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I’ve mentioned that friends have started a Facebook page in the name of our beautiful, brilliant friend Robert Handforth, who died of AIDS in 1989. It has brought joy and profound sadness to remember him on-line with many others, as we all honour his memory. Yesterday I sent Constance, one of the women who founded the site, the article I wrote in the Globe about Robert, and she posted it on the site.

Beth Kaplan article about Robert 

Globe and Mail, March 23 2005

As I tell my students, you never know where your words will end up and what they will mean to the world.

Speaking of which, I saw another fine film today, another honouring a writer: Trumbo, about Dalton Trumbo, one of the screenwriters who survived the devastating blacklist in the Fifties in Hollywood and won two Oscars under an assumed name until the blacklist was broken. Not a perfect film, a bit plodding, but a great story, one I’m particularly interested in because of my family history – my father was a left-wing Jew in New York in the late Forties and wisely took a job in Canada rather than live through the hysteria. I have his files from the FBI, a huge stack of documents showing the amount of time and money wasted on just this one man – gumshoes, under the supervision of J. Edgar Hoover, interviewed everyone who might have known my dad including his high school teachers and the doormen and neighbours in the apartment buildings where his family lived during his teens. They continued to supervise every visit he made to the States in the early Fifties, at one point noting that he has grown a beard and is a supporter of the British National Health Service. Obviously an extremely dangerous radical. So absurd. A horrible time.

So, an important film about an important writer, which highlights those who buckled, like Edward G. Robinson, and those who did not, including one of the film’s heroes, Kirk Douglas, who saw it recently at the age of 98 and was miffed that the director didn’t cast him as himself. (He was joking). What matters in these kinds of films is not just understanding a vital piece of history but also forcing yourself to ask – what would I have done? Who knows?



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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