El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Based on the play by his son Christopher, Trumbo is a documentary about the life of Dalton Trumbo, a noted screenwriter both for his work, which due to his being blacklisted was unknowingly honored by his peers with two Academy Awards, and for his stand with nine others against the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, which earned him a contempt of Congress conviction and 11 months in a penitentiary.

He was a compelling figure, a principled man willing to sacrifice everything he had for his beliefs, whose story is revealed through archival news footage, past interviews with Dalton and new interviews with his peers and children, and readings of his letters by an impressive array of actors that include Michael Douglas, Liam Neeson, and Donald Sutherland.

Dalton seems to have fared better than the other members of the Hollywood Ten. He was able to get people to front for his work and continued to make a living. He finally broke through the blacklist in 1960 when director Otto Preminger and producer/actor Kirk Douglas gave Dalton credit on Exodus and Spartacus respectively.

The film is a very glowing portrait, and while very good, it would have been better served had Dalton's detractors or people who supported what had happened to him been given a chance to voice their side. Here in the 21st Century, it's hard to understand what the fuss was about because the United States should be a place where people are allowed to hold different ideas. The Communists obviously wanted to change society to match their ideology, but it didn't seem like there was a plan to overthrow the country of government, so what was the concern that caused so many Americans to act un-American.

Trumbo is a good, albeit incomplete, history lesson for fans of Hollywood and stands as a profile in courage.

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