Lives of the movie stars are usually characterized as full of interesting and bright events and emotions. Famous actors experience not only casting, making up and shooting but also love, friendship, happiness, disillusion, and other feelings. In the history of Hollywood cinema there were many attempts to feature the lives of famous people with all their peculiarities and complications. Among them are The Artist, the 2011 movie about the transition from silent movies to talkies; Ed Wood (1994), a film that tells the story of “the worst director of all times” and his attempts to achieve success; and The Last Tycoon (1976), which runs about the successful production chief, who works during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Though the plots of The Artist, Ed Wood, and The Last Tycoon differ, and the events take place in different times, all three films share common themes regarding life and work in Hollywood, namely the themes of fame and success, disillusion and loss, changes in life, friendship and support, love and jealousy.
Fame and success are the central themes for three movies, as the characters struggle in order to become famous, each in his own way. The main character of The Artist, George Valentin, is already rich and famous star of silent cinema, who enjoys all the joys of life and is happy because of this fact. At the beginning of the film, the second main character, Peppy Miller, just dreams about becoming a top liner, and eventually achieves her aim and becomes popular due to the transition to talkies and need of fresh faces. In both cases, viewers see how happy main characters are, and how they enjoy listening to applause and appearing on the front pages of magazines and newspapers. In this film fame is shown and relative and not stable state, since the one who is famous today can become unknown in a moment. In Ed Wood, the main character is a young film director, who is crazy about becoming famous and respected filmmaker. His desperate tries to make good movies show how strong his desire to be well-known is and how difficult the way to success can be. In this movie fame takes a form of notoriety. In his turn, Monroe Stahr, the main character of The Last Tycoon in contrast to Ed Wood knows how to do everything perfectly and be successful and rich. He gained his fame through right decisions and hard work and dedication to it. In this film fame is the result of hard work. Thus, fame may be considered the central common theme for the three movies as in each movie characters deal with it in this or that way. The difference between the kinds of fame depicts how ambiguous its nature is, and in order to become famous one should work hard and at the same time correspond to the environment and public’s demand.
Fame is a relative concept, and it is shown in all three films through the themes of disillusion in life of those, who lose fame and become unwelcome. George Valentin (The Artist) becomes unpopular because of the changes in cinema production and the need of new actors. Once he realizes that he is no more important, he loses everything including money, all the belongings, friends, and will to live. Such disillusion is typical for stars, who are replaced by younger and fresher actors, and who being extremely popular take back seats. In Ed Wood an example of such actors is the actor Bela Lugosi, whose disappointment has led to drug addiction and poverty. Though Monroe in The Last Tycoon, does not lose his fame, he experiences another sort of disillusion, the one caused by unhappy love. Thus, similarly to the characters of two other films, viewers see him in despair, drunk, and miserable.
The lives of the characters change in different ways, and the change is considered to be another common theme for The Artist, Ed Wood, and The Last Tycoon. It goes without saying, that the most significant is the change that is experienced by the actors portrayed in The Artist. The transition from silent films to talkies changes the lives of everyone, including famous actors and unknown ones. Someone loses everything, while others become important and popular. In Ed Wood, viewers see how the lives of the characters changes with the appearance of every new film, shot by the enthusiastic young director. The Last Tycoon runs about the changes in the life of main characters, which take place after the death of his wife and the breakdown with Kathleen Moore.
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Among the themes common for the mentioned films are friendship and support. For everyone it is essential to have a friend, who will help in need. The characters who lose something and are disillusioned in life would not cope without assistance of their close friends. In The Artist, lost and poor George is going to commit a suicide, but Peppy Miller does everything to support him and to save his life. She brings him to her house, helps to get a role in a new sound film, and finally finds a way out. Her support brings George to life and the film’s end is happy only thanks to this support. Bela Lugosi, the friend of Ed Wood, is alone in his disillusion at first. He becomes a drug addict and acts in low-budget films. However, he makes friends with Ed, and eventually this friendship saves him from death. In the Last Tycoon, Monroe is supported by his girlfriend, Cecilia. Her support is worthy of respect, as despite the fact that she knows about Monroe’s feelings to another woman, she does not leave him alone.
Besides, the relations between main characters are tested by all the troubles and problems, and thus, the themes of love and jealousy are also present in The Artist, Ed Wood, and The Last Tycoon. Actually, love is central in The Last Tycoon, as it rules main characters actions and emotions. When he is disillusioned in love, his business go down the drain, he drinks, and feels lost. On the other hand, viewers see how strange the love of Kathleen is and how selfless the feelings of Cecilia are. Besides, the theme of jealousy in this movie is related precisely to the feelings of Cecilia. The love in Ed Wood is of minor importance, but it is clear that not every love will stands the problems and changes. The love of Ed Wood’s girlfriend seems to be not strong enough to stand the strange behavior and worldview. She feels jealous, when Ed gives a leading role to another actress. However, the feelings of his new girlfriend, Katie, who eventually becomes his wife, give the woman strength to go through all the troubles with her husband. In the end of the film it is said that she stayed with him till the end of his life, despite the fact that he created poor low-budget films, which eventually led him to the title of “the worst director of all times”. Finally, the characters in The Artist also experience love, which eventually saves George and bring him to life.
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Summing up, The Artist, Ed Wood, and The Last Tycoon are the movies about the life in Hollywood and its peculiarities as well as problems of movie stars and directors, who lived in different times and had different fates. Though the creators of three films tell completely different stories, they have much in common, namely the major themes and ideas. Among the common themes are the themes of fame and success, disillusion and loss, changes and problems caused by them, support, friendship, and love. All the themes help the viewers to understand the nature of film stars’ lives and to see that fame can be different, as well as the people who struggle for success and the methods they use to achieve their aim.