Indy needs all the help he can get... Viewers may like to be aware that 'Hollywood Follies' was originally filmed as one of four TV movies to be shown as a proposed third season. It combines two scripts for the original third season that never materialised, 'Hollywood, Early August 1920' with 'Hollywood, Late August 1920'. The TV movie as a result of its revised format abandons the 90-year-old Indy segments along with the original opening intro. 'Hollywood Follies' is also notable for being in terms of continuity the last Young Indiana Jones featuring Sean Patrick Flanery. No other stories to do with Young Indy are set after this, bringing the series 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles' to a close.
Broke and feeling depressed after losing three girlfriends things don't look good for young Indiana. A lucky break soon comes from a job working for Universal Pictures producer/founder Carl Laemmle (David Margulies) in Hollywood. He is going to pay Indy a lot of money if he can get director Erich von Stroheim (Dana Gladstone) to shutdown his cost overrunning film 'Foolish Wives' in under ten days. Desperately needing money for college Indy accepts even though he knows nothing about Hollywood. Thinking it'll be an easy job he however has underestimated the unapproachable Austrian director who plans to keep shooting until he completes his epic. Can Indy get the film finished in ten days, perhaps shut it down or will the maverick director get the better of him?
So we come to the last Young Indiana Jones story in the series timeline. It's been a long road through adventure, morality tales and drama but how does 'Hollywood Follies' hold up as the last story for the young adventurer? Pretty good although it's easy to be too optimistic that the series would be ended better when the show was cancelled midway through the series production. I would say when looking at what we got about half of 'Young Indy' was completed. This story ends nicely but it would be wrong to expect a grand finality to the series in this story, more in the next review. As this was a TV movie set immediately after 'The Scandal of 1920' there's a nice bit of continuity with that story. Indy sees probably a film for the first time and George Gershwin (Tom Beckett) offers him a job in Hollywood. Fans of the Ghostbusters films may recognise David Margulies here playing Universal Picture founder Carl Laemmle, a figure of authority not too far from what he played in the Ghostbusters movies. No one wants to deal with Erich von Stroheim because he's frightening to be around as Indy soon finds out on set. It's a clever setup as while this incident would make anyone back down Indy is determined for the sake of his bonus for college to get 'Foolish Wives' shutdown or at least finished. Indiana has help from scriptwriter Claire Lieberman (Allison Smith) and young Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg (John Cusack's brother Bill Cusack) but it won't be enough. The humour comes from the battle of wills between Indy and the intimating film director almost like they're at war which they probably are. The writers do a fine job of showing his desperation. Indy and his friends try everything to get the film over with in ten days even seeking the assistance of director John Ford (Stephen Caffery). There's an amusing scene where Indy tries to injure Stroheim with marbles that backfires spectacularly and showing his desperation even going as far as kidnap Stroheim's prized actor Massimo (Luigi Amodeo) by driving him drunk to outside the border.
Casting is strong here. Cusack does a good job as Irving Thalberg, someone who has given up on Stroheim until Indy has intervened. Interestingly Thalberg would get a promotion midway through this story to eventually creating MGM in a short space of time showing how fast Hollywood at the time moved. He also was integral to making sure producers working on movies got more power to say no to a director. Allison Smith's Claire is refreshing as she's a strong career orientated woman and also upfront about the fact that she's seeing someone already. Rightly or wrongly she doesn't seem to mind seeing Indy as well which puts a welcome twist on Indy's capricious way with women. It's creates a problem for Indiana that continues into the next part of the story. There's a lovely scene where she states the importance of the writer in telling cinema. Always ignored Claire makes Indy understand that without a writer a director has nothing to begin from but the thrill of being part of making a movie is strong enough to overcome that dissatisfaction. It's clear as writers Jonathan Hales and Matthew Jacobs are trying to put their own personal views across and they do it well. Dana Gladstone is larger than life as Stroheim, a man that requires the epic qualities in his productions and his own personal life. One amusing scene has Indy going to his place to try to talk sense to him. Stroheim loves nothing more when he's thinking to wade in his swimming pool while an orchestra plays Carl Orff's Carmina Burana 'O Fortuna' (although the song wasn't created until seventeen years later). The man maybe a genius but he's also a stubborn man whose view in believing no expense should be spared exasperates everybody he works with as Indy begins to realize himself. Even till the end the cheeky Stroheim tries to get his way pretending he's given up, then sending Indy, Claire and Irvin to a movie premiere so he can take his crew to Mexico to continue filming. It's all very funny to watch. Director Michael Schultz does an amazing job of making old Hollywood look authentic using locations around Fillmore and Santa Paula with some convincing matte paintings. This story also won an Emmy Award for best music by Laurence Rosenthal although it's used better in Part 2 so I'll speak about it there.
Erich von Stroheim it seems has won and Indy won't get his bonus for college but John Ford is about to offer some 1 of 'Hollywood Follies' is an entertaining, often humorous account of the old days of Hollywood before anyone quite knew what they were doing. Hales and Jacobs view of the writers part in the movie making process might be bias although totally spot on. The best thing about this first part is seeing how Indy takes on Stroheim at his own game and although loses it's still fun to watch. The second part of this story has more style but the first part is an enjoyable journey through the unpredictable nature of the old Hollywood studio system and a revealing look at how things were done back then. Non-movie buffs need not apply. Actually everyone should watch this!