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The Many Faces of Dalton Trumbo

Hollywood …



… and history:

Hollywood’s Trumbo appears to be something of a whitewash of Stalinist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Portrayed as a victim of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a closer investigation of history reveals that he did his fair share of censoring and “blacklisting” himself — against anti-Communists within the industry.

  • Hollywood’s Missing Movies: Why American films have ignored life under communism, by Kenneth Lloyd Billingsly. Reason June 2000:

    if Comintern fantasies of a Soviet Hollywood were never realized, party functionaries nevertheless played a significant role: They were sometimes able to prevent the production of movies they opposed. The party had not only helped organize the Screen Writers Guild, it had organized the Story Analysts Guild as well. Story analysts judge scripts and film treatments early in the decision making process. A dismissive report often means that a studio will pass on a proposed production. The party was thus well positioned to quash scripts and treatments with anti-Soviet content, along with stories that portrayed business and religion in a favorable light. In The Worker, Dalton Trumbo openly bragged that the following works had not reached the screen: Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar; Victor Kravchenko’s I Chose Freedom; and Bernard Clare by James T. Farrell, also author of Studs Lonigan and vilified by party enforcer Mike Gold as “a vicious, voluble Trotskyite.”

  • The Stalinist Ten–A True Story About Communists in the Movie Industry, by Allan H. Ryskind. [excerpt from the newly released book, Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters – Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler, by Allan H. Ryskind]:

    Trumbo is less well known for a script that never made it to the screen: An American Story, whose plot outline, in the words of film historian Bernard F. Dick, goes like this: North Korea finally decides “to put an end to the border warfare instigated by South Korea by embarking upon a war of independence in June 1950.” (In his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Trumbo says he “dramatized” Kim Il-sung’s supposedly righteous war for a group of fellow Communist screenwriters, including at least two Hollywood Ten members.)

    Trumbo also seemed to think that Stalin needed a bit of a reputation upgrade. So one finds in his papers a proposed novel, apparently written in the 1950s, in which a wise old Russian defends Stalin’s murderous reign as necessary for the supposedly grand achievements of Soviet socialism.

    Those celebrating Trumbo today as a sort of saintly curmudgeon do not feel obligated to mention this aspect of his Red ideology, nor do they point to his writings during the Soviet-Nazi Pact, when he was excusing Hitler’s con- quests. “To the vanquished,” he airily dismissed the critics of Nazi brutality, “all conquerors are inhuman.” For good measure he demonized Hitler’s major enemy, Great Britain, insisting that England was not a democracy, because it had a king, and accused FDR of “treason” and “black treason” for attempting to assist the British in their life-and-death struggle against the despot in Berlin.

  • Hollywood Celebrates Another Stalinist, by Allan H. Ryskind. CNSNews.com 01/05/15:

    … The evidence of Trumbo’s Red activities is hardly secret. He came clean, sort of, to his biographer, Bruce Cook, a writer of the upcoming Trumbo screenplay. He told Cook in the 1970s that he joined the party in 1943 (some FBI informants think he joined in the 1930s), that some of his “very best friends” were Communists and that “I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier….” He also says, about joining the party: “But I’ve never regretted it. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to say I would have regretted not having done it….”

    He said he let his party membership lapse after his HUAC appearance, possibly finding it difficult to pay his party dues after he was blacklisted, but he never publicly turned his back on communism or Stalin. Indeed, in his private papers he admits that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954,” apparently his passion for a Communist America burning brightly as ever. So, by the historical record and his own account, he was in tune with the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter of a century, when Stalin was in his prime killing years.

  • Will the new Trumbo movie rehash old myths?, by Ronald Radosh. National Review 11/02/13:

    [Trumbo] bragged how he had used his position to stop anti-Communist films from being made. Stalin, he said, was “one of the democratic leaders of the world,” so he used his position to stop Trotsky’s biography of the dictator from being filmed, and did the same with anti-Communist books by James T. Farrell, Victor Kravchenko, and Arthur Koestler, all of which he called “untrue” and “reactionary.” As he explained in 1954 to a fellow blacklisted writer, the Communist party had a “fine tradition . . . that whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”

    Two years later, when many Communists learned some of the truth about Stalin from the Khrushchev speech, Trumbo wrote a comrade that he was not surprised. He explained that he had read the books by Koestler, George Orwell, James Burnham, Eugene Lyons, and Isaac Don Levine, who all had exposed the truth about the Soviet Union. These, of course, were the very books he had made sure would never be turned into movies. Trumbo supported Stalin, all the while knowing that he was a monster.

  • Flipping Hollywood’s Blacklist Narrative, by Ron Capshaw. Library of Law and Liberty 01/25/15:

    … All in all, Ryskind’s work is a welcome addition to the anticommunist corrections to the blacklist legend. He has written a convincing and well-sourced follow up to the pioneering effort of the Radoshes. Moreover, he has refused to play the warped victim son of a writer who was much maligned in his time and may have been black-listed (Morrie never got another script accepted after 1945). Instead he has focused on disputing how Hollywood then and now has rehabiliated what in essence were Stalinists.

  • Exclusive Author Interview with Allan Ryskind, Author of “Hollywood Traitors”, by Christopher N. Malagisi.
  • Who was Dalton Trumbo, Screenwriter and Stalinist?, by Ron Capshaw. The American Spectator 01/06/15.

  • Dalton Got His Gun, by Stefan Kanfer. City Journal 02/27/15. “The lodestar of the Hollywood blacklist was all that his fans said he was—and less.” [Review of Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, and Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind].
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Christopher Blosser

Band of Bearded Brothers with Joe.

4 Comments

  1. Stalin will always have his defenders.

    As recently as 2006, Alain Badiou, the long-serving professor of philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, France’s leading teacher training college for university lecturers and high school principals, wrote in his Logiques des mondes that “Materialist dialectics assumes, without particular joy, that, till now, no political subject was able to arrive at the eternity of the truth it was deploying without moments of terror. Since, as Saint-Just asked: “What do those who want neither Virtue nor Terror want?” His answer is well-known: they want corruption – another name for the subject’s defeat.”

    The scourge of the French Socialist Party (the equivalent of the American Democratic Party), Badiou is tireless in insisting that “if you say A – equality, human rights and freedoms – you should not shirk from its consequences and gather the courage to say B – the terror needed to really defend and assert the A.”

    In 2014, at the age of 77, Badiou became president of The Global Center for Advanced Studies in Wyoming MI

  2. Great post, Chris.
    ***
    The fact is that Hollywood is getting ready to beatify via cinema a man who was a vocal apologist for Hitler when it suited Stalin to ally himself to Hitler, who then, after the war, compared Winston Churchill to the Nazis for warning about Soviet expansionism.
    ***
    The irony. The man who stood virtually alone in defiantly battling the Nazis gets compared to the Nazis by a small, trifling man who actually propagandized on behalf of the Nazis and was an active apologist for their oppression of those whom they vanquished.
    ***
    And this small, trifling man who justified the worst deprivations of freedom by the worst monsters in history (in Stalin, Hitler, and Kim Il-Sung) is who Hollywood, unsurprisingly, has chosen to make a “hero”, “defender” of freedom, and “martyr” to “right-wing repression”.

  3. Great. Hollywood, under the guise of celebrating freedom, will lionize a guy whose sympathies lay with a system built on anything but.
    .
    And the sheep will eat and they will be made glad.
    .
    “If you control the past, you control the present.” – George Orwell, 1984

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