His Life on the Blacklist, or How Communists Brought Us the “Cran-stache” #UPWeek

Fans of the hit television show Breaking Bad have grown accustomed to seeing Bryan Cranston donning a mustache to play Walter White. But, at this year’s Emmy Awards, the “Cran-stache” came out for a different reason. . .

Cran-stache

. . . for his starring role as blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the forthcoming film Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach. The new mustache was perhaps just as memorable as Cranston’s Emmys makeout session with Best Actress-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Trumbo made a name for himself as a screenwriter, playwright, and author, but he is also remembered as one of the Hollywood Ten who opposed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Refusing to answer questions about his prior involvement with the Communist Party, Trumbo sacrificed a successful career in Hollywood to stand up for his rights and defend political freedom.

Roach’s screenplay for Trumbo is based on the book Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook. Cook’s 1976 biography was largely based on a series of interviews with Trumbo himself, in which Cook admitted he was too “embarrassed” to ask the writer about his Communist Party affiliations.

Dalton Trumbo BookForthcoming in January 2015Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical, builds on Cook’s previous work through extensive research by Trumbo’s son, Christopher, and coauthor Larry Ceplair, primarily through the reams of carefully-worded letters Trumbo wrote throughout his life. Trumbo wrote thousands of letters that served as a journal of sorts, keeping track of the important events and people in his life and the battles he fought.

According to Christopher Trumbo, “That he was writing humorous and graceful letters at the same time as he was handling all that other stuff gave the audience a larger picture of what he was like.”

With regard to all “that other stuff,” Trumbo’s political beliefs continually evolved. He joined (and later left) the Communist Party twice in his life. But, in the anti-Communist boiler that was mid-century Hollywood, Trumbo’s membership in the party told them all they need to know about his politics. In a cover letter that accompanied several dozen boxes of his papers sent to the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in 1962, Trumbo wrote:

I’ve always thought of my life as a series of conflicts, each a separate battle, segregated in my mind under the heading, “My fight with these guys” or “My fight with those guys.” In thinking back I now realize I have regarded each fight as distinct and unrelated to the other, and have sometimes marveled how one man could have so many of them. I now realize it was all one fight; that the relation of each to the other was very close; and I am really no more combative than any other man. It just happened in my case that the original fight once undertaken, expanded marvelously into what seemed like many fights and the most recent in a sequence of fights is actually no more than the current phase of the primary engagement.

The blacklist ended for Trumbo in 1960, when he received screen credits for Exodus and Spartacus. Just before his death, he received a long-delayed Academy Award for The Brave One, and in 1993, he was posthumously given an Academy Award for Roman Holiday (1953).

And as for Bryan Cranston’s faithful display of facial hair for the upcoming biopic?

From the introduction:

He almost always wore a mustache. . . . He periodically changed the shape and style of his mustache, going from a pencil-thin one in the 1930s to one that was bushier, carefully shaped, and, of course, whiter. He was very fastidious about his mustache. “He shaved every morning,” Mitzi [his daughter] said, “and he had a little comb for his mustache. Once, he became annoyed that nobody had noticed a change he had made in his facial hair.”

Dalton Trumbo Writing

Dalton Trumbo writing in his bath tub. Photo by Mitzi Trumbo.

Bryan Cranston Dalton Trumbo Mustache

Bryan Cranston at the 2014 Emmy Awards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what’s happening for #UPWeek from other #AAUP Member Presses:

  • Princeton University Press on their book Alan Turing: The Enigma and the new, highly-acclaimed movie tie-in starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Georgetown University Press has built an impressive list of espionage titles. You may have noticed quite a few spy thrillers (TurnSleepy HollowThe Assests) on your DVR of late.
  • The University Press of Mississippi highlights their book, Walt Before Mickey. Now a major motion picture opening Thanksgiving weekend.
  • University Press of Wisconsin‘s blog is Ripped from the Headlines! Featuring timely, newsbreaking titles.
  • University of Pennsylvania Press features some of their books that appeal to a general audience. But they’re also trying to find ways to speed up the publishing process and release books that address topical issues as they are happening. University Presses aren’t simply places where dry tomes on minutiae get into print; they are places where all the world’s knowledge finds a voice.
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3 thoughts on “His Life on the Blacklist, or How Communists Brought Us the “Cran-stache” #UPWeek

  1. Pingback: UP WEEK: UPs in Popular Culture | University of Nebraska Press blog

  2. Pingback: #UPWeek Day 5: Follow Friday | The University Press of Kentucky

  3. Pingback: What SUP From Your Favorite University Presses, November 14, 2014 - Yale Press Log

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