Hollywood Promises Glitz, Glamour And Sexuality As They Rework Entertainment History

Credit: Netflix

Friday Netflix takes us back to a simpler time. A time when we could plot mergers over a cocktail, when we could wine and dine prospective funders and collaborators, when we could make and go to the movies. Friday sees us going back to the golden days of Hollywood with the release of Ryan Murphy’s latest limited series, Hollywood.

Hollywood in the 1940s was a time of glitz, glamour, excess and raw sexuality. The 7-episode series promises all of this taken to the extreme as only Murphy can do and get away with. While the Netflix tagline describes the series simply as: “In post-World War II Hollywood, an ambitious group of aspiring actors and filmmakers will do almost anything to make their showbiz dreams come true,” star Jim Parsons, who plays Henry Willson (a real-life scheming agent) describes it slightly differently. It has the four “F’s” of Hollywood: “facts, fiction, fantasy, and foul – foul language and foul activity,” he tells Entertainment Weekly. All add up to a unique look at the studio system, and how different the entertainment world would be now if women, queer people and people of colour were given equal opportunity back in the day.

David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Jeremy Pope, Laura Harrier and Jake Pickering star as the aspiring actors and filmmakers, with Parsons, Patti LuPone, Joe Mantello and Holland Taylor playing long-overlooked Hollywood insiders. “We’re proposing how it can be.” Picking, who plays Rock Hudson adds, “It showcases how everything has changed and nothing has changed.”

While the series is getting mixed reviews from critics, Murphy was aiming to produce something “young, period, and optimistic”, remarks Criss, who is also an executive producer, and that’s something we could all do with at the moment.

There’s always been a great juxtaposition in Hollywood between those who have achieved and those who are clawing their way to survive and make it, but this was exacerbated in the 40s as the US came back from World War II. It was this “wild polarity between people who have just seen hell and now are in paradise” that fascinated Criss and also Murphy.

“I was interested in shining the light on people who didn’t have the acclaim and success [of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis] but should have. It started off with that,” explains Murphy. “Then, we both had an interest in this gas station that existed in Hollywood, but we weren’t so interested in the famous people who supposedly went there. We were very much interested in the people who worked in the sex industry who also had dreams, who also were shamed and meant to feel like they were marginalized. Both those things came together, and they’re the same thing, which is to look at marginalized people trying to win at the hardest game in town.”

Hollywood is available to stream on Netflix from May 1.

Clare Sidoti
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