Wednesday, December 09, 2015

30 Days of The Fade Out: Vice, Trysts: Epic Torture.

The title above is an anagram of Victory Street Pictures, the focal point of the sordid world of The Fade Out.

We're reminded that the word "hypocrisy" has its origins in the Greek word hypokrisis -- play-acting, where the dramas in Ancient Greece would often have their actors wear masks, severing the outward appearance from the inward reality.  Actors lie for a living, which is a big reason the profession has often been considered disreputable.

To the intrinsic allure of acting, the newly developed mass media added the promise of large box office receipts, unprecedented fame, and the power that came with both:  it's no wonder a person would live a compromised existence to make it big.

Secrets and lies are a big part of The Fade Out, as the comic's opening scene suggests it's something almost in the atmosphere of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Rereading the first eleven issues last night, we noticed how -- even before the murder that instigates the story -- almost every named character around Victory Street Pictures is living one kind of lie or another.  The story reveals almost all of these characters twice, first as the image and then as the reality.
Co-founder Victor Thursby (formerly Noah Feldberg) joined a hedonistic cult in 1928, and decades later he has a system to take advantage of the studio's actresses; after someone intimates that he knows about the cover-up of Valeria Sommers' murder, it's clear that he has stacks of documents that he needs destroyed, which were evidently "Old Man Kamp's sick stash" of photographs. (Issue #3, 9, 10)
(UPDATE, 12/11:  We had forgotten to add a detail from issue #2, that Thursby came to Hollywood under what was presumably his given name; he likely changed his name because of the prevalence of anti-Semitism.) 
Thursby's partner Al Kamp is evidently as much a predator as Thursby, but -- to paraphrase a character from the Criminal arc "Lawless" -- his tastes seem to run weirder and darker:  he introduced Thursby to that cult around the same time that he abused the child actors who worked for him, and years later Val and Charlie stumble upon him in the woods, in a compromising position with a woman, a camera, and some rope. (3, 5, 9)
Supposed producer Drake Miller uses his knowledge of the abuse at Victory Street both to insinuate himself into the studio and to threaten its personnel, all to advance the agenda of his real employers in the government. (10)
Screenwriter Charlie Parish is using one secret to hide another, taking dictation from his blacklisted friend to hide his crippling postwar writer's block. (2)
Fellow writer Gil Mason did evidently have Communist sympathies, but -- probably in the face of an unavoidable blacklisting -- he concocted the scheme that Charlie would rat him out to the Feds, to throw off any suspicion that they were working together for mutual benefit. (2)
Lead actor and heartthrob Earl Rath has his own secret hobby involving photography and the women he encounters at his infamously debauched parties. (4)
Up-and-coming heartthrob Tyler Graves lives a lifestyle that would scandalize the public of the 1940s and turn off his female admirers. (5)
Starlet Valeria Sommers (formerly Jenny Summers) is hiding a dark secret about her life as a child actor; Charlie theorizes that she is being blackmailed as the victim of abuse rather than its perpetrator. (10, 11)
Up-and-coming starlet Maya Silver seems to be hiding her family background, or at least the fact that she had married a Mexican; either way, it's a past that Charlie was surprised to learn. (8)
Maya's agent Tom Greavey had apparently lied to her before, in his previous assurances that she was about to hit her big break. (3)
Publicity girl Dottie (Dorothy) Quinn was being blackmailed by Drake Miller:  the implication is subtle but unmistakable, that Dottie was having an adulterous affair, but not with a married man. (10)
And even Phil Brodsky, the head of studio security, wasn't above lying to induce an actress to exchange sexual favors for influence that he didn't really have. (3)
The only person around Victory Street who isn't revealed to be a hypocrite is the director Franz Schmitt:  described as a German expatriate, perhaps he has had to adjust his political loyalties through a world war and its aftermath, but that's only conjecture.

Have we seen the breadth of the lies at Victory Street?  Certainly not, as it hasn't yet been revealed who murdered Val Sommers and why -- and who was the "kind man" who protected her and helped her move on from her life as Jenny? (we have our theory) -- but there's one other secret that might be revealed:  we know that Charlie came back from World War II a broken man, but we wonder if there's more to the story.

We're reminded of the last couple lines from the three-page trailer for The Fade Out.

In explaining Gil and Charlie's ghostwriting arrangement in issue #2, the narrator tells us that Gil "knew Charlie's ugly secret... at least part of it."

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