This is a play written by Peter Parnell in 1991. The play went on stage in Los Angeles and on television for the CPB television service created by Congress in 1967. The format is thus that of television in 1991 and it is perfectly well adapted to a rather narrow stage of some small theatre.
The story is situated in 1939, just before the Second World War. In the USA a transformation was happening under the pressure of history. Roosevelt wanted to enter the war against Hitler but he could not at first because of a strong opposition in Congress and the country. So he had to prepare the country to his decision.
He incited people to make films going that way, the press to work on that line of a quick involvement in that war in Europe. They did not think of the Japanese at first, far from it, especially with the great number of Jews in Hollywood and the press.
Then you had two trends, one in Hollywood and another one in the pulpy press of the Variety type. The journalists of this press want to have all kinds of gritty small secrets to sell their papers, but they need an inside informer. So the journalist specializing in that kind of muck-spreading via a newspaper and a radio show looks for one Hollywood artist who he could blackmail into being the spy, the fink in fact for his own friends. And that is Hyde.
But this campaign reveals the strong orientations of this journalist: to fight for morals, meaning against homosexuals, against communists or crypto communists, and to fight for an excessive and overemphasized American patriotism. He starts a witch hunt in other words.
This journalist believes he can change, manipulate and dominate public opinion and make them do what he wants, hence that he can change history in the direction he wants. In other words he makes the same mistake as the Communists themselves and the Nazis. He wants to force history his own way, to use his "power over history unparalleled in his lifetime." If the play had been written at the time of events it would not have gone beyond this point because everyone considered that history was made by people, the mass of people at times, but people who were not individualized at any time, at best individuals who accepted to follow a pattern that dehumanized them. Such people, and some come to the heads of many states at times, are just totally full of illusions but they can commit millions of crimes in the meantime. The fact that they lost and will lose in the end is no guarantee that history is not perverted and is no guarantee that human rights will be defended and respected.
Of course, sooner or later the snake you have fed with rumors and secrets will necessarily bite the feeding hand because it is his nature and sure enough Hyde is bitten several times, and he will only understand his own crime in his compromising his own soul when it will be too late.
The journalist being in love with Hyde's wife, and knowing that Hyde is no husband at all will try to take advantage of her and she will refuse, so he will kill her, beat her to death, causing potential great damage to Hyde. That will be discovered at the very end of the film by the journalist's secretary who will tell Hyde and bring the proof of it.
The journalist will blackmail Hyde into some kind of closet invisibility as for his sexuality with his main lover, provided Hyde gets from him the secrets he, the journalist, needs for his mud-mongering. Hyde accepts. But one day, at the end of that kind of agitation of public opinion, the journalist will expose Hyde himself, especially because Hyde is working on a film that rebuilds the whole action and influence of the journalist who is unable to prevent it, let alone stop it.
Then the journalist reveals Hyde's role in the rumor spreading in front of his friend who discovers he was living with a spy and moves away. Then the confrontation has to be direct. The journalist having reached the level of madness starts preaching on his radio show and then has to go physically public. So he goes on preaching from the top of one of the letters of the Hollywood(land) sign on the sides of the Hills. Hyde climbs to the top and both with fall, embracing and entangled, hate and love finally united in drama.
A jump to 1957 shows us Hyde in a wheelchair who has never been able to make another movie since that one that has become a classic. And a link is built with Eugene McCarthy since the young man who is questioning him for a book is the son of his friend, the friend he betrayed so grossly, and that friend had been obliged to move to England after the war where he is continuing his career, like Charlie Chaplin for one other Jew.
The main interest is in showing the connection between the prewar patriotic bigotry of some that will turn into the witch hunt of after the war at first self-managed by Hollywood and then by Eugene McCarthy himself.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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