The case against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein alleging multiple counts of sexual harassment, assault and rape over a thirty-year period is as morally murky as it is complex. We know, for example, that predatory men were at large as far back as the birth of Hollywood.
In 1921 Fatty Arbuckle was charged but acquitted of raping and murdering starlet Virginia Rappe. Charlie Chaplin was famously fond of the under sixteens as was Errol Flynn who was put on trial for raping a brace of school-age girls. In addition to his high-profile romances with Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth, Howard Hughes went through starlets like disposable tissues.
The rise of the studio system placed men such as Daryl Zanuck (20th Century Fox), Harry Cohen (Columbia) and Jack Warner (Warner Bros) in a position to ‘audition’ a woman a day on the casting couch in their offices. These men were at the top of the food chain.
Marilyn Monroe described the bottom-feeding ‘I’ll make you a star’ sleaze balls in LA so well in her posthumously published 1974 memoir My Story. ‘I met them all. Phoniness and failure were all of them. Some were vicious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get. So you sat with them, listening to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hollywood with their eyes – an overcrowded brothel’.
In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, Marilyn’s name has been resurrected as the poster girl for the Hollywood casting couch in the 1950s. Actually, she wasn’t. At the beginning of her career, Marilyn had the fortune to capture the heart of a super agent called Johnny Hyde who wanted to marry her. He died but not before getting her roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve.
As Marilyn writes in My Story, 20th Century Fox studio head Daryl Zanuck actively disliked her and sidelined her until the sheer volume of fan mail became too much to ignore. With her star on the rise after making Niagara, a 1949 nude calendar shoot emerged in 1952 and threatened to torpedo her career.
Marilyn Monroe turned it around saying there were other ways for a girl to make $50 in Hollywood but she chose to pose. When asked what she had on, MM replied ‘the radio’. Later in life she’d say ‘I’ve been on a calendar but never on time’ as a quip about her chronic lateness. Within a year, Marilyn had made Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and she was too valuable a property to 20th Century Fox to be mauled by anyone including Zanuck.
Fade out and cut to 2017. It has emerged that the whole of Hollywood knew about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour. After the initial deathly silence from movie land’s A-list actresses – all of whom have a lot to thank Weinstein for and did in countless Oscar acceptance speeches – condemnation has rained down on Weinstein. He appears to have been the Jimmy Savile of La-La-Land.
The Weinstein scandal proves to me that the only crime in Hollywood is to get caught. Harvey Weinstein got away with treating vulnerable teenage actresses like room service for three decades: exposing himself, demanding massages and even allegedly stalking and raping the unwilling. To reiterate, Hollywood knew this. Agents knew this. Aspiring actresses surely knew this or should have been warned.
It seems evident that sex has always oiled the wheels of movie-making and that for every lady who is now pointing the finger at Weinstein, there are many more actors and actresses who exchanged their ‘affections’ for fame and the last thing they want is for the past to catch-up on them. I suspect Weinstein has been thrown to the dogs to put them off sniffing around elsewhere.
Weinstein has not covered himself in glory playing the ‘sex addict’ card that no-one is buying and packing himself off to a costly rehab facility where he can pad around in a gaping dressing gown to his heart’s content. He’s already asked for forgiveness and second chances despite claiming he has done no wrong. So, in short, f*** him. He’s made his bed and he’ll have to lie in it.
I am not so impressed by Weinstein’s co-producing brother who claims to have been completely in the dark about his brother’s abuses of power. Really? And as for Weinstein’s beautiful fashion-designing wife! Well, Georgina, what first attracted you to obese, lecherous walrus Harvey the multi-million dollar Hollywood producer? He turned her brand Marchese from zero to hero with his contacts and now she’s walked. Who was using who?
A clip has been published on YouTube with all the actors and actresses thanking Harvey Weinstein profusely for producing their award-winning films. Equally, there are hundreds of photographs of Uncle Harvey being hugged by actresses from Jennifer Laurence to Meryl Streep.
It does seem conclusive that there’s far too much smoke for there not to be fire. BAFTA and the Academy have already expelled Weinstein. Comedian James Corden has been booed at an AMFar dinner for making jokes about Uncle Harvey and the witch hunt on Twitter suggests he will regret his lapse of taste.
But I do smell a fug of mendacity in Hollywood over the Harvey Weinstein scandal. They knew. They all knew and kept quiet to protect careers and promote movies. Weinstein was a fox in a chicken coop given free range. One sometimes wonders whether silent witnesses aren’t as responsible to the women abused as the abusers.