We’ve spent the last couple of days talking about Trumbo, a new movie by director Jay Roach that tries to make a free-speech hero out of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905-76), and about Hollywood Traitors, a new book in which Allan H. Ryskind shows that Trumbo and his fellow Tinseltown Stalinists, far from being free-speech heroes, sought, in the years before the HUAC hearings, to silence non-Communists and to slip as much pro-Soviet propaganda as possible into their scripts.
And in the years after the blacklist? As the late Andrew Breitbart noted in a 2009 interview, Hollywood has been run by leftists for “the last forty years,” and those leftists have made one movie after another about the blacklist – among them The Front (1976), Guilty by Suspicion (1991), and The Majestic (2001). All of these pictures have sold the same dishonest message – namely, to quote Breitbart, that “the worst thing that ever happened” during the Cold War was that “a few screenwriters had to write under pseudonyms for a few years.” Yet for the last four decades, Breitbart added, these very same powers-that-be “have been vicious to people who disagree with them,” doing their best to keep the silver screen scrubbed clean of non-leftist voices. Indeed. And if that’s not a blacklist a – or, at least, a “brownlist” – what is it?
But the main point to be made about Trumbo is this: however inadvisable, stupid, wrong, or unjust the HUAC hearings and the blacklist may or may not have been, Trumbo’s summons by HUAC and his placement on the Hollywood blacklist didn’t magically convert him into a champion of American freedom. Roach and company, of course, would have you believe otherwise. On November 3, promoting the movie on the Howard Stern Show, Bryan Cranston, who plays Trumbo, actually made two thoroughly outrageous claims in quick succession.
First, Cranston maintained that “Stalin wasn’t even a Communist. He was a fascist dictator.” Cranston didn’t explain what he meant by this ridiculous statement, and Stern didn’t ask. Presumably, this was Cranston’s own little contribution to the decades-old, and still ongoing, effort by many leftists to whitewash Communism as an ideology by representing real-life, brutal, monstrous, totalitarian Communism, whether in the USSR or China or Vietnam or Cuba, as a betrayal of true Communism – which they continue to view as benign ideology that’s never really been put into practice and that, if it were tried, would succeed, lifting humankind to an unprecedented level of goodness and glory.
Second, Cranston suggested that even though Trumbo and other members of the Hollywood Ten joined the Communist Party, they weren’t really Communists or Stalinists or whatever; they were just well-meaning guys in search of a way to fix the ailing U.S. economy. And besides, the USSR was our wartime ally.
We’ll wind this up tomorrow.