A communist screenwriter

A time when communism was still relevant

Dalton Trumbo was an American screenwriter and novelist – one of the Hollywood Ten or Hollywood blacklists – the practice of denying employment to screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians and other entertainment professionals during the mid-20th century because of their suspected Communist sympathy or membership in the Communist Party. [1]

“Trumbo”, directed by Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) and the script was written by John McNamara, loosely based on the book “Dalton Trumbo” by Bruce Cook. The movie’s casts named well-known actors and actresses: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Diane Lane, Helen Mirren (The Queen), Louis C.K., Elle Fanning…

What drawn me into this film was the fact that, apart from Dalton Trumbo was not only the scriptwriter of Roman Holiday (the movie starred Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess), he was also a die-hard and out-spoken member of Communist Party of USA, back on the day Communism borne such righteous principles: rights for the working class, protests against the slavery and exploitation of capitalism.

Bryan Cranston is the soul of this movie. He has successfully conveyed a self-righteous person who believed in justice, in equality, in human rights with his whole heart; a person who stood his ground firmly when it came to his ideals and principles, who had great faith in his own notoriously quick-witted mouth and extremely insightful mind. For better or for worst, there was a time Communism stood for the rights of working class, represented the poor against the rich, and defied the greedy capitalism – such ideals that Dalton Trumbo believed to be the right track for the people of United Stated of America. What he believed in, he stood by. No matter how he and his family were deemed traitors, no matter how his name was defamed, no matter how all his works were discredited and he was thrown into jail, he held his head high. For a human being, he was fearfully strong-will and perseverant. his resilience under the pressure of American people, press, Congress at that time was incredible, all because he believed what he was doing was right. How many people could still stand on their ground, keep their principles stubbornly, even when they have to go to jail for what they believe in? (Matter of fact, in Vietnam there are plenty, only a bit different in situation: they are pro democracy, against communism: Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức (human rights activist – currently in jail), Nguyễn Phương Uyên (at the time arrested was a student), Đỗ Thị Mỹ Hạnh (working class rights activist – was set free 2014 and still actively work as a workers’ representative till today), Lê Công Định (lawyer – set free but under custody of the government), Việt Khang (sent to jail due to a song “Where is my Vietnam?”, was set free, currently under surveillance); Nguyễn Quang Lập, (writer, currently under surveillance) not to mention some writers, poets, even songwriters whoever have spoken too loud about the human rights, civil rights, any type of rights that somehow thought to be unfavorable towards the current government. You can try Google them)

As he got out of jail and returned to his family, reality struck him hard, as now he, due to his conscience, must find a way to support his friends – other blacklisted colleagues in film industry. He was trying to work between the lines of keeping his principles and ideals, and living with the harsh truth of naked material world. He somewhat changed, no longer the kind man with sensible words, he became cynical, bitter and unendurable towards his family. But that’s what makes humans humane, nobody can stick with the same attitude and personality forever and remain unchanged under the influence of life’s ups and downs. Our changes can be good or bad, but what defines us – is the ability to realize the good and bad, and all those in between, to adjust accordingly for the sake of ourselves, of those we love and treasure; or simply give in to our desires, our needs, our greed.

Trumbo had a friend – Edward Robinson, an actor and benefactor for Trumbo’s meetings with other communist members, but later Edward decided to rat on Trumbo to save his own career. Trumbo later spoke indirectly to Edward, considered him to be a victim just like himself in a maddening time when there were no heroes or villains to be found, because “there were only victims – victims because each of them felt compelled to say or do things they otherwise would not. To deliver and receive wounds they truly did not wish to exchange.” Trumbo tried to reach out to a friend, to “heal wounds which years ago they inflicted on each other and most of all, on themselves.”

I have always admired those who have big hearts, those can look pass the mistakes, the flaws in others to see a better version in each and everyone around them. Trumbo, depicted in this movie, stands for such people. He has this rare insight that allows him to live through his ordeals without turning into a scornful soul; he keeps his views in life as transparent as possible, so that upon looking back, he hasn’t got many regrets.

Bryan Cranston played Dalton Trumbo as he was breathing. His calm, ego-less confidence enables him to be non-judgmental and unoffendable in almost every situation. Talking with the actor on several occasions through the years, the words he most frequently uses are “lucky,” “fortunate” and “grateful.” Cranston was 40 when he was cast as the bumbling dad in the sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” and just past 50 when he landed “Breaking Bad.” Now, nearing 60, fresh off the Oscar nomination for “Trumbo” and a Tony win for “All the Way,” Cranston sums up his career in one word — “fine.” [2] When we constantly feel grateful for what we have, feel lucky to be where we are, and content with what we’ve done so far – everything starts to fall into places where it is supposed to be.



[1] The Communist Party USA is a communist political party in USA, established in 1919, which was closely related to U.S. labor movement. The party played a prominent role in the US labor movement from the 1920s through the 1940s. Until now, the party still operates, though a bit underground.

The constitution of the Communist Party of USA, adopted at 30th National Convention, June 15, 2014 can be founded here: http://www.cpusa.org/cpusa-constitution/ , with the main points:

  • Communist Party builds on the legacy of those who fought against slavery, for the right to organize unions, for civil rights and for women’s vote and reproductive rights.
  • Capitalism has cast billions of people around the world into poverty. It institutionalizes racism and women’s oppression, denies youth the hope of a future, and fuels discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people, religious minorities, immigrants and people with disabilities. Capitalism pits worker against worker in a global race to the bottom. Corporate interests wage a never-ending campaign to roll back people’s hard-won democratic rights. Capitalism’s insatiable drive for profits has poisoned the Earth’s land, sea, and air. Capitalism treats people and nature as disposable commodities in order to transfer the wealth of the planet to a handful of multi-billionaires.
  • Basic principles include the leading role of the working class in the struggle for social change; that working class unity is essential and the fight against racism and for immigrant rights are essential to build that unity.

With these basic principles, I understand why Communist Party has such die-hard fans.


Have fun with 10 reasons communism and capitalism suck.




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