Another Take on the Cold War in ‘Trumbo’

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If you’ve developed an interest in the Cold War after watching Bridge of Spies, Trumbo (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD) will give you a slightly different take on the 1950’s fight against communism. Dalton Trumbo was a highly-paid Hollywood screenwriter who, like a lot of his movie business friends, joined the Communist Party when the fascists and Nazis were the enemy and the Soviet Union were our ally.

After WWII, when the Soviets became our enemies, Congress decided to root out all the commies in American life and Hollywood became a high-profile target even before Sen. McCarthy declared he had a list of communists in the State Department.

Bryan Cranston plays Trumbo in a movie about the screenwriter’s refusal to testify before Congress and “name names” (i.e. list the names of other communists). He goes to prison, gets blacklisted by Hollywood and starts writing scripts under fake names for the low-budget King brothers.

Eventually, Trumbo got his name and reputation back after Kirk Douglas hired him to write Spartacus. Hard feelings from the era hung around well into the ’80s, at least until all the players started dying off. Fortunately for screenwriters of today, there wasn’t a fashion for radical Islam before 9/11 or they’d all pretty certainly be in the same boat today. Aspiring writers will find plenty of tips (write in the bathtub! use scissors!) and fans of old Hollywood movies will get plenty of insight into the political leanings of old time movie stars.

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The film, directed by Austin Powers veteran Jay Roach, features portrayals of real Hollywood figures like Douglas, John Wayne, MGM head Louis B. Mayer and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. It’s full of great performances by Cranston (nominated for a Best Actor Oscar), Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane and Louis C.K. and Elle Fanning.

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