Pub date August 13, 2008
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

REVIEW "I have the feeling that if you give most people in the world the choice between enough food for their children and shelter and clothing in return for their freedom of speech, that they will go for the food, the shelter, and the necessities," said Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter of Spartacus (1960), Exodus (1960), Papillon (1973), and a number of other films, including Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956), that either were written under an assumed name or (at the time) simply went uncredited. Trumbo and the rest of the "Hollywood 10" — screenwriters and directors who, when suspected of being communists, refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee by invoking the First Amendment, not the Fifth, as justification. They were subsequently blacklisted by Hollywood studios. Trumbo director Peter Askin weaves insightful commentary from family, friends, film historians, and actors (Donald Sutherland, Dustin Hoffman, and Kirk Douglas make appearances) with vintage footage of the Academy Award–winning writer, giving us an eloquent portrait of a stubborn but nevertheless admirable man. Although the documentary is ostensibly about the impact the blacklisting had on the screenwriter’s life, excerpts from speeches, novels, and letters (read by the likes of Joan Allen, Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson, David Strathairn, and Michael Douglas) are interspersed throughout the film, showing that Trumbo (who died in 1976 at age 70) had a way of making words dance — and that he was deeply invested in everything he wrote.

TRUMBO opens Fri/15 in Bay Area theaters.