Saturday, September 17, 2016

Kenneth D. Ackerman's "Trotsky in New York, 1917"

Kenneth D. Ackerman has made old New York a favorite subject in his writing, including his critically acclaimed biography Boss Tweed: The Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York. Beyond his writing, Ackerman has served a long legal career in Washington, D.C. both inside and out of government, including as counsel to two U.S. Senate committees, regulatory posts in both the Reagan and Clinton administrations, and as administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency. He continues to practice private law in Washington.

Here Ackerman dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Trotsky in New York, 1917: Portrait of a Radical on the Eve of Revolution:
Playing Leon Trotsky would be a fabulous role for an actor should they make my book, Trotsky in New York, 1917, into a film. Two other major Trotsky movies have been made in America, both featuring top stars in the lead role: Richard Burton in The Assassination of Leon Trotsky (1972) and Geoffrey Rush in Frida (2002). But both these films showed Trotsky as an older man in Mexico in the late 1930s. My book presents him twenty years earlier, as a rising 38-year-old in his prime. So the role demands a younger actor.

My favorites, were they still available, would be the Maximilian Schell of Judgment at Nuremburg, or perhaps the Gene Wilder of Young Frankenstein, or one of Trotsky’s own favorites, Charlie Chaplin – though they’d need to make the movie a silent non-talkie to best capture Chaplin’s zany intensity. Errol Flynn too comes to mind, though he’d have to dye his hair black for the role.

Realistically, making the film today in 2016, I’d push for a younger, less-known actor who could reimagine Trotsky afresh. Best would be a young Russian star who could attract a young Russian audience. Trotsky might be a global icon, but he is largely unrecognized to his own country. Dictator Joseph Stalin spent thirty years literally erasing Trotsky from the country’s history, removing his face and name from photographs and accounts of major events. For most Russians today, his is a vague blur.

Young Russians deserve a chance to learn their own history and heritage, and what better way than through a good film.
Visit Kenneth Ackerman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue