Netflix’s Hollywood has been making some serious waves since its release. The latest Ryan Murphy series is a creative retelling of Hollywood history, following the careers of young and marginalized aspiring actors, writers and directors. The series gives a voice to those who have long been discriminated against in Hollywood and toes the line between fact and fiction by telling true stories with their endings rewritten.
This can leave viewers a little confused since it can be hard to keep track of which characters are real, what their true stories really entailed and which characters were written for Hollywood. Here’s a comprehensive guide to what was fact and what was fiction.
In Hollywood, Rock Hudson diverges greatly from the real man as far as his openness about his sexuality. Instead of coming out in 1947 by proudly holding hands with his boyfriend on the Oscars red carpet, Hudson kept his sexuality under wraps until 1985, when he could no longer hide that he was fighting AIDS, and ultimately died from the disease that same year.
Anna May Wong was absolutely real, and she was the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood. She struggled with being cast in stereotypical Asian roles, which the character in Hollywood also expressed. Unfortunately, the story of her losing her role in The Good Earth to a white actress, and ultimately missing out on the Oscar win for the role was very real as well. In the Ryan Murphy retelling, Anna May Wong wins an Oscar for her role in Meg.
The fictional Ace Studios does not have a clear real-life counterpart, but the concept of the studio system during Hollywood’s “Golden Era” is very real. The Big 5 studios were Fox Film Corporation, Paramount Pictures, RKO, Warner Brothers and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. These studios were all vertically integrated, controlling every level of the film production and distribution process. Ace Studios serves as an amalgamation of the Big 5.
Sherry Lansing was named president of 20th Century Fox Productions in 1980, becoming the first woman to run a studio. In Hollywood, history is rewritten with Avis Amberg at the head of Ace Studios after her husband, Ace Amberg, becomes incapacitated. This also means a female producer did not win an Oscar for Best Picture in 1947, but actually occurred for the first time in 1973 when Julia Phillips won for The Sting.
The 2012 memoir Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars by Scotty Bowers provided many of the details to build Ernie, played by Dylan McDermott. Ernie ran a gas station in Hollywood called The Golden Tip, which served as both an auto shop and a meeting point for the Hollywood elite to pick up male escorts.
Jim Parsons portrays the elite Hollywood agent who represented many young, attractive actors, particularly Rock Hudson. He was known to sexually abuse his clients, did in fact have ties to the mob and was in love with a young actor who died in a car crash. In the series, Henry Wilson takes responsibility for his actions and swears to never sexually abuse anyone again, but there is no such story of this happening in real life.
The famous director throws an elaborate, star-studded party in Episode 3 of the series, which progresses to a late-night, liquor-soaked exercise in debauchery. In reality, the Cukor parties were much tamer. He did in fact host star-studded dinners for the Hollywood elite and also hosted daytime backyard parties for gay members of the industry to attend with their dates.
Even though she ended up being the first black actress to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 1939’s Gone With The Wind, when she arrived she was told to sit at a separate table hidden at the back of the room. To add insult to injury, her Gone With The Wind costars went to a party at an all-white club after the ceremony.
In Hollywood, the film at the center of the plot began as the story of 24-year-old Peg Entwistle, an actress who came to Hollywood from London, England, and committed suicide by jumping from the Hollywood sign in 1932. This true story also existed within the world of the series. There has never been a mainstream Hollywood film about Entwistle’s story, but she has been the subject of a few short films and documentaries.
In Hollywood, the film Meg was set to break a number of boundaries in 1947, one of which being the first romantic interracial kiss to appear on-screen, which was against the Hays Code implemented in the 1930s. In reality, this didn’t happen until 1957 in the film Sayonara, in which actors of two different races who are playing characters of two different races (as opposed to an actor in blackface, for example) engage in a romantic kiss. While interracial kisses did appear on-screen prior to 1957, they either occurred as a prank within the film or were performed by white actors playing people of color.
In Hollywood, McDaniel, played by Queen Latifah, offers advice to Camille Washington who becomes the first black actress to be nominated for Best Actress in 1947. In reality, a black actress did not win the award until 2002 when Halle Berry won for Monster’s Ball. On the same note, while Archie Coleman wins Best Original Screenplay as a black writer in the series, a black writer did not win this award until Jordan Peele won for Get Out only two years ago.
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Here's a comprehensive guide to what was fact and what was fiction in the new Netflix series from Ryan Murphy.