The year 1950 saw two films that would become classics, namely "All About Eve" and "Sunset Boulevard". Both shattered the wholesome image of Hollywood. More than half a century later, "Trumbo" and "Hail, Caesar!" received critical acclaim. Both movies were set during the studio era, and it was undoubtedly an old Hollywood lovefest. The image of the studio era filtered through the decades. What could be the reasons behind it?
Hedda Hopper would be one (of the reasons). She was an actress during her younger days, but she wasn't as lucky as Lana Turner. She looked around, not wanting to leave Tinseltown. She became a gossip writer. She was Facebook, Twitter, and Hitler all in one. (Not even the late Joan Rivers could match her.) Hopper was a zealous Republican who thought of America's safety. She didn't show remorse to the families of artists suspected of being members of the Communist Party USA. She loathed extramarital affair; Ingrid Bergman was forced into exile in Europe. Hopper was mortified after watching the Swedish actress won her second Oscar (for "Anastacia"). Hate Hopper for all she stood for, hypocrisy included, but Hollywood would be less colorful without her. In fact, she would be livid after finding out that Helen Mirren portrayed her in "Trumbo". (Hopper didn't like Britain at all.)
The screenwriters were the unsung heroes, as they made sure that the lines (they wrote) would be uttered by one actor (and no one else). If they could moonlight as journalists, then they would have a mouthful to say. They were Communists. (Hopper wouldn't ask them questions for her column.) They have tidbits to share to readers. Take note of the following:
For every classic, there's a dud. The Marx Brothers would be remembered for "A Night at the Opera" and "Duck Soup", but only their diehard fans would enjoy films like "The Big Store". It was a far cry from their early works. Groucho, the oldest of the siblings, must have figured out that they couldn't win it all.
Some actors were better off camera. One of Dalton Trumbo's peers saw John Wayne at a political rally. He thought the Duke was better on stage. Wayne, one of the bankable stars during the studio era, wouldn't be chastised for his lack of acting talent. Many moviegoers could see his tender side whenever he played a tough cowboy. And this would be the reason why he became a beloved figure. The actor knew it when he won the Academy Award for "True Grit".
Screenwriters were paid well, and Dalton Trumbo was too good for them. Maybe the plight of many writers forced them to join the Communist Party. In the case of Dalton Trumbo, he was a well-to-do liberal who was willing to risk it all. (Comfort made him restless.) He believed in the goodness of Americans, never considered leaving the US for the Soviet Union. He believed America deserved better leaders. Who would have thought that his sentiment remained true up to this day.