Another Amazon Historical Pilot: The Last Tycoon


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.

2016 The Last Tycoon

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.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

Great hat, lovely period print & ruffles on Cecelia’s dress, but oi, lay off on the makeup before 6pm! Also, those eyebrows are totally modern (remember, this is the era of Bette Davis pencil-thin brows, so if you’re going for the movie-star look, get it right).

The Last Tycoon (2016)

This is Monroe’s secretary. So prim, so proper, except for the hooker makeup.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

The boss’ secretary is pulling a total Clara Bow 24-skidoo at the office.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

I’m contractually obligated by Kendra to point out the crappy 18th-c. costumes & wigs on the waitstaff at the studio owner’s party. While it’s perfectly plausible that they’d hire a black jazz band, the liveried servants seems a touch OTT.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

Studio boss / dad is played by Fraiser / Kelsey Grammer. Dippy daughter / wanna-be screenwriter Cecelia (who gets the best clothes, like this purple evening gown) is played by Lily Collins.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

Kathleen (Dominique McElligott) the Irish waitress inexplicably has this amazing ruffled red evening gown in her closet. Monroe (Matt Bomer) is easily impressed.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

We only get a fleeting full view of Cecelia’s stunning black & white evening gown.

The Last Tycoon (2016)

But we see lots of close-ups as she alternately mopes at the gala & then gives Monroe her story pitch. Fabulous & note the Deco belt buckles she has on both her gowns (there’s a similar clasp on the back of the neck; great details).


You can watch the pilot episode of The Last Tycoon on Amazon here. Judge for yourself — we’ll see if it makes the cut!



About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

18 Responses

  1. Pina

    Maybe the lavish Hollywood look is a meta-reference. Everything does look amazingly glamorous, though!

    • Melinda

      OK, so do you want a movie/series made in the future about common people (like us) but played by actresses looking all like from the Kardashians??? Yes they look glamorous, rich and lavish and very popular, but us… meh :( Making a film about oldies looking like movie stars is just as inappropriate.

  2. Susan Pola

    Looks good. Is the series based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last but unfinished novel?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yes! I forgot to mention that! Funny, bec. Amazon’s other historical pilot — Z: The Beginning of Everything — is about Fitzgerald meeting Zelda.

  3. Susan Pola

    Of the photos here, my favourites are the two of Celia’s black and white gown. And thanks for the information. BTW will you do individual blogs/podcasts on Victoria and Season Two of Team Demelza *grins* er Poldark. I’m a redhead too.

  4. Kendra

    Thank you, Trystan, for fulfilling your contractual obligation, because yeah, that 18th century wig is shiiiittttyyyy (but hey, maybe that’s what they were going for!).

  5. Kathleen

    I wonder if there’s a contractual obligation to keep Lily C’s eyebrows as is for every gig she does? They seem to be her “thing” …. and a typical faux-pas of lead actors getting modern touches when everyone else is on point. She needs Deanna Durbin ‘brows to go with that 1930’s face.

    • The other Kathleen

      Funny thing, I was going to note that Lily Collins’ eyebrows are her trademark. And seemingly NEVER plucked. I’ll bet it’s in her contract. She has Audrey Hepburn eyebrows as opposed to “Bette Davis Eyes.” Nice costumes, though.

  6. Andrew

    It was far from unknown for the very rich of Southern California to throw parties in which the male staff would be dressed in 18th C. costume. My grandfather was an English valet and butler at one of the big Montecito estates from1910 to the late 1950s, (w/timeout for WWI). We have photos of him dressed in 18th C. costume for some of these dos’. (And also a photo of my father dressed up as an 18th C. page boy – something he hated). For really beg parties staff would be borrowed from neighboring estates.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      They’re a bit vague — it’s between the wars & there’s a Hooverville, so maybe Hoover is still president, which would put it at 1933. But nobody says the date that I remember.

    • NPHooks

      The Roman numerals on the newsreel read 1936 and when Sideshow Bob– er, that is Kelsey Grammer– shoves the copy of Variety across his desk for Matt Bomer to read, the date says August 28th, 1936.

      I’m interested for the show, but those eyebrows, man… I can sort of forgive the over-the-top make-up, since knowing what I do of Old Hollywood, they did tend to make up even secretaries the way they did actresses (although not to the extent they appear here, obviously, but pretty close if numerous witness accounts from books about this era are to be trusted; damn near every employee was angling to get in front of the camera or had been angling to get in front of the camera so they’d try to look the part) but those eyebrows would be distracting in any era, let alone when the pencil ruled all.

  7. Susan Pola

    Maybe you should do, for Kendra’s BD one on the best 18th century wigs? I expected that the jazz band would be in 18th century dress and ‘shittttty wigs’. I remember watching a movie that did that yoinks ago.
    It has to be before 1932 as they’d have put FDR election or campaign stuff if it was 1932. Eleanor, I believe, campaigned for FD in Hollywood.

  8. LadySlippers

    I love the costume details! But I keep having my eyes drawn to the lipstick….which is a shame. Perhaps seeing the people in context will help pull my eyes from the in-your-face-lipstick.

  9. joan smith

    i thought the pilot was amazing though, maybe because that particular era fascinates me. hollywood in the thirties!! show me more amazon, show me more!

  10. Lily

    Hi! Love your site and costume reviews. In all fairness, as the series went on, we got to see the poorer class and some of the leading stars looking not so glamorous. Great show that deserved a 2nd series

  11. Melissa

    There’s a really great article on that interviews the costume designer, makeup department head, and hair department head in which they go in depth with a lot of the design direction. In regards to Celia/Lily’s eyebrows, the makeup department head confirmed that she did in fact have a beauty contract.