The phenomenon of Hollywood had an outstanding effect on cinema, changing it forever and helping to change the world along with it. Despite the undertones of darkness, villainy, backstabbing, decadence, drugs and sex, Hollywood was a powerful force of good, liberating the formally conservative West and encouraging Babylonian-like glamour, which has helped shape a more liberal society. Probably. Paul Merton is a comedian, best known for his sketch shows and his regular slot on Have I Got News For You. He also has a deep love of early cinema.
And if you weren’t aware of Merton’s love of film, then shame on you, he’s been making documentaries about them for a while now, for the BBC. Merton had previously brought to attention the work of Alfred Hitchcock prior to his venture to America, the early British silent films were very much a template for what would later become Hitchcock’s more recognised work. That particular program,was titled Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock.
It showed Merton’s understanding of the visual language of film, and is worth seeking out. His latest show, Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood, studies the rise of Hollywood in a tongue and cheek manner, full of interesting facts and wonderful clips from early Hollywood movies. You can watch the show right now, and I highly recommend you do, it’s playful and light-hearted, portraying a flippancy very much in keeping with Merton’s particular favourite films; the works of Chaplin, Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle. There’s also a good look at the dark side of Hollywood, from a fair study of D. W. Griffith to the underhand way in which Hollywood will look for a scapegoat and, most hated of all, those damn Conservatives that want to ban everything in the name of decency!
Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood is available to watch on iplayer.
If you can’t watch iplayer, or if it’s no longer available, I’m sure it’ll be on YouTube in a month or so.