Under the Black Flag

Bearded Hollywood

I’ve been writing a lot about Hollywood lately, what with yet another version of The Great Gatsby coming out, this time with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role of James Gatz.  The best Gatsby until now was Alan Ladd, in a 40’s black-and-white movie I saw 50 years ago.  Perhaps it was my youth, but Ladd played Gatsby like Shane, the role he’ll always be remembered for.  Quiet and unassuming, with hooded eyes and a touch of danger about him, there was a lot of Shane in Gatsby, and vice versa.  The worst Gatsby was Robert Redford, a townie playing the college boy playing the bootlegger.  The new version will most likely be as bad as the last one, full of cloche hats, flapper dresses, shiny limos, and grand houses.  That’s what Gatsby means to Hollywood.

And it gets better.  Flipping through the channels some time ago I came across a movie about the two men who first conquered the North Pole.  I knew that there was a controversy over whether Cook or Peary got there first around the turn of the last century, so I figured Hollywood—being what it is—compromised in order not to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Silly me.  According to the movie the first man to get there was an American black man whose identity was kept secret upon his return because of the color of his skin.  His white partner got all the credit.


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