Here’s why you should go see “Trumbo”

If you haven’t seen Trumbo, run to the nearest theater and check it out. It is politically that good. With Star Wars and the constant maze of blockbuster movies invading your local theaters, Trumbo is in danger of disappearing or being drowned out.

The movie Trumbo is about the persecution of top screen writer Dalton Trumbo and the Hollywood 10. It dares to be honest about McCarthyism and the extraordinary danger it posed to democracy. It shows the courage and integrity of the Communists and other victims who fought back and ultimately won their right to create and make a living.

The movie focuses on Trumbo, who did not deny his party membership nor did he denounce his beliefs. He ultimately prevailed despite being dragged before the House Un American Activities Committee in 1954, blacklisted, losing his livelihood, victimized by the FBI, held in contempt and sent to prison. That was the plight of many others besides Trumbo, but his story is highlighted here. The movie treats the Committee as the tyrants they were. It shows the informers as pitifully cowed into trying to save their own skins, and right-wing, red-baiting media charlatans like the notorious Hedda Hopper as fascist-minded, power-hungry, anti-Semitic opportunists.

The movie breaks the mold when it comes to the way Hollywood typically treats Communist characters. Dalton Trumbo played by Bryan Cranston comes off as a courageous, principled individual who refuses to be cowed by the congressional committee. We see the enormous pressure on himself and his beautiful supportive family.  The film shows how he successfully organizes among his fellow blacklisted screenwriters to find a way out of their victimization. That was the main story in  Woody Allen’s The Front.

The Trumbo character makes the point in the end that what they are fighting for is the First Amendment and defense of democratic rights for all. These were patriots in the greatest meaning of that word because they refused to give in to the wellfinanced attempt of the extreme right to outlaw all progressive thought and stop all forms of resistance on the part of labor and people’s movements.

While I think that more needed to be said about the rising civil rights movement in there 1950s that was breaking the McCarthyite stranglehold on real progress for the nation, the fact that Trumbo’s daughter, played beautifully by Elle Fanning, carried on the father’s politics by becoming a civil rights activist was a significant part of the movie from both a family and political perspective. Diane Lane plays Cleo Trumbo, his courageous partner who stood by him through losing their home and wealthy life style and the scorn the family had to face. John Goodman plays the owner of a “B” movie company who hires Trumbo to write good screenplays for his low-budget films and takes a baseball bat to a reporter who tries to intimidate him.

In the real world the Communist Party was not just a victim of McCarthyism. It remained an organized force in its own defense legally and politically not only in Hollywood but also in the broad peace, economic and social justice fronts of struggles. Because it fought back the party survived and democratic rights for all were preserved.

The right danger then was very much like the right danger today. It is politically and financially sponsored by the most reactionary sections of the one percent. Trumbo, whether intentionally or not, sounds the alarm.

Donald Trump and his crude, anti working class, racist Republican cohorts are the rebirth of McCarthy and worse.

Their glorification of political incorrectness is to magnify racism, male supremacy, homophobia, war and aggression. It pisses on the graves of all of those who fought and died to make this country more humane and democratic.

Go see this movie before it disappears from the theaters. Get active against the right-wing forces. Take Trumbo‘s inspiration to others and bring them to the polls next November.

To defeat the Republicans who are the main obstacles to peace, economic and social justice today is to honor and further exonerate the victims of that horrible period in our history.

It’s playing in limited theaters around the country. So check the movie listings and go see Trumbo.


Jarvis Tyner
Jarvis Tyner

Jarvis Tyner is the former executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board. Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism, and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appeared on the media, campuses, and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality, and the socialist alternative.