L.A. Stories

‘HOLLYWOODLAND' & ‘THE BLACK DAHLIA'

Even if you’ve never hung around actors, you’ve probably known somebody like George Reeves, the star of the early 1950s Superman TV show, whose ambiguous suicide (ambiguous enough for some to have called it murder) is the subject of Allen Coulter’s film, Hollywoodland. His type of masculinity achieved its apotheosis, its style and look, right after World War II and flourished until the mid-1960s. (The fashion ads in the Esquire magazine of that period provide the most perfect illustration of the type.) Back then, a young man in an Arrow shirt and a well-cut suit might cultivate his looks and demeanor to suggest a couple of centuries of shrewd Anglo-Saxon interbreeding. An Ivy League education helped, not so much to improve the mind as to perfect a scintillatingly careless manner, not to mention the social networking possible. After graduation, if there wasn’t a family business to enter, the looks and manner of such a youth might help him to secure a toehold in some firm, and no one could begrudge him that, for his easeful smile, his self-effacing wit, his patient curiosity about what you had to say, his gracious willingness to pick your brain, and his sincere admiration that you had a brain worthy of picking, all invited you (at least for the few minutes you conversed with him) to share his purview of a rich and glamorous world that could be conquered only by those who didn’t sweat. The George Reeves type was the East...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.