Amazon’s pilot season has thrown out a few historical costume series for us to decide on — Casanova and Z: The Beginning of Everything — and while it seems like none of these have come to fruition, I’ve heard that the second one (Z, about Zelda Fitzgerald, starring Christina Ricci) has been picked up for a full season. So there is some hope! And now we have another latest period piece from Amazon, The Last Tycoon (2016), a fairly lavish drama set in 1930s Hollywood.
Being a series pilot, the plot is stuffed to the brim with romance! drama! drugs! death! sex! conflict! pre-World War II racism! Hoovervilles! etc., etc., all to hook viewers in with the hopes of a series. No lie, that felt a bit forced and rushed with minimal character development. It’s the kind of thing that makes me hate first episodes of series, frankly. So I’ll just talk about the costumes because it was very shiny for the 1930s — maybe too shiny, as if that’s ever a problem with us, hah.
The costume designer for The Last Tycoon is Janie Bryant of Mad Men fame, and she was interviewed on the Tom & Lorenzo Pop Style Opinionfest podcast, where she explained how carefully she hewed to period ’30s sources for the series. It does show — the designs, fabrics, and fit are straight from the era.
Although everything is very “Hollywood.” And by that, I mean the characters look like they are in the movies, not like they are making movies. Partly, it’s the way the scenes are lit and shot, but some of it is the makeup and styling, especially on the women. This is immediately noticeable with all the secretaries — they’re wearing full stage makeup, almost evening makeup, for the office. Each woman is perfectly flawless, picture of a beauty queen, as she types memos. Um, OK. I’m not saying it was never done, but for the entire steno pool? It just gives the whole show a super stylized effect.
You can watch the pilot episode of The Last Tycoon on Amazon here. Judge for yourself — we’ll see if it makes the cut!