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Movie Review: Trumbo

Alternate Title: Irritably Yours

Story: The national disgrace called the House Un-American Activities Committee (1938-1975) has been fodder for many books, films and TV shows. The actions of the Committee ruined countless lives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Un-American_Activities_Committee Director Peter Askin has taken an unusual cinematic approach in bringing the documentary about accused screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Exodus and Spartacus) to the big screen. It is based on the play by Trumbo's son, Christopher Trumbo (who also was the screenwriter for the film).

For those not familiar with the witch hunt of the period, Congress was seeking out Communists everywhere, but devoted special attention to the 'Reds' that they claimed were pervasive in the Hollywood community.

Through the voices and images of 10 actors, we listen to some of Trumbo's writing before, during and after his battle and incarceration for being in contempt of Congress. He was one of the few who refused to "name, names" in front of the Committee and used the First Amendment, rather than the Fifth Amendment as his defense. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court where it was denied.

Askin uses wonderful file footage, including video of Trumbo being interviewed, to advance the story. There are ideas throughout this film that resonate all too closely to our Government's intrusion into our lives today. If you like films that make you think (and cringe at times) check out this fine film.

The Hollywood Ten included Alvah Bessie, screenwriter, Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director, Lester Cole, screenwriter, Edward Dmytryk, director, Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter, John Howard Lawson, screenwriter, Albert Maltz, screenwriter, Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter, Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter, and Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter. For more information (and there is plenty) check out

Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6RS6tA1XcM

Acting: These actors read from Trumbo's letters: Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Lane, Josh Lucas, Liam Neeson, David Strathairn, Donald Sutherland. The interviewees were: Emanuel Azenberg, Walter Bernstein, Larry Ceplair, Kirk Douglas, Peter Hanson, Dustin Hoffman, Lew Irwin, Kate Lardner, Helen Manfull, Victor Navasky, Jean Rouverol, Christopher Trumbo, Mitzi Trumbo

Predilection: I like documentaries and am particularly fascinated with that period in time.

Critters: Trumbo and his family had lots of pets including dogs, cats a parrot and a cockatiel.

Sex Spectrum: There is an hysterical Trumbo letter to his college age son, spoken and acted brilliantly by Nathan Lane, that is all about the glories of masturbation.

Opening Titles: Montage of old screenplays.

Theater Audience: About 25 cinephiles and us.

Weather: Lovely

Sappy Factor: There is nothing sappy about a witch hunt.

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: Those HUAC hearings are very squirmy.

Drift Factor: Some of the letters were a bit long. It needed more editing.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: no

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine. If you want a themed festival check out The Front and Guilty By Suspicion.

Length: 100 minutes