by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Trumbo (2007)

Documentary Grade B+

McCarthyism Connection Grade A+

McCarthyism Connection
Writer Dalton Trumbo is named as one of the Hollywood Ten.

Historical / drama

The life of writer Dalton Trumbo is examined in this excellent documentary. He was named as one of the Hollwood Ten when he he invoked the First Amendment and refused to answer questions before the Congressional Hearings on Un-American Hearings. The movie follows Trumbo, mostly through his letters, as he is blacklisted, imprisoned, and moves in exile to Mexico.
Trumbo wrote about 67 screenplays. On some, during the time he was blacklisted, he had to get a "front" to sell his work. Among the screenplays he wrote or contributed to were Five Came Back (1939), Kitty Foyle (1940), I Married a Witch (1942), Tender Comrades (1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1939), Guncrazy (1950), Spartacus (1960), Lonely Are The Brave (1962), Johnny Got His Gun (1971), Papillon (1973) and The Way We Were (1973).
Trumbo's life is mostly told by actor's reading his letters, along with interviews of Trumbo and his contemporaries and film footage from the period. Among the actors reading letters were Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman and Donald Sutherland.
One of the most interesting aspects of the documentary is seeing Dalton Trumbo's life as a blacklisted author using a variety of fronts and false names to continue his prolific writing. It is a great parallel movie to watch along with Woody Allen's The Front.
In 1956 Trumbo won an Oscar, which he could not claim, for his screenplay for The Brave Ones on which he listed his name as Robert Rich.
The movie is really a movie about words. It is Trumbo's words, being read by actors, about the suffering that he and his family went through that makes th movie so effective.