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Robert De Niro,
Young film producer, Monroe Stahr, is a rising star in 1930's Hollywood due to his ability to get anything he envisions done even if it means breaking a few rules. The latest film he's working on stars two popular actors, Rodriguez and Didi, and everyone is sure it'll be a smashing hit when it's done. The times are changing however, since the first guilds and unions are being formed in Hollywood, but Stahr is still sticking to his old ways of doing things in spite of that. His main opponent becomes a union organizer, Brimmer, but Stahr finds ways to deal with him as well. However, in his hubris, Stahr crosses one red line too many when he falls for a young troubled engaged woman called Kathleen Moore and neglects Cecilia Brady, the young daughter of studio executive and Stahr's boss, Pat Brady. Pat becomes furious over this as well as Stahr's other misbehavings and makes it his mission to take Stahr down. Due to all the pressure, Stahr's health starts failing as well. The film is ...
Filmmaking has always been a business, an industry, and movie companies showed a profit by working under the studio system. The foremost studios kept thousands of people on salary, actors, producers, directors, writers, stunt men, designers, technicians. And they possessed hundreds of theaters across America that played their films and were forever reliant on new ones. MPAA President Will Hays also instituted a Code he named after himself, which adhered to censorship rules and went into effect after government coercion expanded by 1930. However it took awhile for the code to be imposed, after the Legion of Decency threatened a boycott of picture shows if it didn't go into effect, and those that didn't get a seal of approval had to pay a $25,000 fine and could not make money in the theaters, as the MPAA owned every theater in the country through the Big Five.
Enemies of organizing---in the case of The Last Tycoon the labor union of the Writers' Guild---largely in administration and big business, did and will frequently disseminate horror stories about plant closures and vindictive firings to hinder union action and uptake among the workers.
This masterfully lateral succession of dramatic character-driven events in an intriguing time and place features a kind of hero, Monroe Stahr, a character thick with overtones of Irving Thalberg, MGM production chief between the late '20s and 30s. The backdrop is Golden Age Hollywood, when studios churned out 30 to 40 productions a year and every backlot could at the same time control pictures set in New York, Africa, the South Pole and Montmartre. The film's setting has a marked tie to stories of Hollywood in the era, over and above to Fitzgerald's own life and career. Thalberg, a wunderkind until his death at 37, was revered within and outside Hollywood, as he seemed capable of discovering successful material ceaselessly. Seeing in his mind's eye how much a particular sort of picture would total, which then told him how much could be gainfully spent on it. Stahr, played with restrained enthusiasm by Robert De Niro, whose sinewy, swarthy looks look like an admiration of Thalberg's, has the same mysterious talent, but ultimately becomes a victim of the "new" Hollywood of shareholders that Fitzgerald could see forthcoming. Thalberg died before being engulfed by loss, while in the film, Stahr doesn't.
The theme of uncompleted aspirations and the unrequited love of the youthful and gorgeous in Hollywood, personified by the beach house, have huge importance for both the novelist and director at the end of their astounding careers.
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