The view of Old Hollywood as a seamy, hypocritical dream-factory is hardly a fresh one; and this sour, smugly tendentious satire (a debut novel from Britain) makes only the most obvious, familiar points--in a heavily ironic narrative-mosaic that's short on genuine wit. In the opening section, silent-screen matinee idol Philip Inshroin goes to make a movie in WW I France, where the grim real-Life montage (decapitations, corpses) raises his consciousness. Back home, however, wisecracking Inshroin--a stage star trapped in screenland Ã la Barrymore--finds the Hollywood scene more mindless and crass than ever. Studio chief Drewstone is a vulgar creep usually found mid-fellatio with a willing starlet (a tedious running gag). Inshroin's co-star is robot-like Olive West, a vacant, masturbating virgin programmed for bland stardom by her monster-mother. Inane parties proliferate. (""The men: 'Haw, haw, haw.' The women: 'Hee, Hee, Hee.'"") Even with the advent of sound, the Inshroin/ West vehicles remain formula pap. So Inshroin drinks out of self-contempt, befouling himself with bird-droppings and vomit; when he attempts to do Something Real by supporting candidate Upton Sinclair, he gets dumped by the Studio (part of a ""terror""--campaign against Sinclair). And though Inshroin then finds a brief period of happiness with noble-actress Lucy Armitage in the Federal Theatre Project, the witch-hunting Dies Committee kills the Project. . . and Inshroin drinks himself to death. Throughout, first-novelist Burdett draws heavyhanded parallels between Hollywood and Nazism--with history-book snippets about Hitler's rise. Numbingly preachy, too, are flat little announcements of Hollywood's ills. (""From its inception until the outbreak of the second world war, Hollywood will be a passionate propagandist for the inferiority of the black race."") So, though there's promising material in both the Sinclair-campaign and the colorful Federal Theatre heyday, this remains an enervating, polemical cartoon for the most part--ugly, simplistic, and rarely amusing.