Not since Michael Moynihan’s January 29, 2014 obituary of Pete Seeger titled ‘The Death of ‘Stalin’s Songbird’ at The Daily Beast have I encountered such inquisitional hyperbole as Mr. Bunch’s review of Trumbo. Read the Moynihan obituary to acquaint yourself with the genre as practiced at The Daily Beast :
The Daily Beast editors assigned Sonny Bunch, executive editor of the Washington Free Beacon the task of ‘reviewing ‘ Trumbo. His credentials are impressive:
Sonny Bunch is executive editor of the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, he served as a staff writer at the Washington Times, an assistant editor at The Weekly Standard, and an editorial assistant at Roll Call.
Impressive credentials if your politics are Neo-Conservative! The essay’s title gives the game away: ‘How Bryan Cranston’s ‘Trumbo’ Whitewashes Stalinism’. If one is a Neo-Con or a fellow traveler, it might do to be careful about resurrecting the political pasts of others, when discretion and circumspection as to the apologetics for the Soviet experiment might be politically inconvenient. On that see Murray Friedman’s The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the shaping of Public Policy for a description of the Left Wing radical political pasts of the Neo-Cons e.g.Irving Kristol and many others.
Mr. Bunch is a hired propagandist who quotes from Martin Amis’ Koba the Dread, Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical , Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters—Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939. Quite an impressive list of sources. Richard Schickel’s biography of Elia Kazan becomes the partial focus of Mr. Bunch’s polemic, and one which I read. I found that Kazan and Trumbo shared the political morality of the careerist: Kazan as friendly witness and Trumbo as FBI informant and, in reality, a victim of the Blacklist, who true to Hollywood Melodrama over came an injustice, see this portion of Trumbo’s Wikipedia entry:
Trumbo won an Oscar for The Brave One (1956), written under the name Robert Rich. The source of this pseudonym was revealed by his son, in his documentary film Trumbo, as a nephew of the producers of The Brave One – the King brothers. In 1975, the Academy officially recognized Trumbo as the winner and presented him with a statuette.
In 1993, Trumbo was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for writing Roman Holiday (1953). The screen credit and award were previously given to Ian McLellan Hunter, who had been a “front” for Trumbo. This was actually the second Oscar made for this category win as Hunter’s son refused to hand over his father’s Oscar.
What I came away with from the Schickel’s biography is that Mr. Kazan didn’t let the political indiscretions of his comparative youth get in the way of his career as movie director.
Then Mr. Bunch attempts to give contemporary political resonance to the Blacklist with this paragraph:
Yes, there’s no excuse for the blacklisting of communists by Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. Just as Scott Eckern, Orson Scott Card, and Brendan Eich should not be deprived of their livelihood for their political views—and those on the right should think twice before launching a boycott of Quentin Tarantino for his recent comments about police—the Hollywood Ten and other Communists should not have been shut out of the studio system for arguing in favor of an unpopular ideology.
‘Yes, there’s no excuse for the blacklisting of communists by Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s.’ Given this categorical statement this final paragraph looks just like political rationalization allied to self-serving political hypocrisy.
But it wasn’t just an unpopular ideology that Dalton Trumbo and his fellow blacklistees were supporting with their membership in the Communist Party: They were backing Stalin and a murderous, totalitarian regime dedicated to bringing America into the Communist fold. And to overlook this fact, as Trumbo does, is to do a real disservice to history.