BBC Documentary Tries to Puncture Hollywood's Hype

By Fred Hift, | The Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 1991 | Go to article overview

BBC Documentary Tries to Puncture Hollywood's Hype


Fred Hift,, The Christian Science Monitor


OFFICIALLY described as "shocking" and clearly designed as an expose of Hollywood, "where cutthroat business tactics and backstabbing practices have reached Faustian proportions," the BBC's "Naked Hollywood" series goes on the air on the Arts & Entertainment cable network on Sunday, July 28.

It is a five-part series of hour-long documentaries, produced by Nicolas Kent and directed by Margy Kinmonth and Alan Lewens. The first program, entitled "The Actor and the Star," contrasts the careers and the charisma of actor James Caan and superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Scheduled for subsequent Sundays are "Eighteen Months to Live" (Aug. 4), about the nervous existence of top studio production executives; "Four Million is Cheap" (Aug. 11), about manipulative Hollywood agents; "Funny For Money" (Aug. 18), which deals with screen writers, and "One Foot In, One Foot Out" (Aug. 25), which examines the lot of the movie directors.

According to Mr. Kent, it took two years to obtain access to the key Hollywood figures interviewed in the documentaries. The format is unusual in that there is no narrator. The camera focuses on people, events, and clips, and lets them speak for themselves, though there is a determined attempt to introduce symbolism. Slow-motion footage is abundantly used.

In the episode dealing with the studio production chiefs, the mood is set by a long-distance runner who, in the end collapses on the ground.

Whoever came up with the title "Naked Hollywood" deserves a bonus. It promises sensationalism but hardly delivers it.

Based on a preview of the first two episodes, it is difficult to comprehend what is particularly shocking or revealing about "Naked Hollywood."

Quoted in a British publication, Kent said he found Hollywood "a company town where the bottom line is making money." There is nothing either dishonorable or particularly new or surprising about that. In fact, had "Naked Hollywood" covered the '30s or '40s, it might have discovered a lot more substance, excitement - and real "dirt." As is, Kent delivers a kind of visual primer about moviemaking, marketing, and the studio system. It's pretty tame stuff compared with some recent books about behind-the-scenes Hollywood.

The first episode, "The Actor and the Star," essentially traces the career of Schwarzenegger, from his physical fitness/pumping iron days to his movie debut, the huge success of "Total Recall,Kindergarten Cop," and his new "Terminator 2."

Schwarzenegger seems like a likable fellow, self-effacing, personally playing the publicity game with enthusiasm, and thoroughly aware that his rise to international stardom has been due to a subservient press and eager publicists working overtime to manufacture a star image. …

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