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TRUMBO * * * *

By GUY FLATLEY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIRECTOR: Peter Askin

SCREENWRITER: Christopher Trumbo

CAST: Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Lane, Josh Lucas, Liam Neeson, David Strathairn, Donald Sutherland

INTERVIEWEES: 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

"Trumbo" is terrific--an astonishing, disturbingly relevant account of a courageous, fiery, ultimately triumphant fighter in a war against surging fascism. It was true inspiraton on the part of director Peter Askin to employ two equally effective techniques in telling the Dalton Trumbo story. On the one hand, we are shown fascinating footage of Trumbo at home with his offbeat family; in harm's way with his fellow World War II soldiers; and having a rollicking, boozy time in Mexico with Hollywood pals who were blacklisted along with him during the McCarthy era. These strong, illuminating scenes are mixed artfully with recently filmed passages in which some of today's finest actors, ranging from Liam Neeson to Donald Sutherland, deliver alternately harrowing and hilarious excerpts from Trumbo's published works and personal letters. Some of these letters--such as the one read by Nathan Lane in which Trumbo vividly describes the agonies and ecstasies of compulsive onanism to his teenage son--were written in prison, where the screenwriter served time for refusing to sell out his friends to an hysteria-fueled congressional committee.

The indelible portrait that comes sharply into focus in "Trumbo" is that of a forceful, funny, idealistic rogue who clearly grasped the callous manipulation practiced by the politicians and studio chiefs so intent on trashing the United States Constitution during the witch-hunts of the fifties. In the best sense of the phrase, Dalton Trumbo was American to the core, and this stirring documentary, based on the play by his son Christopher, is the salute he so richly deserved.