Even though Ryan Murphy’s binge-worthy limited-series, Hollywood, was set before my time, I (*) saw the vestiges of those prejudices ( race and sexual preference) in my own tour of duty.
We had to recut a Richard Pryor comedy because an Atlanta preview audience tore up the seats because the black comic kissed a white woman, Margot Kidder.
I was politely asked by a Board Member at Disney, if I might take on a wife because my lifestyle was contrary to the Disney ethos. I wouldn’t and resigned soon after. I should have sued for discrimination, but I did not even though I would be wealthy beyond dreams.
In the middle of the night, I needed to remove $20,000 from a Paramount safe to pay-off a hotel owner to keep quiet about our male star being beaten up by a gay trick who tore up the hotel room as well as the star.
That hotel room at 4AM was where I first met Anthony Pellicano, the “Hollywood fixer” who recently was released from federal prison after a 15 year stint for illegal wire-tapping. And, yes, Pellicano, on Paramount’s dole, had his legendary baseball bat in the trunk of his Mercedes to remind the hotel owner what would happen if he ever whispered anything.
Thankfully, so much has changed over the years, largely due to the trailblazing of the courageous.
Love or hate Hollywood, you can’t take your eyes off the limited series. It’s core message, amidst its elegant and trashy veneer, is to fight for your individuality even though the culture world won’t accept you. In the end, it’s a fantasy that spoofs the industry that produced it with a finale entitled “A Hollywood Ending” where injustice in every life is overcome and everything turns out happily in the end. It’s pop but thrilling.
Hollywood is loosely based on Scotty Bower’s lively memoir, although I do not think his book is credited. So much of 20th century Hollywood pushed the cruel agenda of the white patriarchy. One of the saddest and most haunting portrayals in Bower’s memoir ,if you are to believe it, is the personal portrait of Spencer Tracy’s homosexuality which does not appear in the series.
The lengths that the studio, the tortured Tracy and George Cukor, who directed most of the Tracy-Hepburn comedies, went to protect the “truth” of an alleged affair between Hepburn and Tracy was astonishing. All of us bought the lie. For me, I bought it for years.
I was interested to read Carl Jung’s theory on homosexuality in his final book, Dreams, Recollections, and Memories. It’s shocking and something I never considered.
“The role homosexuality plays in modern society is enormous,” wrote Jung. “It is partly a purposive phenomenon (prevention of reproduction).” Nature slowing the growth of Sapiens? And Nature calling a time out for humanity in this quarantine? Well, you thought that kind of stuff only happened in the movies.
(*) I worked inside the Hollywood Studios System for 35 years, most notably as President of Paramount Pictures and Production Chief of Walt Disney Studios