That last question, to be sure, doesn’t arise in the case of Rex Reed, the septuagenarian gossip columnist, movie reviewer, and (back in the day) frequent talk-show guest.
Reed, one of Trumbo‘s most enthusiastic champions, gushes over its portrayal of what he calls – and please read this carefully – “a postwar decade when America was nervous about finding a Communist under every bed, deceived and misinformed by alarmists like then-Senator Richard Nixon, who mistakenly preached the ignorant message that Communism was the enemy of democracy.”
Now, let’s take this nonsense in sequence. First, about “alarmists”: surely one of the lessons (however unintentional) that any alert viewer takes away from Trumbo is that it wasn’t “alarmist” at all for anyone to worry about Communist influence in Hollywood. No, there may not have been a Communist under every bed (and nobody seriously thought that there was), but there were, as it turned out, a hell of a lot of convinced Stalinists writing movies that would be seen by millions of people around the world. Radical leftists insisted passionately, repeatedly, that the Hollywood Ten were innocent; in the end, it turned out that every last one of them was, indeed, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. (And that’s not just an expression: each of them had a card testifying to his membership in the CPUSA.)
As for Reed’s statement that it was “ignorant” for Nixon, or anyone, to suggest that “Communism was the enemy of democracy”: how to reply to such a breathtaking claim? How could Reed –who, born in 1938, was alive during most of the history of the Soviet Union – actually put such a sentence to paper? Granted, Reed has never been known for his brilliance; on the contrary, he’s always been something of a preposterous nitwit, preoccupying himself with the accumulation and dissemination of inane celebrity scuttlebutt.
But for heaven’s sake, the guy is pushing 80. Has he really learning nothing all these decades? Has he been so busy attending screenings and going to glitzy showbiz parties and interviewing vapid actresses that he’s managed to miss out entirely on even the most significant world events of the day? Is his whitewashing of Communism an example of staggering foolishness? Of staggering dishonesty? Of some unfortunate mental debility?
Or could it be that Reed – who, like Yoko Ono and the late Lauren Bacall, lives at the sumptuous Dakota on Central Park West – is himself, like Trumbo, a limousine Commie? (Though we’ve never paid much attention to Reed, we’ve always thought of him as a bubble-headed lightweight whose mind never actually entertained a political idea of any stripe; but we’ll have to take a closer look at his oeuvre one of these days to see if we’ve been missing something.)
By the way, here’s what Reed says at the end of his review: “Hopefully, Trumbo will broaden the knowledge of young audiences today that remain ignorant about Hollywood’s darkest past.” The tragedy of Trumbo, alas, is that will fill the heads of untold numbers of improperly educated young people, both today and in the future, with dangerous falsehoods about Stalinism and its adherents.
Then there’s Steven Rea. We’ll get around to him tomorrow.