Hollywood Celebrates Another Stalinist

Allan H. Ryskind | January 5, 2015 | 10:44am EST
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A crowd of supporters lifts up screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson in June 1950. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

Editor’s Note: Allan H. Ryskind, editor-at-large of Human Events, is the author of “Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters—Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler,” which was released today.  Ryskind, who grew up in Beverly Hills, is the son of screenwriter Morrie Ryskind (Animal Crackers, A Night at the Opera, Room Service).

Hollywood relishes making anti-American movies, but maybe even more, loves to lavish fulsome tributes on full-blown Communists, you know, those fellows who swooned at Joe Stalin’s feet, teamed up with Hitler as he bombed the hell out of London in World War II and worked overtime to inflict deadly harm on America.

Tinseltown is at it again, insisting that Dalton Trumbo, a major Hollywood Ten figure and longtime Communist enthusiast, must, first and foremost, be honored as a courageous champion of our constitutional liberties.

Hollywood’s favorite Red screenwriter is to be celebrated this year in a brand new film directed by Jay Roach and featuring Bryan Cranston, the star of the hit television series, Breaking Bad. The publicity already tells us what this film is all about: That Dalton bravely took a “stand against the Communist-witch-hunt at the height of the Cold War” and was “punished for his principled stand for free speech and the Constitution.” (Yes, we all know how Communists have always been deeply committed to America’s constitutional freedoms.)

Actor John Wayne, the labor leader Roy Brewer and the Los Angeles Examiner’s powerful columnist, Hedda Hopper—each of whom successfully battled the Stalinist screenwriters (including Trumbo)—will be taking major hits.

The new Trumbo movie will almost certainly treat the revered screenwriter in much the same way Christopher Trumbo, Dalton’s son, treated his dad in his 2007 “documentary,” also called Trumbo. In other words, he’ll be treated like a glorified patriot. That film was drenched in liberal accolades, with the New York Times’ reviewers handing it the distinguished “Critics Pick.” Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Nathan Lane and Liam Neeson are just a few of more than a dozen stars that appear in the film paying homage to this iconic figure on the Left.

As numerous biographies tell us, Christopher’s dad was jailed for refusing to tell the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in those famous 1947 hearings, whether he was a Red, claiming the First Amendment shielded him from being required to answer political questions.  He was cited for contempt, served 11 months in jail and spent a lot of dark days on the blacklist, meaning he couldn’t openly work for the studios because he refused to say whether he was a Communist. He went to Mexico for a while, suffered severe money problems, wrote Hollywood films under assumed names, and supposedly, found grown-ups picking on his daughter because of the writer’s stubborn stand against HUAC’s Inquisitors.

Typical of Hollywood’s take on Christopher’s film was an article by the Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan, who portrays Dalton as a “contrarian” who “believed passionately in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”  And when HUAC began to investigate his “connections to the Communist party,” his life showed “the fearsome cost of standing up for your principles….”

Ah, and what glorious principles they were! Among them: Supporting totalitarian Communist regimes across the globe and becoming a major Hitler apologist until the Fuehrer betrayed Trumbo’s noble leader in the Kremlin. Trumbo, in truth, was a full-fledged Stalinist who had the distinction of siding with three of the most barbarous dictators in the 20th century: Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and North Korea’s Kim-Il Sung. Nor did he just have “connections” to the Communist party.  He was a full-blooded Red, party card and all, who worked hard to graft the Soviet system, with all its lovely qualities, upon his country of birth. And, judging from his views, he would have done it by force and violence if he had had the chance.

For much of his adult life, Dalton was in Stalin’s hip pocket (as, of course, was every member of the Communist party in the United States).  This huge part of his existence, alas, never emerges from the extravagant tributes he receives.  I’ve read a lot of Trumbo and combed through his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.  Yet, I’ve never found a paragraph, or even a phrase, where he ever publicly or privately condemns Stalin’s Soviet Union in any meaningful way, certainly not when the Caligula in the Kremlin was dispatching his own citizens by the millions, egging Hitler on as he invaded the Western democracies, cheering Goering’s air force as it rained death and destruction on London and eagerly devouring Eastern Europe in the post-World War II era.  Not a peep of protest or regret can be found from a man whom Hollywood longs to lionize.

The evidence of Trumbo’s Red activities is hardly secret. He came clean, sort of, to his biographer, Bruce Cook, a writer of the upcoming Trumbo screenplay. He told Cook in the 1970s that he joined the party in 1943 (some FBI informants think he joined in the 1930s), that some of his “very best friends” were Communists and that “I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier….” He also says, about joining the party: “But I’ve never regretted it. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to say I would have regretted not having done it….”

He said he let his party membership lapse after his HUAC appearance, possibly finding it difficult to pay his party dues after he was blacklisted, but he never publicly turned his back on communism or Stalin. Indeed, in his private papers he admits that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954,” apparently his passion for a Communist America burning brightly as ever. So, by the historical record and his own account, he was in tune with the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter of a century, when Stalin was in his prime killing years.

Like so many of his comrades, he was opposed to Hitler—until the Soviet-Nazi pact in 1939.  Under this devils’ agreement, Stalin gave Hitler the green light to invade Poland, thus setting off World War II, since England and France had pledged to protect Poland from a German invasion.  Hitler, turning his guns against the Western democracies the following year, vanquished most of Western Europe and then attempted to dispose of England, initially leveling its cities with saturation bombing. How did Dalton exhibit his love of constitutional freedoms and deeply-held anti-fascist views?  He sided with the Fuehrer.

To ward off potential American assistance to London, which Stalin sternly opposed, since he was firmly in Hitler’s corner,  Dalton unleashed his polemical fury against the British—the last major European nation still willing and able to resist the Nazis.  England was no democracy, he argued in his 1941 novel, The Remarkable Andrew, because it had a “king.”  FDR was guilty of “treason” and “black treason” for his pro-England policy. We had no quarrel with Hitler.  And no drop of American blood should be risked or spilled for the selfish and deceitful British. Yet, when Hitler betrayed his beloved Stalin in June of 1941, launching a massive invasion of Russia, ah, finally, Trumbo discovered a compelling reason to confront the Nazi warlord! Rescuing Stalin’s Russia was clearly a cause worthy of flinging thousands of young Americans to their deaths on foreign battlefields.

Many of Dalton’s Red activities were chronicled in 1947 by HUAC.  The committee came up with one of his party cards and disclosed he had joined, spoke for or contributed to dozens upon dozens of Communist causes before, during and after World War II.  There seemed to be no Red activity he wouldn’t embrace.  He was raising money for the Daily Worker (the CP’s official publication), campaigning for Communist candidates, propagandizing for Red labor leaders and (post-the Soviet-Nazi pact but before Hitler’s betrayal of Stalin), encouraging the shut-down of U.S. defense industries so we couldn’t possibly spare the smallest amount of military assistance to help England survive the Nazi onslaught.

Earl Browder was deposed as Communist party chieftain in 1945 (for saying, among other things, that the United States and the Soviet Union could cooperate after the war). Dalton, following Stalin’s new hard line against America, gave two thumbs up, remarking that “It comes down to this, if Lenin was right, then Browder was wrong—and vice versa.  I prefer to believe that Lenin was right.” When Winston Churchill warned against Soviet imperialism in that famous 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri, Dalton immediately compared Churchill to the Nazis, arguing that’s what Nazis always do, pick on the Soviet Union.

When editing The Screen Writer, in the mid-1940s, Trumbo turned this influential Screen Writers’ Guild publication into a virtual Red propaganda organ, not only hailing Moscow and domestic Communists, but leveling vicious assaults against the anti-Communist community. When North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, guess which side Trumbo took?  In an unpublished movie script dedicated to several Hollywood Ten figures, he has the heroine declare that North Korea’s invasion was perfectly justifiable, for this is “Korea’s fight for independence, just as we had to fight for our own independence in 1776.”  His support for the Soviet Union and a Stalinist state in America never seemed to quit.

When the Hollywood Communists put on their horror show before HUAC in 1947, screaming at committee members and refusing to respond to legitimate questions, respectfully posed, the studio executives laid down a rule: Those who refused to say whether they were party members and conspiring with our enemies in Moscow could no longer work in Hollywood. Trumbo stood with his fellow conspirators and Stalin.

Why, and I truly admit I’m puzzled, does mainstream Hollywood, folks like Billy Crystal, Liam Neeson, Brian Dennehy, et al., continue to honor Stalin's most enthusiastic champions?

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