Tod Hackett, a set and costume designer and Yale graduate. His friends say he sold out to Hollywood, but he hopes to prove them wrong by becoming a serious artist. When not doing his hack work at the dream factory, he concentrates on his painting of Los Angeles aflame. Large and awkward, Tod appears void of artistic talent; however, he has intelligence and a complex personality. This protagonist encounters an odd assortment of grotesques—a scriptwriter, prostitutes, bit-part actors, a vaudevillian, a retired bookkeeper, and a gambler. His obsession with Faye Greener prevents his being a totally objective observer of the Hollywood scene. In his masterpiece painting The Burning of Los Angeles, Tod depicts these dream makers and consumers as having been cheated by Hollywood’s promises of glamour, sex, power, and wealth. At the end, he is rescued by police before being crushed to death by mob violence and expresses his anguish in hysterical laughter and screaming.
Claude Estee, a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He lives in a replica of an antebellum mansion, impersonates a Civil War colonel, and amuses guests by having a rubber horse submerged in his pool. A little man who flaunts his power and money, Claude becomes what he pretends to be, parodying Hollywood’s artificiality to control it. He remains Tod’s closest friend, and Tod asks the police to take him to Claude’s at the end.
Faye Greener, a would-be actress who manufactures dreams. At seventeen, she has had one line (spoken badly) in a film and has acquired a hardened outlook. Her seductive smile shows a lack of intelligence, yet she is a beautifulfemme fatale—tall, with wide shoulders, long legs, and long, platinum hair....
(The entire section is 745 words.)