Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan‘s Hollywood (Netflix, 5.1) recreates and reimagines late ’40s and ’50s Hollywood. Talented and dynamic women, gay guys and people of color occupying significant slots in the power structure. And with gay guys not as closeted as they actually were, and one couple openly holding hands in one snippet.
But of course, re-thinking America’s ethnic and sexual history has been in fashion since Hamilton, or over the last five years. Not exactly a radical move in 2020.
The problem is that nobody looks or sounds like a charismatic presence. They look and sound like attractive actors trying to inhabit that realm. The guy playing Rock Hudson, Jake Picking, doesn’t begin to exude the same kind of charisma.
Hollywood exec producer Janet Mock: “We turned to the past for direction, uncovering buried history to spin an aspirational tale of what ifs: What if a band of outsiders were given a chance to tell their own story? What if the person with greenlight power was a woman? The screenwriter a black man? What if the heroine was a woman of color? The matinee idol openly gay? And what if they were all invited into the room where the decisions are made, entering fully and unapologetically themselves to leave victorious and vaunted, their place in history cemented.”
The biggest actor of color in the ’50s was Sidney Poitier (The Blackboard Jungle, The Defiant Ones). There was also Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Nat King Cole, Roscoe Lee Browne, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers, Woody Strode, Ossie Davis, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell, Redd Foxx, Robert Guillaume, Brock Peters, Moses Gunn, etc. Who else?
All gay people were closeted, bar none. And excepting Ida Lupino, relatively few women exerted off-screen power outside of the casting and costume designing realm.