Behold Trumbo and his superhero power of … Writing!



Behold the newest member of the Marvel Universe. He wears big glasses and a bushy mustache not as a disguise but as part of his everyday Hollywood attire. Trumbo slays the evil empire by …

Wait. I’m mixing studios and genres here, obviously.

But director Jay Roach certainly took John McNamara’s script based on Bruce Cook’s book Dalton Trumbo and turned this man who wrote movies for the big screen and turned him into a hero. In case you missed the real-life story and this little movie when it was in the theaters …

Trumbo was one of the industry’s top screenwriters in 1947 when the Communist hunters came knocking on his door. And, yes, he was a member of the party, and wasn’t afraid to tell the world why that was not against the principles that made his beloved country, America, great. Of course, the Red Scare brought his group known as the “Hollywood Ten” in front of a ravaging Congressional committee, as well as the poison pen of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

They got blacklisted. Trumbo fought the only way he knew how. He wrote scripts under pseudonyms to feed his family. And won awards, turning Hollywood on its ear as more and more people turned to his side.

Bryan Cranston and Diane Lane as cranky hubby and suffering wife. (From

Bryan Cranston and Diane Lane as cranky hubby and suffering wife. (From

Bryan Cranston is terrific as the craggy, mercurial Trumbo, who rallies his writing Reds and churns out cheap copy by the bushel in his bathtub with the great pearls of winning stories still swirling in his mind.

Diane Lane won me over as his harried but steadfast spouse, too, and Helen Mirren absolutely sent shivers down my spine as the single-minded and imperious Hopper.

All the smaller parts fit well into the puzzle, too, from Louis C.K. as a fellow writer who puts up with Trumbo’s bombast while he battles his own demons to John Goodman as a small-time studio head who cares not a hoot about the Tinsel Town hierarchy to Madison Wolfe and Elle Fanning as Dalton’s wickedly smart and devoted daughter Niki in her pre- and teen years.

And yes, even when things seem to be crumbling around him, Trumbo’s way with words – the way he stood up to John Wayne’s bluster in public, for instance – certainly makes this odd and eccentric character seem like a superhero for his industry and his generation.

What is your favorite movie about the power of freedom of speech, and why? Which is your favorite movie about Hollywood in the 1940s, and why? Which is your favorite Bryan Cranston project, and why?

13 thoughts on “Behold Trumbo and his superhero power of … Writing!

  1. Definitely gong to check this one out–thanks for highlighting this. Don’t know how I missed it when it came out. Another great film about the blacklist was The Front, starring Woody Allen as con man who pretended to be a writer and got a lot of blacklisted writer’s material published–for a cut.


  2. I haven’t been in the world of writing much in my life Mark. I am starting to see how important freedom is and how it could be attacked by government. This was never a concern of mine before. This movie sounds like a must see for a person in my position. You know I never got why the Americans were so concerned about communist groups at the time. To me the philosophies are very similar, just expressed in a different regulatory environment. Both put a lot of emphasis on working together to create an economy that benefits all. The very root of the American political systems – communities – is not only from the same root word but the same philosophy as communism: everyone working together equally to benefit all. The rewards paradigm is different – i.e. America rates different jobs as being of more or less value – but the common target is the same. The establishment of government is also very different but the American system is so obviously superior as power is passed along at the behest of the people. The Soviets in all their preaching of the power of the people forgot that it was not in the people’s best interests to have a dictatorship – which was what the soviet system was at its root. That eventually lead to their downfall.

    Anyway, thanks for this post Mark – I am starting to see the power of the written word.


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