The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald, dramatized by Bill Bryden

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 18 May 2013
Scott Fitzgerald's great novel tells a tale familiar from great Fifties movies such as Sunset Boulevard (1950), and The Big Knife (1955) about the seamy side of Hollywood, in which surfaces matter, insincerity reigns and qualities such as love, loyalty and passion come in short supply.
Nonetheless Bill Bryden's production presented the material in a haunting way - by beginning the story with a radio announcement, ostensibly from the Thirties, for a programme on "Great Americans."  The subject of this particular profile is Monroe Stahr (Aiden Gillen) - movie mogul, star-maker and emotional wreck.  Presiding over one of Hollywod's major dream-factories, he works eighteen-hour days comprised of an endless whirl of talent meetings, script conferences, preening his stars' emotional feathers and placating the business people in charge of his studio. 
The frame story set the tone for the ensuing action, that contrasted Stahr's professional life with his chaotic personal life; it seems that he cannot find the right woman, even though he falls passionately in love with Kathleen (Charlotte Emmerson).  The problem is entirely Stahl's; having spent his entire life cocooned in a Hollywood studio, he has a pathological inability to separate dream-worlds from truth.  Fitzgerald's story assumes a political angle when Stahl meets Bremmer (Jack Shepherd), a colleague who explains - in patient detail - how Hollywood consciously ostracizes those with any left-wing political beliefs.  Goaded into action, Stahl insists that it's much more important to maintain a dream-world (chiefly because of box-office concerns) rather than descending into the grimy world of Politics.
Eventually there are those who suffer in this world - especially the screenwriters, who are told what to write and how to write it, while suppressing any creative talents of their own.  This aspect of the story has been inspired by Fitzgerald's own bitter experiences of working in Hollywood; at one point Bryden's production makes a deliberately self-conscious reference to Fitzgerald himself.
In the end Stahl meets a violent end; his demise is marked with a spontaneous outpouring of tributes from his so-called colleagues, especially Brady (Michael Feast), who celebrates Stahl's "achievements," even though the two of them were deadly enemies.  But this is the dream-factory where surfaces matter, and the studio bosses worked long and hard to hide anything unsavoury from the public gaze.  The production ended as it had begin, with another radio broadcast marking Stahl's passing; in its way, it was equally as insincere as the broadcast at the beginning.