We take a trip to Hollywood post World War II and follow a group of aspiring actors and film makes. Remember the tagline “What If You Could Rewrite the Story?” That is important!
Number of Episodes: 7
Jack Castello seems to be our main “hero” if you can call him that. He has been to war and now decides that he wants to be a Hollywood star. He isn’t really that good of an actor, but apparently he has the look. He is married and his wife is expecting twins and he takes a job at Ernie’s gas station. Ernie is pretty much a pimp and if someone asks to go to dreamland then they get a very different type of service.
This leads to some rather graphic sex scenes between young men and much older women as well as gay men. Anything goes in Hollywood (apparently). Ace Studios is the film production company everything is based around which is fictional for the series, but I am sure it has some moments that are based on different moments. Ace Amberg is not a character we actually see on screen very often but he has the typical male only views of everything. Not treating his wife Avis in the best manner she as a former actress herself. Their daughter Claire wants to be cast in the next big movie.
We get plenty of different characters all of whom seem to lie and cheat their way around all to be in the next picture. We get Roy Fitzgerald who becomes Rock Hudson. Henry Wilson an agent with bad intentions for the young men who want to be stars. Archie Coleman a writer who is black and gay. Dick Samuels who is a studio executive and closeted gay. Carmille Washington an up and coming black actress. Raymond Ainsley a film director who is half Filipino. As you can quickly see it tries to cover all possible race issues that Hollywood has seemed to have over the years.
It tries to keep things interesting but I have to admit that I really did not like Jack, who was supposed to be our leading man and everything went through him to begin with. He was not likeable and was only out for himself. The small twist with his wife I was actually very happy about that given his horrible behaviour! Then other than Henry Wilson who is the worst, everyone else is likeable enough in different ways.
Trying to work out who is a real person and who is based on someone else or quite frankly just made up for the series is very blurry. I have had to do quite a bit of background reading after watching the series, obviously I knew Rock Hudson. Something that they highlighted in this was how nervous and terrible at acting he actually was in the early days and that he actually did take 38 takes to deliver a single line. He had remained closeted until 1985 though when he could no longer hide that he had AIDS.
Henry Wilson is again based on the real life journalist turned agent and he looked at transforming young actors into stars. He did sleep with his stars so the portrayal of that in the series is something that seems to have also been very true. Anna May Wong was again a very real person who had a struggle of a career. As we know Hattie McDaniel was very real and the first black woman to win an Oscar for her performance in Gone with the Wind.
From starting the review I had rated the series as 3 stars but when getting into it I have realised that it had more wrong with it than right and had to change to 2 stars. I didn’t think loving Patti LuPone’s performance was enough to give it a higher rating which really pains me as she is truly outstanding in this and I just wish she had done more TV or films in her career. She is on another level!
Going back to the tagline what if you could rewrite the story? Well, quite frankly you cannot change history but we can learn from it. Hopefully that has been happening but to create a film within the series that would “fix” everything that Hollywood has done over the years was too much of a stretch. This was a shame as the costumes and style were truly outstanding and show that everyone certainly looked good back in the old Hollywood days. Trying to address sexuality when things were not accepted and against the law still in some places is a tough one as well. I know the history is not nice at all or kind, but trying to change it in a series like this is something that is very tough.
Samara Weaving was terribly underused which was such a shame, Ready or Not was one of my favourite films from last year. She just wasn’t really given any big moments and just played off her parents and then boyfriend which was a big disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong it is still watchable but it’s just trying to remember that it is just a tv series. Maybe if they didn’t mix in their own characters with some actual people from this time it would have been less complicated in wonder what was actually true and what wasn’t? I can imagine it will certainly ruffle some people in Hollywood, surely family members of some of the people mentioned will not be overly happy with the representation?