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Watch Netflix’s ‘Hollywood,’ Then Watch These Classic Movies

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04.05.2020
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Old Hollywood is rewritten in Ryan Murphy‘s latest endeavor, which employs a group of minority underdogs for a fictional success story set in 1940s Los Angeles. The Netflix limited series Hollywood follows a gay African-American screenwriter (Jeremy Pope), an Asian director (Darren Criss), and an African-American actress (Laura Harrier) as they work on a movie that aims to shake up the prejudices of the industry.

Although the plot of Hollywood is absolutely made up, the show references real films of the time and features dramatized cameos from famous Hollywood filmmakers who often take the spotlight from the invented main characters. Whether you like the show and are looking for more from the era or you hate the show and need some redemption viewing, here are my recommendations of 12 essential movies to watch afterward:

Thirteen Women (1932)

In the series, Archie Coleman (Pope) writes a screenplay telling the story of Peg Entwistle, an unknown actress from Hollywood’s pre-Code era whose dramatic death made headlines in 1932. She jumped from the Hollywoodland sign just before the release of her only film, Thirteen Women. Entwistle had a very small role in the film, which also stars Irene Dunne, Kay Johnson, and Myrna Loy, who plays (in yellowface) a half-Asian woman who embarks on a revenge killing spree against her former classmates at an all-girls school.

There were more lesbian undertones in the film before scenes were cut for its theatrical release, but the themes are still apparent when you watch today. Thirteen Women is considered one of the first female ensemble films and also one of the earliest slasher films. It’s a shame Archie’s movie never got made in the fictional world of Hollywood, but Entwistle’s story is at least brilliantly told in an episode of the podcast You Must Remember This.

Rent or buy Thirteen Women from Amazon

Murder in Harlem (1935)

Hollywood accurately depicts the relative lack of people of color in major motion pictures during the 1940s, but it fails to recognize the history of black cinema, or “race films,” outside of typical viewers’ periphery. There were African Americans making and starring in movies since the silent era, such as the very prolific Oscar Micheaux. He wrote, directed, and produced the first feature with an all-black cast — The Homesteader in 1919 — but sadly the film is lost.

Many of Micheaux’s other films are available to watch, though, including Murder in Harlem, a murder mystery based on a real murder case against a Jewish man named Leo Frank that resulted in his lynching death in 1915. Murder in Harlem was actually the second time Micheaux used Frank’s story, with the first being his (also lost) 1921 silent film The Gunsaulus Mystery.

Watch Murder in Harlem via subscription on Flix........

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