Series “Hollywood” on Netflix: When Sheldon Cooper meets Rock Hudson – Culture
Welcome to Hollywood Babylon! What good is the seven-part series “Hollywood”, which will be on view at Netflix from Friday, May 1.
21 picturesJim Parsons plays Rock Hudson’s manager Henry Willson Photo: NetflixStuttgart – Rarely has Hollywood been as prudish as it was after World War II. Seldom was anything obscene, vulgar, morbid and blasphemous in films more strictly forbidden than in the 1940s. And rarely was there such a cesspool of sin hidden behind the scenes of the film studios. Actors work part-time as gigolo. The parties of the studio bosses turn into orgies, pompously choreographed and staged like the revue films with Esther Williams or Fred Astaire. And there is always someone lurking somewhere, someone you have to get into bed with to get an audition.
Vivian Leigh and George Cukor drop by
At least that’s the picture of the postwar film industry, which draws the series “Hollywood”, which will be available on Netflix from May 1. All the stuff you read about in Kenneth Anger’s famous scandalous chronicle “Hollywood Babylon” will be decoratively embellished. However, the series by Ryan Murphy (“Glee”, “American Horror Story”) shouldn’t necessarily be considered a reliable source. For although all sorts of prominent names – from Vivian Leigh to George Cukor – scurry through Murphy’s seven-part series, the story is nevertheless freely invented and reveals itself little by little as a mental game that asks what could have become of Hollywood if a few important decisions had been made differently.
Although “Hollywood” revels lustfully in the opulence of the cinema of yesteryear, loves elaborate sets and costumes, the themes are topical. It’s about racism, sexual exploitation, the cynicism of the entertainment industry and talented young people who still dream of a great career – even if they have to sell themselves for it.
Rock Hudson forgets his text
That’s why the TV series also takes place almost as often at a gas station as in the film studios. “I want to go to Wonderland,” says Roy (Jake Picking) as he pulls up at this special gas station, whose staff not only fills up tanks with gasoline – and in all the excitement he has forgotten the right password. “You mean Wonderland?” asks petrol pump attendant Archie (Jeremy Pope), who is actually a screenwriter. Not only does this sex date mess up Roy, but also his first casting. But because his agent Henry Willson (wonderfully sarcastic: Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory”) has everyone here in Tinseltown in the palm of his hand, this does not stand in the way of the career of the actor, who will soon call himself Rock Hudson.
The real Rock Hudson actually needed 38 attempts for the one sentence he was allowed to say in his screen debut in 1948. And Henry Willson, who transformed Hudson from an awkwardly naive boy to the star we know today, was one of the most notorious figures in old Hollywood.
Is Hollywood ready for that?
Archie the gas station attendant, on the other hand, is a total fabrication: He’s black, gay and wrote the screenplay for a movie about Peg Entwistle, an actress who threw herself to her death in 1932 from the “H” of the Hollywood sign that adorns the mountains above Los Angeles. And this is where Murphy begins to turn reality upside down: Through a series of happy coincidences and misunderstandings, one of Hollywood’s great studios decides to make Archies Film. And because the studio boss has suffered a heart attack while cheating and his wife is allowed to run the business, something much more unlikely happens: the leading role is given to Camille (Laura Harrier), who is black.
About whether the Hollywood of the 1940s would really have been ready for such decisions, this series tells in a clever and entertaining way.
All “Hollywood” episodes are available on Netflix since Friday, May 1.