The Last Tycoon: The Golden Age of Hitler’s Hollywood

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Holly­wood, 1936: Mon­roe Stahr (Matt Bomer), co-founder of the Brady Amer­i­can film stu­dio, has just begun shoot­ing a film about – and ded­i­cat­ed to – his deceased wife and well-known actress, Min­na Davis (Jes­si­ca DeGouw). Suf­fer­ing from a ter­mi­nal heart con­di­tion, the young pro­duc­tion chief has set his mind on fin­ish­ing the project – the ‘baby’ as he calls it – as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. How­ev­er, Stahr’s ‘baby’ seems doomed to become a still­birth: “This one won’t do at all,” says Ger­man con­sul Georg Gyssling (Michael Siber­ry) in a meet­ing with Stahr and stu­dio boss Pat Bradey (Kelsey Gram­mer). Stahr is Jew­ish. A movie about a celebri­ty who was mar­ried to a Jew “offends the racial sen­si­bil­i­ties of the Ger­man peo­ple,” as Gyssling puts it. The Ger­man Reich has just passed a law that for­bids the import of any movie that con­tra­dicts Nazi ide­ol­o­gy. Bradey – along with most oth­er stu­dio boss­es of the time – con­sid­ers it a finan­cial risk to pro­duce a movie that can­not be export­ed to the big Ger­man mar­ket. The pro­duc­tion of the movie so near to Stahr’s heart comes to a harsh halt; the blank check Bradey offers his pro­tégé as com­pen­sa­tion seems like a cold com­fort to Stahr.

But then Bradey’s daugh­ter Cecil­ia (Lily Collins), who has set her sights on Stahr as well as the movie busi­ness, presents the dis­ap­point­ed film­mak­er with an inter­est­ing and provoca­tive movie idea. Using the blank check, Stahr intends to bring the idea to life with Cecil­ia as the pro­duc­er –albeit against the will of his boss. 

View­ers have not only been left in sus­pense about the devel­op­ment of the plot line, but have also been encour­aged to voice their opin­ions. In fact, this year Ama­zon Stu­dios released pilots of two dra­ma shows and four children’s shows along with a view­er poll to deter­mine which ones will make it to full shows. On July 27, Ama­zon Stud­ies con­firmed that The Last Tycoon would go into pro­duc­tion. So far, the show’s pilot fore­shad­ows an inter­est­ing, mul­ti-faceted plot. Also, it implies that the full series might pro­vide many insight­ful his­tor­i­cal glances behind the scene of the dream fac­to­ry. Most notable is the focus on a medi­al­ly hereto­fore unex­pressed chap­ter in Hol­ly­wood his­to­ry: Georg Gyssling is indeed a his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ter who was infor­mal­ly known as “Hitler’s Hol­ly­wood Con­sul.” A lit­tle addi­tion­al research con­firms the aston­ish­ing impact Arti­cle 15 – the Ger­man law referred to in the pilot – had on the cre­ative prod­ucts of Hollywood’s film stu­dios in the Gold­en Age.

Fans of peri­od pieces should def­i­nite­ly give The Last Tycoon a chance. Cos­tume design­er Janie Bryant has once again done a great job and undoubt­ed­ly con­tributed to the cre­ation of an atmos­phere that con­vinc­ing­ly and com­pelling­ly fits set­ting and time peri­od. In addi­tion, since it depicts Nazi influ­ence in the USA, The Last Tycoon seems to strange­ly fit in with last year’s win­ner of Ama­zon Studio’s view­er poll, The Man in the High Cas­tle even though the first is semi-his­tor­i­cal and the lat­ter pure­ly fictional.

Hav­ing seen both the pilot of The Last Tycoon and the dra­ma show, The Inter­est­ings, my vote clear­ly went to the one loose­ly based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s posthu­mous­ly pub­lished nov­el, The Last Tycoon. If you have an Ama­zon Prime account, you can see for your­self: amazon.de/pilotseason

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