From “Truth” to “Trumbo”

Hollywood provides a steady left-wing pressure on our politics, our culture, and our collective memory. This year the Rathergate film Truth gave an almost unbelievable example, turning the perpetrators of the greatest journalistic scandal of our times into heroes. John and I tried to set the record straight in the Weekly Standard article “Rather shameful” and the Star Tribune column “Lies upon lies.”

As the institutional voice of the left, the New York Times celebrated Truth just before its commercial release last month at a TimesTalks event featuring Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Dan Rather, and Mary Mapes — the full catastrophe, as Zorba the Greek would put it. I wrote about that in the City Journal column Truth and the New York Times.” Swift, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

Now comes the new film Trumbo, telling the story of the Hollywood blacklist in the official version that is a falsehood and a mind-numbing cliché. Dalton Trumbo was a talented screenwriter and Stalinist member of the Communist Party who concealed his Communism under the facade of civil liberties when called to testify before HUAC in 1947. In asserting the First Amendment to maintain his silence, Trumbo was following the party line to the letter.

When Ron Radosh first learned that the movie was to be made, he told the true story in the November 2013 NR article “Will the new Trumbo movie rehash old myths?” Having just seen the film, Ron returns to answer the question in the affirmative in the PJ Media column “Red star falling: The Trumbo train wreck.”

Because of Ron’s NR article, the producers at Bleecker Street Cinema claimed that he had “trashed the film” in advance and barred him from the critics’ screening, thus preventing him from writing about it for a national publication. “One could say,” Ron writes, “that Bleecker Street Cinema blacklisted me — but we all know they are against blacklists.”

Having observed the role of the New York Times in promoting Truth last month, I found Ron’s digression regarding the Times of particular interest:

This is not the first time I was prevented from writing about the blacklist. In 1991, I wrote about the film Guilty by Suspicion, which featured Robert De Niro playing a blacklisted director. The piece was accepted by the New York Times. It was set for publication in the Sunday Arts and Leisure section, so I was surprised when I opened the paper and my article wasn’t there. Instead they ran one by Victor Navasky, then the editor of The Nation, praising the film and chastising me! Eventually, The American Spectator ran my review, under a headline reading “Scoundrel Times.”

Now here’s the beauty part. Hollywood’s service as a propaganda organ is frequently costly. As we have chronicled here, Truth is a box-office bomb. Trumbo remains in limited release at this point. As of November 24, Trumbo has grossed $652,270. Playing in 47 theaters on Tuesday this week, it averaged $708. The folks at Bombs and Blockbusters are hopeful that Trumbo “should easily be able to gross $20M or more domestic,” but it looks like wishful thinking to me.

Maybe the producers of Trumbo didn’t have it in for Ron; it looks like they needed his 10 bucks. We’ll have to stay tuned to see how the commercial part of the story turns out.

NOTE: If you are interested in the subject, you will also want to check out Ron’s Weekly Standard article “In search of Trumbo” (behind the Standard’s subscription wall) and especially Ron’s book with Allis Radosh Red Star Over Hollywood.