Wednesday, December 2, 2015


In case you hadn't noticed, I've been running a lot of movie reviews, because it's getting close to the end of the year and every studio is in a rush to get their films out on the screen to be eligible for the upcoming awards season.  As a member of the Academy, I've been invited to so many screenings, luncheons, dinners, and tea parties it's starting to seem excessive. 

Jay Roach's new film "Trumbo", starring Bryan Cranston, is a well-made, well-acted historical retelling of Dalton Trumbo's survival of the infamous Hollywood blacklist from the 1940's and 50's.  However, it's pure propaganda.  Even though Mr. Trumbo was a great writer ("Spartacus", "Roman Holiday"), he was a member of the Communist Party, and in the film we never see any Communist meetings or rallies, or Russian agents, and very little mention of Stalin.

The film bases its philosophy on freedom of speech issues, not Communism itself.  However, if Mr. Trumbo had lived in Russia, a country he loved and aspired to and had mentioned freedom of speech, he would have had a bullet in his brain within weeks.

It's my feeling that there were only two reasons that Americans at the time became Communist Party members.  The first was that they were uninformed and naive (which is ironic because they labelled themselves as intellectuals), or the other was that they wholeheartedly supported Josef Stalin and his mass murders.

Someone told me that during Stalin's regime, there was no press about his mass murders, or about the true situation in the Soviet Union.  However, many U.S. papers covered the terrible Stalin-enforced famine in Ukraine (in the early 1930's) that killed a large percentage of the farmers there through starvation.  In fact, when the Nazis invaded Eastern Europe, the Germans were treated as liberators by the Russians and Ukrainians.

And then there were the infamous Purge trials of 1936-38, which were widely reported on in the NY Times and other international papers.  Check out Robert Conquest's informative book "The Great Terror" for more details. 

Another good example is the great 1939 Hollywood film "Ninotchka", directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Greta Garbo, where they bring up the terrible political situation in the Soviet Union many times - the purges, the assassinations and the Siberian gulags.

Another issue with "Trumbo" is that they talk about the tragedy of people being out of work, families falling apart, and even suicides because of the blacklist.  Why didn't these talented writers move to New York, where there was plenty of work for them in TV, magazines, books and theater, and no one really cared about the blacklist?  A lot of writers and directors did move to Europe during this time, where Communism was much more popular and accepted. 

I would have loved to see an explanation for why Mr. Trumbo became a Communist, what he thought of the German-Russian Pact, and why he never renounced Communism, once it began to enslave Eastern Europeans after the war. 

Because of the recent fall of Communism, a lot of the correspondence and writings of Stalin have come to light, and it's been revealed that the courageous Americans who joined the famous Lincoln Brigade to fight fascism in Spain would have all been liquidated after the Communists had won the Spanish Civil War.  Fortunately for the Lincoln Brigade, Franco was victorious there.

The film "Trumbo" makes its issues about artistic freedom and the First Amendment - when it should really be about the evils of Stalin and Communism.  I wonder what all the Communist sympathizers would feel about the blacklist if, instead of Trumbo being labelled a Commie, he was, say, revealed to be a member of the Nazi Party. 

Please let me know what you think of my scandalous comments.  I give "Trumbo" a "C-".

--Bill Plympton

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