Directed by Warren Beatty, the political radical John Reed loves Louise Bryant while dedicating his life to a socialist revolution through his writing and speaking.
Elderly people who knew Jack Reed and Louise Bryant give their recollections of them.
John Reed (Warren Beatty) runs to catch a ride on a wagon in Mexico during the revolution.
In a gallery Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) talks to people about the exhibit of her photographs. A man says they look blurry, and her husband Paul Trullinger (Nicolas Coster) defends them. A woman notices a nude photo of Louise and calls attention to it. Her husband sees it and asks if she has gone crazy. She says it is a work of art in a gallery. She calls Portland, Oregon provincial, and he says that is where he earns his living. She says she has her work; but he asks if she thinks a few articles she wrote is work. He says she is trying to make herself the center of attention. He says it is shocking that she is an emancipated woman in Portland and tells her they are going to say goodnight and leave. One woman likes the photographs, and Paul says it is gratifying. Louise turns away and walks out. A woman says she knows who is going to be at the Liberal Club.
People sitting at tables are listening to a lecture at the Liberal Club. The speaker appeals to patriotism and urges people to fight if necessary to save the world for democracy. He says he is ready to be called. The speaker says that Reed has witnessed this war first hand, and he asks Jack Reed to say what this war is about. Reed stands up, says, “Profits,” and sits down.
Afterward Louise goes up to Jack and introduces herself to him and asks for an interview. She says she had a piece in The Blast recently. He asks when she wants to do the interview, and she says now.
Louise is showing Jack her apartment but says she lives in a house by the river. He is impressed that she has two places. She says she uses this place as a studio. She asks if he likes white lilies and says they are her favorite flower. She says he is not married, and he says he does not believe in it. She wonders how anyone can believe in marriage. She says his mother must be glad to see him back in Portland; he says she is happy when he’s not in jail. He looks at her framed photos and says they are blurry. She is sitting on a couch. She accepts that the profit motive in the world economy is the basic cause of the war, and she asks if he thinks those who favor war and subscribe their motives to patriotism are cynical or naïve. If they are cynical, do they feel without a profit motive the elites will not enter the war even though they feel that containing German militarism may be necessary.
He is pouring coffee and asks if she thinks that German militarism has anything to do with this war when England and France own the world economy, and Germany just wants a piece of it. He says J. P. Morgan has loaned England and France a billion dollars, and if Germany wins, he won’t get it back. He pours more coffee and says America will be entering the war to protect J. P. Morgan’s money, and if they lose, we’ll have a depression. He says the real question is why do we have an economy so that the poor will have to pay so that the rich won’t lose money. He asks what they have not covered and says that economic freedom for women means sexual freedom, and sexual freedom means birth control. He says they have an upper-middle class readership so he has to run around the country raising money any way he can. It is morning, and he sees that she is no longer taking notes. She says she could offer him more coffee, but she did not realize the hour. She says she has taken up a lot of his time. He sits down and says it is okay as he pours more coffee. She asks if this happens to him often, and he says not often enough. She smiles and says they have come a long way fast. She asks if he wants to take it a step further, and he says yes. She asks what he would think if she asked him something that seemed selfish, and he says he thinks she should. She picks up a large scrap book and hands it to him as she asks if it would be an imposition for him to take a look at her work. She says she respects his opinion, and he goes along and says he would be happy to do it. She goes to get his coat and tells him not to be gentle with her. She says she is a serious writer and that he can be tough. He says he will be as she helps him put on his coat. He asks if she wants him to leave, and she says she is late for an appointment. He is surprised she has one at six in the morning. He asks to see her tonight, but she says she is busy. He says he is leaving town the next day, and she says she is sorry. She opens the door and says she will send him a copy of the interview and kisses him on the cheek. She tells him to take a look some time and closes the door.
Jack is sitting with his mother and a few elderly people. A man asks what brings him here other than his mother, and Jack says he is raising money for a magazine he writes for. Jack says the magazine is called The Masses, and the man asks if it is religious. Jack says no. A woman tells him about a woman who does not eat meat. Mr. Partlow comes in the room and says Jack made some people unhappy at the Liberal Club last night. Some more people come in, and one of them is Louise Trullinger. A lady says that her husband is a fine dentist. They go in to dinner. At the table a woman asks if free love began in Greenwich Village. A man says they should not get Jack started on the subject of marriage. He asks Louise if she has any children, and she says not yet. He tells her she can call him Jack. A man says he does not want to hear any arguments about free love. Jack says he will call her Louise.
Outside Jack and Louise are leaving the party, and he asks if her husband minds her spending so much time in her studio. She says people have to give each other a little freedom. He would like to know if her idea of freedom is having her own studio. She stops walking and takes off her coat, lays it on the ground, kneels down, and says she would like to see him with his pants off. He kneels down and kisses her.
Jack is shaving in the bathroom of her studio. Louise is dressed and tells him he can make toast. She says goodbye and opens the door, saying he is leaving at 2:45, and they don’t have much time. He says it is quarter to nine and follows her down the stairs. She stops and says she hopes he will take the time to say a few words about her work. He asks why she is walking out like that and asks her to come back upstairs and talk to him for a minute. She comes up a few steps, stops, and asks what he wants. He suggests that she come to New York. If she wants to write, she should come where the writers are. If you want to have freedom, you have to come where the freedom is. He thinks she will go to waste in Portland. He tells her to come to New York. She says she will remember his advice. He asks her to come with him. She says he wants her to come with him and asks what as. He asks what she means. She wants to know if it is as his girlfriend, his mistress, his paramour, his concubine. He asks why she has to come as anything. She does not want to get into an emotional possessive involvement where she is not able to … She wants to know what as. He says it is nearly Thanksgiving; she could come as a turkey.
Louise gets off a streetcar in New York and carries her suitcases in Greenwich Village. She finds an address and goes up the stairs to an apartment with the sign “Property is theft. Walk in.” She knocks, says “Hello,” and walks in. She looks around and does not see anyone. She calls for Jack and looks at his photos and magazines. She sees the telegram she sent on the wall that says she would make her own way.
Louise is sleeping on the bed with The Metropolitan magazine when Jack comes in with Emma Goldman (Maureen Stapleton) and Max Eastman (Edward Herrmann). Emma says if it is illegal to hand out pamphlets on birth control, she is proud to be a criminal. Louise gets up and watches them from the bedroom. Max says she has a right to go to jail, but he thinks it is not the right time. She asks if The Masses is governing conscience now and asks if it is becoming like the New York Times. Max says she is too important to the anti-war movement, and Jack agrees with him. She says they are both wrong and explains that thousands of American women are overworked and underpaid and are dying giving birth to anemic children. She asks if their lives are less valuable than American boys. Jack asks if she wants some coffee, and she asks if it is Chase and Sanborn. He realizes he is out of coffee, and she says she is leaving. She says Jack is a journalist; when he is a revolutionary, they can discuss priorities. He says it is late, and he will walk her home. She asks why because she won’t hurt anybody.
Jack opens the bedroom door and sees Louise sitting on the bed. He says it is Friday night and that he is so glad to see her. He is eating an apple and says he finished her article on the railroad. He says it needs polishing because it is repetitious. She says that is to make a point. He says she will love New York.
Witnesses talk about Emma Goldman and Max Eastman who were radicals. Eugene O’Neill and others were in that circle.
At a party Louise says she writes. Jack dances with her. At the table Louise says she writes. Emma asks what she writes about, and Louise says everything and nothing. Emma goes on with her conversation with Max.
At a bar Jack asks what a capitalist makes besides money; the workers do all the work. He asks what if they all got organized all over the world. Jack sees that Eugene O’Neill (Jack Nicholson) has come in and is standing next to him, and he tells the bartender to give him a beer and puts his arm around him. A woman asks Jack to loan her $5, and Eugene tells her not to ask the pretentious son of a bitch. He will give her the money. He looks at his money, gives her a coin, and asks Jack for $4.50. Louise is watching from a table, and Max offers her some wine. She says no thank you; her beer is fine. Max says she is an amiable person, and he heard she is a good painter. She says she writes.
Jack is dancing with Louise in his apartment. Later Jack is at a desk eating an apple while a woman says to read Jung and Freud; but Max says they should read Engels and Marx. She says you can’t read Freud in an economic context. Jack gets up and joins Louise in the bedroom. She helps him put his jacket on and asks how long they are going to stay. He says they will be gone in a while; he will only be gone for a day. She says he just got back from Boston. He asks her to come with him to Baltimore, and she asks what as. She says the taxi is waiting. He kisses her and says he will see her tomorrow.
Jack and Louise are dancing happily during a party. Later they are sitting at a table with Emma, Max, and others. Emma says the capitalists can take this country into a war anytime they want. She says the only impact you can make is in the streets. Louise suggests to her if Debs gets a lot of votes, that it will strengthen that image. Emma says she believes that voting is the opium of the masses in this country; every four years you deaden the pain. She interrupts Louise, and Jack tells Emma not to be so dogmatic. He says Louise has a point. Emma says she is suddenly dogmatic; she asks why her status changes when he gets a new woman. Jack tells Louise that Emma is upset with him and that it has nothing to do with her. She thanks him for that great comfort.
At a restaurant Louise tells Jack that the house is filled with people while he is gone. They use it as a meeting place, and she can’t get any work done. He tells her to throw them out. She asks if she is to tell Max Eastman to leave. Horace Whigham (George Plimpton) calls to Jack who stands up, shakes his hand, and introduces Louise to him. Horace asks Jack if he is still getting arrested and laughs. He asks if Louise is trying to get arrested too, and she says not really. He asks what she does, and she says she writes. He asks what she is working on, and Jack says she did a piece on the armory show. Horace says he would like to read that and suggests they have a drink on Thursday. She agrees, and he says it is a date. Horace tells Jack to stay out of the slammer, laughs, and says goodbye. Louise tells Jack not to do that because she can speak for herself. Jack is told that his taxi is waiting, and he says he will see her at the end of the week. He kisses her several times, and she says she will call him about Thursday. Jack leaves.
Louise is reading over her railroad article and realizes it is repetitious.
Jack is talking to workers and asks what they make an hour. Big Bill Haywood (Dolph Sweet) asks how many times unions turned them down because they are unskilled. He says the IWW (International Workers of the World) is not going to turn them down for being unskilled or black or white or yellow. Jack says he is looking for a worker who had his leg crushed, and a man says he knows him and asks if that is what they want to read about now in Greenwich Village. Haywood says they need power, and the only way to get power is to organize all the workers together in one big union. The IWW wants them to get into the class war, not a war in Europe. They need a war against the capitalists. They will never get anywhere until the working class belongs to one big union. Policemen enter the building, and the officer gives them twenty seconds to leave. No one moves. The man who challenged Jack asks on what authority, and the officer says on his because this is an illegal assembly. Jack says these men have the legal right to assemble. A man with a rifle says he knows what they are doing and asks what Jack is doing. Jack says, “I write,” and the man says he is wrong and pushes him down. Jack gets up, and a policeman grabs him.
In an expensive restaurant Louise hands her article in a folio to Horace who asks how Jack is. He hopes he is being more careful about what he is writing because he would not like to see him unable to get into print. She says he will do fine. He asks if she told him where they are having drinks, and she says she will; but he is out of town. He is looking through the papers, and she tells him the armory article is on top. He reads it silently and says he should spend more time on this. He invites her to dinner and says Jack won’t mind. She asks why he would mind, and he says Jack is an odd duck. She asks if he feels he needs Jack’s permission to make a pass at her.
In his office Pete Van Wherry (Gene Hackman) asks Jack why he is upset over two little changes. Jack tells him not to rewrite what he writes. Pete says the IWW are a bunch of reds, and there are reds in the village. He tells Jack he is the best writer around and asks why he wastes his time with red propaganda nobody will ever print. Jack says it is the truth and asks if that means anything around here. Pete has poured two drinks and hands one to Jack. Pete asks who is to say what the truth is. By following the IWW he is not being fair to the AF of L. Jack says if he is going to rewrite what he writes, he is going to take it to a magazine. Pete says he can take it to the reds at The Masses and asks who is going to pay his rent. Jack gets his coat and says rent is easy and tells him again not to rewrite what he writes. Jack goes out the door.
Jack brings a bouquet of white lilies home and gives them to Louise. She is not happy and says thanks. He asks her what is the matter, and she says nothing. He asks if she saw Whigham, and she says he talked about Jack. He asks if she is angry at Whigham or him. She says he told her he would be back on Tuesday, and this is Saturday. He says he said he would be back at the end of the week. He asks if she thinks he has been running around listening to the sound of his own voice. She shouts he likes his voice a lot better than hers. She goes in the bedroom and slams the door. He opens the door and sees her sitting on the bed with her back to him. She is crying and says she is like a wife, a boring, clinging, miserable wife. She asks who would like to come home to her, and he says “Me.” She says she can’t do this, living in his margins, not knowing what she is doing. He asks her to tell him what he wants. She says she wants to stop needing him. She asked Whigham if he would send her to France. He asks if that is what she wants, and she says it is. He asks her to tell him why she is doing this. She feels she is not taken seriously when he is around. He asks if he is taken more seriously. She says he is not being honest with her. He says he is and says if she took herself more seriously, other people would too. He was honest about the armory piece. He does not take it seriously. How can she expect to be taken seriously if she does not write about serious things. She says she is looking for an apartment. He does not know what she is serious about. One day she is writing about railroads, and she didn’t finish it. Then she wrote about art exhibition that happened three years ago. He asks why she gives him anything to read anyway. If he criticizes it, she tells him she likes it the way it is. When they are out with other people, she does not speak unless someone asks her a direct question. Then she tells him she feels ignored. He says that with all the things happening in the world today, she decides to write about the armory show of 1913. He asks if people are supposed to take that seriously. She says she does not really care, but he says she cares. She is not interested whether his “stupid friends” take her seriously or not. He says that is why they don’t. She says she found an apartment on Houston Street, and she is moving in. She will tell Jack Reed something. She does not think they like the same people and the same kind of life, and she wants to be on her own. He tells her to go be on her own, and he does not give a damn. She says she knows he doesn’t give a damn. He asks her to tell him why he should. She says he shouldn’t. They shout at each other, and she walks out of the bedroom, says she is getting out of there, and closes the door. He says he is leaving too, and he hits the door with his fist. His hand hurts, and he lies on the bed and gets up. He opens the door and sees her standing there. He speaks softly and asks if they can just get out of New York and go somewhere to write what they want to write. She smiles, and he kisses her.
Jack and Louise are walking on a beach in Provincetown. They have fun there. They join a theater group with Eugene O’Neill.
Louise is rehearsing in an apartment while Eugene tells Jack to have her not stand behind the moon. In the scene she says she is offering her body to a Negro sailor.
Jack is in a rabbit costume reading the newspaper and talking about the war and whether Wilson will keep them out of the war as he has so far.
Jack is told that his ride is there, and Louise says his taxi is waiting. He kisses her goodbye and goes out with his suitcase.
Louise is sitting on a beach reading a letter from Jack in St. Louis about the Democratic convention there. He says he keeps thinking he sees her, and he misses her and the walks on the beach. Louise walks back to the house and goes in. She sees Eugene who asks where her whiskey is. She gives him a bottle and asks if he wants a glass. He says nothing, and she says she will get him one. She says she likes his dialog, and he asks her not to walk around while she is saying it. He says it makes him want to cancel the whole production. She apologizes. He says she can keep the glass and that he will take the bottle. She asks if he is leaving and asks for the glass. He asks why she is not in Chicago with Jack. She says he has his things while she has hers. She pours him a drink, and he sits down on a couch. He asks what are her things. She says her work. He says Jack is a mean son of a bitch leaving her alone with her work. She asks if he thinks she minds. He says she should because it is the one thing you should not be left alone with. She says he may feel that way, but she doesn’t. She pours him another drink. He tells her not to let those Village radicals keep her from being what she should be. She asks what he thinks she should be, and he says, “The center of attention.” She says he must have been with some very competitive women, and he says they were possessive. She says that is something else and a waste of time. She is not, and neither is Jack. He says he knows that she and Jack have their own things. She says Jack has that freedom, and so does she. She believes that anyone who is afraid of that kind of freedom is really afraid of his own emptiness. He asks if she is making this up as she goes along. She hands him the bottle and says she would like him to go. He asks why, and she says she does not want to be patronized. She is sorry if he does not believe in mutual independence and free love and respect. He tells her not to give him the parlor socialism that she learned in the village. He says if she was his, he would not share her with anybody or any thing. It would be just her and him. She would be the center of it all. He says it would feel more like love than being left alone with your work. She stands up and walks over to the desk. He hopes he did not upset her, but she says she is grateful as she straightens papers. She says he seems to be looking for something much more serious than she had in mind. He asks what she had in mind, and he stands up and faces her. She walks to him and says that she and Jack are capable of living their beliefs; but someone as romantic as he is would be destroyed by them; she does not want that to happen because it would upset Jack. He walks to the door and turns toward her. They walk to each other, and she kisses him.
Eugene and Louise are walking together on the beach.
Jack is at a political rally with Wilson supporters.
Eugene is in bed at night, and Louise kisses him. In the day they lie together on the sand. At dusk they are in the ocean together embracing. Eugene walks out of the house alone. At night Eugene and Louise are in bed together. They walk on the beach together at sunset.
Louise is singing “I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard” at a party with Eugene and others. They applaud her. Jack comes home with a bouquet of white lilies and sees Louise and Eugene embracing in a hallway. He goes back out the back door and comes around to the front door. Max says he just recited his new play. Jack comes in, and everyone notices him. Louise goes to him and welcomes him home. He sits down, and Max asks him about Wilson. Jack says he does not think Wilson is going to do anything but support the interests of the ruling class and take them into the war; but as long as he says he is against it, he thinks they have to support him. He will have to keep that campaign promise for a few months, and that might give them time to strengthen the anti-war coalition; but there is a lot more pro-war feeling now in the streets than there was before. People leave the party. Jack is sitting next to Louise and asks Eugene if he wants another drink. Louise and Eugene say goodnight, and he leaves.
Jack is typing at night, and Louise asks if he wants some cold tea or something. He says no thanks, and she has some. She picks up a leaflet and asks if she can read what is on the back. He says he didn’t finish it. She kneels in front of him and tells him to finish it. He looks at the short poem and asks if it would make her happy if he were a poet. She says she is happy. She looks sad, and he suggests she get some sleep and kisses her. She says she has to tell him something, but he says she does not have to. He asks if she wants to get married, and he kisses her. She gets up and sits in his lap as they continue to kiss.
Louise tells a moving man to be careful, and he goes out to get the rest. She goes back in and sees Eugene who asks where the whiskey is. She pays the two movers, and Eugene asks if there is anything to drink in there. She finds a bottle and gives it to him. He asks for a glass, and she looks in boxes. She finds a cup, but he prefers a glass. He says she left without saying goodbye, and that is not like her, though he does not have the slightest idea what she is like. She finds a glass and opens the bottle for him but spills it. She says it will smell like a saloon in there. He hands her an envelope and tells her it is a poem saying that he loves her and that he won’t be possessive or jealous and that she can sleep with whomever she wants and live with whomever she wants. He will do anything she says. He would like to kill her, but he can’t. So she can do whatever she wants except not see him or smoke during the monologue. She stands up and says that Jack and she have not told anyone yet because they were too embarrassed; but they are married. He says that is embarrassing. She says they felt silly, but they wanted to do it. She says it is going to be good because they are going to work together and spend all their time together. That is why they took a lease on this place so they won’t have to go back to the city. He asks if that means they have to cheat, or is it a free and independent marriage. He calls her a lying, Irish whore from Portland and says she used him to get Jack to marry her. She denies that and says she just wants to be friends. He says that is genteel and would be a good role for her. He imagines people pitying Jack and Gene and thinking of her as a heartbreaker. He says she is a heartbreaker, and she says she is sorry. He asks where Jack is, and she says Washington. He says he will do whatever she says. He asks what she wants him to do, and she asks him to wish them well. He puts down his glass, walks to the door, and says he wishes her and Jack well. Then he opens the door and walks away. She closes the door and puts the envelope he gave her in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
Louise runs out in the front yard to welcome Jack home with a hug. They kiss and walk toward the house together.
Jack brings down a large box and sets it down by a Christmas tree. Louise opens the box and finds a puppy.
Emma in a speech says that we love America.
Jack is talking to workers.
Some witnesses say how happy they were during the first Russian revolution in the spring of 1917.
The puppy comes up the stairs and tries to get in the bedroom door. In the dark Jack and Louise are making love.
At the dining table Jack asks Louise if the politics are a little nebulous, and she asks why she has to define the politics of a group of people because she thinks it is a vast over-simplification. He says if she made carbons of these, he could have taken them on the train with him. She gets up and walks away.
Witnesses talk about the war that Wilson got into in 1917 and whether there was an anti-war movement.
During a pro-war rally Jack gets on the platform and says this is not his war, and he won’t have anything to do with it. Two policemen arrest him.
In jail they are talking about how to organize. An old man says they are reds. Jack is urinating, and the man says this one even pisses red.
Dr. Lorber (Gerald Hiken) in his office tells Jack that he ran around saving the world until his kidney acted up again. Now he is going to keep running around making speeches until he winds up in the hospital. Then he will lose his kidney. Jack asks how much the government is paying him to keep him quiet. The doctor touches his back, and Jack flinches in pain. The doctor says that hurt, and he tells him that he will not be able to keep doing what he has been doing. This is a serious condition that could kill him. Jack asks if this could prevent him from having children. The doctor says yes because he can not have sex if he dies. Jack asks for a serious answer, and the doctor asks if he is thinking about having children. Jack says not at the moment, but he wants to be able to. The doctor asks if Louise is thinking about it, and he says no. The doctor says she still may be thinking about it. He tells Jack not to worry because he does not make babies with his kidneys. He is sending him home and wants Louise to put him to bed and give him lots of liquids. Jack says he does not want her to know about this. He asks the doctor to give him the bill there because he doesn’t want it sent to the house. The doctor asks if he has any money, and Jack says not at the moment. The doctor asks then why should he give him a bill, and he tells him to go home.
At the Socialist convention the chairman says that the Socialist Party and peace are inseparable and that the socialist movement will stand firmly for their resolution against American involvement in this war. Louis Fraina (Paul Sorvino) stands up and says he is the delegate from Boston. He asks what specific action they are going to take against the war. He asks if the resolution will stop one boy from being killed, and he does not think so. The chairman says their task is difficult, and he hopes they can handle it properly. Louis says that is stupid and starts to walk out. Jack asks if the Socialist Party is going to fight against conscription or not. He says he is not a delegate; but his name is John Reed, and he writes for The Masses. He asks if the Socialist Party will organize demonstrations against the draft. Julius Gerber (William Daniels) says he has no credentials. Louis asks if he is getting into party politics, and Jack says he is trying to be a journalist. Louis says they should watch what is happening in Russia. He says the Socialist Party needs good men like him and that he should join.
Louise is cooking while Jack is working at his typewriter. She says she does not want to call the dog “dog” and says he would call a baby “person.” He says he would call her “Jack.” She says the dog is not housebroken, and he tells her how she has to take her outside. Then when she goes, you have to give her a reward. She takes the dog outside, and he asks if they are having garlic today. He opens the Whitman book and starts to read the poem. She sees and says it is from Gene. He says he is sorry; he did not mean to read it; he did not know what it was. She goes to him and says he gave it to her in October, and she has not seen him since. He says she does not have to explain, and he puts paper in the typewriter. She says she is not explaining but just telling him it is over. He does not expect her to tell him about everything. He just asks her to tell him the truth. He tells her not to say that Gene gave her a poem six months ago and that she has not seen him since. He does not care what she did, but he does not like dishonesty. She says he doesn’t care if she had an affair. She tells him to look at who is being dishonest; he cares so much that he doesn’t even want to talk about it. He says he will talk about it and asks her to be honest. She says she is and asks if she would be silly enough to leave a poem lying around in a book by Whitman. Jack says Gene would feel at home in that company. She laughs and says he does not care. He asks why he should care if she slept with somebody. He asks if she thinks he hasn’t. He does not think they should have to report every time they go to bed with someone. He says it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean he loves her any less. He asks if she loves him any less because she went to bed with Gene. He asks what difference it makes, but he does not think they should lie about it. She is jealous and asks who. He asks if she wants a list; it does not mean anything. She looks at him and then walks up the stairs. He goes after her and finds her packing a suitcase. He asks what she is doing, and he wants to know where she is going. She does not want to talk because he said it all. He asks what he said that they both haven’t said a hundred times. She tells him to forward her mail to Wheeler-Bell syndicate, and she will have someone pick up the rest of her things in the morning. He asks if they said they have to give each other freedom if they were going to live together, that they weren’t going to be possessive. She says she thought he loved her, and he asks who says he doesn’t it. She replies that he loves himself, her he fucks when he is not fucking other people. She takes down a picture of Emma and smashes it. She shouts about freedom and says he does not give a damn. He asks if that is what fucking Gene means, that she does not give a damn about them; he says he is not packing his stuff. She opens the door several times, and he closes it each time saying he wants to know where she is going. Finally she starts hitting him. He picks her up and throws her on the bed. They are both out of breath and rest. She sits up and asks how many there were. He tells her to come on. She stands up and says he does not know the first thing about what living together means. She goes down the stairs. He tells her to go ahead because he knows where she is going. She says she thought he wanted someone to share his life with; but she was wrong. As long as he gets his two shots of limelight every day, he does not need a thing. She leaves with her bags, and he goes down the stairs and shouts that she can go to hell, both of them. He sits on the stairs and cries.
Louise takes a boat and is sitting in a restaurant in Paris.
Jack is in bed in a hospital, and Dr. Lorber asks how he is feeling and shows him the kidney in a bottle he took out. He says they got it out just in time, and he had better treat the other one well. He should tell his editor he has to be in bed by midnight. He tells him no salt.
Jack gets a letter from Louise who wrote she talked to a specialist who said he can live a perfectly normal life. She hopes he is not neglecting his writing.
Jack is walking on a road. While sitting in bed and sitting at the table he reads another letter from Louise about the stories she is writing.
At a restaurant Pete Van Wherry says that if the Bolsheviks get in, they can kiss their ass goodbye because they will pull Russia out of the war. Another man says the Bolsheviks are small potatoes and that Russia won’t get out of the war. Pete says he had better hope they are small potatoes. Pete sees Jack and calls him “red Emma junior” and tells him to get over there. Jack tells him to speak up because they can’t hear him in the other room. Jack sits down at the table, and Pete says he lost twenty pounds with the kidney. Jack orders a sarsaparilla. A man asks if the Bolsheviks can overthrow the Kerensky government. Pete tells him to get it from the horse’s mouth. He asks Jack what he has against this war and tells him to bury the hatchet and get back into print so that they can all read some decent writing. Pete says he will drink to that. Jack says he will drink to anything. Pete asks how Louise is and says she is not so good. Pete tells Jack to tell her that John Wheeler would not know a story if it fell right on top of him. He asks Jack what he is doing to drive them crazy; they think he is a damn German. Jack asks about Wheeler, and Pete says he hates to see Louise get hurt. Jack asks what he is talking about, and Pete realizes he hasn’t heard. He says not to say that he told him. Jack asks what, and Pete says that Ben Parsons told him that Wheeler had to let her go because she hadn’t turned in anything he could use other than a story about a cop driving a police ambulance. Jack asks if he let her go, and Pete says he fired her. Jack asks when he heard that, and Pete says a month and a half ago. Pete says she should not be ashamed. Jack says he will see him later and leaves. Pete says they all have been fired.
A witness says that 65 million went to war; 10 million died, and 20 million become maimed, crippled, or wounded. Europe was a catastrophe, and there was a desire for change. He asks who could stop them.
Jack goes to France and manages to find Louise in an old building. She asks what he is doing there and says he looks fine. He says nobody needs two kidneys. She is sorry and says it is not a good time as she walks past him and down stairs. She says they are moving her to another communications center. She says she can’t talk to him now, but he asks her to go outside with him for a second. They walk outside, and he says he is going to Russia. She asks if he enlisted. He says that is funny and recognizes that she is doing work there. He read her ambulance piece and knows she is working on her book which is also important; but he says she has to consider her reputation as a journalist which is to be at the right place at the right time. She appreciates that, and he says the place to be now is in Russia. He says they are in their third provisional government in six months and that it can’t last. There might be another revolution. The workers are deserting the factories; the armies are leaving the battlefronts; and the exiles are returning, the Jews, the anarchists, the socialists, all of them. This time it might be the real thing. He says if they have a real workers revolution in Russia, they may have one in Germany. If they have one in Germany, it could happen all over the world. He says that would be the end of the war. She says he doesn’t have to tell her what is happening in Russia because she reads the papers. He tells her to come with him as a colleague. He says she should be in Petrograd, but she says he said that about New York. He says he was right about New York. She says she has her work, but he says it is not as important as what she could be doing in Russia. He says he wants to work together as partners, but she does not want a partner. If she wanted to go, she could go alone. He says Russia is not the safest place in the world for a woman to be alone. He says she may be a good journalist. They hear artillery, and a man tells Louise she needs to hurry along. He realizes they are moving her, and she says she was promised an interview with General Plumer. He says he has to go to, and he gives her a railroad ticket. She says he wasted his money because she does not want it. He says she can change the date and go by herself whenever she wants. He tells her to keep up the good work. She wishes him good luck, and he says he has a taxi waiting.
On a train Joe Volsky (Joseph Buloff) recognizes Jack and asks if he is going to Petrograd too. Joe suggests they sit together and says they met in Chicago. Joe says he was a speaker but doubts that Jack remembers him. Jack asks about his hat and promises that come the revolution he will buy him a new hat. Joe notices that he is studying Russian. Joe speaks to him in Russian and says he can ask him anything he wants in Russian. Louise sits down opposite Jack and says she would be a fool not to accept his offer. She tells him that she wants to sign her own name to her stories and not use a double by-line. She wants to be responsible for her own actions. She will be referred to as Miss Bryant and not Mrs. Reed, and she wants to keep an account of what they spend so that she can pay him back. She assumes that he knows that she is not going to sleep with him. She says that is it, and he says fine. Joe offers her salami.
Joe is telling a story that makes Louise laugh while Jack is studying Russian. He manages to say that after the revolution he will buy him a new hat. Joe says he will keep him to his word.
At night in the train Louise puts her head on Joe’s shoulder.
The next day Joe helps Jack with Russian words. Joe finishes another funny story, and Louise laughs. Jack says a foreman who wants to hire a logging crew is going through a line of big men, and he gets to a small man. He asks what he is doing there when he knows he needs big men who can chop down dozens of trees a day. He asks him where he has worked before, and the little man says he worked in Sahara Forest. The foreman says the Sahara is a desert, and the little man says, “Yeah, sure, now.” Jack laughs, but they do not laugh. Joe tells about a woman who says her husband just died and that she wants to sell his jacket. The person asks what is the matter with his pants, and the woman says she wears the pants. Louise laughs. A man announces they have passed the Russian border. They see soldiers wounded outside. Soldiers are sitting around, and Joe talks to one in Russian and translates for him. He says he fought for three months, but now he joined the Bolsheviks and will not fight anymore. He says there are many Bolsheviks in the army, and they will stop the war. He is fourteen years old. They look at the soldiers as the train starts up again.
The train arrives at Petrograd, and a man calls to Jack Reed. He asks if they have accommodations and says he knows of an empty apartment. He carries his bags and tells them to follow him. They ride in a cart. Jack asks how long the Kerensky government has left, and he says not long. The man leaves them in the apartment, and Jack sees only one bed and says he does not mind sleeping on the sofa.
The man explains that different speeches say contradictory things about Russia and the war. On a train Joe explains there are lines for goods and for bread and for cards which will enable them to get goods in three months. He asks if they had to get rid of the Czar to stand in line for bread.
Louise is walking with Jack who is looking at a Russian newspaper. He thinks it means that the Bolsheviks are making an insurrection against the Kerensky government, but he admits he is not fluent in Russian.
In their apartment he hits his head on a chandelier and tells her that her article is too long. She asks where she should cut, and he advises her. He asks if her lead is going to take anyone’s breath away, and she changes it to what he likes. She says he was also right that the Bolsheviks will take Russia out of the war. She gets in bed and says goodnight.
Jack and Louise watch what is going on in the streets at night. Louise writes that the leader Lenin is cold and impatient of interruptions.
In the apartment Louise says that Jack is editorializing in one place. He says he never editorializes but then admits that he was. He asks why she took out the piece about the gunshot, and she agrees that it is good and asks him to put it back in for her.
Louise interviews Grigory Zinoviev (Jerzy Kosinski) while they are walking and writes that he was in hiding with Lenin. She says that if Lenin represents thought, Trotsky represents action.
Trotsky is speaking at a large meeting. Jack says that at one point a man on the platform asked them not to smoke, and everyone took up the chant including the smokers, and then they went on smoking. Louise writes that when they talked about fighting against Kerensky, people cheered.
Jack is sitting at a table and talking with V. I. Lenin (Roger Sloman) and writes that he leads by virtue of his intellect. He is colorless, humorless, and uncompromising with none of the personality or phrasemaking of Trotsky; but Lenin is the architect.
Jack and Louise go up stairs in the Winter Palace, and Jack comments that Kerensky is some socialist. He writes that there they find no evidence of the strikes and lock-outs in Moscow, that transportation is paralyzed, that the army is starving, and in the big cities there is no bread.
In a large room they sit at a table with Kerensky who bows. Louise writes that he is full of old world manners, unlike Lenin. Jack writes that Kerensky told them that the provisional government will last despite the Bolsheviks.
Jack is cooking on a hot plate in the bathroom and says that 900,000 men have deserted since January, and that is 14% of the Russian army. He tells Louise he is brazing the cabbage for a change. He tells how a banker’s daughter was called comrade on the streetcar and came home where they voted ten to one that they prefer the Germans to the Bolsheviks. He says the social revolutionaries asked the British ambassador not to mention their visit because they are already considered too far to the right, and they were the same people they couldn’t see a year ago because they were too far to the left. Louise sits on the tub and thanks him for bringing her there.
Jack and Louise attend a large meeting, and she asks if they are going to strike. They try to find someone who speaks English. Louise finds a young worker and asks if they will strike; but he speaks in Russian. Jack finds a Russian who lived in New York and he asks him what the speaker is saying. The Russian tells him he is saying not to strike because it is not right to leave their soldiers at the front without guns. That speaker steps down. The next one says that the soldiers at the front are also striking, and that is why they are leaving the front. Jack asks what the next speaker said, and the Russian says he said that the workers in England, France, and America will be left fighting the Germans alone. Jack says to tell them that many of the workers there are against the war. The Russian says he is right, and he tells Jack to speak. Jack says he has no credentials to speak there, but the Russian says everyone has credentials there. They are asking him to speak, and he will translate. The Russian and Jack go up on the platform. Jack says that if they strike, the American workers will not feel betrayed. They are waiting for their example and for their leadership. If they refuse to support the capitalist war machine, they will follow their example. If the workers of the world stand together, the war can be stopped. He says they support you and will join you in revolution. Jack speaks for the revolution in Russian, and the people sing “The Internationale.”
A truck passes out leaflets.
Louise and Jack make love. They go out in the snow and throw snowballs.
A train is met by a crowd of demonstrators and stops. Trotsky speaks to a meeting. Jack and Louise march with the revolutionaries. Jack and Louise are in the Winter Palace. They work at home.
Lenin is speaking to a meeting, and Jack gives Joe a new hat. Joe throws his old hat that lands on a chandelier. Jack and Louise kiss at home.
In 1918 at New York a military officer confiscates papers that Jack is trying to get through customs. Jack asks by what authority, and the officer says by the authority of the Attorney General. Max welcomes Louise and sees she is so happy that she ought to bottle it. She hugs him and says Jack is going to write a great book, and she will lecture so that they will have something to live on. He is also going to help her with her collection of articles on women in the revolution, and they are going to help each other with their books. She says there will be no more separations. They are going to live their own lives. Jack comes over and says they took every note he had and asks Max if they can do that. Max says welcome home. He says they will get his notes back so that he can write his book. He asks Jack what is going on that they have decided to be happy.
Witnesses testify how the Russian revolution meant that America had lost an ally in the war. A man says the workers had never taken over a government before in history.
The dog comes in the bedroom while Jack and Louise are making love. They play in the woods with the dog during the winter. Jack works at his typewriter. They put up a Christmas tree.
At a hearing Louise is asked if she believes in God, and she says she has no way of knowing. The chairman Senator Overman asks if she is a Christian, and she says she was christened in the Catholic church. He asks if she is a Christian and if she believes in Jesus Christ. She says she believes in the teachings of the Christ and asks if she is being tried for witchcraft. He asks if there are any God-fearing, decent Christians among the Bolsheviks. She asks the senator if one has to be God-fearing to be decent. She says that the Bolsheviks believe that religion, particularly Christianity, is what kept the Russian people down for so many centuries. If he had been to Russia, he might agree that they have a point. In terms of decency she says that the Bolsheviks promised an end to the war, and within six months they made good their promise to the Russian people. The President of the United States in 1916 campaigned on a no-war ticket; but within six months he had taken us into the war, and 115,000 Americans did not come back. She says if that is how God-fearing, decent Christians act, she will take atheists any time. She says in Russia women have the vote which is more than could be said for this country. Overman asks her if she advocates a Soviet government for this country. She says no because she does not think it would work here.
Witnesses explain how Americans were frightened of a radical movement in America.
Louise speaks to a group.
Jack visits Emma in jail and gives her blankets, a coat, gloves, and coffee and a scarf from Louise. He says they will fight this. She asks him to tell Max that she wants her picture in the magazine with the caption that this woman was deported in 1919 because the governments of the world are afraid of this woman. He says they will get her back because the revolution needs her. He hugs her, and she says she is not leaving the revolution. In Russia she will be joining it.
Witnesses say how Reed was on the threshold of history and could explain the revolution.
Jack is cooking in the kitchen, and the food is burning. Louise talks to him while he keeps her out. She talks about the workers movement while he makes a mess of things. He tells her to sit down. She says a man is going to read her piece on Debs. He brings in the plates with very little food on them that is burnt. She pretends to like it.
Jack and Louise work on their writing.
Witnesses talk about his book Ten Days That Shook the World.
Louis is speaking at a meeting of the Socialist Party and says the right-wingers are gone. He says the left-wing won 12 of the 15 seats including himself, Joseph MacAlpine, and John Reed. They applaud.
Louise comes into a building and asks a man how long the meeting is going to last. He tells her the executive kicked out the left wing. She asks if they can do that and goes in. In the meeting Jack is arguing with Louis that they were not expelled by the membership but by the executive and that Louis wants to give the party back to them without a fight. Jack says the Socialist Party is their party. They should fight at the convention to get their proper place because the decision by the executive was an illegal act. Louis asks why they should stay in a party in which they have to fight the minority for what they had already won. Jack asks if they should give the party back to them if they have to fight. Jack says if that his idea of revolution. Louis says his idea is not revolution within a party nor is the Socialist Party a debating society but a party of action. Jack says they should go to the convention and take control of the party. Louis says they should form their own party for those who believe in Bolshevism. People applaud. Jack says they are wrong and that he will be at the convention to take the seat that belongs to him, and he urges the others to take their seats too. Jack is walking out with a few others. He tells Louise he has been a minority before, and she says hello.
Louise serves food for a few people, and Jacks asks her to keep the dog quiet. She says hello to Eddie (Jack Kehoe) as he comes in. Jack asks him what Levine said. Eddie says he never showed, though he waited over an hour. Jack says that surprises him. Eddie says he could have missed him because it was busy there. Jack asks what he means. Eddie admits that he was late. Jack asks how late. Eddie says about 40 minutes because Nora started spitting up blood again. He had to take her to the clinic again and then wait for his mother to pick up his kid. Jack says he was late, and Eddie says he thought he could make it. Another asks how they contact him in Chicago. Eddie thought he would still be there. Jack asks him who asked for the meeting. Eddie says he thought that Levine wanted the meeting; but Jack asks if he called us, and Eddie admits that they called him. Jack asks why he would wait when they wanted the meeting. Eddie says he is sorry. Jack asks why he didn’t call one of them to take his place. Eddie says he thought he would still be there. Jack tells him not to think so much when his comrades are depending on him. Jack goes to get his medicine and drops it. Louise hands it to him and says they might work better if he put something in his stomach besides coffee. She asks if he was hard on Eddie considering the circumstances. He asks if his sympathy will help Eddie’s wife, and she says it might help Eddie. He says building the party will help Eddie.
At his desk Max tells Louise that he thinks they all believe in the same things; but with them it’s their good intentions, and with Jack it is a religion. He says Jack is getting serious on them.
Jack and Louise and others go into a meeting. At the door a man says no one is admitted without a red card. Jack says he and others are on the executive and asks where they get the red card. The man says from the credentials committee, but he does not know where they are. Jack says the way to take the hall is to take the hall. A man calls to Jack, and they go around another way. They go in a side door while Gerber is speaking and calls for order. He picks up a megaphone and says they are intruders and that they are not going to let them take over the meeting. Gerber tells everyone to sit down, and he calls them Bolshevik sympathizers. He says the police are coming because they are thugs. Jack takes the megaphone and announces that these people are imposters who were not elected. Gerber struggles with him. Jack says the only way the executive committee can stay in power is by using the capitalist police. They will resort to any tactic to keep the working class away from its true leadership because they are afraid of revolution. Gerber tells the officers who are coming in to remove anyone who does not have a red card. Jack says they do not have to throw them out. He announces that the true Socialist Party will be meeting in the basement in five minutes. Policemen remove him and MacAlpine as he puts the megaphone over Gerber’s head. Max is taking notes as Jack leads his followers out of the room as they sing “The Internationale.” Louise follows after them. They go down to the basement.
In the basement a man moves that they constitute themselves as a bona fide Communist Party and that they call themselves the Communist Labor Party of America. Jack says if they want to have a really revolutionary party, they have to find out from the American workers what they want and translate it back to them in terms of what is good for the whole. They have to make them want the whole thing. He says the people upstairs think Karl Marx is someone who wrote a good anti-trust law. He says it doesn’t matter what they call themselves. He sees Louis and asks if he is lost. Louis says he is not lost but came to tell his friends that the newly formed Communist Party of America is meeting at the Russian Federation. He says they welcome their applications and will judge them individually. Jack asks if they are going to judge their applications for membership. Jack tells the chairman that he is calling the question. The chairman repeats the motion and asks for those favoring to say aye. Many say aye, and no one opposes. Louis says this is the wrong time to be fighting against each other. They should be united in their struggle against the capitalists. Jack says he should have thought of that six weeks ago. If his people had stayed with them, they would have had a majority, and they would be in control of the convention upstairs. Louis says his group’s membership has five times as many people. Jack says his arithmetic is like his politics. Louis hopes to see them at the Russian Federation. MacAlpine moves that they send a delegate to Moscow to gain recognition by the Comintern for the Communist Labor Party of America and that that delegate be Jack Reed. Louis leaves, and the chairman calls for the vote which is unanimous. Jack says the first question he will be asked will be about their membership eligibility and that he will have to be clear what their position is in relation to the Foreign Language Federation. He will have to say what their requirements are. Louise looks at Max and walks out. Jack says they must think they can run a newspaper without him.
Jack comes home and finds Louise using a sewing machine. He takes a pill and starts packing. She says she will make it easy for him by telling him that she is not going with him. If he goes, she is not sure she will be there when he gets back. He says the Comintern does not know Edmund or Alfred, but they know him. Someone with a background has to go there. He says they would be back by Christmas. He says they can’t work with Fraina on membership because he wouldn’t accept half their people. He says the man will alienate himself from any potential broad base of support. He is sociologically isolated, and programmatically he is impossible. She asks if means he is a foreigner. She says they were friends six months ago. He says his people can barely speak English, and they don’t want to be integrated into American life. He says the Foreign Language Federations are not going to create Bolshevism in America any more than eating borsht will. Being Russian does not make a revolution. He asks if she thinks the American people are going to be led by an insular Italian like Louis. He cannot lead a revolution in this country, and she asks if he can. He says the revolution in this country is not going to be led by immigrants. She says revolution and asks when, at Christmas. He asks what they could have done if they had been organized during the steel workers strike if they had 35,000 organized party workers leading 365,000 steel workers. He says it takes leadership, and he has to get it by getting recognition from Moscow. He has to go. She says he does not have to, but he wants to go running all over the world ranting and raving and making revolutions and organizing caucuses. She asks what is the difference between the two Communist parties except that he is running one and Louis the other. He says he made a commitment. She asks to what, to the fine distinction between which half of the left is the left and is recognized by Moscow as the real Communist Party in America, to petty political squabbling between humorless and hack politicians wasting their time on left-wing dogma, to getting the endorsement of a committee in Russia he calls the International for his fourteen friends in the basement who are supposed to tell the workers of this country what they want whether they want it or not. She tells him to write; he is not a politician but a writer. His writing has done more for the revolution than twenty years of this fighting can do, and he knows it. She says he is an artist. He gets up and walks out of the room. She follows him and asks him not to go and run away from what he does best. He hugs her and says he will be back by Christmas.
Louise says she is going into the city and asks Jack when he is leaving. He says tomorrow and that he will be back for Christmas. He asks if she will be there. She says she does not know and that she will see him when she sees him. She goes out.
At the harbor a man tells Jack to get on the ship.
Louise attends a movie. She calls on Eugene, and he tells her to sit down. She says Jack is in Russia trying to get recognition for the Communist Labor Party. He asks what she is doing, and she says she has been lecturing and writing about what she saw in Russia. He says Russia has been good for her and Jack. He says it gave him a new reason to leave home. She asks if he is that cynical, or is he angry at her. He says he is that cynical and is not angry. She says if he had been to Russia, he would never be cynical again. He says that something in him tightens when he sees intellectuals with their eyes shining start talking about Russia. Something tells him that a new version of Irish Catholicism is being offered, and he wonders why a lovely wife like Louise Reed who has just seen the brave new world is sitting with a cynic like him instead of trotting all over Russia with her idealistic husband. He admits it is almost worth being converted. She says she was wrong to come and gets up to go. He says that she and Jack have a lot of middle-class dreams for two radicals. Jack dreams he can hustle the American working man whose one dream is to be rich enough so that he won’t have to work into a revolution run by his party. She believes that if she discusses the revolution with a man before going to bed with him, it will be missionary work instead of sex. He is sorry to see her and Jack so serious about their sports. It’s particularly disappointing with her because she had a lighter touch when she was touting free love. She says Gene has become quite a critic who can lean back and analyze them all—women touting free love and then getting married, a power-mad journalist who joined a revolution instead of observing it, middle-class radicals who come looking for sex and then talk about Russia. It must be so contemptible to a man like him who has the courage to sit on his ass and observe human inadequacy from the inside of a bottle. She has never seen him do anything for anyone nor give anything to anyone; so she can understand why he might suspect the motives of those who have. She says whatever Jack’s motives are and then stops speaking. He says he seems to have touched a nerve. She walks to the door and says that he is a wounding son of a bitch and that whatever she did to him, he made her pay for it. She goes out and walks away, followed by an agent.
Louise is working on her writing and goes to the door to call the dog to no avail. She goes to the back door and calls again. She turns on a light, and suddenly a man bursts in and says that by the order of the Attorney General of the United States, A. Mitchell Palmer, he has a warrant for the arrest of John Silas Reed. He tells Frank to look upstairs and starts emptying drawers. She asks why he is being arrested, and he says sedition. He asks her to tell him where he is. He asks if she is a Bolshevik agitator, and she tells him to look around and see how agitated he gets.
Jack crosses Finland on ice in skis.
The witness Will Durant says that sixteen armies invaded Russia from the east and the west to try to crush the revolution and restore Christian civilization.
Jack is sitting at large table with political administrators. Later he meets with Zinoviev who gives him a piece of onion that helps fight scurvy. Jack asks if he thought his presentation was clear and asks for his unofficial opinion. Zinoviev says he does not know unofficially. Jack says what he will put in his report that will include the persecution of the IWW and the general strike in Seattle and Winnipeg and the Boston police strike, and the polices of the American Federation of Labor.
The executive committee of the Comintern votes, and Zinoviev tells Reed that they have decided not to endorse either American Communist party but instructs them to merge forthwith.
Jack comes to a meeting, and Zinoviev tells him that his place has been filled by his very excellent report. Jack says apparently it was not excellent enough. He asks comrade Radek about his travel arrangements to the United States. He has been asked to report to the Propaganda Bureau, and Radek says that is right. Zinoviev says they need him very much there and that he is to remain in Russia until July. Jack says he thought the arrangements had been made because he has to get to the Latvian and Finnish border. He understands that train travel is dangerous now. Zinoviev asks why he has to go, and Jack says he has urgent commitments in the United States. Zinoviev asks of what nature, and Jack says he has a family. Zinoviev says they all have families. Jack says it is urgent that he must see his wife, and he asks for only a single place on a train. Zinoviev says he has a place on the train of this revolution. He has been an engineer that a pulls the train on the tracks of historical necessity laid out for it by the party. He cannot leave them, and he asks what right he has to do so. To see his wife? Zinoviev says that last year he did not go to see his sick son because he knew he was needed by the party. If he abandons this moment in his life, would he ever get this moment again. Jack says he is not abandoning the revolution. Zinoviev says he is a writer and that people respect his work. He speaks with authority of feeling. Jack says that for the past eight weeks he has been unable to communicate with his wife or with his comrades in the United States. He would like to go back, and he would like his help. Zinoviev tells him he can always go back to private responsibilities; but he can never come back to this moment in history. He says he is sorry and that he has no right to tell him about his own life; he knows it better. Jack nods and walks out.
Jack is traveling on a little cart on a railway in the snow. One day he sees four men with rifles pointing at him, and he puts his hands up.
A witness says that Jack was in prison in Finland, and he got a message to Louise.
Louise goes to Washington and is followed by an agent. She goes to the State Department and meets with an official (Josef Sommer) who tells her they can do nothing for her husband. She says if his name was Rockefeller, they would do something. He says if his name were Rockefeller, he hardly would be under indictment for conspiracy to overthrow the United States Government. She says he has only one kidney and could be dangerously ill. He says that is the chance her husband took when he left the United States without an exit visa or a passport.
Witnesses say how the United States tried to overthrow the Soviet regime.
An officer interrogates Jack, asking for his name and the name of his contacts in Finland.
Louise goes into a theater during a rehearsal, and Eugene sees her and goes to talk to her. He says she does not realize how difficult this trip would be. He says it will take her six months. She says she was told that he could arrange for her to take a freighter as far as Norway. He asks her to sit down and says that he could. He could sign up as a seaman with no questions asked. He tells her not to look at him like that and says that Jack is a friend of his. He is not going to let him rot in jail. He says okay and that he will talk to Terry in the morning. He wishes these actors could act.
The officer reads a telegram from Louise to Jack that she is trying all solutions. He throws it away.
During a storm on a ship Louise is seasick.
A doctor is examining Jack in jail and says his blood pressure is very high. Jack says they only give him salted fish. The doctor says the blood in his mouth is from the gums because he has scurvy. The doctor whispers about the shade of red and calls him comrade, and Jack asks if he can cable his wife.
Louise sneaks off the boat. She tries to travel by a horse and cart in the snow.
The doctor brings some powders for Jack to take, and they whisper.
Louise sees a herd of reindeer running through woods. She sits by a fire with a man and eats.
Jack is told that he is being released, and guards take him out of the prison.
Jack gets off a train and asks the Russians to take him to the telegraph office. He sends a telegram to Louise Bryant in Hudson, New York, asking her to contact the Petrograd telegraph office. He asks her to forgive Christmas.
In a car a soldier tells Jack that Lenin said he would trade fifty professors for John Reed.
Louise is on skis.
Jack sends more telegrams to Louise.
Louise is walking in the snow. She rides on a vehicle.
Jack asks them to check different spellings of his last name.
In her apartment Emma asks Jack what he has heard. She says they treated her well, and she is reserving judgment. He says that is wise. She says she asked Zinoviev why Petrograd is freezing, and he said they have destroyed their transportation. She suggests they haul wood, but he says it would interfere with the politics. He asks if she gets letters from America, and she says they are all opened by the Justice Department. She does not enjoy what she reads. He asks if anyone has mentioned Louise, and she says no. He says he sends her cables but gets no answer. She asks how long, and he says a long time. She remembers that Rhys Williams mentioned her in his letter and that he has not heard from her either. He asks what he said. She looks for the letter and says she left New York. He says he does not understand the fuel situation either. She says he said she seems to be out of town. He asks what he said about O’Neill, and she says nothing. He asks to see it and then says he is sorry. She tells him to sit down. She says Louise would have to leave the United States illegally, and then she could never go home again all for the sake of a revolution she is not a part of. She asks why should she. She says that he chose the life of a revolutionary, but she didn’t. His cables only draw attention of the Justice Department to her, and the most seditious thing they can accuse her of is being his wife. She tells him to leave her alone and let her choose her own future. He asks why she has not answered him, and she thinks she has.
Jack goes back to the apartment he had shared with Louise, goes in, and looks around.
Jack attends the Congress where Lenin and Zinoviev preside as they sing “The Internationale.”
Louise arrives at the prison in Finland, and the doctor tells her that Reed was released; but they won’t tell him where he is.
At the meeting Jack stands and says that the IWW is a revolutionary union, but the American Federation of Labor is not, and trying to infiltrate the latter and convert it to revolution is hopeless. A Russian translates what he said. Someone says that is the wrong translation.
In a meeting at the table Jack is explaining that in the Congress his words have to be translated from English to German and to French or Italian or Spanish. He asks that English be an official language of the Congress for the labor issue. Zinoviev says he has brought this up three times, and they have to move on.
In another meeting Jack is explaining about American labor organizations, and Louis is also talking to people in Italian. Jack sits down, and Louis asks how he is. Louis says he talked to Sedul. Jack stands up and says he opposes closing the discussion.
At the table Jack says comrade Radek wants to cut off the discussion. Radek says that people do not have time for this discussion. Jack disagrees and says 101 leaders of the IWW are in jail for their revolutionary views in the United States. He argues that if they turn their backs on them while trying to radicalize the American Federation of Labor, it would be futile. Zinoviev says they have discussed this all day. Jack replies that they still have not realized that he and Louis Fraina agree on this problem. Every man on the American and English delegations shares this view. Zinoviev says he is not an independent political party. Jack says they will not be steamrollered by the Committee that has not had a proper education on this problem. Zinoviev takes a vote, and the Americans and English are in the minority. He says the issue is closed, but he gives Reed two minutes to make a statement. Jack says they will refuse to vote on these theses, and he resigns from this committee. He stands up and walks out. From the hall window he sees soldiers marching in the street behind the red flag.
In his apartment Emma tells Jack that they have to face it that their dream for Russia is dying. If Bolshevism means that the peasants take over the land and the workers take over the factories, Russia has no Bolshevism. He says he can argue with cops and fight with generals, but he cannot deal with the bureaucrats. She says that Zinoviev is worse than a bureaucrat and that all the power is in the hands of a few men who are destroying the revolution and any hope of real Communism in Russia. They are putting people like her in jail. Her understanding of revolution is not a continual extermination of dissenters, and she wants no part of it. She says every newspaper has been shut down or taken over by the Party, and anyone suspected of being a counter-revolutionary can be taken out and shot without a trial. She asks where that ends and if any nightmare is justifiable in the name of defending against counter-revolution. She says she is getting out of Russia. Jack says she seems to be confused about the revolution in action. He says up till now she has dealt with it only in theory. He asks if she thought it would be by consensus with people sitting down and agreeing over a cup of coffee. She says nothing works. Four million people died last year, not from war, but from starvation and typhus in a militarized police state that suppresses freedom and human rights. He says they died because of a French, British, and American blockade that cut off all food and medicine and because counter-revolutionaries sabotaged factories, railroads, and telephones and because ignorant, superstitious, illiterate people are trying to run things themselves just as she always said that they should; but they don’t know how to do it yet. He asks if she really thought things were going to work right away. Did she expect social transformation to be anything but a murderous process? He says it is a war, and they have to fight it like they fight a war with discipline, terror, and firing squads or just give it up. She says the four million people did not die from war but from a system that cannot work. He says it is just the beginning, and it is not happening the way they thought it would or the way they wanted; but it is happening. If she walks out now, he asks what her whole life has meant.
Jack goes into the office of Zinoviev and Radek and asks if his resignation is ready for his signature. Zinoviev hands it to him, and Jack tears it in half. Zinoviev and Radek thank him, and Radek tells him that now he will be able to represent the American workers at the upcoming congress at Baku to inspire revolution among the peoples of the Middle East.
A train with red flags travels in a desert with pictures of the people painted on the cars. Jack pours himself a drink and looks at the leaflet with the poem he wrote for Louise. People on camels and horses ride along next to the train which slows down and stops. Jack gets off and sees an effigy of Uncle Sam burning. Zinoviev and others speak to gathered people.
Emma is waiting in line and speaks in Russian to a man at a table who shakes his head. She turns and leaves. She sees Louise and goes to her. Louise laughs and hugs her. Emma asks how in the name of God she got into Russia.
Emma takes Louise to her apartment. Louise knocks an empty suitcase off a chair, and Emma says it is all right. Louise sits at the table, and Emma thanks her for the scarf. Emma says she was wrong about her, and Louise says she was too.
Jack is reading a speech from a paper that the American oil companies are trying to establish a world monopoly of oil. In 1898 the Filipinos rebelled against the cruel colonial government of Spain; but after the Spaniards had been driven out, the Americans promised them independence. Soon a republic was proclaimed, and the American government sent soldiers and sailors there who were worse than British tyrants. The people chant “Jihad!” and Jack asks what they are saying. The Arab tells him they are supporting his call for a holy war of Muslims against western infidels.
The train moves on. A woman opens the door of a compartment and tells Jack, who complained about the translation of his speech, that she did the German into Turkic and that General Osinsky did the Russian into German. He asks who turned it into Russian, and she says she does not know. She says she got it from Zinoviev’s office. She apologizes for her English, and he says her English is fine. He gets up and finds Zinoviev dining with Radek and others. Jack asks him if he did the translation of his speech and says he did not say “holy war” but “class war.” Zinoviev says he took the liberty of altering a phrase of two. Jack says he does not allow people to take those liberties with his writing. Zinoviev says he is a propagandist enough to utilize what moves people most. Jack says he utilizes the truth. Zinoviev asks who defines this truth—him or the party. He asks if his life is dedicated to speaking for himself. Jack tells him not to lecture him about that. Zinoviev says he has not decided what his life is dedicated to because he sees himself as an artist and as a revolutionary, as a lover of his wife and as a spokesman for the American party. Jack says if he does not think that a man can be an individual and be true to the collective or speak for his own country and the international at the same time and love his wife and still be faithful to the revolution, you don’t have a self to give. Zinoviev asks if he will give himself to the revolution. Jack says if you separate a man from what he loves the most, you purge from him what is unique. When you do that, you purge dissent, and when you purge dissent, you kill the revolution because revolution is dissent. He says he must not change what he writes. A bomb explodes on the train. Someone shouts that they are counter-revolutionaries, and Jack and others climb out of the windows and crawl under the train. Soldiers fire artillery at men charging on horses. Soldiers on horses ride off the train toward the charging men. After lying low and watching, Jack gets up and runs toward the fleeing counter-revolutionaries.
Louise sees a train arriving and walks with others to see who gets off. She sees Zinoviev and Radek get off while people applaud. Other leaders get off too, and a soldier gets off and closes the door. She walks toward the wounded and sees men carrying a covered body. Jack sees Louise, and she sees him and walks to him and hugs him. He tells her not to leave him, and she weeps.
Jack is in bed in a hospital, and Louise is visiting him. A nurse tells her that the doctor wants to do more analysis, and they are trying to prevent high blood pressure that might cause a stroke. Jack has a towel on his forehead, and Louise puts a blanket on the floor at the foot of his bed. She sits in a chair. She tries to hear what he is saying. He says it is not December. She turns on a light, and he props his head up. He says it was quite a time. She puts a blanket over him. He asks if she wants to come to New York with him. He says he has a taxi waiting. She says she would not mind. He asks what as, and she says she does not know. She suggests comrades, and he agrees. He says he wants to go home. She puts her hand on his forehead to check his temperature and sees the leaflet with the poem. She says she will get some water and leaves the room to find some. She finds bottles of water and drops a metal cup. A boy picks it up and hands it to her, and she thanks him in Russian. She goes back and sees people outside the room. A nurse comes out, and Louise starts crying. She looks in the room as a doctor places Jack’s hands together, whispers to her, and goes out. She sits down and puts her head on the bed in grief.
This biopic portrays the American revolutionary who was little known until this film was made. The story is generally accurate and dramatically presented with an emphasis on the loving and difficult relationship between Jack and Louise and the socialist friends they knew and the playwright Eugene O’Neill. The scenes are given perspective by the comments of the people who lived through this period of history and told what they experienced or heard at the time. The theme that capitalism, which leads to war, needs to be modified by socialism is tempered by the realization that the experiment in the Soviet Union was doomed by its autocratic leaders from the beginning.