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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

An Evening At The Movies: Trumbo!

Today it was 38'C. I decided to shout myself dinner and a movie, for the air conditioning. The movie I went to see was Trumbo. And I so enjoyed it! Hollywood history has always fascinated me, and this era, the McCarthy witch hunts especially. So many people were shown at their best - and their worst - at that time. 

So, why am I writing about a movie on my book blog? And not even a speculative fiction movie? 

It's the story of a writer - a writer whose films I've loved over the years. You will certainly have seen some of them. Roman Holiday, that gentle, funny, sweet comedy which he wrote through a front, and which scored him an Oscar, even if his name wasn't on it. Spartacus, on which his name did appear, because of Kirk Douglas's decision. In an era when epics were more about huge scenes than about people this one was full of characters you cared about and intelligent dialogue. I read the Howard Fast novel on which it was based, definitely a classic, but the film became a classic in its own right. I remember reading Kirk Douglas's memoir some years ago, in which he said the original script by Howard Fast just didn't work and that sometimes the author isn't the right person to do the screenplay.   Dalton Trumbo also wrote the Exodus screenplay. That was a classic in its own right too, though I would have cast a British actor as Ari Ben Canaan if I couldn't find a suitable Israeli, because Ari learned English from the British. But Paul Newman was a star, so... Dalton Trumbo's name was on that too. The McCarthy era was just about over by then, though apparently the HUAC went on till 1975! 

I really enjoyed the film and thanked heaven that I am unlikely ever to be in the position of the hero. It had some great scenes in it. The role of Kirk Douglas was played by Dean O'Gorman, a Kiwi actor I last saw playing one of Thorin Oakenshield's sexy young nephews(not the one who had the romance with the elf maiden, his brother). And he did make a very good Kirk Douglas, if somewhat younger looking than Mr Douglas was at the time. (Apparently Kirk Douglas enjoyed this film too). They replaced Kirk Douglas's face with Dean O'Gorman's  in a scene from Spartacus, nice what they can do now. 

There's a lovely scene in which Frank King, the maker of movie drek, is visited by someone from the black ban bunch, who makes threats about what they can do to his business if  he doesn't fire Dalton Trumbo, who has been writing him scripts under a pen name. King, who is played by John Goodman, grabs a baseball bat and tells him to do his worst, while smashing things; the kind of people who see his dreadful  movies can't read and aren't likely to be reading the propaganda in the papers. 

And I loved the business of him writing in the bath tub. I hear there's a statue of him somewhere, writing in the tub. I wonder if I should try it some time? Not on my iPad, though! 


Pamela said...

This sounds fascinating! And Fili? Yes please and thank you! (I still haven't see Battle of the Five Armies because--I know this is the worst reasoning--all of the guys I fell in love with are going to die. Except Bard. Bard lives, right? Gosh, I've read that book a million times but honestly my very favorite parts are the goblin mines so...

I adore Roman Holiday (truth: Audrey getting her haircut inspired me to cut mine) but I've not yet seen Spartacus. I should block off a weekend for long historical epics of the 60s.

McCarthyism was horrific, and even more so for me because he was one of the senators from my state. And the idiot city where I live, in their INFINITE WISDOM, named our stupid transit center for the stupid trolleys we have that don't go anywhere except in a circle downtown where there's not much to do: The Joseph F. McCarthy Transit Center.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, Fili indeed! Do watch the final movie. Alas, Fili and Kili don't get to die in battle, they get killed going after Azog the Goblin, no doubt so that Tauriel has the chance to weep over Kili's body. And Thorin also dies, though not in battle, but he does get that dying scene with Bilbo from the novel. Bard does survive - and Tolkien tells us in LOTR that he became Lord of Dale.

Spartacus is a wonderful movie even if the hero's death is not historically accurate. He is crucified so that his wife, Varinia, gets the chance to show him his son and vow that he, Spartacus, will not be forgotten, before heading off in the wrong direction(South down the Appian Way instead of north to Aquitania). Doesn't matter. It's a beautiful film, beautifully written and acted. Watch it!