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S01.E02: Hooray for Hollywood: Part 2

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Jack gets a leg up on a screen test, Camille runs into typecasting trouble, Raymond pursues his directorial debut, and Archie bonds with a smitten Roy.

Dropping on Netflix on Friday, May 1, 2020.

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Well, the second episode has convinced be to keep watching. I never make a commitment based on the first episode. With more of the cast introduced, I can now see where the story is going. And I must be invested because I found myself going over to Wikipedia to check out the stories behind the real characters, especially after what happened to Anna May Wong.  I know our society still has a long way to go (ie Ghost in a Shell) but wow how heartbreaking for Anna May Wong to be looked over because of the movie rules at the time where you couldn't have missed racial relationships.

I didn't really know anything about anyone going into the show but I had the feeling that Roy was going to be someone famous. Jim Parson's character seems to be the character we are going to hate while Holland Taylor's character is definitely going to be the character we wish existed in the time period.

Really felt for Camilla, when she thought she was getting her big break but it turned out that not only was it the stereotypical help role but she also wasn't allowed to use her actor training and resort to a stereotype.

I feel there is some big secret with Jack's wife, mainly because we are being asked to sympathise with Jack's gigolo-ing and the wife is acting all entitled. Wouldn't surprise me if the twins aren't Jack's.

And I imagine Darren Criss has heard many of the lines said to his character in this episode 'You don't look Asian' 'You get it easy cause you look white' Paraphasing that last one.

On a different tack, I'm always impressed when actors can convincingly play bad acting. There is good acting in acting badly.

Edited by Bill1978
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1 hour ago, Bill1978 said:

Really felt for Camilla, when she thought she was getting her big break but it turned out that not only was it the stereotypical help role but she also wasn't allowed to use her actor training and resort to a stereotype.

Not that Hollywood studios in this period (or ever) were known for entirely rational decision-making, but I'm not really clear why Camille is at that studio, at least in the capacity we're shown.  She's apparently in the studio's diamond-polishing program for potential starlets, which is not something the studios did with black actresses back then, generally.  There's no reason you'd pay for Mid-Atlantic elocution lessons for someone if you're just going to be having her do servant bit-parts with a stereotypical mammy accent; if somebody went to the trouble of putting her in there, you'd assume there was some sort of idea for why they wanted her.

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I feel there is some big secret with Jack's wife, mainly because we are being asked to sympathise with Jack's gigolo-ing and the wife is acting all entitled.

When did you feel his wife was entitled?  She was angry at him cheating on her, which I would say was justifiable.

The sideplot with Anna May Wong was interesting.  If anyone's interested in old movies, Shanghai Express (opposite Marlene Dietrich) is a great one.  They got me with the Rock Hudson twist (well, twist unless you're a big Rock Hudson fan); obviously I know him, but I'm not familiar with his biography enough to have known his birth name.

I'm a bit unclear as to how the Dylan McDermott pimp/gas station setup is going to factor in, since his employees have already gotten their feet in the door.  That almost feels like it's a premise for a whole different show.

Edited by SeanC
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3 hours ago, SeanC said:

When did you feel his wife was entitled?  She was angry at him cheating on her, which I would say was justifiable

Entitled was probably the wrong word but I felt there was more to her anger than just anger 

Spoiler

but the following episode clearly showed me that I was overthinking. I need to remember this is Ryan Murphy not Westworld. Haha

 

3 hours ago, SeanC said:

Not that Hollywood studios in this period (or ever) were known for entirely rational decision-making, but I'm not really clear why Camille is at that studio, at least in the capacity we're shown. 

I jumped to the conclusion that Holland Taylor's character (I will learn the charactes name soon I'm terrible at the start of shows)put her there. They showed us she is willing to support a handsome  poorly trained actor get a contract and that she appears to enjoy rocking the boat by her approval of Archie being African-American.

 

3 hours ago, SeanC said:

I'm a bit unclear as to how the Dylan McDermott pimp/gas station setup is going to factor in, since his employees have already gotten their feet in the door.  That almost feels like it's a premise for a whole different show.

If I read Wikipedia correctly, in real like Dylan's character got started in a gas station like that but than branched out to owning a true pimp shop. But I may have read that wrong. My biggest issue with the gas station is the amount of smoking occurring. I get inside the shop but out near the pumps? Surely they knew back then petrol was flammable.

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I hope they include Tab Hunter in future episodes. That would be great. 

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I'm not old enough to really know, but I feel the term "Asian" to be anachronistic for the forties.  They would still have been saying "oriental" then or maybe just Chinese, especially to differentiate from the Japanese after the war.

I was not expecting the Rock Hudson twist and now I'm wondering how many real-life people and events are going to appear in the show.  Gawd, I'm gonna have to do research!

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I think this series is based on Scotty Bowers' memoir.

Jim Parsons is brilliant. Is his character Roy Cohn?

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22 hours ago, pasdetrois said:

I think this series is based on Scotty Bowers' memoir.

Jim Parsons is brilliant. Is his character Roy Cohn?

I believe it is inspired by Bowers' memoir. I remember reading something about it a year ago (maybe it was in reference to this Murphy project when it was announced ?) and borrowed the book from my library.The book was 'ok', but really lacked any kind of excitement (I think it was written rather poorly, to be honest). Shortly after I read the book, Bowers passed away. 

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If anyone is into podcasts the show Mobituaries hosted by Mo Rocca has a great episode about Anna Mae Wong. 
 

The dialogue is so stilted. I assume it is intentional to mimic the way movies were done as an homage or something.  I need a couple more episodes before I really judge. 

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On 5/1/2020 at 11:32 PM, Bill1978 said:

On a different tack, I'm always impressed when actors can convincingly play bad acting. There is good acting in acting badly.

Must be because holy wow was Jack's screen test bad. When the clip was playing, I was thinking, "okay, he's supposed to suck right? I really hope that was intentionally bad". So I was very relieved when the casting director mentioned how bad it was and specifically mentioned the part that bothered me the most, i.e. that Jack was just screaming at the poor actress.

Btw, that was probably my favorite scene in the episode. I loved when Holland Taylor's character told the guy how he said this one actor was bad and the guy replies, "I still say he's bad". The thing is, Holland's character was right that Jack is pretty and has a certain look. But I said it in the pilot episode thread and I'll say it again, Jack just seems so dimwitted. It's almost painful. 

I know there's always some liberties taken in these types of shows/movies that are loosely based on real life people and events, so I'm going to assume Rock Hudson wasn't quite so timid when he first came to Hollywood. Because wow is that dude awkward and almost painfully shy. 

Anna's story is heartbreaking. And while Raymond's heart is in the right place, I almost wanted to smack him for being almost too idealistic and basically having to deal Anna another disappointment and blow when sure enough, the film wasn't going to be made. 

Edited by truthaboutluv
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On 5/2/2020 at 7:49 PM, pasdetrois said:

I think this series is based on Scotty Bowers' memoir.

Jim Parsons is brilliant. Is his character Roy Cohn?

No, his character was a real person.

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Anna Mae Wong is such an interesting person, with such a sad story. She was so talented and one of the few Asian actors in Hollywood during the silent/golden age that was really a name, but Hollywood just had no idea what to do with her, and the racism inherent in the system just wouldn't let her get the roles that she deserved. As shown, she even lost parts playing Asian characters to white actresses. 

So everyone who called sweet awkward Roy as a young pre-fame Rock Hudson gets a cookie! Should be interesting having someone we know is going to be a big deal around, but if this is an alternate universe deal, will things end differently for him? Now whenever we meet people, I am going to be playing the "is this a made up character or a real person but we dont know who they are yet?" guessing game! This is also clearly going to be a show where I spend a lot of time running off to Wikipedia to check to see who is who.

I wonder how often Darren Criss has heard a lot of the things that Raymond heard this week, that he is either too non White or not Asian enough because he can pass? I like him and his girlfriend, and while I can appreciate his idealism, changing things in Hollywood is going to be a lot harder than he seems to think it will be. Its still hard even now for a lot of Hollywood execs to understand that movies starring non white actors could make money and greenlight them, let alone in the 40s, where a lot of theaters in the south wouldn't even show movies with non white actors who weren't in stereotypical parts. 

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On 5/3/2020 at 10:05 PM, retired watcher said:
On 5/2/2020 at 4:49 PM, pasdetrois said:

I think this series is based on Scotty Bowers' memoir.

Jim Parsons is brilliant. Is his character Roy Cohn?

No, his character was a real person.

Roy Cohn was a lawyer who worked on the Rosenberg Trials, and was closely tied to Joe McCarthy, among others. He was eventually disbarred. From what I can tell, he never had anything to do with Hollywood.

Who was the real person Parson's character was based on?

18 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

So everyone who called sweet awkward Roy as a young pre-fame Rock Hudson gets a cookie!

Chocolate chip please. 😉 I don't know very much about Hudson, but the name and Winnetka seemed familiar.

On 5/2/2020 at 1:27 AM, Bill1978 said:

If I read Wikipedia correctly, in real like Dylan's character got started in a gas station like that but than branched out to owning a true pimp shop. But I may have read that wrong. My biggest issue with the gas station is the amount of smoking occurring. I get inside the shop but out near the pumps? Surely they knew back then petrol was flammable.

Strange as it seems, people kept smoking around pumps well into the 70's, if I recall correctly. Always made me nervous, cause I'm no fool.

 

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I'm a gay man in my 60's so Roy Fitzgerald turning out to be Rock Hudson was not a twist for me.  But watching Sheldon demanding oral sex was certainly jarring!

Echoing a post from above, the Mo Rocca Mobituary about Anna Mae Wong is a must-listen.

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5 hours ago, Clanstarling said:

Roy Cohn was a lawyer who worked on the Rosenberg Trials, and was closely tied to Joe McCarthy, among others. He was eventually disbarred. From what I can tell, he never had anything to do with Hollywood.

Who was the real person Parson's character was based on?

Chocolate chip please. 😉 I don't know very much about Hudson, but the name and Winnetka seemed familiar.

Strange as it seems, people kept smoking around pumps well into the 70's, if I recall correctly. Always made me nervous, cause I'm no fool.

 

Jim Parson's character was Henry Wilson. He was a real person.

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1 hour ago, retired watcher said:

Jim Parson's character was Henry Wilson. He was a real person.

Thanks!

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I had no idea Darren Criss had an Asian mother in real life. I thought it was just a running joke for his character.

Jack really is a terrible actor, although to be honest I'm not sure David Corenswet is all that much better. I guess we'll see what the future holds for him beyond Ryan Murphy projects. I also think he and Jack Picking (Roy/Rock) have a similar look and I'm getting them confused. I spent the last scene in this episode with Jack, Archie and Raymond thinking Jack was Roy until they ran into Ellen and Avis.

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I hope they include Tab Hunter in future episodes. That would be great. 

Unless the story extends into the 1950s it's a decade too soon for him to show up.

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The dialogue is so stilted. I assume it is intentional to mimic the way movies were done as an homage or something. 

That's kind of the hallmark of a Ryan Murphy show.

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On 5/1/2020 at 10:32 PM, Bill1978 said:

Well, the second episode has convinced be to keep watching. I never make a commitment based on the first episode. With more of the cast introduced, I can now see where the story is going. And I must be invested because I found myself going over to Wikipedia to check out the stories behind the real characters, especially after what happened to Anna May Wong.  I know our society still has a long way to go (ie Ghost in a Shell) but wow how heartbreaking for Anna May Wong to be looked over because of the movie rules at the time where you couldn't have missed racial relationships.

And I imagine Darren Criss has heard many of the lines said to his character in this episode 'You don't look Asian' 'You get it easy cause you look white' Paraphasing that last one.

 

The last time I was in L.A., I recall the four statues at one of the ends of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  One of them was Anna May Wong.  I remember looking her up and reading more about her.  But Wikipedia didn't compare to actually seeing a snippet of her story brought to life.

I have never seen Darren Criss in anything before this, and I had no idea that he is actually half-Filipino.  Sorry Darren, but I have to agree with Anna May Wong.  The character (and I imagine perhaps Criss himself) is complaining about being treated unfairly because he is half-Asian, and Anna May is all "pfffft, you can pass, so STFU".  It's always interesting to me when it is mentioned that actors like the Tilly sisters and Kristin Kreuk and Darren Criss are "Asian actors", because I don't think they face the same discrimination that someone who looks like Anna May Wong does/did.  I'm hoping we see more of Anna May Wong in subsequent episodes.  Once libraries reopen, I'm going to see if I can find a way to see some of her movies.

On 5/2/2020 at 4:31 PM, cdnalor said:

I'm not old enough to really know, but I feel the term "Asian" to be anachronistic for the forties.  They would still have been saying "oriental" then or maybe just Chinese, especially to differentiate from the Japanese after the war.

I agree, I really don't think the term "Asian" was in popular use in the 40s.  I think the same when I heard Camille and Archie saying they are "black".

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As usual with RM productions and as necessary for a story set in that era of Hollywood, the cinematography, set design and costumes are extremely well realised and mostly very peasant to look at. One gets the impression that the costumes must have greatly helped the actors inhabit the period. Just watch Raymond dashingly walk across Anna May Wong’s courtyard, to make his grandiose proposal to her.

Wong's story is one of the great injustices of Hollywood, with her being rejected in favour of a Caucasian actress for an Asian role she was reportedly ideal for. And then her career fell into stereotypical and repetitive movies and roles, essentially the treacherous Oriental femme fatale or the noble-hearted courtesan. Looking over her filmography, I see some movies that I probably have seen on TMC but I have trouble identifying specific ones because most of them merge in an undistinguishable mush of repetition. Only two titles are memorable works, Shanghai Express (a Dietrich vehicle) and the silent Thief of Bagdad. It was of course an unfortunate standard practice at the time for Caucasian actors to don prosthetics to play Asian; Katharine Hepburn did it (in the rather awful Dragon Seed), as did numerous others like Walter Huston, Paul Muni, Akim Tamiroff, Edward G. Robinson, etc.

So it’s no surprise that when we meet her she is embittered and disillusioned, perhaps even an alcoholic, and that she reacts very negatively to the proposal from this young director, whose ambition is only matched by his naiveté, which she immediately spots. However, she lets her wall of cynicism be breached and starts to hope, just a little. Only to have this brutally dashed when a crushed Raymond comes back later to dejectedly tell her that his project was rejected, confirming her hard-earned cynicism towards the industry.

I thought these two scenes were very well written and performed, even though I had trouble believing that the studio would hire such a young guy for big productions, with apparently little experience besides being "in the War". I know that some people started young in Hollywood, but they usually had a track record, like Orson Welles having done numerous celebrated theater and radio productions before RKO signed him. It’s not like there was at that time the equivalent of Roger Corman, who gave their first chance to many inexperienced young turks he mentored, a number of whom eventually became major directors of the modern era.

I understand though that Raymond’s idealism is a representation of the basic premise of the series, i.e. that things might have changed for the better faster is some people had taken the lead earlier. Unrealistic perhaps, but this is shaping up to be in part a fairy tale kind of story, requiring suspension of disbelief, maybe a great deal on some aspects.

 

On 5/13/2020 at 9:09 AM, blackwing said:

The character (and I imagine perhaps Criss himself) is complaining about being treated unfairly because he is half-Asian, and Anna May is all "pfffft, you can pass, so STFU". 

DC addressed that issue in interviews done during the Hollywood press junket. He said that in his case it never really was an issue while growing up and that he only became conscious in recent years of the issue of "passing" for example. It’s not like he made any effort to hide his mother whose Filipino ancestry is quite obvious. Not everyone lived their mixed heritage so matter-of-factly. I am in the middle of a biography of George Herriman, author of the classic comic strip Krazy Kat; a major discovery reported by the biographer is that GH was listed as "colored" on his birth certificate because his grandmother was créole. That fact was never again mentioned again once the family left New Orleans in 1890, even on official documents like census forms. GH never told his colleagues or acquaintances in the newspaper business. At most some of them nicknamed him "The Greek" to account for his slightly "exotic" features; looking at some photographs of him, we can detect faint traces of his heritage but that is only because we know facts that were hidden at the time. So passing is a personal experience, linked not only to family history and personal circumstances, but also certainly to the changing times; Herriman's "colored" status would probably not be much of an issue today and his family would not have needed to choose "passing" as a deliberate social strategy.

Edited by Florinaldo
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Good introductions for Raymond and Camille. Really both them as a couple and liked their scenes together.

I liked Raymond's scenes with Anna May Wong and Archie and his determination to want to change Hollywood.

The show seems to have fun poking fun at Jack and Rock's acting at times.

Henry creeped me out during his scenes with Rock while the latter was adorable with Archie.

Claire seems okay so far but doesn't really stand out as much as the rest of the younger characters yet.

Title sequence looks great, 7/10

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