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In The Time Of The Great Fear,
This review is from: Trumbo (DVD)
Today, along with the DVD under review , "Trumbo", I have written a review of the film "Revolutionary Road", based on the 1950s novel by Richard Yates, about the `trials and tribulations' of an upwardly mobile white middle class suburban couple who are dissatisfied with that existence but can't break out. "Trumbo", about the real trials and tribulations of a great American writer, Dalton Trumbo provides an interesting contrast from the same period of history, post World War II America. The two are joined together in an odd way. The unstated subtext of "Revolutionary Road" is that it is not wise to challenge the cookie-cutter norm, nor is it `wise' to defy the "security blanket" provided by capitalist America in its fight against "godless communism". And for proof, just ask Dalton Trumbo, (or any of the "Hollywood Ten" writers and others who had to endure the 1950s (and beyond) blacklists.
This aspect of the Cold War, now mainly forgotten, is the apt subject here. One of the commentators let the cat out of the bag concerning the "red scare" and its victims. These victims of America's post-war build-up of the Cold War against the Soviet Union were men and women who, at heart, were liberals in the old-fashioned sense but who between the horrors of the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and their own basically decent human instincts gravitated toward communism, or at least what they took for communism as presented by the popular frontist American Communist Party. In the post-war period when America was determined to be hegemonic that boded ill for those who had been previously favorably disposed to the Soviet Union.
This one and one half hour goes into detail about all of that, including some very interesting black and white film from the period that somehow seems to capture the moment better than any 'talking head' commentary. More than that though this is a "tribute" to Dalton Trumbo's struggle against adversity when he, honorably, said no to the government. No. He would not be an informer. No. He would not stand for the abridgement of his right to free speech. He went to jail, had a hard time getting work later (in the period of the "front" which Woody Allen made a very clever film, "The Front" out of), and much later was vindicated in a way by being recognized for his writing achievements, including a number of screenplays that were outstanding like "Spartacus". All of this is told through Dalton Trumbo interviews giving during various periods of his life, the voices of various actors like Donald Sutherland and Michael Douglas performing excerpts from his works, and by remembrances of his children and other survivors from that period.
Two things to finish up. You MUST read, if you want a top grade anti-war novel, Trumbo's savage indictment of the effects of war on the young, "Johnny Got His Gun" that is excerpted in this presentation. And, although other that the novel just mentioned and some films (including "Spartacus" and "the Exodus") that I had seen and that Trumbo wrote the screenplays for I was not that familiar with his personal story aside from his political problems. After viewing this film I have one abiding thought about the man. Dalton Trumbo was too good human material to have labored, and I think thanklessly, for the by then distorted Stalinized American Communist Party. We, of the anti-Stalinist, anti-capitalist, pro-communist left could have used his finely- etched pen to better effect.