main boss picks up a baseball bat and starts breaking things all around the Alliance man.  The boss says he will kill the man with this bat if he tries to shut down his business   He scares the man to death and Mr. Alliance runs out the door.

Trumbo gives to the King Brothers his script for the movie The Brave One.    Much later the Trumbo goes to watch The Brave One in a theater. 

January 1957.  The Brave One has been nominated for an Academy Award.

March 1957.  The Brave One wins the Academy Award.  The man it goes to is the fictitious Mr. Robert Rich.  Hedda Hopper says:  "Who the hell is Robert Rich?  It had better not be who they say."

Kirk Douglas comes over to see Dalton.  He wants Trumbo to rewrite a script:  Spartacus.  Hedda Hopper threatens Kirk for possibly hiring Dalton Trumbo.  Kirk stands up to Hedda and keeps Trumbo on the job.

December 1958.  Director Otto Preminger wants Trumbo to rewrite the script for Exodus. Trumbo takes the job. 

The atmosphere is clearing on the blacklist.  So Trumbo starts to go public.  He appears on television and says he is Robert Rich.  The interviewer asks why Trumbo is now coming out with this?  Trumbo replies:  "Well, as someone who has been thoroughly investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, I started wondering, why hasn't anyone taken a good long look at them and their work in the movie industry?  You see, they were convened to uncover enemy agents, expose communist conspiracies and write anti-sedition laws.  Well, here we are, thousands of hours and millions of dollars later.  Agents uncovered, zero.  Conspiracies exposed, zero.  Laws written, zero.  You see, all they do is deny people their right to work.  And they can't even get that right.  Academy Awards, two." 

Now Preminger and Douglas are going to give screen credit to Dalton Trumbo.  Hedda Hopper does her all to stop it, but she no longer has the power to do so. 

Trumbo finds his wife, Cleo, crying.  He goes to comfort her.  Cleo says:  "It's over, isn't it?"  Dalton replies:  "Yes. Yes."  Cleo adds:  "And we made it."  Again Dalton says:  "Yes."

Washington, D. C. February 1961.  President Kennedy went to see the movie Spartacus.  There is news footage of the occasion and Hedda Hopper is watching the television at the time of the broadcast.  Kennedy says:  "Oh, I think it's a fine picture, and I think it's going to be a big hit."  The reporter comments:  "And this signifies the blacklist may be over, as Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger have openly hired and credited blacklisted writers.  This is a clear repudiation of a decade-long fight by anti-communists . . ."

Los Angeles March 1970.  Dalton Trumbo receives the Writers Guild of America Laurel Award.  He says to the crowd:  "The blacklist was a time of evil.  And no one who survived it came through untouched by evil.  . . .  It was a time of fear.  And no one was exempt.  Scores of people lost their homes.  Their families disintegrated. . . .  Some even lost their lives." 

"Trumbo finally received his Oscar for The Brave One in 1975.  He died in 1976, at the age of 70.  Cleo accepted Trumbo's Oscar for Roman Holiday in 1993.  Cleo died in 2009, at the age of 93.  She never remarried.  Hundreds of people were blacklisted in Hollywood and thousands more across America were unfairly targeted.  Teachers, soldiers, government workers, and their families were among those who suffered lost work, bankruptcies, divorces and even suicides.  The House Un-American Activities continued investigating citizens until 1975."

 

 

Damn good movie about the Hollywood blacklist and the rabid anti-communists who hurt so many innocent and even brilliant people.  Bryan Cranston (as Dalton Trumbo) did a wonderful job in the movie but there were many good actors in the film including Diane Lane and Helen Mirren, as well as Louis C.K.  Dalton Trumbo was truly a hero who had a big role in overthrowing the time of evil.  He survived the time of betrayal with the help of his family who also went through a lot of evil.  Oh, how I despised that bitch Hedda Hopper and I was not happy with redneck John Wayne either. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

 

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