The patriotic film The American Sniper was nominated for six Oscars, astonishing fans and critics alike. But why is it surprising that a film honoring an American hero would be celebrated in the capital of the American movie business? The fact is, despite a few recent signs of dawning good sense—think Zero Dark Thirty, on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and Argo, about a successful CIA operation—Hollywood still tends to spurn patriotism on the silver screen and to celebrate truly unsavory characters and ideology, as long as they’re on the Left.
Would Hollywood deliberately grant awards to fascists or Nazis or KKK members? Not likely.
Then why does Hollywood continue to lavish First Amendment honors on Joseph Stalin’s Fifth Column in America, including those “Hollywood Ten” members who enthusiastically supported Hitler during the Hitler-Stalin pact? Why does it so warmly embrace Red screenwriters who were in the Fuehrer’s corner when he set off World War II by invading Poland, rolling over Western Europe and unleashing death and destruction on England? (Surely Hollywood has to know that the Red screenwriters turned against the Nazi warlord solely because Hitler double-crossed his pal in the Kremlin with a massive invasion.)
In 1997 I went to a well-attended event at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills where Hollywood dished out First Amendment awards to screenwriters Ring Lardner Jr. and Paul Jarrico, though both were enthusiastic Stalinists for much of their lives. Meaning, both embraced a ruthless dictator who crushed the tiniest signs of free speech in the nations he ruled or conquered.
My TV keeps airing reruns of The Majestic, starring Jim Carrey. The movie names a wonderfully patriotic town populated with freedom-loving Americans after—guess who?–John Howard Lawson, who died one of the Hollywood Ten’s most devoted Stalinists.
This year Hollywood plans to glorify another Hollywood Ten member and long-time Stalinist, Dalton Trumbo. The ads say that Trumbo, to be played by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston “stood 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.”
Here is what we absolutely know about Trumbo. He told his biographer, Bruce Cook, that he joined the Communist party in 1943 and that “I might as well have been a Communist ten years earlier.” After a prison term for contempt of Congress, he says in his papers, he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954.” He also told Cook that “I’ve never regretted” joining the party. Never regretted being a pawn of one of the bloodiest mass killers in world history? Apparently not.
What Hollywood characterizes as his lifelong battle for “free speech and the Constitution” led Trumbo, over the course of his lifetime, to support not only Joseph Stalin but Adolf Hitler and North Korea’s Kim Il-sung. When Stalin made his pact with Hitler in August 1939, Trumbo dutifully switched to the pro-Hitler camp, accusing FDR of “treason” and “black treason” for supplying England with war supplies in its life and death struggle against the Nazi warlord.
When Communist Party head Earl Browder was ousted in 1945 for saying there could be a peaceful path to socialism, Trumbo claimed 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.”
Trumbo believed that Lenin was right. And Stalin, too. When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, Trumbo dutifully allied himself with the Stalinist aggressor. “This is not by me,” Trumbo lightheartedly scribbled onto the piece of paper that covers a 145-page screen treatment in his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Then he boyishly confesses: “Ah, yes it is!” Trumbo’s script, titled An American Story, features a heroine who is said by her ex-husband to be an unfit mother because she favors Communist North Korea’s swift invasion of South Korea in June 1950. She insists the invasion is completely justifiable for this is “Korea’s fight for independence, just as we had to fight for our own independence in 1776.”
Hollywood goes all weepy over the blacklist, but by 1947 the overwhelming majority of American citizens had come to realize that Joseph Stalin was a murderer of his own people and a deadly enemy of the West, America in particular. Even very liberal Americans such as Eleanor Roosevelt backed Americans for Democratic Action, which barred—or should I say “blacklisted”?—Communist Party members because they were rightly understood to be agents of a foreign enemy of the U.S. The American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.), hardly a Right Wing organization, had also banned Party members from its governing board and staff. It was no less reasonable for Hollywood producers to exclude propagandists for Stalin from writing for the movies.
Why is Hollywood honoring the willing accomplices of totalitarian dictators? It’s past time they stopped confusing men who were in Stalin’s hip pocket with principled champions of individual liberty. But the Hollywood Left just can’t seem to break the habit.
Allan Ryskind is the author of Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters–Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler.