I knew that Spartacus was highly regarded in Marxist circles, but I didn’t know this sort of thing occurred with the Kirk Douglas film came out (in medias res from an article on a showing of the film):
As a leader, Spartacus has been admired by revolutionaries seeking to overcome the power of an over-class. Karl Marx admired Spartacus as did Che Guevara, the revolutionary who played a key role with Fidel Castro in overthrowing the Cuban dictator, Batista. Spartacus was hailed by the German Communist movement during World War I and by the Austrian anti-Fascists during the 1970s.
So, it was particularly shocking in 1960 when the film “Spartacus” was released with Dalton Trumbo as the screenwriter. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who had refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 as they attempted to uncover Communist influence in Hollywood. As a result, Trumbo was blacklisted from working in Hollywood and spent 11 months in prison.
Out of concern that “Spartacus” was a sign that Hollywood seemed to be falling under the influence of “Soviet indoctrinated artists,” the American Legion attacked Trumbo and Kirk Douglas, the film’s star and executive producer.
The American Legion issued letters to 17,000 veteran posts around the country, advising them not to see the film because of its suspected Communist influence. Furthermore, because of the bloody battle scenes, the skimpy slave and gladiator costumes, and the sexual suggestiveness set in pagan times, the film ran into difficulty with the Motion Picture Association of America, which insisted upon numerous cuts and changes to the film in order to accommodate its censorship guidelines.