TRUMBO – Review by Susan Granger

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In the late 1940s, Hollywood filmmakers were terrorized by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his House Un-American Committee, searching for Communists in TinselTown. Egged on by judgmental patriot John Wayne (David James Elliott) and vicious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), the Committee, chaired by J. Parnell Thomas (James Dumont), targeted ‘suspicious’ citizens, subpoenaing them and asking, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Read on…

Primary among those was Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), whose mockery of the Committee landed him in jail after being convicted of contempt of Congress. He was the leader of the “Hollywood Ten,” who were blacklisted and unable to find work.

While others fled overseas, Trumbo refused to leave. Instead, he used several pseudonyms, churning out scripts for many pictures including “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One,” garnering two Best Original Screenplay Oscars.

While most of Trumbo’s work was for schlocky B-picture mogul Frank King (John Goodman), eventually Stanley Kubrick and Otto Preminger defied the notorious blacklist, giving Trumbo credit for his work on “Spartacus” and “Exodus,” respectively.

Habitually writing in the bathtub with a long-stemmed cigarette holder clenched between his teeth and a tumbler of Scotch at his side, Bryan Cranson (TV’s “Breaking Bad”) is superb as the highly-principled idealist, supported by his loyal wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and activist daughter Nikola (Elle Fanning).

The strong ensemble also includes comedian Louis C.K. as cynical Arlin Herd (a composite of several screenwriters), Michael Stuhlbarg as enigmatic Edward G. Robinson, and Dean O’Gorman as outspoken Kirk Douglas.

Working from a glib script by John McNamara (TV’s ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”), adapted from Bruce Cook’s biography, director Jay Roach (TV’s “Game Change,” “Recount”) astutely utilizes archival footage and re-creates newsreels, delivering intriguing glimpses of Robert Taylor and Humphrey Bogart.

FYI: Years ago, Martin Ritt also explored this notorious era in “The Front,” starring Woody Allen.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Trumbo” is an eloquent 8, focusing on one of the most shameful periods in Hollywood history.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.