Bio-Pic Revisits the Rise, Fall and Vindication of Blacklisted Hollywood Screenwriter
Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was one of the most successful screenwriters in the country when he was subpoenaed in 1947 to testify before the House American Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigating citizens suspected of having Communist leanings. The Committee was in the midst of conducting its infamous witch hunt which would derail the careers of anyone who refused to throw somebody else under the bus.
Trumbo and nine other colleagues, dubbed the Hollywood Ten, refused to capitulate, claiming an infringement on their fundamental First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. Nonetheless, they were all railroaded to prison, and subsequently blacklisted upon being paroled.
In Dalton’s case, this meant he went from being the entertainment industry’s highest paid scriptwriter to having no means of supporting his wife and three kids. He was blocked from writing under his own name until 1960, so he resorted to submitting material under an alias.
You might recognize the titles of some of his 60+ movies, starting with Roman Holiday and The Brave One, both of which won him Oscars in the scriptwriting category. Then there’s Exodus, Spartacus, Papillon, The Sandpiper, Hawaii, Lonely are the Brave, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo and Kitty Foyle.
Adapted from the stage play of the same name by his son, Christopher, Trumbo is a docudrama comprised of staged readings of its subject’s letters combined with archival news footage, family home movies and contemporary interviews. Among celebs making appearances by Kirk Douglas, Danny Glover, Joan Allen, Nathan Lane, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Brian Dennehy, Donald Sutherland, David Strathairn and Liam Neeson.
A on overdue vindication of a true patriot and a timely reminder to continue challenging authority in the face of the Patriot Act.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
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