One of the more interesting things about Hollywood’s Golden Age is just how much of it was one elaborate, tightly controlled lie. Outside of a few brief years before the Motion Picture Production (or Hays) Code was adopted in 1930, the inner workings and backstage lives of the American film industry were just as much a scripted fiction as the pictures they produced. When big studios controlled everything from scripts to cinemas, movie stars were assets and scandal was a liability. A big part of show business was keeping the ugliness that kept it running away from the public eye.
The Fade Out (Image Comics), by the acclaimed team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, has its sights set squarely on the nasty business of show business in the Golden Age. Set in the fall of 1948, the story takes place in what Brubaker calls “one of the last American gold rushes”: Hollywood in the twilight of its boom years, where casual sexism and racism were par for the course and the American government could ruin your life if you were ever suspected of having beliefs that could be construed as remotely Communist.
The first issue starts with the sort of thing we see from celebrities all the time today, and the sort of thing that no one was allowed to know about at the time: a hell of a party. Screenwriter Charlie Parish wakes up after having blacked out in a bathtub, only to discover the body of rising starlet Valeria Sommers just outside the bathroom door. It’s her murder, and the cover up that ensues, that sets the events of the series into motion as the cast of characters are slowly introduced and their motives hinted at. READ FULL STORY