16 thoughts on “TBT: Reds (1981)

  1. No, I haven’t seen Reds, but based on what you’ve screencapped I agree with you that costumes are not drab. They look quite lovely, and I say that as someone who is usually bowled over by the fashion of that period.

  2. Interesting that the film is Reds, but there’s not a scrap or hint of anything red or red based until that last coat. Everything is neutral through blue to black. Is this part of the story arc?

    1. “Reds” is a derisive nickname for Communists, although it’s only used a couple times in the film. It was pretty common in the U.S. from the 1950s-1980s (don’t know the entire linguistic history tho!), & I bet that’s why it was used as the title.

      1. Red was an international communist symbol/used in communist symbols for decades before the revolution, so it’s a pretty natural step from how they symbolized themselves/their ideology to others using it to refer to communists.

  3. Red was the colour used by the Bolsheviks during the revolution. That period is not so far from us s we might think; my first wife went to school with Trotsky;s nephew. Trotsky’s real name, BTW, was Lev Nikolayevitch Bronstein. Lenin’s last name was Ulianov, Stalin’s was Djugashvili. Stalin comes from the Russian word for “steel,” Lenin from “iron.” Political writers sometimes referred to Stalin as “Joe Steel.”

    1. Another good one was Kamenev. Kamen is stone. Moloto is hammer, although I don’t remember off hand if Molotov adopted a revolutionary name or was born with that.

  4. I loved Reds, even though it was too long, and I’m not a fan of Keaton. It really caught the glamour of and then disillusionment with communism. The hats! I saw it in the theater, and now will have to look for it streaming.

    1. Oops forgot. I met a woman (then in her 70’s) who had worked across Russia building railroads during their ‘everyone employed’ period. She came back to America, and got a PhD in anthropology/archeology and was a curator in a museum. So, Reds really struck me, giving me a glimpse of her life.

  5. I am definitely interested. And I agree, the costumes look great! But I am curious about the ending. Seems like it might be interesting to pair this with the recently released (but not in the US due to Covid) film Mr. Jones, which is about a reporter who discovers the horrors of the famine caused by the awful dekulakization program (hidden by Duranty and others who liked their access to big wigs and didn’t want to put communism in a bad light).

    I also read an interesting article lately about trips by Langston Hughes and others to visit Soviet Russia during the 20s and 30s. I would be very interested to see that, in all its complexity, explored on film someday. (The article also noted that Soviet materials included invented godless spirituals as African-American folk tales.)

    1. Well, no spoilers in history, John Reed dies in 1920, & that’s the end of the movie. But before that, he does have a sort conflict about the ideals of the Russian revolution & what’s really happening. Even Emma Goldman comes to this realization in the film.

      1. Well then that sounds like more reason to pair those films. Maybe with Death of Stalin as a chaser ;-) (hilarious that one!).

  6. As the granddaughter of a Socialist labor organizer, I was eager to see “Reds” back in 1981, and remember it as well made and pretty respectful of the subject matter, apart from the occasional Old-Hollywood touches. (I don’t think Bryant really struggled through sleet and snow to reach Reed’s bedside–i.e., prove her womanly devotion–though she probably would have done so if necessary.) Still, “Reds” probably passes the Bechdel test: there’s actual attention paid to the relationship between Bryant and Emma Goldman! And those beautifully designed dresses and hats…looking back, I could have done without Warren Beatty and just hung out with the female reds.

  7. I was obsessed with this film when it came out, with all the clothes, and the history! It inspired a gigantic reading jag about John Reed, Louise Bryant and his early patron, the astonishing Mable Dodge Luhan.

  8. Shirley Russell was married to Ken Russell from 1956 to 1978. The DVD commentary to Women In Love (1969) said she used pieces from her own personal collection of period garments in the costuming for that film.

    Haven’t seen Reds; you’re making me think I should.

  9. Yes, old person here, it’s one of my favorite movies. I remember that Louise, in the movie, talks about how women who are traumatized will often later have luxurious wardrobes.

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