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Trumbo in Paradise 

A blacklisted screenwriter stands up for his rights

Wednesday, Mar 2 2005
Suppose Charlie Kaufman were suspected, along with most of Hollywood, of being a member of a "terrorist group." (Earth First!, maybe?) If Kaufman were hauled before a nationally televised right-wing inquisition, refused to name names, and was sent to prison for it, he'd be the modern-day Dalton Trumbo.

As unthinkable as the above scenario sounds, screenwriter Trumbo and the other members of the "Hollywood Ten" endured all of it and more during the late '40s. How much more is detailed in Trumbo: Red, White, & Blacklisted, a new play by Christopher Trumbo, Dalton's son. Starring the perfectly cast Brian Dennehy, the piece is based on letters from the writer to his son. Trumbo's eccentricity, bitterness, and wit are the catalysts of the dramatic action, and while it's 90 minutes of a man sitting behind a desk (with occasional visitors: Sen. Joseph McCarthy must appear in this story, of course), Trumbo's voice and Dennehy's skill should make for compelling theater.

As the Oscar-winning scribe responsible for famous screenplays like Spartacus as well as the author of one of the most horrifying novels of all time, Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo cuts a gritty, tough-guy figure, fighting for his integrity against the American government, his peers' scorn, and the need to provide for his family. Even so, he still wants to have fun, and the play's lighthearted moments include the reading of a missive sent to Christopher in college -- one that became infamous in the younger Trumbo's dormitory. "The letter," as it was known, was on the subject of masturbation.

Would Charlie Kaufman stand up in court and tell a powerful Republican senator to go to hell, even if it meant 10 months in prison and a prime spot on the "you'll never work in this town again" blacklist? After seeing this play, you might pose this question about your favorite screenwriter, as well as the more important query: "Would I?"

About The Author

Hiya Swanhuyser


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