Bryan Cranston and a capable cast retell the story of the Hollywood blacklist. Dalton Trumbo moved from Colorado to California to become one of the highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood. He was a hard-working, generous man and that was reflected in his films and liberal politics. He was in the war and served his country well, while Ronald Reagan and John Wayne posed for the cameras at home. Being nice got him trouble with a woman who was not very nice at all. Hedda Hopper was a gossip columnist known for the hats she wore to allegedly hide her thinning hair and for trying to destroy people she did not like. She accused Trumbo of all sorts of things and a Congressman named Parnell Thomas had Trumbo sent to jail. In one of the film’s karmic moments, Trumbo and Parnell find themselves in the same prison, Trumbo for not talking about his friends and Parnell for not talking about his taxes.
Trumbo eventually got out of one prison but found himself in another, the blacklist. He was a writer and that was how he could support his family. Astoundingly, Hopper helped create a situation where writers could not work for a living and then she proceeded to ridicule them for not working. Instead of disappearing, Trumbo became even more famous than before. The solution was to work very hard and create so many different identities or pseudonyms that many of his scripts would get made into movies. In the beginning he was only able to sell them to low budget production companies. One of the funniest scenes in the film is John Goodman as a schlock producer going berserk on a blacklister who tries to intimidate him.
Soon Trumbo’s scripts start winning awards. Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger help end the blacklist. There is a scene at the end were Trumbo is getting some lifetime achievement award and he talks about how everyone was forced to do horrible things to survive. I disagree. Hedda Hopper had a choice, her survivors did not. Because of her, films were not made, careers were ended, lives were shortened or lost.
When Trumbo died, people cried. People wrote books, plays and movies about him decades after the blacklist. When Hopper died, people cheered. People watch Trumbo’s movies everyday but no one reads anything Hopper wrote. If people remember Hopper at all, it is as a villain. I’ve heard that she has a star on Hollywood Boulevard that was regularly defiled not only by the blacklisted, but by total strangers who knew about the horrible things she did. It may have been one the reasons why she is buried far away in Pennsylvania. Of course, that is only gossip. Funny, huh?
Note: The Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce?
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