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Issue No. 16 - Chaos

TRUMBO (2015) JAY ROACH

TRUMBO (2015) JAY ROACH

Image above: Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media.

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), the focus of this bio-pic, was surely an extraordinarily brilliant, talented and prolific writer. His range of genre’s included a disturbing anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, which won the National Book Award and dozens of screenplays, including Spartacus and Roman Holiday, which starred Audrey Hepburn and won an Academy Award. When the film opens he is at the height of his career, riding high after signing the most expensive contract in Hollywood at that time. He was witty, urbane, intellectual, understandably arrogant, abraisive and condescending. He was living the good life with a sprawling country house, his wife and three children. He was also an ardent anti-fascist which allied him with the communist party. And this would be his downfall.

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Screen-Shot-2015-12-03-at-4.22.22-PM
Image above: Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media.

These were times of rampant paranoia and fear of malevolent intentions against America from outside forces. The House Unamerican Activities Committee which had been formed in 1938 to investigate Nazi infiltration had turned its attention to real or imagined threats from Communism. Senator Joseph McCarthy whipped national sentiment into a frenzy of zealous fanatacism against the imminent threat of sympathizers and spies infiltrating our country. It was a time of “us against them” mentality. You were either a patriot or a traitor. 1947 was the year that the HUAC held nine days of hearings for testimony of those suspected of ties to Communism in the Hollywood film industry. Dalton Trumbo, believing in his own infallibility, rallied a group of fellow travellers known as “The Hollywood Ten” to refuse to answer the questions. They were all sent to jail and ended up on a blacklist which included those who had been named by their colleagues who had given testimony. The fear-mongering that ensued was so virulent that the doors to work in the industry were summarily slammed in their faces. It was an ignominious time which ruined many lives and not one of our proudest moments.

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Screen-Shot-2015-12-03-at-4.21.16-PM
Image above: Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media.

It is a fascinating look into individual stories of those who were at the center of this period in our history. It feels very much of it’s time and simultaneously very much of the present. It is amazing to see Trumbo churning out copious words on his typewriter fueled by equally copious amounts of booze, cigarettes and pills. Helen Mirren plays the flamboyant gorgon, Hedda Hopper, who could make or break careers with a few well-placed words. Louis C.K. plays Arlen Hird, one of the Hollywood Ten and Diane Lane plays Cleo, Trumbo’s intrepid wife. He is not a lovable figure nor even a particularly admirable one. He is, however, extremely impressive and fascinating to observe and to follow into an important part of our political history which should be cautionary for us today as we see so much fervor turn to dangerous zealotry. And it’s about Hollywood. So what’s not to love?

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Screen-Shot-2015-12-03-at-4.20.05-PM
Image above: Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media.

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