Sara Hemrajani on Hollywood’s love affair with its Golden Age…
Since there’s no business like show business, it’s unsurprising that one of Hollywood’s favourite topics is itself. The recent wave of award nominations for Trumbo, including a best actor Oscar nod for Bryan Cranston, is fresh evidence of the industry’s fascination with the so-called Golden Age.
In Trumbo, Cranston plays real-life writer Dalton Trumbo who was jailed and blacklisted for his ties to the American Communist Party. Despite the ban, Trumbo and his peers managed to flout the system using pseudonyms and support from eager filmmakers. He went on to write screenplays for classics such as Roman Holiday and Spartacus.
Following swiftly in its steps is Hail, Caesar!, the Coen brothers’ throwback to the glossy studio pictures of the 1940s. The trailer reveals characters reminiscent of Gene Kelly and Esther Williams, as well as producer Eddie Mannix and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (played by Tilda Swinton here and Helen Mirren in Trumbo).
Here’s a look at some other highlights of the genre:
My Week with Marilyn – The 2011 release demonstrates the public’s ongoing fascination with the iconic actress, even decades after her tragic death. Based on the diary account of a young graduate/aspiring filmmaker, the story looks at Monroe’s arrival in England for the production of The Prince and the Showgirl, during a period in which she was at the height of her fame but her personal life was unravelling. Although the movie takes plenty of artistic liberties, Michelle Williams received her third Oscar nomination for her naturalistic portrayal of Monroe. She beautifully captures Monroe’s blonde bombshell appearance, breathy voice and seductive yet childlike mannerisms. My Week with Marilyn also sees Kenneth Branagh play celebrated thespian Laurence Olivier and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh.
The Aviator – Martin Scorsese’s biopic of multi-millionaire entrepreneur Howard Hughes contains a plethora of A-list names stepping into the shoes of Hollywood’s superstars of yesteryear. Besides Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes, audiences can spot Cate Blanchett (as Katherine Hepburn), Kate Beckinsale (Ava Gardner), Jude Law (Errol Flynn) and Gwen Stefani (Jean Harlow). The Aviator starts with Hughes directing the 1930 classic Hell’s Angels and then moves on to his romancing of various leading ladies while delving into his obsessive compulsive disorder and love of flying.
Hitchcock – A legendary director of the 20th century, Alfred Hitchcock redefined the thriller with a string of hits, such as The 39 Steps, Rear Window, North by Northwest and, of course, Psycho. The making of the latter forms the basis of Hitchcock, an ensemble feature led by Anthony Hopkins as the acclaimed auteur. In 1959 questions began swirling about Hitch’s creative prowess and relevancy, so he decided to put his reputation and finances on the line with Psycho. Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel and James D’Arcy play Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Anthony Perkins respectively. Fans of the infamous shower scene won’t be disappointed with its recreation!
Life – The themes of celebrity, art and privacy are explored in Anton Corbijns’s sensitively directed film. Life is inspired by the relationship between James Dean (Dane DeHaan), when he was on the cusp of matinee idol status, and frustrated photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson). After a chance encounter with the actor, Stock persuades his editor at Life magazine to let him shoot Dean for a behind-the-scenes special. The job takes Stock to New York, Los Angeles and rural Indiana. Ben Kingsley appears as Jack Warner of Warner Bros. Studios, Kelly McCreary as Eartha Kitt, and Alessandra Mastronardi as Dean’s on-off actress girlfriend Pier Angeli.
Trumbo opens in UK cinemas on February 5th. Hail, Caesar! will have its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on February 11th.