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Hollywoodland is a 2006 biopic/docudrama directed by TV alum Allen Coulter (his feature directorial debut) about a down-on-his-luck detective, Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), investigating the suspicious death of actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck), the star of television's Adventures of Superman. Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), had been in a long romantic relationship with Reeves, who had ended the affair and had become engaged to a younger woman, an aspiring actress Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney).

Plot

The movie begins in Beverly Hills on June 16, 1959, at the home of TV star George Reeves with a police investigation underway and Reeves' lifeless body on his bed. The police rule the death a suicide. The focus of the film then shifts to Louis Simo, a private investigator more interested in generating an income than in devotion to his clients. A man named Chester Sinclair is paying Simo to spy on his wife under the impression that she is cheating on him. Simo simply accepts his money and takes pictures outside of a building where she goes to from time to time. On a visit to see his son, Simo reacts to the boy's lackluster demeanor and asks his ex-wife Laurie what is wrong. She tells him it's because the actor who plays Superman has shot himself. Simo learns from a former colleague on the police force that the Reeves suicide has aspects that the cops don't want to touch. Simo, sensing the potential for making a name for himself, begins investigating the case and notes several apparent conflicts with the official version of Reeves' death. Simultaneously Simo bickers with Laurie over his failures as a father, particularly now when his son seems so troubled.

The film then shifts to flashbacks of Reeves' life, revealing Reeves to be a charming man whose acting career has stalled. At a nightclub, Reeves catches the eye of a beautiful woman and they end the night in each other's arms. In the morning a newspaper photo reveals to Reeves that the woman is Toni Mannix, the wife of Eddie Mannix, the general manager of MGM Studios. Frightened that an affair with a studio boss's wife will destroy what's left of his career, Reeves is angry that Toni didn't tell him. Toni, however, tells Reeves that she and Eddie have an open relationship and not to worry. The pair fall in love and the much wealthier Toni begins to buy Reeves expensive gifts such as a house, a car and jewelry. During their relationship Reeves gets the starring role in the television show Adventures of Superman. Reeves takes the job with humility, but continues hoping for more meaningful work, but now everyone takes him for a joke. As the years pass and Toni ages, Reeves becomes bitter at being a kept man and at Toni for not using her clout to help his career. He meets a young woman in New Yorkmarker, Leonore Lemmon, and leaves Toni for her. Toni is broken-hearted and furious, and Eddie seethes at her "mistreatment" by Reeves.

The film is redirected back to the life of Simo and his investigation of the facts of Reeves' death. Simo initially suspects that Leonore Lemmon might have accidentally shot Reeves during an argument, and in his imagination Simo sees that scenario played out. Then, thugs apparently working for Eddie Mannix beat Simo in hopes of scaring him off the case. This and other evidence lead Simo to suspect that Eddie had Reeves murdered and, again, Simo imagines what such an event might have looked like. Simo then learns that his client Chester Sinclair has murdered his wife because he got tired of waiting for information from Simo. A stricken and guilt-plagued Simo gets drunk and visits his son at school, but his inebriation scares the boy. Later, Simo visits Reeves's manager, Art Weissman. Weissman speaks highly of Reeves and his charm. He gives Simo a home movie Reeves had shot in hopes of promoting wrestling work. What Simo sees in the film suggests to him a sadness in Reeves, a weariness and humiliation with where his life has led. Simo's final imagined variation on Reeves's death concludes with the actor shooting himself. This is the most vivid of the three scenarios, with Simo imagining himself standing in the corner of the upstairs bedroom, and even making eye contact briefly with the weary Reeves.

The story of Reeves' quest for fame and success and Simo's realization of how that quest is paralleled in his own existence causes the detective to reevaluate his life. Simo watches another home movie, this one of himself and Laurie and their son in happier days. The film ends with Simo coming to Laurie's house wearing a suit and tie, and greeting his son hopefully.

Cast



Box office and critical reception

Hollywoodlandreceived generally positive responses from viewers and critics, garnering a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoesand a 6.9 on the Internet Movie Database. Ben Affleck earned the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festivalfor his performance as George Reeves. He was nominated for a Golden Globefor Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Eddie Murphyin Dreamgirls.

Hoskins and Lane have also been applauded for their performances. Critics at The Wall Street Journaland Vanity Faircalled this film and 2006's Brokeback Mountain(also from Focus Features) Oscarcontenders, but the film never received any Oscar nominations.

The film debuted at #2 at the box office. Shot on a budget of less than $14 million, 'Hollywoodland' grossed $14,426,251 in the United States as of October 26, 2006. A further foreign gross of $1,878,000, plus $9,140,000 in DVD rentals and a spot in the top ten DVD sales for its first three weeks of release (ref. Rentrak Corporation, 3-3-2007) allowed the movie to turn a profit.

Historical inaccuracies

Hollywoodlandtakes liberties with actual historical events for dramatic purposes. Several events and places are condensed to fit into the film. Some examples follow:

  • During a personal appearance at a children's western show, George Reeves meets a boy with a loaded gun, who almost shoots bullets at him. Reeves talks him into giving up the gun by saying that they would bounce off him but hurt innocent bystanders. Reeves researchers have never been able to find anything to corroborate the story.
  • After Reeves' death, Leonore Lemmon is shown at the reading of his will, stunned when everything he owned in his estate goes to Toni. In reality, since Lemmon was not included in his last will and testament, she was not invited to the reading at all. She did, however, make public statements akin to the dialogue in the film.
  • The depiction of Reeves' scenes in From Here to Eternity being cut due to audience derision in a test screening is an urban legend. No test screenings took place, and the finished film includes all Reeves' scenes that were present in the original shooting script. No alternate cuts of the film have ever been proved to exist.
  • A scene in the film states if they pick up the Superman series for a second season, they will film in color. The series did not film in color until the third season.
  • The scene showing Reeves barbecuing his costume is based in fact, with some dramatic license. Reeves is said to have burned his costume at the end of each season, not just the one time to celebrate the cancellation of the series.
  • Although many of the film's Hollywood figures are referenced by their real names, the detective Louis Simo is a fictional character, based somewhat on an actual detective in the case named Milo Speriglio.
  • In an example of condensing, one scene in the filming of a first-season Superman episode shows Reeves in an alley, "taking off", suspended by wires. A wire breaks and Reeves crashes to the studio floor. The oft-repeated alley takeoff in the real series was stock footage and was performed by a stuntman; but Reeves did take such a fall during a cable-aided takeoff, in a studio-bound forested setting, in the episode called "Ghost Wolf".


Warner Bros. rights issues

During its production, Hollywoodlandwent through many rounds of getting clearance from Warner Bros.Picturesto use different aspects of George Reeves' Superman persona to reflect the actual nature of his career. Time Warneris the parent company of both Warner Bros. and DC Comicsand as such has all final say in the depiction of characters or indicate relating to their properties.

At first using the title, Truth, Justice, and the American Way, Superman's well-known patriotic catch-phrase, Warner Bros. threatened legal action unless the film's title was changed so as not to associate the classic slogan with Reeves' death - especially as they were banking on their own Superman reboot, Superman Returns, for that summer. The filmmakers changed the title to Hollywoodland, not as a reflection of the ailing Hollywood Signmarker, but in reference to the general milieu of "movieland" itself.

Focus Features was forbidden from showing the Superman 'S' in promotional materials.
The filmmakers wished to use the familiar filmed opening of Adventures of Supermanin context within Hollywoodlandbut Warner Bros. refused to license clips from the show itself. The movie recreated the show's opening and substituted a re-recorded version of the opening theme.

Arguably, the largest hurdle for the production was over the usage of the Superman "S" symbol, one of the most iconic of superhero symbols, and a seemingly obvious requirement for the costume Affleck had to wear when portraying Reeves shooting Adventures of Superman. Originally reported that the Superman costume in the film would be missing the "S" because of Warner Bros. ownership, on July 6, 2006, the website Ain't It Cool Newsbroke the news that while Focus Features couldn't use the logo in promotional materials, the costume would sport the iconic letter "S" in the film, which it does.

Other

The three shooting scenarios imagined by Simo each begin with Reeves playing guitar and singing "Aquellos Ojos Verdes " in Spanish for his houseguests. His somewhat off-key rendition is met with at best polite applause. He then retires to the upstairs of the house, and the shooting occurs soon afterward.

DVD

The DVDwas released in Region 1on February 6, 2007. In addition to the film, it contains commentary by director Coulter, as well as featurettes on the making of the film. Included in these featurettes are interviews with the cast and crew and also original TV Jimmy Olsenactor Jack Larson, film historian Rudy Behlmer, Hollywood columnist James Bacon, and actor and George Reeves biographer Jim Beaver(who served as biographical consultant on the film). A HD DVDversion of the film was also available, in the US only, due to Universal's exclusive support of HD DVD - however, that format was discontinued in early 2008. A US Blu-rayrelease has yet to be announced. The film was released in the UK on Blu-Ray and DVD.

References

  1. Rentrak Corporation, 3 March 2007
  2. http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/hollywoodland.php
  3. Donald, Elizabeth. "SuperGeek," Belleville News-Democrat, 6 June 2007
  4. Variety, 17 August 2006
  5. http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/hollywoodland.php
  6. Cathy Schultz, PhD., History in The Movies. University of St. Francis, 2006


External links



Characters
Cast
Louis Simo
Adrien Brody
Toni Mannix
Diane Lane
George Reeves
Ben Affleck
Eddie Mannix
Bob Hoskins
Leonore Lemmon
Robin Tunney
Carol Van Ronkel
Kathleen Robertson
Helen Bessolo
Lois Smith
Chester Sinclair
Larry Cedar
Kit Holliday
Caroline Dhavernas
Robert Condon
Kevin Hare
Laurie Simo
Molly Parker
Evan Simo
Zach Mills
Chuck
Neil Crone
Del
Gareth Williams
Det. Sgt. Jack Paterson
Dash Mihok
Rita Hayworth
Veronica Watt
Howard Strickling
Joe Spano
Art Weissman
Jeffrey DeMunn

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