Posted January 27, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment


OFS Shows the Oscar Pick

By Chloe Marina Manchester

The Hollywood Blacklist began in the 1940s when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began to question certain American directors, screenwriters, musicians, and actors on the suspicion that their work was communist inspired. Those entertainment professionals were denied employment on those grounds.

Though this blacklisting was rarely made explicit or verifiable, media coverage of the blacklist referred to those first blacklisted entertainment professionals as The Hollywood Ten. They were directors and screenwriters cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to the HUAC. The day after those ten were cited, November 25, 1947, was the day the first systematic Hollywood Blacklist began. One of those blacklisted and then jailed was a screen writer named Dalton Trumbo, now the subject of a Hollywood movie.

The blacklist eventually grew to 150 names and stayed in effect until the 1960s. The combined blacklist and greylist (a list of writers and entertainers suspected of having communist connections) all together included 500 names.

Many of the Hollywood Ten and other blacklisted writers continued creating screenplays under pseudonyms. Under the name Robert Rich, Trumbo wrote the script for “The Brave One” which won an Academy Award for best screenplay in 1957. The Hollywood Ten were not the only people summoned by the HUAC, but they are the best known.

While most of those in Hollywood who were questioned by the HUAC cooperated and sought leniency or cited the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, the Hollywood Ten challenged the legitimacy of the HUAC investigations. Not only did they refuse to cooperate, but they said the investigations violated their civil liberties and First Amendment freedom of speech to subscribe to any political ideology they choose.

Being a communist at that time was not illegal and so the hearings were of questionable legitimacy at best and unconstitutional violations of civil liberties at worst. But the Hollywood Ten’s challenge of the HUAC hearings was ultimately futile and no one questioned by the HUAC in the future, save for Pete Seeger, tried to deny its legitimacy.

On some deeply cynical level, I feel like Trumbo might only be up for an Oscar because it would feel, if you pardon the irony, traitorous for it not to be nominated. But the level of me that doesn’t want everything to be a massive conspiracy is completely sure this movie at the very least deserves to be a contender.

Bryan Cranston and Diane Lane were excellent casting decisions; I’ve not seen Lane in much but in this she is phenomenal. Cranston, though he will always be the dad from Malcolm in the Middle to me, was an incredibly convincing Dalton Trumbo. He portrayed him as a complicated man with good ideals (from my own far left standpoint), if at times uncomfortable actions. Which is, as far as I can tell from my research, the only possible way to play Trumbo.

Seeing Louis C.K. in a serious role was surprising. Seeing Alan Tudyk at this age was more so. Louis C.K. gives a good performance as Arlen Hird, even if it feels at points like his character is only a plot device, which he is. Arlen Hird is a composite character of Trumbo’s leftist friends put into one man, whose relation to Trumbo seems forced, and was only fabricated to further the plot.

The filming style was interesting. Some of the scenes are either completely, or start out, in black and white with the screen as if it was being shown on 1950s technology.  I thought this worked in the movie’s favor, even if it was a bit cliche for period movies. It was done as if to mimic what would have been broadcast at this time. This worked well especially when paired with an interview with the actual Dalton Trumbo that played during the credits, an interview the movie replicated on screen.

This isn’t a communist movie like some reviews claim it to be, and it’s not really a biopic like the sort we have grown accustomed to either. It’s more just this side of historical. It doesn’t necessarily follow the actual events of Trumbo’s life and adds in characters and story and plot, building things like his strained and also very close relationship with his oldest daughter.

Over all? I liked it. Though I may be biased because I love the history of the Cold War communist terror. I can’t wait to see how this movie shakes out once the Oscars get to it and I hope everyone wrote it using their own name.