Support the Café

Search our Site

Faith Reels: ‘Trumbo’ … courage is contagious, but sometimes takes awhile

Faith Reels: ‘Trumbo’ … courage is contagious, but sometimes takes awhile



By Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster


Hollywood likes to make movies about the blacklist. It was the period of the late 1940s to the 60s when the “Red scare” so infected our country that innocent people were investigated, targeted and marginalized so much that lives were devastated and some even ended prematurely.


‘Trumbo’ is a “biographical” (Hollywood style) film about screenwriter James Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) who took an almost solitary stand when he and other prominent Hollywood figures were put on the government “blacklist” and subpoenaed to appear before a congressional committee charged with investigating their alleged association with the Communist Party.


This movie is the latest offering from the film community to shed even more light on a very dark period. These movies show how fear, stoked by politicians and celebrities, can change public opinion into a society that forgets its roots as well as the founding document that separated us from the rest of the world—the U.S. Constitution.


Once subpoenaed to appear before the congressional committee, Trumbo and other Hollywood screen writers and some prominent actors, were mercilessly roasted by gossip columnist queen Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), making their ability to find work impossible, lest the hiring studios also come under suspicion. Mirren’s verbal performance is mundane, but her eyebrows are spectacular.


The use of actual newsreel footage adjacent to original pictures that move from black and white to color is quite well done. It may surprise some who in the Hollywood community and in Washington was on which side.


Fast forward to 2015 and one can’t help but hear the words of the current political rhetoric. Just replace “communist” with “Muslim” and the same fear tactic is still with us. And it works in any society said Hitler’s number two, Hermann Goering, whether communist, fascist, dictatorship or democracy.


“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country,” said Goering.


Christians who believe in seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and respecting the dignity of every human being will want to see this film and wonder, where would I have been in the midst of this persecution? Maybe you recall which side you were on.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Donald E. Brooks

This article summarizes what I’ve been saying for some time. Although slightly before my time, I am reminded of FDR’S statement regarding the real enemy being “Fear itself.” Remember the admonition, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Philip B. Spivey

I have not seen this film, yet, but I will because it honors a time I lived through as a child. Trumbo was one of many casualties during the so-called, Red Scare of the late 40s through the early 60s. Among the other casualties were Ring Lardner, Paul Robeson, John Garfield, Canada Lee, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Marsha Hunt, Edward Dmytrk, Melvin Douglas, Will Geer, Clifford Odets and Lee Grant. For some, it lead to a premature death. Others, like Trumbo, survived to tell their story

Some were communists and others were not, but in each instance those who were persecuted had a passionate investment in seeing a healthier, safer and more compassionate world—and they were not afraid to speak out against injustice.

For some unknown reason, the United States requires a sustained presence of an “enemy”: someone or something to fear, vilify, separate-out and attack. Our history is replete with examples of these”enemies” beginning with the First Nation inhabitants, right on through to communism and now, Islam.

As the authors of this posting note, the United States is now ripe for another reactionary scare: at least in the days of the “communists”, you couldn’t tell friend from foe just by looking at them. Today, we’re on the verge of a perfect reactionary storm: what better to define the “other” or the “enemy’ than through profiling national origin (Middle East); religion (Islam); a form of dress; a language and skin tones?

Perhaps Christianity’s greatest challenge now is not about its personal woes, but the woes now facing all of humankind. Not unlike Germany in the 20s and 30s, its not beyond a real possibility that enough voters will have become terrified enough, to elect into office a neo-facsist like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (looking a lot like Sen. Jos. McCarthy). So that, in 2016, Islam will become the “New Scare”.

Thank you for this post; timely beyond words.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café