‘Trumbo’ at Oscars: Will Hollywood pat itself on back again as it did with ‘The Artist,’ ‘Argo’ & ‘Birdman’?

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It used to be rare for Hollywood to reward itself at the Oscars. However, in recent years there has been a surge in the number of Oscar-winning movies that chronicle the making of movies and this year "Trumbo" could well join those ranks. This acclaimed film by Jay Roach ("Game Change") tells the true story of Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was blacklisted in the 1950s for being a member of the Communist Party.

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Three of the last four Best Picture champs were all about Hollywood: "The Artist" (2011), in which a silent film star fights to stay relevant, "Argo" (2012), which detailed the real-life scheme to rescue hostages from Iran by using a fake movie as a cover story, and "Birdman" (2014), a raw look at awashed up movie-star hoping for a Broadway comeback.

But those were all heroic stories about artists fighting for their art or using their art to fight for others, while "Trumbo" is the opposite. It shows us Hollywood at its lowest moment ever, a time when fearmongering led to the virtual exile of left-leaning artists. Beloved legends like John Wayne (played by David James Elliott) lead the charge against the imagined Communist threat.

While "Trumbo" isn't a particularly flattering portrait of Hollywood during the Cold War, viewers are invited to identify with Trumbo in his fight for freedom of political speech. Thus Hollywood can still pat itself on the back for celebrating a persecuted artist and repudiating an old, ugly chapter in its history. There's even a scene in which the vindicated Trumbo accepts the Laurel Award from the Writers Guild.

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That is reminiscent of a scene from "Hugo," another recent Oscar-winning celebration of Hollywood, in which rediscovered film pioneer Georges Melies is invited to join the motion picture academy. Coincidentally, Michael Stuhlbarg was in that scene too, playing a film historian, while in this film he shows up as actor Edward G. Robinson.

It doesn't hurt that "Trumbo's" star, Cranston, is on a hot streak following his beloved Emmy-winning performance on TV's "Breaking Bad." Voters may be eager to award him for anything he does. In 2014, less than a year after "Breaking Bad" ended its run, he won a Tony for playing President Lyndon Johnson in "All the Way" on Broadway. Now he is on the verge of completing the acting triple crown.

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Photo Credit: Bleecker Street

One thought on “‘Trumbo’ at Oscars: Will Hollywood pat itself on back again as it did with ‘The Artist,’ ‘Argo’ & ‘Birdman’?

  1. How about the truth and getting the facts right.

    Fact – Trumbo was a fast writer and during the Blacklist period he was forced to write and rewrite scripts for less money for low-life producers like the King Bros and anyone else who paid him under the table. Trumbo was no hero, he did it for the money. The King Bros’s nephew Robert Rich, who was listed as the author, was an office errand boy and bag man who picked up scripts and delivered cash to pay Trumbo.

    Fact – Roman Holiday may be Trumbo’s story, but he was not in Italy during the shooting of the film where most of the script was re-written by Director Billy Wyler and screenwriter Ian Hunter. They wrote script on set day by day and the nights before shooting the film, as was Wyler’s method of film making. Ian Hunter’s son would not return the Oscar when asked by the Academy to do so in order that the Academy issue Trumbo the Oscar decades later.

    Fact – Dalton Trumbo lied about being the original author of the 1956 Oscar winning film, “The Brave One”. My father wrote the original screenplay.

    Fact – “The Brave One” script marked “#1” with 170 pages is archived in the University of Wisconsin Library where Trumbo donated all his work. The “#1” script’s Title page was removed and no author was mentioned.

    Fact – The “first version” (133 pages) and “second version” (119 pages) of the scripts listed “Screenplay by: Arthur J. Henley”.

    Fact – The last two scripts listed “Screenplay by Merrill G. White and Harry S Franklin, Based on an Original Story by Robert L. Rich”.

    Fact – When the King Bros listed their nephew Robert Rich as author they had no idea that “The Brave One” would be nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Story.

    Fact – Robert Rich did not attend the Oscar awards because he was cooperating with the FBI who were watching Trumbo and he didn’t want to be publicly humiliated when the truth came out (FBI File Number: 100-1338754; Serial: 1118; Part: 13 of 15).

    Fact – White and Franklin were editors and acting as shills for Trumbo before and after “The Brave One” movie. The King Bros did not initially intend that their nephew Robert Rich be a front for Trumbo. White and/or Franklin were fronts for Trumbo. It was only after the media played up the no-show at the Oscars that the King Bros and Trumbo saw this as a way to sell tickets and Trumbo played the media as well as he wrote.

    Fact – My Spanish father, Juan Duval, was a member of the Writer’s Guild of America (West). The WGAW destroyed my father’s original screenplays, which were filed with the WGAW.

    Fact – Juan Duval, poet, dancer, choreographer, composer and director of stage and film, wrote the original story/screenplay that The Brave One was based and presented it to a shareholder in the King Bros production company, who then gave it to Morrie King (one of the three King brothers). My father died before film production began.

    Trumbo re-wrote the screenplay and removed 50+ pages from the original script, some of which, was about the Catholic ritual of blessing the bulls before a bull fight.

    If you read the screenplay marked #1 and the redacted letters in Trumbo’s book, “Additional Dialogue, Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962” and compare them to the rewritten scripts and un-redacted letters archived at the University of Wisconsin Library, it’s obvious that Trumbo didn’t write the original screenplay, otherwise, why would he criticize and complain to the King Bros in so many letters about the original screenplay.

    My father was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1897, he matriculated from the Monastery at Monserrat and moved to Paris in 1913, where he was renowned as a Classical Spanish and Apache dancer. In 1915, he was conscripted into the French Army and fought in Tunis and then at Verdun, where he was partially gassed and suffered head wounds. He joined the US Army after WWI and was stationed in occupied Germany for 2 years before immigrating to the US where he set-up a Flamenco dance studio in Hollywood, CA. My father worked in film and stage productions, and choreographed at least one sword fighting scene with Rudolf Valentino and made movies in Mexico and Cuba.

    In 1935, my father directed the highest grossing Spanish speaking movie up to that time, which starred Movita (Marlon Brandon’s second wife). My father’s best friend was Federico Garcia Lorca and he tried to talk Lorca out of re-entering Spain in July 1936. In 1937, my father published a series of articles about the presence of Nazis in the Canary Islands and in one of the articles, he named who murdered Lorca and why.

    My father joined the US Army Air Force in January 1942 and was sent to Tunis where he had fought in WWI. He was fluent in five languages and served as a Tech Sargent. He was Honorably Discharged for ill health in 1943, the same year that Trumbo joined the Communist Party.

    Mizi Trumbo refused to talk to me about The Brave One original screenplay.

    If Trumbo posthumously received the Oscar for the Roman Holiday story, then my father’s original story which the movie “The Brave One” was based certainly deserves to be recognized by Hollywood and the Academy of Arts and Sciences and posthumously awarded the Oscar for “Best Original Story”.

    Before former Director of the Academy of Arts and Sciences Bruce Davis retired, he told me that because of the documentation that I provided him, he was inclined to believe that my father wrote the original screenplay which the movie, “The Brave One” was based.

    I request that the Academy recognize my father’s work and issue him an Oscar for his original story and screenplay which the 1956 movie, “The Brave One” was based.

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