Exactly 15 years after the tragedy, that shook America; with the destruction of the New York Twin Towers (World Trade Centre), along with various other attacks, and a horrendous number of casualties; I watched this movie, set during, another tragic period in American history. The notorious blacklist (of a community with apparent communist sensibilities, back in the late 1940’s & 50’s, which included the Hollywood 10)!!! Great Hollywood personalities were not allowed to work in the United States, and imprisoned due to false accusations made against them. The movie was Trumbo (2015), a bio-pic on the famed screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo; which, as I stated above, I watched on September 11th, Year 2016 (on HBO Signature)!!!!!
The real life Trumbo family
Post-war 1940’s, was a very dark period in American history. Thousands of men and women were blacklisted, lost their jobs, and weren’t allowed to work, and many succumbed to suicide. Among those blacklisted were famous Hollywood personalities, including 10 screenwriters (who were subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, regarding alleged Communist propaganda in Hollywood films), known as the Hollywood 10. This was all due to, their, rebellious, yet non-violent, non-revolutionary, communist beliefs. Communism, is, no doubt, a false sense consciousness; but, none the less, these American communist at the time, were apparently harmless, and imprisoned, just due to their extremist beliefs. There was no secret Soviet Russian agenda, to overthrow the American government, by those that were blacklisted. No “Cambridge Spies”, among them. Amongst the falsely accused, Hollywood 10, was Dalton Trumbo, the famed screenwriter, who secretly wrote award winning screenplays, for movies like, Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956), without taking credit for them, during the blacklist investigations. He also wrote ridiculous ‘B-movie’ scripts, under pseudonyms, especially for ‘King Brothers Productions’, for money, as he wasn’t legally allowed to work at the time, and had a family of five to support (as a father of three children).
Diane Lane & Bryan Cranston as Cleo & Dalton Trumbo, in a scene from Trumbo (2015)
Trumbo, is a superb film, and Bryan Cranston was brilliant as the titular character. A very touching portrayal of the Trumbo family, in times of crisis. The movie depicts how the blacklist affected the whole family, and how they all supported him, at times hating him, for his anger and indifference towards their lives, and the way he took them for granted; but at the same time understood the stress he was going through, working in secret. Diane Lane plays Cleo Trumbo, the wife that supported him throughout his life. This bio-pic is a must watch. And Cranston definitely deserved the Oscar nod, with a ‘Best Actor’ nomination, at the 88th Academy Awards, held earlier this year, but it’s a pity he didn’t win (though am not sure, whether he was the best male performance, as I haven’t seen three of the performances out of the five that were nominated; yet he no doubt deserved the trophy more than Leonardo DiCaprio). I love Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s a superb actor, but as I stated in my posts, Oscar White and Femme Fashion @ Oscars 2016; The Revenant (2015) is not the movie, I wanted him to win an Oscar for (as he’s done even better work, previously); but yet when he won, I was genuinely happy for him, for, no matter what, he was still superb in The Revenant, and felt he most probably was the best from last years lead male performances. But after seeing, Trumbo, I feel Bryan Cranston was so much more better, that Cranston definitely deserved the coveted Oscar statuette more, comparatively. Generally, am not a huge fan of Cranston (not that I disliked him, just wasn’t crazy about him either), but after watching him in this touching bio-pic, I have a new found respect for him as an actor.
Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper
The real Hedda Hopper
Speaking of great acting talent, this movie had an interesting cast, playing various famous personalities, such as Louis B. Mayer, Sam Wood, Edward G Robinson, John Wayne (though David James Elliott felt nothing like Wayne), Kirk Douglas (neither did Dean O’Gorman feel anything like Douglas, except for the cleft in his chin), J. Parnell Thomas, Otto Preminger, et al, from the golden age of cinema. BUT, the most notable role was that of Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper. I’ve known Hedda Hopper to have been a notorious gossip columnist the film industry dreaded at the time; but little did I know what a nasty woman she was. She definitely had a personal vendetta against many celebrities during the ‘McCarthy’ era, including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Dalton Trumbo, among others. Helen Mirren is simply marvellous as the nasty old witch, that Hopper, seems to come off as, in Trumbo. Also worth mentioning is the role by John Goodman, as Frank King, the ‘B-movie’ producer, of ‘King Brothers Productions’ notoriety. Goodman, is hilarious as King, who is aware that he makes bad movies, and knows the idiotic audience, that flocks to see his movies. Thus King is reluctant to take in a prestigious writer like Trumbo, not wanting Trumbo to waste his talent, on the crap the King Brothers make. Yet, what a kind heart King has, for he understands Trumbo needs the money. So basically Trumbo has to degrade his writing skills to write silly scripts for brain dead audiences, luckily he’s not credited for these movies either. Watch out for King’s eccentric reaction, when he is asked to fire Trumbo, by Hopper’s allies. It backfires badly for Hopper, a hilarious sequence, in a movie about a very serious issue.
Father & Daughter at work: Elle Fanning & Bryan Cranston, as Nikola & Dalton Trumbo; in a scene from Trumbo (2015)
Another notable role, was that of young Elle Fanning, who played the older Nikola Trumbo, the eldest child of Dalton Trumbo. Her character is the only one, who dares to speak up to her father, against his unfairness towards his family, yet always helps him out. There are a few, very touching moments between father and daughter, in the movie. A smart young child, who’s advise the father ultimately takes, in a very crucial moment in his life, towards the end of the film. The family’s support towards Dalton Trumbo, is beautifully showcased, and their close bond, perfectly examined. A bond that almost died, due to Dalton Trumbo’s stress, of working in secret, affecting his relationship with his children. The Bathtub played a very important role in Trumbo’s life, as well. That was his refuge, his workplace, and felt angered when disturbed. Many men use the loo to read, Trumbo used the tub to write.
A sculpture of Dalton Trumbo in his Bathtub; based on a photograph from 1967; in Grand Junction, Colorado, USA.
The Bronze artwork was unveiled in October 2007.
Though Trumbo is brilliant flick, it has been criticised, for certain misrepresentations of certain people and events. Actors, Louis C.K. and Roger Bart, play two fictional characters based on, not two individuals, but various famous personalities; like Lester Cole, Samuel Ornitz, Dore Schary and Walter Wanger, to name some. But more specifically, classic actor, Edward G. Robinson (played by Michael Stuhlbarg), is portrayed as betraying his friend, Dalton Trumbo, and others, by naming them as communists before the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). G. Robinson never named anyone, friend or foe, as a communist. Trumbo was also criticised for showcasing Dalton Trumbo, as a martyr, whilst in reality, this famed screenwriter was supposedly a brutal supporter of Soviet-style communism, advocating the nightmare regimes of; the then leader of the Soviet Union; Joseph Stalin, and; North Korean dictator; Kim Il-sung. Added to which, the real life Trumbo showed support to suppress the freedom of Speech in the United States. The film was also condemned for it’s positive outlook towards Communism, as if it were just another political party, without representing it’s truly tyrannical and hostile nature.
Michael Stuhlbarg as actor Edward G. Robinson in Trumbo (2015)
Politically and historically speaking, the film has it’s flaws, no doubt about it. Yet, despite all the criticism Trumbo garnered, as a movie, it’s still a very brilliant piece of the cinema arts. Fine acting, superbly scripted and brilliantly directed, a cinematic masterpiece; and one of the best films to come out of last year, Year 2015!!!!
A scene from Trumbo (2015)
One of the most touching scenes in the film, is when Dalton and Cleo Trumbo, see Dalton Trumbo’s name being credited for writing the screenplay, for Spartacus (1960), on the big wide screen; as they watch the movie. With the crediting of Dalton Trumbo, as the writer for both, Exodus (1960) and Spartacus, in 1960, marked the end of the Hollywood Blacklist. Dalton Trumbo died on September 10, 1976, aged 70. Posthumously, in 1993, a new Oscar was made, for his win for ‘Best Screenplay’ for Roman Holiday, and awarded to his wife, Cleo Trumbo. She passed away, at the age of 93, in 2009. Later, their son, Christopher Trumbo, dying with cancer, requested that his father receive full credit for his work on Roman Holiday. Christopher Trumbo died in January 2011, aged 70; the same age as his father, when he passed away. In December 2011, Christopher Trumbo’s wish was granted; the ‘Writers Guild’ finally credited Dalton Trumbo with the screenplay, for the tearjerker romance/love story, from 1953, Roman Holiday. Finally, almost 60 years, after it’s release. Roman Holiday happens to be my all time favourite movie. Watched Roman Holiday just before turning 19, in June 1994, for the very first time. And have seen it a zillion times more, within this century. I still have the video cassette (VHS) of this classic love story, in working condition, in my private collection. And Trumbo, is yet another great film, about the man behind my all time favourite movie.
My Rating: 10/10!!!
Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense