By scrutinizing both the sinister politics of the Cold War and the precarious power relationships embedded in post-World War II movie-making industry, “Trumbo,” which is currently in theatres, is a cogent look at America in the middle of the 20th century.
“Trumbo” tells the story of Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), a respected screenwriter in post-World War II Hollywood. The prolific wordsmith lives on a ranch north of Los Angeles and is married to Cleo (played by Diane Lane), with whom he has a family. Although he clearly lives a lavish and materialistic lifestyle, he is a member of the communist party who is a friend of liberal actor Edward G. Robinson (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). He is also a friend of several other communist screenwriters, such as Arlen Hird (played by Louis C.K.). They are not well liked by the more conservative members of the Hollywood community, such as actor John Wayne (played by David James Elliot) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (played by Helen Mirren). Thanks to the interventions of the latter figure, Trumbo and the others become known as the “Hollywood Ten,” and run afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Eventually, Trumbo is sentenced to prison. When released, he continues to write screenplays, but producers cannot acknowledge or employ him. Finally, he goes to work for Frank King (played by John Goodman), an independent film producer who specializes in low-budget B movies. Trumbo’s luck does start to get better when actor Kirk Douglas (played by Dean O’Gorman) asks him to write the screenplay for “Spartacus.”
“Trumbo” has a fascinating story. With superb period costumes and conventions, it conveys the intensity and fear that gripped those unfortunate years.
Bryan Cranston is very good in the lead role. He showcases Trumbo’s many political, professional and personal passions. Diane Lane is equally good as his devoted wife. Elle Fanning also does strong work as one of his oldest daughter, a proverbial chip off the old block.
“Trumbo” is a solid choice for people interested in Hollywood history.