Whether you are considering Technicolor spectacles like Singing in the Rain or a more subdued film, it is plain to see that Hollywood is an industry that delights in its own myth making. It has devised for itself the image of the enterprising underdog, idealistic and saccharine. It is obviously false, it has always been false. It’s history is littered with maligned women, individuals manipulated, consumed, and left to disintegrate within their own pain and suffering. It is a rare individual who makes it out of Hollywood unscathed. This is especially true in what is referred to as Hollywood’s golden era, roughly encompassing the 1930s through the 1960s. It is an era of films that can be defined by an idealistic, overly constructed veneer that often belied the grueling realities of movie-making.
As such, I find the films listed below particularly compelling for their resistance to this narrative. Made inside of the existing Hollywood system, they adeptly weave a narrative that shows the kind of exploitation that can occur within a notoriously callous and fickle industry, focused solely on appearances and superficiality. These films are shockingly candid. Two of these films star Judy Garland and Natalie Wood, women who, I believe, embody the psychic violence and related tragedy that Hollywood could wreak. This casting lends these films an additional level of resonance, an undertone of impending misfortune. In a culture that applauded beauty and perfection at any cost, it is no coincidence that the films that were made reflected those things. Actors were often put on strict regimens that controlled their weight and appearance, saddling them with arduous schedules, and pumping them full of drugs until they were no longer deemed desirable, at which point they were on their own. These films explore the darker sides of Hollywood and do so with a candor and delicacy that is both rare and refreshing.
- In a Lonely Place, directed by Nicholas Ray (1950)
- A Star is Born, directed by George Cukor (1954)
- Inside Daisy Clover, directed by Robert Mulligan (1965)