Just Above Sunset
March 5, 2006 - Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America...













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A poster for sale in the antique shop in the middle of Hollywoodland, Beachwood Drive, just under the famous Hollywood sign - a poster for a Universal picture, dubbed in French, showing at the German theater.  The item continues below the image.

Poster in Hollywoodland antique store...

CNN Live, three days before the Oscars - Some Say Hollywood Movies Out Of Touch With Mainstream America - ANDERSON COOPER: "Many have asked the question, is Hollywood out of touch with middle America? What better place to find out than the middle of America. This is the geographic center of the continental United States in Lebanon, Kansas."

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair on this matter here, two days before the Oscars:

 

… The truth is that Hollywood has almost never reflected heartland values, from its birth it's reflected urban energy, cosmopolitan taste, social conscience, and pagan fascination, and when it's conformed to conventional pieties, as during the dreariest stretches of the postwar period, when disillusionment and subversion had to sneak in through the shadows of film noir as the topline product stayed shiny, bright, and chipmunk cheerful. Do you really think the racy, wisecracking, night-owl-edition, socially conscious crime dramas and comedies of Warner Brothers in the thirties reflected heartland values? Or those Lubitsch comedies with their flirty innuendos and musky intrigues so redolent of Paris and Budapest? Or the Astaire-Rogers "white telephone" musicals, with their French farce plots and Manhattan-skyline sparkle? MGM manufactured an enduring neo-Victorian mimicry of smalltown America in the Andy Hardy movies and others, but that didn't so much reflect heartland values as reflect the immigrant vision of what the white-picket-fence country they imagined lay east of the Hollywood hills.

Think of the movies now considered classic (or semi-classic) from the great grunge stretch of the late Sixties and Seventies, movies such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, The Last Detail, Five Easy Pieces, Blazing Saddles, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, on and on - do these movies speak to the pieties and platitudes that William Bennett holds dear? Even back then during all the noise and excitement I remember sweet old ladies wondering why they didn't make nice movies like The Sound of Music anymore, and they're still asking that same question today. It may be the same old ladies, having gone through two generations of floral muu-muus. Get over it, grandma! They're not going to make movies like Sound of Music anymore, they barely made them back then.

The heartland issue is such a crock, especially when it's taken up by pseudo-populist pundits who cling to both coasts and wouldn't move to the middle of the country unless the name of that middle was Chicago. Fuck the heartland. It doesn't exist. It's a metaphor for all the simple good things Americans would believe in if they flattered themselves by believing in simple good things. (Go reread Sherwood Anderson or Sinclair Lewis if you want to savor the loneliness and cultureless vacuity of so much of the bedrock America we insist on coloring with Norman Rockwell nostalgia.) It's true that more Americans than usual are unacquainted and uninterested in the Oscar pics this year, but how many Americans saw McCabe and Mrs. Miller when it came out? Or Mean Streets? Not that long ago, the Oscars noms were panned because for being an index of popularity, not quality; now quality prevails in the judging, tastes have improved even at the Golden Globes, and the kvetching chorus is complaining that the finalists chosen aren't commercial enough, and don't reflect the interests and values of average Americans. There's no such thing as an average American anymore (if there ever was), unless by "average American" you mean (as news producers and pundits seem to do) white, middle-aged, heterosexual Christian small-towners and suburbanites who won't even be watching the Academy Awards because it'll be past their bedtime and they have elk to milk the next morning.

 

P.S.: A good thing for their blood pressure, too, because according to this veteran entertainment observer, the upcoming Oscar show promises to be a "fornication festival," a three-hour Satyricon. The Tom Ford pheromone effect must be pandemic!


Hollywood has always been out of touch with Middle America. That's what has made the industry successful.

Footnote:

 

The film advertised in the poster - "The Devil with the Face of an Angel" - is actually The Shrike (1955) - directed by Josť Ferrer – "A successful theatrical director is driven to failure by the machinations of his vengeful wife. Eventually, he lands in a mental hospital where both his wife and his new love, a young actress named Charlotte, are waiting to see him."  The cast - Josť Ferrer as the suicidal Jim Downs, June Allyson as his wife, Ann Downs, and Joy Page as "the other woman," Charlotte Moore.
















If you use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me.  

There is a copyright notice at the bottom of this page, of course.

These were shot with a Nikon D70 – lens AF-5 Nikor 18-70mm 1:35-4.5G ED

They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0

The original large-format raw files are available upon request.

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Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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