I finally saw Trumbo last night, the movie about the blacklisted communist & Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumboâ€¦who was a good friend and comrade of my grandma Dorothy Healey.
The brilliant movie hit me on all levels: as a writer, an activist, a Healey.
Here’s a man who faced McCarthyism dead in the face. Trumbo and the Hollywood 10 refused Congress’ (and in particular HUAC, the House Un-American Affairs Committee) attempts to interrogate their leftist political views. In return, they got more than a mere fine or Fox News ridicule — they got prison.
Trumbo himself spent almost a year in federal jail. For refusing to answer whether he got ideas for his screenplays from some commissar in Moscow.
But they couldn’t stop him from writing.
They tried. Hollywood blacklisted him. HUAC smeared his name. But Trumbo wrote. UnderÂ many names, he secretly won multiple Oscars. And he refused to sell out his friends.
My grandma Dorothy was his friend.
She was the head of the Communist Party in Los Angeles during much of the 40’s and 50’s. The newspapers called her the “Red Queen of LA,” and they didn’t mean it as a compliment.
Trumbo was a communist in LA. My dad, who I saw the movie with, remembers being a kid when Trumbo would come over their house to talk politics and play cards with Dorothy. And when they went to Trumbo’s mansion outside of LA, my dad laughed, “I didn’t know communists could be this rich.”
Socialists and socialites. Ah, the glorious contradictions.
My grandma went to jail herself in 1950. Again for nothing more than the crime of believing in something better than capitalism. Her case, alongside other national Communist leaders, went all the way to the Supreme Court. She won. And ended up winning 3 cases over two decades at the Supreme Court.
And now it’s 2016. The era of drones and deportations. Ta-Nehisi and Kendrick. Black resistance and white cops on a rampage. A comedy golden age and a clown called Trump.
What does it mean to be a writer right now?
How do we fight the modern-day McCarthy’s?
Who do you call comrade?
I stand with my friends. I stand with my family. I stand in the legacy of Trumbo and Dorothy.
What a great legacy! So much to draw upon as we face today’s McCarthys.