PopPolitics: Jay Roach on Why ‘Trumbo’ is Still a ‘Cautionary Tale’ (Listen)

Trumbo TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

Jay Roach, director of “Trumbo,” says even though the height of Hollywood’s blacklist era was six decades ago, his movie is still a “cautionary tale” of the hysteria that can devolve from attacks on free speech.

In many cases, it took decades for credits to be restored on movies written under pseudonyms by blacklisted writers or credited to “fronts” who were not shut out from employment.

“I think there is a certain repressed memory in Hollywood,” Roach tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “…Unless somebody wants to say, ‘Really, hey, we should remember this so we don’t repeat it.’ It is really a powerful cautionary tale.”

“It is hard to imagine, but I do think there is a possibility,” he adds of the chance of such an event happening today. “You already [see people] trying to defund universities for having political views. Right now, in the middle of this political campaign, that has become an interesting issue, just to try to shut down divergent dissenting political ideas. Who knows if it can happen in Hollywood. But I think these stories are important to tell as cautionary tales.”

“Trumbo” tells the story of one of Hollywood’s most self-professed screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo, whose refusal to answer the question of whether he was, or ever had been, a Communist before a congressional committee in 1947 led to his blacklisting. He worked by screenwriting through “fronts,” turning out Oscar-winning screenplays for “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One” before the blacklist eventually dissipated in 1960 when he was credited for Otto Preminger’s “Exodus” and “Spartacus” starring Kirk Douglas.

Roach also talks about the influence of the media in pushing the Red scare in Hollywood, and how he knew one of the “Hollywood ten,” the showbiz figures who served time in prison for contempt of Congress. Edward Dmytryk was one of Roach’s directing teachers at USC’s film school.

Listen below:

Debate Data Dive

You can look at the 8.6 million broadcast viewers who watched Saturday’s Democratic debate in one of two ways: It is still far better than many of the Democratic debates held in the 2008 cycle at this point, and double the audience that CBS normally gets on Saturday night. But Saturday night also is the lowest viewing night of the week, leading to some criticism of the Democratic National Committee for scheduling the event at that time. Martin O’Malley has been championing more debates than the six on the books, and his deputy campaign manager Lis Smith told Politico that the Republicans have “been eating our lunch” with bigger attention and viewership.

Republicans have yet to hold a major debate on Saturday night this cycle. Their next is scheduled for Dec. 15, a Tuesday, in Las Vegas, with CNN and Salem Radio the sponsors. The next Democratic debate will be on Saturday, again, on Dec. 19 from Manchester, N.H., with ABC News and WMUR televising.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday night’s debate, Zignal Labs‘s Anthony York reported that the gathering lacked the “media heat” of GOP events, drawing 370,000 mentions of the three candidates. Sanders drew 202,000 mentions, followed by Clinton with more than 152,000 and Martin O’Malley “a distant third.” Clinton’s top attention-getting issue was the Islamic state, Sanders’ was college and O’Malley’s was immigration.

Zignal Labs CEO Josh Ginsberg talked to “PopPolitics” earlier in the week on what broke through during the Republican debate on Tuesday.

Listen below:

O’Reilly Vs. Will

Variety’s Brian Lowry says that the feud between Bill O’Reilly and George Will over O’Reilly’s book “Killing Reagan” isn’t so much a reflection of the fissures within the Republican party as it is a clash of personalities.

Listen below:

Viral Vines

Nikki Schwab of Daily Mail and Hunter Schwarz of IJ Review talk about Vine videos and other seconds-only content that pose a challenge to campaigns, particularly after debates. They also talk about reaction to the Republican gathering.

Listen below:

This Week

Vice President Joseph Biden is in Los Angeles on Monday, attending a roundtable discussion at the L.A. Cleantech Incubator along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Biden also will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is scheduled to raise money in Los Angeles on Wednesday for his presidential campaign, including a lunch hosted by investment manager Mark Siegel at his Beverly Hills home, according to an invite. Tickets are $5,400 per couple.

The Human Rights Campaign is holding a special screening of The Weinstein Co.’s “Carol” in Georgetown on Wednesday, followed by a Q&A with producers Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen.

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety‘s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS 124. It also is available on demand.

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  1. John Hart says:

    Fact – Trumbo was a fast writer and during the Blacklist period he was forced to write and rewrite scripts for low-life producers like the King Bros and anyone who paid him under the table. Trumbo 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 – “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 – White and Franklin were editors and acting as shills for Trumbo before and after “The Brave One” movie.

    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 (File Number: 100-1338754; Serial: 1118; Part: 13 of 15).

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

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

    Fact – Juan Duval, poet, dancer, choreographer, composer and director of stage and film, wrote the original story/screenplay 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 55 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 largest 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.

    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.

    Comment by John Hart Duval

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