June 19, 2020

FAKE NEWS ON FILM: Finally, a Dramatic Film Tackles Walter Duranty’s Lies in the New York Times.

Once in Moscow, Jones realizes that Stalin’s collectivization is a fraud perpetrated by a criminal government and propped up by sympathetic journalists from the West. These include one Walter Duranty, the oleaginous, established correspondent for The New York Times. Duranty is played to slimy effect by Peter Sarsgaard, who coincidentally also played Charles Lane, the editor of the exposed New Republic fabulist Stephen Glass, in Shattered Glass (2003). Duranty strikes entire pages of copy that don’t uphold the official Soviet view. The journalist Joseph Alsop once called Duranty a “fashionable prostitute” for the Bolsheviks, and to British writer Malcolm Muggeridge, who was blackballed by many British newspapers after reporting the truth from Russia, Duranty was “the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in fifty years of journalism.” But the Soviet sympathizer won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his exclusive interviews with Stalin. To defend everything from mass starvation to the show trials of 1928, 1934, and 1936, Duranty had a simple response, parroting Robespierre: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

A hedonist who walked with a cane after losing a leg in a train accident, Duranty is shown throwing parties filled with jazz, opium, and lots of naked bodies. One of the funniest and most unsettling scenes in Mr. Jones comes when Jones is confronted by a naked Duranty at one such bacchanal. Duranty, irritated that Jones keeps asking the wrong questions and isn’t interested in sleeping with one of the women at the party, calls him a nobody. “I must be somebody,” Jones retorts. “I’m standing in front of the naked Moscow correspondent of The New York Times.” Director Holland conveys claustrophobic environments well, whether in a parlor-room party or a train packed with starving Ukrainians.

Read the whole thing. Further thoughts from Christian Toto, with a video assist from PJM co-founder Roger Simon.

Mr. Jones is available for streaming starting today at Amazon. Hopefully it will eventually be available in other formats and/or platforms.

With Mr. Jones, and the 2017 black comedy The Death of Stalin (currently available on Netflix), a few of Hollywood’s missing movies are finally being tackled.

(Updated to reflect its availability on Amazon and bumped.)

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