The following are extensive scene-by-scene recaps on ‘Hollywood’. A Netflix social issues drama created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan
As a special treat, I will be recapping the first 4 episodes of the Netflix original series ‘Hollywood’ using a good amount of screenwriting prose, for what’s arguably, the most extensive scene-by-scene recaps you’ll be able to find on the internet. So if you think you missed anything, want to see if this show’s for you, or just feel like catching up on the series, check them out right here.
Episode 1: Hooray for Hollywood
We open on a young blue-eyed man. He is kicking back and watching a news reel in the balcony of a near empty cinema. This reel talks about Hollywood: the former central hub of the WW2 supply industry turned post-war haven for the moving pictures. A place filled with starry eyed dreamers seeking to become the next Paul Muni or Hedy Lamarr. The man smiles, sold on the pitch of Beverly Hill pool parties, fame, and the promise of the beautiful southern California sun.
After the Hollywood opening titles, we segue into a large crowd swarming the closed gate of a large entrance; The overhead sign reading: Ace Studios. The blue-eyed man, now in a yellow overcoat and a pinched front fedora, makes his way toward a shorter man in a bowtie at the front of the crowd, Lou.
Lou greets the blue-eyed man, who in turn, reveals his name to be Jackie (David Corenswet). The two exchange some Hollywood jargon — the definition of what ‘Lensing’ (shooting) and ‘Producing’ (Making a movie) is — before a middle-aged woman in red opens the gates and addresses the want-to-be extras. She goes over rules; reveals that they are lensing a scene from a war picture, a perfect role for Jack as an ex-soldier. As she fingers over the crowd looking for extras, she stops at Jack, but instead, picks Lou.
The crowd disperses. Jack shows gumption. He approaches the now closed gate and addresses the woman in red, revealed to be Ms. Roswell, as he introduces himself as Jack Castello. He mentions he’d be great in a war picture as he fought at Anzio. She asks if he had training and he says no. She calls him out:
“Pretty face but no training? — A dime a dozen.”
Saddened, Jack straightens his hat and walks away. He then drinks at a bar, defeated and alone. Before he can pay his bill, a man with slicked grey hair covers his drink. Jack tips his hand at the man as he passes. The man smirks.
At a bank, Jack, now in his old military uniform, and a young woman apply for a home loan. She tells the banker that she’s a waitress, and Jack, a supernumerary (background) actor. Given the lack the income needed for a home loan, they’re rejected.
Back at the bar, Jack knocks back a drink and then points at his empty glass for a refill. The man with the slick hair watches, takes a drag from his cigarette, and then approaches the counter ordering he and Jack two more drinks. He introduces his name as Ernie (Dylan McDermott), thanks Jack for his service.
He then talks about how he wasn’t able to serve because he has a 12-inch dick.
After breaking the ice in crude fashion, Ernie offers Jack a job as a gas station attendant… specializing in ‘good looking employees’. He temps Jack with a wad of cash, but Jack rejects it. Ernie leaves him the name of the company: Golden Tip Gas.
At the gate again the next morning, Lou is picked over Jack yet again. Later, Jack walks through an ornate lobby and into his apartment, where his wife, Henrietta (Maude Apatow), reads by candlelight because their electricity was cut. He approaches her but she’s dejected with his failure to pay the bills. Jack blows out a candle… alone.
At the Golden Tip Gas’ garage, Jack steps out of the bathroom wearing a sidecap and a white shirt bearing his name. Ernie, now in a captain’s hat, asks Jack if he has any venereal diseases. Jack is confused. Ernie divulges that he’s similar to Louis B. Mayer in that he provides his customers ‘a fantasy’. How some of the attractive station men ‘service’ some of the clients, much to Jack’s surprise. Ernie asks if Jack’s ever cheated. Initially in denial, we reveal in a cutaway flashback: Jack having sex with a woman while on shore leave. Ernie says “Good” as the first one is always the hardest.
(Sidenote: Ernie is based on the infamous pimp Scotty Bowers, who wrote the memoir Full Service)
Suddenly, a black car pulls in. Ernie offers 100 bucks to Jack for ‘service’. He hesitates but eventually agrees. As Jack walks up the older woman, she requests ‘To Go To Dreamland’, the official code for prostitution. Jack gets into the passenger seat.
Later, Avis (Patti LuPone), later revealed to be the woman, drives along a road lined with lush greenery and pulls up to the lavish ‘Beverly Hills Hotel’. Jack follows her inside. They freshen up together. Jack reveals he is from Missouri wanting to be a movie star. Avis makes a pair of dry martinis and reveals that she herself was a silent picture movie star but was inevitably rejected in the industry afterwards for being (and sounding like): a Jew. She was told by an up-and-coming low-level executive, that she’d barely amount to anything anymore — to which Avis said: “Fuck this town.”
She then slept with, get knocked up by, and married to that executive. The woman asks Jack why he wants to be a star. He reveals that everyone he knew thought he was a dumb good-for-nothing and so he wanted to do something that truly matters.
Jack reveals, that movies make him feel alive. That he held all his best and most intimate memories there, and always left the theatre feeling better than when he walked in. Jack asks why she’s here doing this with him? She reveals her husband loathes her, and that coming into a public place and hooking up with strangers, is an attempt to be caught and make him jealous. She eyes the wedding ring on Jack’s finger. Asks if he feels guilty. He says he must provide for his family. She tells him to provide.
They enter the bedroom. Before Jack begins, he asks if Avis believes he has what it takes to make it? She tells him she doesn’t know — but what she does know, is that Jack has a strong light inside. She asks him to share it with her. Make her feel like she matters — even if that’s a lie. They kiss. He goes down on her. She enjoys.
Later, Jack gets back to the garage and is handed an envelope of money. Ernie sends Jack to the trailer out back for a quickie. Jack opens the door revealing a pantsless man in an armchair. Jack shuts the door then marches back saying there’s a mistake. Ernie tells him that’s Cole Porter, the musical legend. Jack refuses the job, but Ernie angrily rebukes him. Low on guys and with a bad cough, Ernie threatens that if Jack doesn’t service Cole, he’s not getting a dime. Ernie snatches his payment back. Jack quits.
Later, Jack enters a drug store with an ice cream counter and finds his wife flirting with a coworker. He takes her to a Doctor Hiram’s for an Obstetrics appointment. At Doc’s office, over Smalltalk, Henrietta reveals the couple are renting and Doctor Hiram comments a kid is just as expensive as a mortgage — which makes Jack wince. He then reveals they’re having twins. Jack faints.
At the western costume company, Jack rents a police costume. He walks along the streets in his new outfit and then enters an unmarked door and through a red curtain hallway into a movie theatre. On the screen, are several naked men working out in a weight room. Jack takes a seat in the back row, soon noticing a man’s head bobbing up and down on the lap of another man. Jack watches another couple: a young black man joining a different blonde man offering him sex. Jack walks up to them and presses a toy gun to the blonde man’s head. He breaks up their encounter and makes an arrest, taking the black man to Schwab’s Drug Store.
At Schwabs, Jack and the man sit down as Jack interrogates him. The black man reveals he moved to LA to become a writer having written a screenplay about Peg Entwistle, the rejected girl who jumped off the Hollywood sign. He sold the script for a hundred bucks yet the studio refused to put him under contract for being black. The two get to know each other and Jack offers him a chance at sex work at a safer place and for higher pay. The man finally realizes Jack is not a cop; Jack takes solace in his acting ability as he thought he was.
Afterwards, at the Golden Tip Gas, the young man emerges from Ernie’s bathroom and agrees on specializing in gay sex for a 60-40 cut. Ernie likes his business acumen immediately seeing the potential. They shake on it and formally greet: Ernie West and Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope). Ernie shares their solicitation password: Dreamland.
Jack gets his cut from before.
Seconds later, Archie approaches a car where a young white man, awkwardly asks to go to ‘dreamland’. He reveals himself as Roy Fitzgerald (Jake Picking), an actor who’s later revealed to be based on the real life Rock Hudson. The two pull away in Roy’s car.
On the second-floor building of an apartment, they sit on a neatly made bed. Archie asks what Roy wants to do as he begins undressing. Roy reveals he wants to be an actor, and so their encounter must be secret, as gay people are shunned in Hollywood. Archie reveals he’s a writer. The two talk about their Hollywood dreams just as the men proceed to make passionate love.
The next day at Golden Tip Gas, Ernie pays his workers and then severely coughs as he smokes his cigarette. A montage begins as all the workers service their many customers that drive in throughout the day, each requesting for: ‘Dreamland’.
A montage begins. In a bedroom, Jack carries a young woman onto a dresser and thursts inside of her wearing only his side cap. In a kitchen, Archie stands behind a young man thrusting into his behind. Later, Jack gets dressed as a brunette enters the bedroom in a towel, complimenting at being ‘good at that’. He tells her he only does this to make ends meat as an actor. She smiles back, revealing she’s in casting.
The next day, a crowd swarms the gate at Ace Studios yet again. Jack, confident this time, finds Lou. Miss Roswell then arrives with the Brunette from last night who shares a look at Jack. She leans towards Miss Roswell, who turns and asks for ‘Jack’ as he enters the gate with a grin. Jack looks back at Lou, who wasn’t picked today, and reveals he’s got a walk-on role for a Cecil B. DeMille picture, as he joins the Brunette.
That evening, Henrietta enters the apartment after work. Jack cooks the two a candlelit dinner and tells her to quit her job. He gifts her 500 dollars meant to be spent on a house down payment, and then reveals he paid for rent and gas too. Henrietta smiles.
At the Golden Tip Gas the next day, Archie introduces a man named Stan (Conrad Solaka) to Jack, revealing that Stan is ‘Sexually ambidextrous’ (He’s bisexual). Jack approaches the driver of a red car and meets a redheaded woman in the back. She leads Jack to a bedroom and offers a tip. After he takes it, she pulls out a badge and arrests him.
A brilliant cliffhanger to end a much more provocative series than anticipated, this show features a surprising amount of sex and re-frames a lot of the heteronormative narratives of the Golden age of Hollywood. More than anything, it alters history by taking on social issues, at a time where none were really addressed — all for easily, one of Ryan Murphy’s most interesting pilots to a series.