History of the World According to the Movies: Part 59 – Life in 1920s Europe


No movie defines 1920s life in Paris like Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris in which Owen Wilson’s character meets 1920s luminaries in the city of lights and falls for artist model played by Marion Cotillard. Though it’s a romanticized portrayal, it sort of serves a purpose as the subject matter pertains to nostalgia. Yet, while everything may seem glamorous in Paris in that era, things weren’t much fun elsewhere in Europe.

Europe in the 1920s doesn’t appear much in movies for some reason, but that doesn’t mean that there was nothing going on at the time. Of course, Paris was a haven of culture and expatriate artists and authors like Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as the home of Gertrude Stein. You also had the bohemian Bloomsbury group in Great Britain as well as Agatha Christie writing her mystery novels but there’s really not much happening there outside fiction. Yet, there are some places in Europe not having a fun time. For instance, Italy came under Fascism in 1922 under the forces of Benito Mussolini and his Blackshirts. Let’s just say living in Italy under Ill Duce was not a fun time, especially with Blackshirt thugs and secret police around. 1920s Germany was under the Weimar Republic which was of political corruption and instability, economic hardship {their whole currency collapse}, and the rise of political movements like Nazism, all of which would pave the way for the creation of Nazi Germany in 1933. However, 1920s Germany did experience great cultural growth in this period like cabaret culture which helped start Marlene Dietrich’s career, Dadaism, Bauhaus architecture, German Expressionism, and lots of writers and intellectuals. Nevertheless, while there aren’t a lot of movies set in 1920s Europe but I’ll list the historical inaccuracies nonetheless.

Weimar Germany:

Adolf Hitler was friends with a Jewish art dealer named Max Rothman during the 1920s. (There’s a movie about the whole thing but I’m sure Hitler didn’t have any Jewish friends at any point in his life that we know of. Still, anti-Semitism was rife in Europe during that time in history.)

Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian in the 1920s. (He didn’t become a vegetarian until 1931mostly due to health reasons.)

The NSDAP was around in in 1918. (It was known as the DAP then before Hitler changed the name to NSDAP in 1920. Still, we know this party as the Nazi Party which is just a rather violent political party at this point.)

During and immediately after World War I, Adolf Hitler sported his trademark “comb” mustache. (He actually had a traditional handlebar mustache at this time, yet he adopted the “comb” mustache we know him by today shortly thereafter.)

Great Britain:

Leonard Woolf did the typesetting for his wife Virginia’s novels at Hogarth Press. (Leonard’s hands shook so he couldn’t set type. It was actually Virginia Woolf who would do the typesetting, which she said felt calming and that it shaped her feel for words on the page, influencing her approach to writing.)

In 1926, Agatha Christie spent her 12 day disappearance at the Harrogate Hotel under the name of a relative of her husband Archie’s lover. She spent her time there planning to commit suicide as a way to frame her husband and his mistress for her “murder” but was stopped by a smitten American journalist. (Well, this is a theory which forms the plot in a movie called Agatha but we’re not sure what she did during that time. Still, her heirs fought two unsuccessful lawsuits in the US to prevent the film from being distributed. Also, she was missing for 10 days not 12 and may have been in a fit of amnesia at the time. Not to mention, she and Archie divorced in 1928 and her second husband was a British archaeologist so it’s unlikely she’d have a romance with an American reporter.)

Harold Abrahams was the first person to compete the Great Court Run through Trinity College in 1919. (This is just all smoke and mirrors nonsense from Chariots of Fire. The first person to compete in the Great Court Run was Lord David Burghley in 1927. Abrahams never competed in one.)

Harold Abrahams fell in love with Sybil Gordon during her performance in The Mikado who kissed him goodbye before the 1924 Paris Olympics. (She was a real person but Harold didn’t fall in love with her. However, he did end up dating and eventually marrying a woman named Sibyl Evers who was a singer in the same D’Oyly Carte Opera Company around the interwar period. Yet, he didn’t meet her until the 1930s. But neither of them played the lead female role in The Mikado. Still, Abrahams was a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan.)

Aubrey Montague was a student at Cambridge University. (He was a student of Oxford but Chariots of Fire takes place at Cambridge. Still, oddly Montague’s daily letters about Oxford he sent to his mother serve as narration for the film. Also, Montague died 30 years before Harold Abrahams yet in Chariots of Fire, he’s seen attending Abrahams’ funeral in 1978.)

Harold Abrahams first sought Sam Mussabini as he saw Eric Liddell race. (Eric Liddell introduced the two of them.)

Harold Abrahams lost the 200 meter run before winning the 100 meters. (He did both of these but he won the 100 meters before losing the 200. Still, Chariots of Fire is a sports move so a character’s losses have to go before his or her victories.)

During the international athletic meeting between Scotland and France, Eric Liddell was tripped up by a Frenchman in the 400 meter event, recovered, made up the 20 meter deficit, and won. (This actually happened but it was during the 440 yard race at the 1923 Triangular meet between England, Ireland, and Scotland. His achievement was remarkable because he also won the 100 yard and 220 yard races that day.)

Lord David Burghley had his butler place champagne glasses on hurdles at the grounds of his country estate so he didn’t catch them with his feet. (Actually he used matchboxes not champagne glasses. I’m sure the household staff wouldn’t let him use the glasses for his athletics. However, he wasn’t a contemporary of Harold Abrahams. Also, the Burghley expy of Lord Lindsay was created for Chariots of Fire because Douglas Lowe a a real gold medalist in the 1924 Olympics refused to get involved.)

Eric Liddell agonized over having to run the 100 meters race on a Sunday since he was a devout Christian raised by missionaries in China to respect the sabbath and his sister gave him hell for him enjoying himself on account of insulting God. (Jennie Liddell actually supported her brother’s running. Besides, it’s very common for sports competitions to fall on weekends at colleges anyway, even at those with a religious affiliation {this coming from someone who spent four years at a Catholic school}. Besides, don’t people usually spend Sundays watching sports anyway? Chariots of Fire just takes the religion idea too far.)

The Prince of Wales and Lord Birkenhead tried to convince Eric Liddell to run on the Sunday 100 meter competition. (Yes, Liddell did refuse to run on a Sunday yet he had the race schedule well in advance so he had plenty of time to swap events and train for the 400 meters. He didn’t have to switch places with anybody at short notice.)

Lord Burghley won a medal for the 400 meter hurdles during the 1924 Paris Olympics. (He actually went out in the first round in the 110 hurdles of the 1924 Olympics but he won medals in the 400 meter hurdles in the 1928 Olympics and the 1932.)


Coco Chanel had an affair with Igor Stravinksy. (Well, both of them knew each other and had several affairs with other people, we’re not sure whether they had an affair with each other.)

Pablo Picasso had a lot of mistresses. (Yes, he was married twice, had affairs, and was famous for his love life. However, he was quite constant with his mistresses for he was with two of them for at least eight years {though he wasn’t necessarily faithful to them either}.)

After World War I destroyed his studio, Georges Melies burned his props and sold his films. (He actually burned his films and sold his props. Also, the costumes and sets for his movies were in shades of gray, not in their natural colors as depicted in Hugo.)

The Lost Generation:

F. Scott Fitzgerald was the co-dependent in his relationship with Zelda. (Yes, Zelda had problems but unlike in Midnight in Paris, but the Fitzgeralds’ marriage was nowhere near as harmonious as depicted in the film. Sure they loved each other but their marriage was plagued with financial difficulties {one of the reasons why Scott ended up moving to Hollywood}, infidelity {she cheated on him with a French pilot according to Hemingway}, her mental illness {schizophrenia and was later institutionalized}, and his alcoholism {since his college days}. Also, their relationship was quite stormy especially in their later years when Scott was having a long affair with dancer Sheila Graham. And during the 1930s, they became estranged. Not to mention, they had a daughter whose existence goes unmentioned in Midnight in Paris. Still, while Zelda is free to have her problems, Scott seems to be perfectly normal in the film.)

Zelda Fitzgerald was blond. (Maybe, but she was more of a dirty blonde or brownish blond than bleached.)

Ernest Hemingway was the ultimate literary man’s man. (Yet, we forget that he drank a lot, had affairs {which was one of the reasons he was married 4 times}, was subject to depression in the 1940s as he saw his many of his friends die, experienced all kinds of health problems due to his lifestyle {like severe headaches, high blood pressure, weight problems, and diabetes as well as had all kinds of injuries}, and eventually committed suicide.)


The Roaring 1920s was a decade of great economic prosperity. (It was also a decade of great debt and there were burgeoning problems that only created the illusion of prosperity. Ditto, the notion of the unregulated consumer economy. Besides, there were plenty of people who weren’t doing that great during the decade, even before the Great Depression. For instance, in 1920s America, 60% of the population lived below the poverty line.)

The virus responsible for Spanish flu pandemic came from Spain. (The first outbreak of Spanish flu came from a military training facility in Kansas. The fact that it infected troops was a major factor in its spread.)

Flappers wore sleek bobs, fringe dresses, and feathered headbands. (Not always. Earlier flappers wore wide brimmed hats but longer and narrower skirts but still had that loose silhouette. Yet, as the decade progressed with the help of prominent women like Coco Chanel, hats became tighter and narrower while silhouettes became more streamlined and skirts became shorter.)

All men in the 1920s treated women with the same level of respect as other men. (Sometimes, but if Gertrude Stein didn’t have influence with or access to publishers and booksellers {or wasn’t able to get struggling writers published}, then she wouldn’t have received the respect she got. Also, if you were just an artist model or girlfriend in 1920s Paris, then your opinions were more easily dismissed. Not to mention, Hemingway doesn’t really treat his heroines well in his fiction. Not to mention, it’s a time when women were called, “broads,” “bunnies,” “dames,” and “dolls.” A woman who could sing was called a “canary” while one who was sexually promiscuous was called a “chatty girl.”)

Filtered cigarettes were available at this time. (Actually they wouldn’t be around until the mid-1950s.)

Elevators had push buttons at this time. (Actually push button elevators wouldn’t come around until the 1950s. Until then you had elevator operators.)

Pants in the 1920s had zipper closures. (Zippers on men’s pants wouldn’t be around until the 1930s.)

Lobotomies were a medical procedure at this time. (This nightmarish surgery wasn’t around until 1935.)

Cognitive dissonance theory of attitude was around during the 1920s. (This notion was first formulated in the late 1950s.)

Sliced bread was around before 1927. (Sliced bread was invented in 1928 and it was the best thing ever.)

Chocolate chip cookies were around in 1928. (They were invented in 1933.)

All 1920s films were silent and in black and white. (Many films did have sequences in color but this was painstaking work and didn’t happen that often. Also, 1927 had The Jazz Singer which paved the way for movies with sound.)

Exit signs were around in the 1920s. (They weren’t invented yet.)

Crop dusters were around in 1923. (The first commercial crop dusting company began operation in 1924.)

Parties were always awesome in the 1920s. (Except if you were a member of Gatsby’s staff who had to clean up after his parties. I don’t think that would be fun. Gatsby must pay them generously for all the work they did.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 58 – Prohibition


Of course, I couldn’t do a post about Prohibition without having a picture from the 1987 film The Untouchables with Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness and Sean Connery who does one of the worst Irish accents ever and still wins an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Still, while the Brian De Palma film does capture the popular image of Prohibition, it gets the whole story wrong when it came to Al Capone. Elliot Ness didn’t take down Al Capone nor ever met the guy. Nor was Frank J. Wilson a gun toting accountant. He was an IRS agent who spent his time in Chicago gathering information about Capone’s money because tax evasion was the only charge that stuck to him. Also, there were 12 Untouchables, not 4 and none of them died. Neither did Frank Nitti who was Al Capone’s No. 2.

Of course, we can’t talk about 1920s America without discussing Prohibition, which has been one of the default settings for many gangster films since the 1930s which made a fortune in Warner Brothers. From 1920 to 1933 alcohol was illegal in the United States under the 18th Amendment, which was in place thanks to the advocacy of Temperance organizations (though you have to admit, alcoholism was a big problem for much of US history which hurt a lot of families which explains why many people in the movement were also feminists). Still, this didn’t mean that alcohol’s ban was going to stop people from drinking because it wasn’t. Rather it was the reason that people kept on drinking that led to gin being made in bathtubs or by moonshiners, smuggled by organized crime syndicates as well as the likes of men like Al Capone, and served only in hole-in-the-wall bars known as speakeasies that could be highly prone to raids by stolid, humorless cops, or an ambush by Prohibition agents. Still, while Prohibition seemed like a good idea at the time, it actually did more harm than good such as leading to the rise of organized crime and violence in cities, alcoholism among women, people getting seriously ill or possibly dying from drink which you didn’t know what was in it, moon shining, and others. Nevertheless, movies set in this time tend to get a few things wrong, which I shall list accordingly.


Only Italian led organized crime syndicates got involved in Prohibition. (Actually practically a lot of ethnic groups had their own organized crime syndicate involved during Prohibition, not just the Italians. You had Irish guys like Bugs Moran, Jews like Meyer Lansky, black guys like Bumpy Johnson, and others. Yet, when people think of the mafia, they think of The Godfather for some reason. Oh, and not all Italian gangsters were Sicilian either. For example, Al Capone was Neapolitan.)

Gangster Peter Gusenberg was born in 1898. (He was born in 1888.)

Tommy guns were popular and reliable weapons for gangsters. (What Prohibition Era gangster wouldn’t be without his trusted tommy gun blowing everything around him to bits and killing everyone in sight nicknamed the “Chicago Typewriter”? Actually tommy guns weren’t as popular in Prohibition Era gangland as movies led you to believe since they were subject to frequent jams, which is one of the many problems it had. Nevertheless, its place as one of the first fully automatic weapons and association with gangsters during Prohibition was the inspiration for one of America’s first federal gun control laws, which required to register them.)

Al Capone:

Al Capone saw Enrico Caruso perform at the Chicago opera house while Elliot Ness was investigating him. (Elliot Ness started to investigate Capone in 1929. Enrico Caruso died in 1921, before Capone was just a relative unknown gangster working for Chicago Outfit head Johnny Torrio. Capone would become head of the Chicago Outfit in 1925.)

The jury in Al Capone’s trial was switched to the jury next door after the discovery that the first one had been bribed. (Something like this really happened but not in the way it’s depicted in The Untouchables. In real life, the jury was switched much earlier in the trial according to TTI, “the pool of jurors both sides could select or veto was switched; switching it when they did in the film, even if it had been allowed, would have meant that the new jury was handicapped by having missed the presentation of key evidence.” And no, it wouldn’t be switched with a jury in a divorce case in the next courtroom since divorces are covered by state law and Al Capone was charged with federal tax evasion, cases which wouldn’t be held in the same courthouse.)

Al Capone’s lawyer attempted to enter a plea without his client’s consent. (He never did this because this is a good way to have a mistrial, an overturned conviction, and an attorney disbarment. Al Capone’s lawyer wouldn’t have attempted this because such action would’ve not only cause him to lose his case {which happened anyway} but also to lose his job. For a lawyer to enter a plea without his or her client’s consent falls under Legal Stupidity 101, even in the 1920s.)

When found guilty Al Capone became violently angry over the verdict and punched his attorney. (Capone actually accepted his verdict calmly while meekly proclaiming to the press that he was innocent. He may have often been violent and unpleasant with his competitors and those inside his organization, he was very protective of his public image as a genial, “misunderstood benefactor” of Chicago and took great pains while in public {and dealing with the press} to remain refined, polite, and well mannered. He would’ve never made a public outburst in front of a courtroom, especially in front of the press. Yes, he was prone to temper tantrums but he knew how to behave himself in public.)

Al Capone’s wife was a Chicago single mom named Maureen Flannery with a daughter. (Her name was Mae Josephine Coughlin. She was an Irish American girl from Capone’s native Brooklyn who gave birth to his son before they were married.)

Al Capone last saw Frank Nitti in 1946. (Nitti had killed himself in 1943 so such reunion would’ve been impossible.)

Al Capone beat one of his associates to death with a baseball in front of British journalists at a party. (Yes, Capone is said to have personally attacked people with a baseball bat on at least three occasions but only when he was on the job. He would’ve never acted like that in front of the press or at a public party since he didn’t want people to think he was a violent sociopath.)

Al Capone was born in Italy but raised in a Brooklyn slum. (He was born in Brooklyn in 1899.)

Al Capone was indicted for tax evasion three months after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. (He was indicted and convicted of tax evasion in 1931.)

Al Capone killed Joe Aiello on a train in 1929. (Aiello was killed in a drive by shooting in 1930.)

Al Capone’s scar was caused from broken glass from a window. (It was actually a knife wound he received during an knife fight  he had between Frank Gallucio over a remark he made at the latter’s sister Lena at the Harvard Inn on Coney Island in 1917. Despite having the nickname of “Scarface” Capone was actually his scars which he would come to great lengths to hide in photographs and claim they were war wounds {though he never actually served in the military}.)

Al Capone was faithful to his wife. (Remember he died from syphilis so where did he contract that from? Then again, his son Albert Francis Capone was born with congenital syphilis due to this and that was a month before he married the boy’s mother. Still, it’s been proposed that his ruthless and raging personality was caused by him suffering third stage syphilis though which he probably contracted by the time he was 20 and possibly from his wife. Still, it’s a tough call.)

Al Capone moved to Chicago because he wanted to get in the liquor business there. (That and the fact he left Brooklyn because he was being investigated for murder.)

Frank Nitti:

Frank Nitti was killed by Elliot Ness after taunting him about murdering his partner. (Nitti actually killed himself in 1943 mostly because he had been indicted for extorting the Hollywood film industry and didn’t want to go to prison. It was also rumored he was suffering from terminal cancer. Also, he was a much smarter man that he’s depicted in The Untouchables because he took the reins of Capone’s organization and diversified the Chicago Outfit’s interest after Prohibition ended.)

Frank Nitti was one of Al Capone’s bodyguards. (He was Capone’s second-in-command as well as main enforcer. At least Road to Perdition gets his role right.)

Dutch Schultz:

Dutch Schultz had an unrequited love for a policeman’s wife during Prohibition. (This probably never happened. Also, he was married, sort of though not technically {it’s kind of complicated but he at least had romantic relations with at least two women, possibly having children with one of them}. Still, there’s a movie about his love for a policeman’s wife called Portrait of a Mobster with Vic Morrow.)

Dutch Schultz worked for Legs Diamond and his gang when he started up as a racketeer. (His first boss was named Joe Noe who initially hired him to tend a speakeasy but would make him his partner when Shultz earned a reputation for brutality and having a nasty temper. Also, before Noe hired him, Schultz was just a feeder and pressman for various trucking companies as well as a small time crook who’d already served prison time. Diamond was one of his competitors he had a gang war with.)

Dutch Schultz was shot by his friend Bo Wetzel by mistake, despite betraying him and already had a hit on him. (Actually he was done in by the Mafia Commission {the New York organized crime syndicate}, when he asked them for permission to kill U. S. Attorney Thomas Dewey {who was after him for two tax evasion. Also, he’s the same guy from “Dewey Defeats Truman”} in an attempt to avert his conviction. The Commission unanimously refused {for good reason} but he made an outburst and attempted to kill Dewey anyway. The Commission would later order Schultz’s murder just to save Dewey’s life. He was shot in the men’s room {either peeing or washing his hands} at his Newark, New Jersey headquarters by two hitmen from Murder Inc. Nevertheless, Schultz’s fatal flaw was his own selfish idiocy.)

Law Enforcement:

There were four members of the Untouchables and two of them died. (The Untouchables did exist and were led by Elliot Ness but they consisted of just 12 people and they all survived Prohibition. Oh, and they mostly raided stills and breweries. Also, the Treasury Department didn’t have a single casualty from Prohibition either.)

The Untouchables worked for the Treasury Department. (They were Prohibition agents who weren’t under Treasury Department jurisdiction.)

Law enforcement agents during Prohibition were always clean cut guys who usually didn’t drink. (There was a lot of corrupt law enforcement during Prohibition, since such corruption led many organized crime syndicates prosper and many agents did drink. Elliot Ness was an alcoholic.)

Frank J. Wilson:

Frank J. Wilson was an Untouchable as well as a gun toting accountant. (He wasn’t nor was he a gun toting accountant. He was an IRS agent who took down Al Capone, and he did it without a gun but by gathering information about his finances that revealed millions of dollars the crime boss made during Prohibition. This guy was totally screwed in The Untouchables but he actually ended up having a better life than Ness. He was also an investigator in the Lindbergh kidnapping case and would head the Secret Service before taking a long and comfortable retirement until his death in 1970.)

Elliot Ness:

There was a rooftop chase during Al Capone’s trial when Elliot Ness to the stand. (No there wasn’t but it’s in The Untouchables.)

Elliot Ness took down Al Capone. (The IRS did for Capone was put in prison for tax evasion, specifically by Franklin J. Wilson, though Ness did try to root out corruption in Chicago’s law enforcement while applying pressure to Al Capone’s organization but his raids in illegal breweries were intended as diversions. And no, Capone wasn’t taken down with Ness giving a big gun to a geeky looking accountant on Ness’ team because Ness had absolutely nothing to do with it. Capone wasn’t taken down by guns; he was taken down by some Treasury Department agent investigating the crime lord’s finances for three years, like tracking down his accountants and bookkeepers, that sort of thing. And Al Capone knew this and hired five guys to murder him for it but ended up canceling the hit after urgings from former mentor Johnny Torrio. Seems to me, Al Capone was more scared of some guy from the Treasury Department disguised as a tourist gathering dirt on his finances than the “great” Elliot Ness. It’s pretty funny thinking about it.)

Elliot Ness’ resolve to get Al Capone was only strengthened when Capone and Nitti threatened his loving wife and daughter. (For one, when Ness was assigned to Capone he was a young bachelor still living with his parents though he’d get married later on but his first marriage was a failure. Second, since Ness was a law enforcement officer, to threaten him or any members of his family would’ve been unthinkable for any gangster in the Chicago Outfit. Third, Al Capone wasn’t really scared of him as he was of IRS agent Frank J. Wilson who wanted to know more about his finances though he did underestimate the IRS.)

Elliot Ness once smashed a crate of pretty green parasols from Canada as well as participated on a horseback raid in Montana as well as a shootout in a station. (Ness never did these things. I’m sure anyone writing the screenplay to Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, just made these things up.)

Elliot Ness was a clean cut law enforcement officer who didn’t drink or fool around. (He used political/family connections to get his Chicago assignment as a Prohibition agent. Also, he was an inveterate philanderer and an alcoholic like Jimmy McNulty, but more of a hypocrite. Not to mention, he was divorced twice by the 1940s, which really said something and the rest of his life was plagued by business failures.)


Al Capone and Elliot Ness met face to face. (They never did.)

Prohibition just consisted of G-Men vs. gangsters. (Actually there were other people involved in Prohibition like moonshiners in the Appalachians, rum runners, speakeasy workers, and such. It wasn’t all gangsters and law enforcement.)

Bootleg alcoholic drinks were safe to drink. (This isn’t always the case and a lot of people died from bad booze during this time.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 57 – 1920s America


You may realize that a lot of the movies I have pictures for related to the 20th century thus far are screen adaptations from literature. However, I think Baz Luhrman’s 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character pretty much sums up the decadence of 1920s America among the upper class though with the Jay-Z music aside. Still, Luhrman is absolutely spot on with the glitziness and decadence of the era that has shaped much of our perception with its exquisite Art Deco set design. Yet, Leo’s Gatsby is a tragic hero in an age of lavish parties and lifestyles of excess who was driven to make his fortune on an idealized but unattainable dream which eventually costs him dearly and through illegal means. Despite that he managed to rise from poverty to great wealth, he dedicated his endless talent and ambition to become part of a society that cared nothing for him. No wonder they make us read the book in high school though I have much more appreciation for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work now than I did back in the day.

After World War I and Spanish flu, the 1920s was a time of great change with people embracing a new modernism and casting away the old fashioned trappings of 19th century life for good. Film had become the new artistic medium with the great silent films made all over the world. Jazz and blues have become all the rage in music with new dances like the Charleston, the Shimmy, the Tango, the Baltimore Buzz, and the Black Bottom. Yet, in movies, this is seen as the decade of parties, prosperity, and hedonism. It was the time of the flapper, a 1920s party girl who liked to drink, smoke, spoke in slang and swearing, had sex where and whenever she wanted, and enjoying other delights the Roaring Twenties had to offer. She had short bobbed hair tucked under her swanky cloche hat, wore knee length skirts and short and loose low-waisted evening gowns with turned up silk-stockings, and covered her face with powder and rouge. And the men didn’t look too badly either with their great colorful tailored suits capped with an array of hats. Gangsters especially had fashion sense and style. It was a decade of rebellion and tension whether it was Prohibition in the US that contributed to organized crime and violence or economic problems contributing to the rise of Nazism in Weimar Germany. You also see a lot of cool cars on the road not just limited to the Ford Model T and a lot of electric powered labor saving devices we associate with middle-class living (though many people in even the industrialized world wouldn’t have much access to it.) If you think the 1960s were a radical decade, the 1920s gives that era stiff competition yet with much more glamor and much more honest rebellious hedonism.

1920s America is an excited period in movie history which depicts scenes of parties, bootleg gin, jazz, lively dancing, and flappers in a gorgeous Art Deco interiors and architecture. Of course, this is the decade when US women got the right to vote though this didn’t necessarily mean that women though unfortunately the notion that women should be housewives once they got married remained a popular notion of the day though some women did try getting around it or having some fulfillment in their lives (though many had their choices limited just due to plain old socioeconomics). African Americans also had it better since this the time of the Harlem Renaissance with authors like Zora Neal Hurston and Langston Hughes, jazz artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and intellectuals like W. E. B. DuBois who helped plant the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, it was a time when blackface was common in the entertainment industry, racial segregation was a fact of life, the Klu Klux Klan was a major organization with over 5 million members and had a 50,000 march in Washington D. C., and lynchings and hate crimes were still an all too common occurrence nationwide (especially in the South). It was a time of Prohibition when alcohol was illegal and thus rebellion against the 18th Amendment became common and cool, yet led to organized crime and violence. Yet, it was a time of the Scopes Monkey trial and religious fundamentalism. Finally, it was a time of big business and prosperity, but laissez-faire politics would make an unpredictable and unregulated stock market with high-risk practices like buying on margin which would lead to the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and put an end to the Roaring Twenties for good. Of course, there are plenty of things movies in America during the 1920s get wrong which I shall list with key precision.


The NFL in the1920s had an annual college draft. (The ideal of an annual college draft was proposed to the NFL in 1935 and wasn’t put into effect until 1936. Leatherheads is a whole decade off on this and probably should’ve taken place in the 1930s since its plot revolves around this.)

Lou Gehrig hit a home run through a window of the Columbia University athletic building. (The athletic building is nowhere near Columbia’s baseball field. Ironically, while Lou Gehrig did attend Columbia on a football scholarship, but dropped out after a couple of years when he went to play for the Yankees.)

The “Hail Mary” pass was a 1920s football term for a long last-second pass down field. (It wasn’t coined until after the Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game in 1975. In some ways a “Hail Mary” is a newer term than “the Immaculate Reception” which was something only people raised in Steeler country would understand. It’s hard to explain.)

The NFL league president in the 1920s was appointed by Congress. (The NFL is a private corporation and has never had a league president appointed by Congress. Though the NFL did have a president at this time named Joe Carr, he was probably appointed by a board of directors just like every NFL president since. Also, he wouldn’t have had the power to deal with the media as he did in Leatherheads.)

Archibald “Moonlight” Graham played his lone game at the end of the 1922 baseball season. (He played his only game in June of 1905. Yet, like his Burt Lancaster portrayal in Field of Dreams, he actually did go on to be a doctor and practiced in Chisholm, Minnesota {but he was actually born in Fayetteville, North Carolina}. Oh, and he died in 1965 not 1972. Not to mention, he batted left-handed not right handed.)

Pitcher Shoeless Joe Jackson batted right-handed and threw left-handed. (He batted left-handed and threw right-handed.)

One of the banned players of the 1919 Chicago White Sox was a catcher. (None of the three catchers of the 1919 White Sox were among the eight players banned from that team.)

Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees because Red Sox owner Harry Frazee’s latest Broadway offering had flopped. (This is a popular myth but it’s really not the case. The real story according to Imdb is: “the sale came about due to the fact that Frazee hadn’t been hand-picked by American League president Ban Johnson to own a team, hence, Frazee was unwilling to do Johnson’s bidding. When Carl Mays jumped the Red Sox, Frazee sold him to the Yankees, ignoring Johnson’s order to suspend Mays. Meanwhile, Ruth was out of control, repeatedly breaking curfew, and jumping the team several times. The final straw came when Ruth was a no-show for the final game of the 1919 season, then held out for $20,000, despite the fact that Frazee had given Ruth bonuses. With the White Sox’ reputation in tatters following the Black Sox Scandal, and Johnson pressuring the Cleveland Indians, the Detroit Tigers, the Philadelphia Athletics, the St. Louis Browns, and the Washington Senators not to deal with Frazee, Frazee had little choice but to deal with the Yankees.”)

Lou Gehrig hit a ball out of Yankee Stadium during the 1925 season. (Actually this isn’t true since no player has done this.)

Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth were enemies from the start. (They were actually good friends until after Lou married Eleanor Twitchell in 1933.)

Babe Ruth and his first wife Helen divorced after Babe was sold to the Yankees. (Actually they never divorced since they were both Roman Catholics but they did separate by then. In fact, Babe didn’t marry his second wife Claire {who he met at a Yankees vs. Senators game} until a few months after Helen died in a house fire.)

Babe Ruth hit a home run at his first bat in the majors. (He didn’t because he was primarily a pitcher and rarely batted. In fact, he didn’t hit his first home run until his second season.)

Claire Ruth was Babe’s only wife. (She was his second, Helen was his first.)

William Randolph Hearst:

William Randolph Hearst shot movie producer Thomas H. Ince in the head by mistake on the former’s Oneida yacht in 1924 during the latter’s 42nd birthday. (His autopsies indicated he suffered a heart attack of indigestion on there. Still, he was taken ashore by water taxi accompanied by Dr. Charles Goodman and died at a San Diego hotel two days later. Yet, there were rumors that Hearst shot him which is probably bullshit but it was the subject of a lot of rumors.)

Charlie Chaplin:

Charlie Chaplin divorced his first wife Mildred Harris after he found out that she lied to him about a miscarriage. (She did lie to him about being pregnant to get Chaplin to marry her but they did stay together when he found the truth. However, Harris was pregnant to Chaplin a month or two after their wedding but the baby survived just three days. Chaplin and Harris divorced the following year.)

Charlie Chaplin had an affair with Marion Davies. (While there have been rumors, there’s no evidence they had. Also, a lot of Chaplin’s love interests were much younger than he was and his first two wives were both under 18. I think it’s more likely him and Davies were just friends. Besides, Chaplin’s sex life had gotten him into quite a bit of trouble during his life and 1924 was the year he knocked up Lita Grey who was about 16. Not to mention, unlike in Cat’s Meow, Chaplin wasn’t on the Oneida during the Thomas Ince incident but did visit him afterwards and attended his funeral, according to his autobiography. Still, we’re not sure how much of Cat’s Meow is accurate because there’s not much evidence to support such events depicted.)

Harry Houdini:

In 1926, Harry Houdini died of a ruptured appendix during his first attempt to escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell. (This is how Houdini died in the Tony Curtis film, which does a terrible job telling the guy’s life story. For one, Houdini had developed his water torture escape 14 years before his death and performed it hundreds of times. Second, while he did die of a ruptured appendix it was during his 1926 tour and took much longer. In Montreal, he exhibited his strength by letting a medical student strike him in the abdomen. Yet, the blows came before Houdini could prepare himself and his appendix was ruptured. However, he fiercely disregarded his own physical ailments {didn’t seek medical attention} but continued the tour for 9 days until he collapsed and subsequently died of peritonitis in a Detroit hospital on Halloween of 1926. So Houdini’s death had less to do with his escape hijinks he’s so famous for and more to do with him having a severe medical complaint and refusing to seek proper medical attention. No dark forces here.)

Harry Houdini was alive in 1928. (He died in 1926.)

Gypsy Rose Lee:

Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc had the ultimate stage mother. (Yes, their mother was one to the max. Yet, Gypsy leaves out that Rose Hovick had a violent temper, ran a lesbian boarding house, and might’ve shot her lover dead for making a pass at Gypsy that was covered up as a suicide. She never stopped demanding money from either of her daughters.)

Cole Porter:

Cole Porter’s original version of “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” was written in the 1920s contained nothing objectionable by today’s standards. (Allow me to show you a sample from the original lyrics in the first chorus: “Chinks do it, Japs do it, up in Lapland little Laps do it…”. You could see why recent renditions of the song don’t include this. Also, contrary to Midnight in Paris, it was written in the 1940s.)

“Let’s Misbehave” was a popular song in 1922. (Cole Porter wrote it in 1927.)

Linda Lee was a young woman when she met Cole Porter in 1919. (Contrary to Night and Day, her name was Linda Lee Thomas who was a 36 years old divorcee when she met Cole in Paris during 1919 who was widely considered one of the world’s most beautiful women. Cole was about 28 at the time. Their relationship was highly intimate but never romantic since Linda didn’t desire sex after an abusive first marriage and Porter was gay {and she knew what she was getting into}. Still, she fiercely supported his musical career and never left him in the 1920s. They were briefly estranged in 1937 though but it was over her wanting him to give up Hollywood and return to Broadway. Also, they spent a lot of the 1920s traveling Europe.)

Cole Porter was straight. (Uh, unlike his Cary Grant portrayal in Night and Day {though Grant batted on both teams if you know what I mean}, Cole Porter liked men. You hear me, all you old people out here who listen to his music, he was gay and by “gay” I don’t mean happy either.)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

FDR walked to the podium on crutches when he addressed the 1924 Democratic Convention. (He didn’t walk on crutches. Rather, he was supported by his son James on one side and he supported himself with a cane with the on the other. To the observer, this gave more of an appearance of walking.)

FDR’s crutches were so short that he’d have to lean over and use them to walk on all fours. (No competent orthopedist would ever give FDR crutches that were that short but Ralph Bellamy does this in Sunrise at Campobello. According to Imdb: “Crutches should be long enough so that the user can stand up straight, support his weight on them and propel himself forward with his shoulder muscles.”)

FDR was faithful to Eleanor Roosevelt who was undeniably straight. (Actually FDR and Eleanor weren’t sleeping together by the time FDR contracted polio mostly because Eleanor discovered him having an affair with her social secretary Lucy Mercer. He dumped her and she married someone else, but they did get back together without Eleanor’s knowledge since Lucy was with him when he died. He’s also said to have two other mistresses such as his private secretary Missy LeHand and Daisy Suckley who gave him Fala. Their marriage was actually more of a political partnership than anything resembling an intimate relationship between husband and wife. Despite giving birth to six kids, Eleanor is said to have disliked sex {at least with him} which may lead some to speculate whether she was gay for she did develop rather close relationships with a few female friends {she was even plagued by gay rumors as First Lady}. )

FDR’s polio brought him and Eleanor closer together. (It actually drove them further apart.)

FDR and Eleanor spent a lot of time together after he contracted polio. (They actually spent a lot more time apart in their own lives. They weren’t a conventionally married couple. In fact, FDR’s polio led Eleanor to involve herself more in Democratic politics.)

Charles Lindbergh:

Charles Lindbergh was an upstanding American hero and role model. (Despite the fact that he believed in eugenics, was a Nazi sympathizer before Pearl Harbor, and fathered thirteen children with three or four different women. Kind of puts him in competition of today’s athletes in the anti-role model department despite being played by Jimmy Stewart.)

Charles Lindbergh was a Colonel in the National Guard during his famous flight from New York to Paris. (He was a Captain. He would be promoted to Colonel after he returned.)

Robert Stroud:

Robert Stroud was a vicious killer but his behavior improved once he got into ornithology. (Contemporary inmates resented Burt Lancaster’s portrayal of the guy in Birdman of Alcatraz and said Stroud was far more sinister and unpleasant than he was in the film. Oh, and one of the reasons why he was sent to Alcatraz was that some of the equipment Stroud had requested for his Leavenworth lab was being used as a home made distillery. Also, he was diagnosed as a psychopath during his time at Alcatraz.)

Rudolph Valentino:

Rudolph Valentino worked as a boxer and giggolo. (Contrary to Valentino, he was neither.)

Rudolph Valentino’s early death was caused by an alcohol perforated ulcer. (Contrary to Valentino, the ulcer was caused by stress and his refusal to see a doctor, not booze. Also, he was said to have suffered from peritonitis and other health problems.)

Eugene Allen:

Eugene Allen’s mother was raped by a plantation owner who shot his dad dead. (Contrary to The Butler, there’s nothing to suggest that Eugene’s parents ended up like this. Also, he grew up in Virginia, not Georgia. Still, unlike his film expy Cecil Gaines, Eugene probably had a pretty mundane childhood you’d usually expect of a black kid living in the Jim Crow Era.)

The Matewan Massacre:

The 1921 Matewan Massacre was an isolated incident in 1920s West Virginia. (It was actually part of a prolonged struggle for unionization of West Virginia miners which lasted for decades since the state was dominated with people who were dominated by the special interests in the coal companies that even the authority of sympathetic local officials was often overridden. In 1907, the state experienced the worst coal mine disaster in US history and by 1921 mine safety laws were notoriously unenforced, child labor laws were weak and systematically ignored including educational requirements, coal mine operators didn’t have to pay compensation for workplace injuries, and so on. By this time in history, West Virginia had the highest death rate of any coal mining state with the proportion of miners dying in accidents exceeding that of any European country.)

The Matewan coal mining community needed outside influence to unionize. (They didn’t for the miners had been struggling to form a union for quite some time.)

The Scopes Monkey Trial:

John T. Scopes was engaged to a minister’s daughter. (He wasn’t nor did he have a girlfriend. The Browns in Inherit the Wind were fictional characters with no real-life counterparts. Also, he’d eventually marry a Catholic and convert.)

John T. Scopes’ teaching of evolution was frowned upon in the community where he taught. (Scopes’ trial wasn’t brought forth by some crazy Bible-thumping minister who didn’t want him to date his daughter. In fact, he wasn’t even arrested nor did he issue a plea for empathy. The town of Dayton actually persuaded Scopes to teach the theory of evolution since it was suffering an economic slump after Tennessee had banned such subject from the curriculum. Though initially reluctant, Scopes was planned to be indicted under the ban so the town could have a big publicity trial to bring in the tourists {so they weren’t hostile to people who came there to see the trial}. Also, attorney Clarence Darrow publicly announced he’d defend anyone arrested for teaching Evolution before the trial actually happened and the case was financed by the ACLU who wanted someone to challenge the constitutionality of the Tennessee evolution ban. The plan worked perfectly.)

William Jennings Bryan didn’t offer to pay Scopes fine if he was convicted. (Bryan actually did do this.)

William Jennings Bryan died of a heart attack right after the Scopes Monkey Trial collapsing at mid-speech. (He actually died five days later in his sleep. And, no, he didn’t collapse at mid-speech or had to be dragged out the courtroom while strangely speaking on being inaugurated as President.)

There were no Christian speakers who endorsed evolution during the Scopes Monkey Trial. (There were plenty that said Christians could believe in Evolution, too {a view endorsed by Darwin himself so would Scopes who’d later convert to Catholicism when he got married}, and such arguments are in the original transcripts. But such complexity beyond “us vs. them” simple message is a little inconvenient for Inherit the Wind {though it was intended as a criticism of McCarthyism so there’s not much middle ground there compared to the debate of creationism vs. evolution debate}. Other than what I listed, the trial went as much as it did in the play and later film.)

John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution. (He claimed that he was teaching evolution in his school but nobody could prove that he actually taught it. Still, he did use a textbook with evolution in it, but all science teachers did at the time, even in Tennessee.)

The evolution ban was enforced in Tennessee. (Unlike in Inherit the Wind, Scopes was the only person tried under the law. Despite that the law against teaching evolution would remain in the books for at least over a decade, it was seldom enforced to the point where even college professors in the state taught it without further incident.)

William Jennings Bryan was totally and willfully ignorant of Darwin’s book and evolution in general. (In the actual case, he quoted from Darwin’s book in memory though completely out of context but definitely not of total ignorance.)

The 1925 Serum Run to Nome:

Balto was a gray wolfdog hybrid. (He was a trained purebred Siberian husky {or Malamute} and was mostly black with a white belly and front legs. You can actually see him in the Cleveland Museum of National History. Also, he was actually born in a kennel owned by the famous musher Leonhard Seppala and wasn’t a conceived during a random hookup between a Siberian husky and a wild white wolf. The 1995 Balto children’s cartoon lied. Besides if Balto was a wolfdog that spent most of his life in the wild, he probably wouldn’t have been seen as a viable sled dog, let alone be able to reproduce if domesticated.)

The serum run to Nome, Alaska was a race with Balto being the leader of the first team to carry the medicine to Nome in which he had to travel the longest and most hazardous distance. (Actually the 1925 serum run depicted in Balto was a relay. Balto was the leader of the last team to carry the medicine to Nome. The longest and most hazardous distance was traveled by the team led by Togo whose accomplishments went greatly under appreciated in the cartoon. Many mushers today would consider Togo the real hero of the sled run who actually did have an amazing story worth making into a children’s cartoon. Even his owner thought Togo was neglected by the press commenting in dismay, “it was almost more than I could bear when the newspaper dog Balto received a statue for his ‘glorious achievements'”. Still, he and Balto had the same owner, though Balto was pulled by one of Seppala’s workers.)

During the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, Balto took over the sled run once the musher was incapacitated. (No mushers were incapacitated during the sled run and the medicine was never driven by dogs alone. God almighty, is it just me who thinks Balto is kind of fucked up, here?)

After the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, Balto managed to father a litter of pups. (Balto actually had been neutered at a young age which would make his pups in the sequels be impossible to exist. What actually happened to Balto is pretty grim. Since he was never destined for stardom in the breeding shed, Balto was relegated to being neglected on the vaudeville circuit with his team. Balto and his fellow teammates would later be sold to the company who sponsored his tour. This led to the dogs being chained in a small area in a novelty and freak show museum in Los Angeles. That is, until a Cleveland businessman named George Kimble discovered to his shock how badly these animals and thus worked with a local newspaper to bring Balto and his six companions to his hometown. Balto and his fellow teammates would receive a hero’s welcome in 1927 and spent the rest of their lives in Cleveland’s Brookside Zoo. Of course, this would’ve made a terrible sequel to the 1995 kiddie cartoon.)

Bush planes in 1920s Alaska were used in the 1925 Serum Run to Nome. (Bush planes in the 1920s weren’t used for deliveries, medicine, or mail. Rather they were used for surveys and firefighting and were popularized after World War II. Also, bush planes at this time were concentrated in Canada and weren’t used commercially in Alaska until the 1940s.)


The FRC and the Office of Censorship were around in 1925. (The FRC was founded in 1926 {soon to become the FCC in the 1930s} while the Office of Censor was established shortly after Pearl Harbor in 1941.)

Auto entrepreneur and later horse owner Charles S. Howard’s son Frankie, was a fan of Flash Gordon comics. (This is shown in Seabiscuit but it’s wrong. His son died in 1926 when Flash Gordon came out in 1934. Also, Frankie died in a truck accident at 15 not 10 as the film implies. Not to mention, the elder Howard had three other sons besides him. Not only that, but his second wife Marcela was his daughter-in-law’s older sister. So yeah, he became a brother-in-law to one of his sons.)

The Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building were under construction in 1922. (The Chrysler Building’s construction began in 1928. The Empire State Building’s construction began in 1930.)

The Charleston was a popular dance in 1922. (It would originate in 1923 for a Broadway show and would gain popularity in mid-1926.)

Dr. Spock’s book on childcare came out in 1929. (It was published in 1939.)

It wasn’t unusual for American jails to have black prison matrons. (There’s no way an African-American in 1920s America would’ve been allowed to hold a position of authority over white people. Yet, Queen Latifah plays one in Chicago.)

New York City was a town filled with skyscrapers in the 1920s. (The recent Great Gatsby adaptation exaggerates the number of skyscrapers actually in New York by this time.)

Julius W. “Nicky” Arnstein was Fanny Brice’s first husband. (He was actually her second. Still, he was a professional gambler and con artist as well as already married when Brice met him. He served two prison sentences during their relationship and it was for swindling as well as conspiracy to carry stolen Wall Street securities {worth $5 million} into the District of Columbia, not for embezzlement. He was also kind of a jerk who disappeared from Brice’s life {as well as their kids’ lives who aren’t mentioned in the movie} after his 1927 release. And though Funny Girl said that Arnstein turned to crime because his pride wouldn’t allow him to live off of Fanny, in reality he eagerly sponged off her even before their marriage. And instead of turning himself in as in the movie, he actually went into hiding and didn’t plead guilty when caught. He even used his wife’s money to fight the charges. As for Fanny herself, she didn’t come of modest means for her parents were relatively well-off saloon owners.)

Illinois had its first woman executed I the 1920s. (The first time Illinois executed a woman was in 1845.)

The Teapot Dome scandal was made public in January of 1922. (It was made public in latter half of 1923.)

“Rhapsody in Blue” was a hit in 1922. (George Gershwin wrote it in 1924.)

It wasn’t unusual to see a black rich guy have a white chauffeur at this time. (Well, this was unusual but F. Scott Fitzgerald included such instance in The Great Gatsby so it’s not that it didn’t happen.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 56 – Radicalism and Agitation in the Early 20th Century


Neil Jordan’s 1996 film Michael Collins is a movie about the Irish independence movement as well as the most successful Irish produced movie ever made. Of course, this movie does take liberties with the truth, but not to Braveheart levels. Not to mention, many of the actors including Liam Neeson’s title portrayal are much older than the characters. Still, perhaps the worst thing about this movie is probably Julia Roberts attempting to do an Irish accent or playing Michael Collins’ girlfriend for she kind of sucked. And no, Liam Neeson’s Michael Collins isn’t giving his rousing speech on his particular set of skills. Still, as bad of treatment that Eamon De Valera got in this film at least he’s played by the great Alan Rickman.

Yet, Russia wasn’t the only country where there was radical politics and agitation in the early 20th century. In the United States left wing movements weren’t uncommon among the masses, especially in organizations like labor unions which many businesses refused to recognize. You had activists like Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman as well as muckraking journalists like Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and Jack Reed. Sure some of them may have been Reds but they did write stories about American life that needed to be told, especially when it came to things like mental institutions, the meat packing industry, and lynchings. In Europe, you have people like Rosa Luxemburg and her Spartacist movement in Germany. Yet, while some agitation was caused by radical politics in response to social problems in some countries, there were other areas also experiencing agitation for other reasons. In some places in the world it was to protest European imperial presence. In others it was to gain independence from a colonial power. But one of the most famous in this time was in Ireland in which Irish rebels would stage an all out revolt against their British overlords who had ruled them for centuries. And this time they would finally succeed, well, sort of. Of course, this aspect of history has its share of movies made containing a share of historical inaccuracies which I list.

Left Wing Politics in the United States:

Eugene O’Neill seduced Louise Bryant while Jack Reed was away. (Actually Louise Bryant seduced Eugene O’Neill, telling him untruthfully that Jack Reed was seriously ill and that they weren’t interested in a sexual relationship. Nevertheless, like in Reds, O’Neill did fall hopelessly in love with Bryant but unlike her Diane Keaton portrayal she was no ingénue. Still, while Jack Nicholson was practically playing himself in Reds, it really doesn’t make much difference in his Eugene O’Neill portrayal since the American playwright was a pretty quick witted but very messed up guy anyway. Still, I have to tell you that the witnesses seen in Reds as supposedly participating in the activities depicted on the film actually weren’t very reliable because most of them had nothing to do with Bryant and Reed, Greenwich Village, or the Lyrical Left. Only Bryant’s lover Andrew Dasburg comes anywhere close she had an affair with shortly before following Reed to Moscow.)

Jack Reed was a very attractive guy. (Uh, sorry but his photo reveals that he did not look like Warren Beatty. Nor did Louise Bryant look anywhere like Diane Keaton.)

Jack Reed was faithful to Louise Bryant during his time in the Soviet Union despite that communication between them was impossible. (Except that Reed had an affair with a Russian woman over there while he was corresponding with Bryant {though she wasn’t exactly faithful to him either}. Furthermore, when Bryant went to see him in the Soviet Union, he knew she was coming.)

Radical Europe:

Rosa Luxemburg was very supportive of the Russian Revolution. (Yes, but she turned against it when Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks took over. She may have been a Communist but she was no fan of totalitarianism in any way, shape, or form. Her posthumous pamphlet of the Russian Revolution contained some of the most pungent criticisms of Communist Party dictatorship which was violently attacked by all Russian Communists. However, a lot of self-proclaimed Communists at the time would’ve agreed with her. Still, her devastating critique of Lenin’s theory of party dictatorship is one of the reasons why she’s so famous as a conscience of any revolution made in the name of freedom. Yet, her attack on Lenin goes unmentioned in the movie about her.)

The Irish War of Independence:

Irish soldiers did their drilling in English. (They do it in Irish, not English.)

1920’s Bloody Sunday at Croagh Park was a massacre with British firing machine guns from their armored tanks. (For one, only 14 civilians died at Croagh Park on Bloody Sunday. Second, the British and the Black and Tans did most of the shooting by hand with rifles. Third, there were never armored cars there firing machine guns or the body count would’ve been much higher {the armored cars were parked outside Croagh Park during the massacre}. Still, it’s greatly exaggerated on Michael Collins, perhaps to Michael Bay looneyness.)

John O’Reilly was with Michael Collins at Beal na mBlath on August 22, 1922 upon Michael Collins’ assassination. (He wasn’t there to cradle his dead leader.)

Thomas MacDonagh surrendered at the General Post Office garrison after the Easter Rising. (He surrendered at Jacob’s Factory and wasn’t present with GPO leaders Pearse, Clarke or Connolly when they surrendered at 16 Moore Street.)

Ned Broy was tortured and killed during the Irish Revolution. (He actually ended up as a Commissioner of the Garda Síochána {Irish police force} between 1933 and 1938. He died in 1972 at 85. Nevertheless, in Michael Collins, he’s a composite of the real Broy and Dick McKee who actually never got caught but was said to get shot at Dublin Castle while attempting to escape custody after his capture on Bloody Sunday.)

The British were nothing but thugs during Ireland’s fight for independence. (Yes, they did many horrendous things there but there were a few sympathetic British who were probably there just to get out of the trenches and a handsome paycheck. And the cold blooded executions of Irish rebels did push quite a few British people to sympathize with the Irish Republican cause. Still, both the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police saw several defections to the IRA.)

Michael Collins:

Michael Collins was in his forties during the Easter Rising of 1916. (He was only 25 and was assassinated at 31. Yet, he’s played by a 44 year old Liam Neeson in Michael Collins, which makes him seem more like a behind-the-scenes manipulator than a fellow fighter. Still, his photographs make him look like an old timey gangster. Also, unlike her Julia Robert’s 30ish portrayal, his girlfriend Kitty Kiernan was between the ages of 23 to 29 when the events in the film took place. Eamon De Valera was in his between 33 and 39 at this time as well but he’s played by a much older Alan Rickman. Still, according to standards of the Irish rebels, Valera was considered an old man for many of his comrades were remarkably young.)

Michael Collins was clean shaven in 1921. (There’s a photograph of him sporting a mustache from that time.)

Michal Collins was a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising. (He was a captain but Michael Collins shows him in a lieutenant uniform. Also, he was serving as an aid de camp to Joseph Plunkett who’s absent from the film.)

Michael Collins served in the Irish government as Minister of Intelligence. (He was actually Minister of Finance. However, he was the IRA’s Director of Intelligence.)

Eamon De Valera:

Eamon De Valera was behind Michael Collins’ assassination. (De Valera may have fought against Collins in the Irish Civil War that followed after Irish independence but he actually wanted to negotiate with him. Not to mention, he wasn’t involved in the ambush that killed him, he tried to stop it. However, though De Valera is heavily implied as being involved Collins’ assassination in the 1996 film, there’s overwhelming evidence he really had nothing to do with it and to suggest it insults the man. Still, great performance by Alan Rickman.)

Eamon De Valera was held prisoner at England’s Lincoln County jail and was rescued by Harry Boland and Michael Collins. (He was actually released so Boland and Collins’ efforts were probably unnecessary.)

Eamon De Valera surrendered with the General Post Office garrison after the Easter Rising. (He was actually the Commandant of the garrison at Bolland’s Mills which surrendered after the GPO upon receiving orders to stand downs. He was never at the GPO during the Rising.)

Eamon De Valera said that “only pure blood Irish” should be able participate in the Irish Republic. (He never said this nor believed it since his father was a Spanish Cuban, he was born in New York City, and knew that his political opponents would’ve used it against him if he did.)

Eamon De Valera was a dithering, manipulative, and despicable leader whose grandstanding led to decades of unnecessary bloodshed in and over Ireland. (De Valera’s family should sue for slander. Still, De Valera was in Irish politics for more than 50 years, which may attract critics but few would’ve said he was a weak man.)

Eamon De Valera wasn’t shot by a British firing squad because he was American. (Yes, but it wasn’t because the US was allied with Great Britain in World War I. It had more to do with Great Britain wanting the US to enter the war on their side.)

Harry Boland:

Harry Boland was shot by a British sentry while trying to swim the Liffey River. (He was actually shot in a skirmish with Irish Free State soldiers in the Grand Hotel at Skerries during the Battle of Dublin. However, when they filmed Michael Collins, the Grand Hotel had been demolished.)

Harry Boland was in Dublin when Michael Collins returned from the infamous treaty negotiations. (He was in the US at this time.)

The IRA:

The IRA existed in 1913. (It didn’t exist until 1919.)

The IRA used car bombs during the Irish War of Independence. (It wouldn’t use car bombs until the 1970s.)

IRA guerrillas killed with great reluctance and for very good reasons. (In their minds at least but this wasn’t always the case.)

IRA guerrillas killed their British adversaries in a fair fight. (Sometimes they’d just finish off their opponents after they’d surrender or lay wounded. In fact, most of their killings were straightforward assassinations of helpless, unarmed people.)

The IRA would attack police stations only to warn them to stop ill treating prisoners and would only kill informers if they were sure of their guilt yet they were allowed to bargain for their lives. (Actually the IRA killed hundreds of policemen, alleged spies, and suspected informers. Most of the time, there was no warning, no “trial,” and no attempt for the victims to bargain for their lives. Very few “informers” it seems, were guilty of anything at all. Other key IRA victims were vagrants, homeless men, supposed sexual deviants, and perhaps most disturbingly local Protestants.)

IRA members hesitated on those rare occasions when it came to “killing our own” which prompted profound soul searching. (The IRA had no problem killing fellow Irishmen and women since they made the the majority of their victims. It seems to me that The Wind that Shakes the Barley seems to be a love letter to the IRA doesn’t it?)

Irish Civil War:

Those who supported the Irish treaty for independence were traitors, social reactionaries, and all the people who shout. Those who were against it were true nationalists and socialists who believed in social justice. (The treaty schism that broke out the Irish Civil War was far more complex than what is shown in The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Sure there might’ve been a few Socialists in the Irish nationalist movement but they didn’t make up the majority. Yet, most people who were anti-treaty had little ideology behind what derived from a romantic, culturalist, separatist, and sometimes necrophiliac brand of nationalism. Also, those who were pro-treaty weren’t necessarily social reactionaries either nor were exactly happy with the partition. Rather, many of them were just plain sick of division and didn’t want a civil war in the first place until Eamon De Valera rejected it and walked out of the Irish Parliament. Still, it when it came to the Irish Civil War, it was the pro-treaty people who were the reluctant ones. Also, the Catholic Church in Ireland didn’t equate opposing the treaty with Communism because most of the Irish who opposed the treaty weren’t {also, Eamon De Valera was a devout Catholic who tried to cooperate with the Church}. If the Catholic Church in Ireland supported the treaty in any way, it was out of pacifism and probably saw the anti-treaty Irish nationalists as violent agitators stirring up trouble that’s going to get innocent people killed. The Catholic hierarchy in Rome had also opposed World War I out of a pacifist stance as well, which was a conflict many left-wing radicals didn’t like either. Also, most radical Socialists at the time didn’t care for nationalism anyway save maybe in Russia.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 55 – The Russian Revolution


Perhaps no movie defines our perception of the Russian Revolution as David Lean’s 1965 adaptation of the Boris Pasternak novel Dr. Zhivago starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. Russia was never a pleasant place to live throughout most of history and not because of the Russian winter either. Still, this movie deals with how the Russian Revolution in many ways made way for a regime just as oppressive as the one that came before. It was just that the new overlords called themselves Bolshevik Communists. Still, Yuri Zhivago is a very tragic figure who loses almost everything he held dear that he ends up a very broken man. Lara doesn’t fare much better.

The twentieth century didn’t begin so well in Russia where life had been hard for many and not because of the Russian winter and the chances of going to Siberia either. Still, in the beginning of the 20th century, the country was a massive empire home to 165 million people of many religions, languages, and cultures. For centuries, it had been ruled by autocratic rulers known as the Czar under a militaristic and bureaucratic absolute monarchy with no legislative representative bodies, no elections, and no political parties allowed. For years, Russia had been a country where the vast majority of illiterate peasants have been dominated, exploited, and oppressed by a small landowning elite. Free expression was very limited and Imperial Secret Police frequently suppressed dissent with executions, censorship, or exile in Siberia. And it wasn’t unusual for ethnic and religious minorities to be the designated scapegoats of angry citizens. Unsurprisingly, desires for political reform and opposition to the Czarist regime among the population was rising, sometimes in extreme and violent ways. Yet, while there have been Czars who managed to stabilized the increasing unrest in Russia, but Czar Nicholas II wasn’t one of them whose reign was a complete disaster from the start not only due to his own incompetence but also because he didn’t want bow to his people’s whims if it meant giving up his power as the autocratic leader he was. These factors combined with losing a war with the Japanese led to the 1905 Revolution that consisted of a series of demonstrations ranging from peaceful protests to acts of terrorism taking Czar Nicholas by surprise and forced him to agree to political and economic reforms which established a governing body called the Duma which the Czar would later go to great lengths to get rid of. However, what really helped set off the Russian Revolutions of 1917 was Russia entering World War I, a conflict the country was dreadfully unprepared for and it was a total disaster for the country. The Russian Army suffered defeat after defeat by the Germans and experienced high casualty rates while the Russian economy suffered with rising food prices and inflation putting the country on the road to economic collapse. Both civilian and military morale was low. By 1917, most Russians were fed up with their Czar that they formed a provisional government and forced Nicholas II to abdicate that March, which marked the end of Czarist Russia. In November of that year, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks and allies would overthrow the Provisional Government and seize power through any means necessary even if it provoked a four year civil war. While Russia had attempted democratic rule in 1917, by 1918, all such attempts were over once Lenin closed down the elected Constituent Assembly after his group didn’t win. Thus, Russia’s Communistic regime had begun. Nevertheless, movies about the Russian Revolution do contain their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Pre-Revolutionary Russia:

The 1905 mutiny on the battleship Potemkin was over eating rotten meat, which led to a massacre by Russian troops. (Though immortalized in a movie and though such revolt was brought down by Russian troops that day, the massacre didn’t happen contrary to The Battleship Potemkin, which is actually full-blown Soviet propaganda. According to TTI: “The Guards fired warning shots over the heads of the crowd in front of them… and hit a few people BEHIND the crowd in front of them. However, the Czarist troops did later prevent people from leaving the port after several buildings caught fire, indirectly leading to dozens of deaths. The Black Sea Mutiny was complicated. A more straightforward example would be when the Potemkin fired on Odessa. In the movie, they destroy the Czarist headquarters, in reality someone in fire control disagreed with the mutiny and gave them the wrong coordinates causing them to level a few blocks of tenements full of innocent people instead.” As for what caused the revolt, it was about more than just rotten meat.)

Post-Soviet Cryllic was used at this time. (They wouldn’t be using that kind of writing in Czarist Russia in 1905, but it’s in Doctor Zhivago.)

The statue of Yuri Dolgoruky was erected in Moscow by this time. (The statue was placed there in 1947 as a commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the city’s founding by the man depicted in the statue. Yet, it’s there when Yuri arrives in Moscow before the First World War.)

Kropotkin Street existed in Czarist Russia at this time. (At the time it was named Prechistenka Street. Also Kropotkin was an anarchist and would’ve never had a street named after him in Czarist Russia.)

During the revolt of the Potemkin, a bunch of sailors were rounded up to be shot as well as had the tarp pulled over them. (This did happen but there wasn’t any tarp unlike what The Battleship Potemkin shows. Interestingly, one of the sailors of the group said he was under the tarp but this says more about the hypnotic quality of the film.)

Artillery Quartermaster Grigory Meketovich Vakulinchuk was the leader of the Potemkin revolt. (He was actually some guy who got caught up in the fighting and got killed. Also, he called for a boycott, not a full scale revolt. The real leader of the mutiny was a sailor named Afanasy Nikolayevich Matushenko who went to Romania with the ship long with the other sailors in which they handed it to the Romanian government and further on to Europe. TTI says he settled in Dublin where he opened a fish and chips shop while Wikipedia says he returned to Russia in 1907 and was executed by hanging that October.)

Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin was alive during the Romanov tercentenary of 1913. (He was assassinated in 1911 while watching Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tale of Tsar Saltan” at the Kiev Opera House in the presence of Czar Nicholas II and his family. Also, the Romanovs 300th anniversary was in 1913, not 1916.)

Rasputin hypnotized Czarina Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting Sonia to leave Czarevitch Alexei on a bridge in order to demonstrate his healing powers. (The woman’s name in real life was Anna Vyrubova who was said to be Rasputin’s lover {some also speculated Empress Alexandra which isn’t true at all}. Still, he did have a lot of girlfriends despite looking like someone from an old-timey mental institution. However, Rasputin’s first contact with Alexei may have been when he “cured” the hemophiliac boy’s insomnia. He advised against using aspirin on Alexei, which was a common way to treat hemophilia but one of the worst things to give to one since it’s a potent blood thinner. Nevertheless, Rasputin would’ve done no such thing to Alexei since he was a staunch ally of the Romanovs.)

Rasputin was killed by a mysterious person named Ivan Keznikov. (He was actually assassinated by a group of aristocrats led a cross dressing party boy named Count Felix Yusupov who was still alive when the movie Rasputin the Mad Monk was made in 1966. Also, Yusupov sued filmmakers who tried to tell his story despite publishing his own memoirs. Still, while Rasputin is shown guzzling cyanide laced cakes with booze, it’s said he also endured being shot four times, beaten, castrated, wrapped in a linen sheet, stabbed, and thrown from a bridge into the River Neva allegedly drowning or dying of hypothermia. This would’ve been a golden opportunity for any slasher movie with the monster keep coming back to life, but Rasputin the Mad Monk just didn’t have it. Must’ve been a budget issue. Nevertheless, Yusupov would sometimes change his account on how he helped assassinate Rasputin whenever he was short on funds. Still, in reality, Rasputin died with a shot in the head which killed him instantly {according to his autopsy}. Oh, and it was by a .455 Webley revolver which at the time was issued to British intelligence officers, so there may have been British involvement in his assassination.)

Rasputin made advances toward Czar Nicholas II’s daughters. (There have never been any accusations of him having designs on the grand duchesses, let alone Empress Alexandra.)

Czar Nicholas II was a progressive who wanted a Duma while Rasputin was against it. (Nicholas II was an autocrat who distrusted any attempt to give the people more of a say in their government and basically tried to disband the Duma whenever he could. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the Russian Revolution broke out in the first place. His grandfather Alexander II was the more progressive monarch than him.)

Rasputin urged Nicholas II to enter World War I. (He actually advised Czar Nicholas II against it but the autocrat didn’t listen. Still, Rasputin’s influence in the Russian royal family tends to be exaggerated.)

Rasputin was a monk. (He was actually more of a lay preacher in the Russian Orthodox Church and was never ordained either as a cleric or a monk in that matter {and had a lot of enemies in the Church as well}. Not to mention, he was married and had at least three kids before he sought a religious occupation {there’s even photographic evidence}. He might have also been a member of some wacky para-Christian cult in Russia as well though there’s not a lot of evidence for this. Still, he did use religion to justify him being Russia’s greatest love machine, though his sex life is very much speculated upon.)

Rasputin was an old man during his association with the Romanovs. (He died at 47.)

Czarevitch Alexei was born during the winter. (He was born in August when there’s no snow in Russia even in the northern regions.)

Grand Duchess Anastasia was called “sunshine” by her father. (Czarevitch Alexei was called that.)

Grand Duchess Tatiana flashed her breasts at a guard. (Contrary to Nicholas and Alexandra, there are no reports or statements that Tatiana did such thing. Besides, if she did, we would’ve known.)

Josef Stalin was around in 1907. (Yes, he was certainly alive then but he didn’t go by that name until 1912. Still, he knew Lenin at the time and was referred to as Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili. Then again, considering the name, maybe it’s better to have him go by Stalin anyway.)

St. Petersburg was known by its name during World War I. (It was called Petrograd then since St. Petersburg was considered too German. It would be called Petrograd until 1924 when it became known as Leningrad until it reverted back to St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Still, in almost every movie about the last days of the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution, it’s always referred to as St. Petersburg throughout in Anastasia when the city was referred to as Leningrad.)

The Russian Revolution:

The Russian Revolution started in 1916. (It began in 1917 on both Western and Russian calendars.)

Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov survived the Russian Revolution. (She was killed along with the rest of her family. Sorry Anastasia fans!)

The grand duchesses had long hair when they were shot by the revolutionaries. (They actually had their heads shaved while they were imprisoned due to illness. By the time they were shot in 1918, their hair had grown to the napes of their necks, which meant that they would’ve died with short hair.)

The Romanovs were shot outside a courtyard. (They were shot in a closed, dinghy cellar of the house they were imprisoned in. Besides them, their doctor and three of their servants were shot as well. Oh, and their bodies were dragged into the woods, lit on fire, doused in sulfuric acid, and buried in a mine shaft. And according to the murderers, the Czar’s family were shot, beaten, bludgeoned, and bayoneted to death.)

Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov was 7 during the Russian Revolution. (She was 15 and was 17 when she died. Yet, though she didn’t survive, her grandmother the Dowager Empress did, yet unlike the cartoon, she was a Danish princess named Dagmar {though she went byMarie Feodorovna} and actually went back to Denmark via London and the Crimea, though somehow “Together in Copenhagen” doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it. Not only that but the Danish king at the time was her brother and her sister was Queen Alexandra of Great

Britain. Also, the Czar’s daughters weren’t referred to as princesses but as grand duchesses.)

The Romanovs were exiled to a log cabin during the winter of 1918 by the Bolsheviks. (Actually they were exiled to a Governor’s Mansion and were in the custody of Kerensky’s Provisional Government, which was before the Bolsheviks took over.)

Yakov Yurovski was in his sixties when he held the Romanov family in custody and participated in their execution. (He was 39.)

Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna was in England during the winter of 1918. (She didn’t go to England until 1919, the year after the Romanovs were all killed. In 1918, she was still in Russia. Also, she wasn’t the sole survivor of the Romanov family either. Not to mention, Czar Nicholas II’s children weren’t particularly close to her who saw her as someone to be respected and feared above anything else. And another thing, she never entertained Anastasia impostors. Her daughter Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna would meet one by the name of Anna Anderson in person and become her most famous detractor.)

Rasputin was an undead evil sorcerer who sold his soul for a demon powered reliquary and sparked the Russian Revolution to kill the Romanovs. (Rasputin was charismatic religious eccentric but he was a staunch ally of the Romanovs and is revered in Russia to this day. He was also summoned by the Czarist court because he was believed to be capable of alleviating the czarevitch’s severe hemophilia. Even though he wasn’t a saint, he always considered himself a Christian and never indulged in any occult practices with his only claims on magical abilities being on divination and healing which were perfectly within the Orthodox Christian paradigm. Sure he took advantage of a sick child and his desperate mother to bring himself power, riches, and affluence as well as drank and whored {possibly sexually assaulting more than one woman} but he would never have willingly plotted the Romanovs’ destruction since he depended on them. Besides, he was dead when the Russian Revolution broke out due to assassination by a few Russian aristocrats resentful of his influence toward the Imperial family. Reason for his bad reputation stems from the fact that Rasputin often took one for the team whenever Nicholas II made a bad decision for the Czar couldn’t be criticized directly.)

The White Russian Army were all united and believed in the same things. (Actually the only thing they believed in was that they didn’t like the Bolsheviks. Politically ideologically speaking, they ranged from social democrats to full blown monarchists. There were also other factions like the village communitarian {according to TTI: “They supported Russia’s centuries-long tradition of village-based communes against the Reds who were an urban-based faction that kept trying to kill their ‘oppressive kulak overlords’, and the Whites whom they associated with the Imperial Government that had always tried to interfere in their affairs and taken far too much of their money in tax and too many of their young men as conscripts.”}, the nationalist “Greens” that were local militias protecting their villages from marauders of both sides, the anarchist “Blacks,” the Mensheviks the Social Revolutionaries known as the Soviets, foreign interventionists from the Allied and Central powers, ethnic nationalists, and people just trying to fight their way out.)

The Bolsheviks had secret police that cracked down on spies and dissidents as well as censored works of literature in 1917. (In 1917, the Bolsheviks were way too busy to hunt dreamy dissidents like Dr. Yuri Zhivago so he could publish his poetry without persecution at least at first. Sure the Bolsheviks were fanatics but there was adequate freedom of the press at the time of Dr. Zhivago. Still, while Dr. Zhivago is set in the Russian Revolution, it’s actually more about the Stalinist Revolution when you could be shot, tortured, or imprisoned for having the wrong attitude. Rather it’s more about the terror author Boris Pasternak experienced {with personal phone calls by Josef Stalin himself} as well as the loss of his friends to firing squads and gulags. So while early 1917 Russia was no day at the beach, it wasn’t as bad a place as it would become later on. Still, millions of people in Russia were killed at this time so the was a shithole nonetheless.)

The Bolsheviks overthrew Czar Nicholas II and his family. (For God’s sake, the Bolsheviks didn’t overthrow the Romanovs and actually opposed the 1905 revolts and the February Revolution of 1917 because they weren’t in charge of either. Furthermore, Vladimir Lenin wasn’t even in Russia when Czar Nicholas II stepped down. The Russian royal family was overthrown by the Provisional Government headed by moderate socialist Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky. Still, the abdication of Nicholas II was the only thing the factions of the Russian Revolution could agree upon and it was inevitable since there have been anti-czarist movements for years by this point. The Bolsheviks would take over later with overthrowing the provisional government without firing a shot in the Red October with their Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchist allies igniting civil war, and basically shut down anything that was democratic or opposing them. After the Socialist Revolutionaries won the most seats in the Constituent Assembly election that December, the Bolsheviks shut it down by force when the Assembly attempted to meet in Petrograd in January of 1918. However, it was the Bolsheviks who were responsible for killing the Romanovs though.)

The Bolsheviks were the most popular political faction in Russia during the Revolution. (Early on, they were a minor party with modest popularity. Yet, their clear opposition to the Provisional Government and their unambiguous support in the aims of the soldiers, workers, and peasants gave them a viable power base in which they could usurp the PG. And they were the only significant party to take such position. Not to mention, the political unity among its own members also played a factor in their success.)

The Russian revolutionaries were in agreement with each other and supported the desires of the people. (Actually there were a lot of political factions during the Russian Revolution, except when it came to forcing Czar Nicholas II to resign. Sometimes faction members couldn’t agree within their own parties. Using cinema as propaganda and going out of their way to convince the general public they were the good guys also helped considerably. As for public interests, many of them had their own ideas that may nor may not have been in the people’s best interests. But movies tend to imply this.)

The Bolsheviks were the only Socialist party during the Russian Revolution. (No, they weren’t but they were the most successful. You also had the Mensheviks, the Right Socialist Revolutionaries, and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries which were their allies yet once they won the majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly and 60% of the vote followed by the Bolsheviks’ 24%, the Bolshevik Red Guard closed down the Constituent Assembly by force when it attempted to meet in January 1918. And no, not all Russian Socialist were alike or believed in the same things.)

The Bolsheviks supported the desires of the people. (Sometimes but it wasn’t always the case. Nevertheless, what the Bolsheviks wanted was as much as opposed to the real desires of the people as had been the policies of the previous regimes. Still, when the popular movement and the Bolsheviks came into conflict, the Bolsheviks were utterly ruthless in imposing their will by force. Vladimir Lenin ensured that the Bolshevik party would resort to dictatorship rather than bow to the will of the Russian people. This is why Communist Russia was so authoritarian and repressive as it was.)

Leon Trotsky played a very miniscule role in the October 1917 Revolution. (Of course, so says Soviet propaganda films from the 1920s until the 1950s since Josef Stalin was in charge then. A good example would be in the Sergei Eisenstein film October: Ten Days that Shook the World, in which Trotsky was shown briefly in a couple of scenes since he was exiled during the filming with all his other scenes going to the cutting room floor. In reality, Trotsky was Vladimir Lenin’s right hand man who actually planned the military strategic takeover in Petrograd during the October 1917 Revolution as well as helped win the Russian Civil War for the Bolsheviks. Yet, after Trotsky was exiled, Stalin tried to expunge him from the Soviet records, even to the point of eliminating him in photographs. Nevertheless, Socialist reporter Jack Reed did include Trotsky’s involvement in his book.)

The Russian Revolution happened in the same way as the French one. (Well, they do have parallels but there are plenty of differences between the two.)

The Soviet Twenties:

The Winter Palace was almost intact in 1927. (Russian Revolutionaries had already stormed and looted the place in 1917, taking everything valuable, slashing all the paintings, and used the façade as target practice. Furthermore, by 1927, the Palace was rebuilt and served as a seat to the Hermitage museum.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 54 – World War I


Perhaps no movie defines our perception of World War I than Lewis Milestone’s 1930 adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front starring Lew Ayres (who I believed was robbed of an Academy Award that year). This is one of the first masterpieces in sound which is still a timeless anti-war classic after 84 years. Paul Bäumer is perhaps one of the most tragic characters in movie history, just a mere teenage boy who eventually loses all his friends and is reduced to an empty shell by the end unable to connect with anyone outside the war. His coming of age story is truly heartbreaking to watch. Nevertheless, Paul’s story is a story of every soldier in this war and perhaps in any war who manages to retain his humanity among the endless carnage and recognizes his enemies as human beings like himself. Despite this being a tragedy, this is truly a great film for the ages.

Two world wars took place in the 20th century but are celebrated by Hollywood in very different ways. One is used to emphasize the glory of courage, self-sacrifice, patriotism, doing what’s right, and male bonding. The other is presented as a horrible nightmare with broken innocence, incompetent and self-absorbed generals, and unimaginable horror. This post is about the former. Of course, World War I was caused by a lot of things such as entangling alliances as well as countries stockpiling on the latest in weapons technology but things wouldn’t reach fever pitch until 1914 when a 19-year old Black Hand terrorist named Gavrilo Princip who was unknowingly working for a head of Serbian official shot Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophia at Sarajevo (though he regretted killing the latter). Since Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, this meant war between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, Russia had been an age old ally of Serbia longer than it had been with Austria or Germany so it entered on the Serbian side. And Russia’s allies Britain and France (along with domains and allies like Belgium and Italy) entered on the Allied side while Germany and the Ottoman Empire sided with Austria forming the Central Powers since Germany and Austria spoke the same language and the Ottoman Empire really didn’t like Russia. The US would enter later but the whole thing is pretty complicated. Still, it is a war known for introducing things like aerial fighting and tanks as well as chemical weapons and trench warfare. Nevertheless, World War I was perhaps the deadliest conflict in history up to this point killing more than 9 million men. Though this was called “the War to End All Wars” it didn’t necessarily do that as we know. Nevertheless, there are plenty of inaccuracies in movies made at this time which I shall list accordingly.

The Western Front:

European World War I generals were blundering incompetents willing to sacrifice their men for little appreciable gain. (They actually had a more difficult time to adapt to the war’s unprecedented scale of new technologies.)

The Battle of the Somme took place in 1917. (It took place in 1916.)

Three French soldiers representing their division in their regiment were shot by firing squad after their contingent refused to advance at Souain. (Actually 30 French soldiers were tried and 4 were convicted and shot. Yet, the French general Géraud Réveilhac also ordered artillerymen to fire on the men who refused to advance. As in Paths of Glory, the artillerymen refused.)

General Géraud Réveilhac received his comeuppance after sentencing four French soldiers to be shot by firing squad after they refused to advance in the Souain. (Actually unlike his expy in Paths of Glory, Réveilhac remained in his post until he was given leave in February in 1916. According to one officer, he seemed to have “reached the limit of his physical and mental abilities.” He would later be made a Grand Officer of the Legion d’Honneur and died peacefully at the age of 86 in 1937. Meanwhile, the French authorities repeatedly refused to investigate the case with the innocent soldiers executed by firing squad for no reason. Yet, thanks to the efforts of the wife and sister of two of the men, a court cleared them in 1934.)

All trench battles took place in a very open desert like environment on the Western Front. (Most of the fighting was in France and Belgium and there were areas that consisted of deeply wooded hills. Yet, perhaps this is an artistic choice to make the landscape look desolate.)

British soldiers participated at the front during the Battle of Verdun. (The Battle of Verdun was primarily between the German and French armies.)

The Battle of the Marne was fought before 1916. (It was fought in 1918.)

The Allies marched into Berlin in 1918. (Sorry, Captain Renault, but you probably weren’t with the Americans when they marched into Berlin in 1918 because it didn’t happen.)

Western Front generals were blundering incompetents wantonly sacrificing men for little appreciable gain. (Recent historians argue that the war’s unprecedented scale and new technologies {gas, planes, tanks} made it extraordinarily difficult for generals on either side to adapt. So it might’ve been less on blundering incompetence and more on generals simply being incapable for conducting this sort of war.)

The Christmas Truces:

The Christmas Truce started with a singer moving out of No Man’s Land carrying a lit-up Christmas tree. (It actually began as a mutual agreement by both sides to bury their dead. Still, it didn’t prevent many of the Germans from being shot by snipers if they ventured in No Man’s Land.)

The musical exchanges during the Christmas Truces were prompted by Scottish troops. (It actually began with the Germans singing their carols from their trenches {but not exposing themselves to the enemy} followed by opposing troops countering with carols of their own. Still, Joyeux Noel is actually based on various documented events during the Christmas Truces with the director including Scottish soldiers instead of English because he wanted to include bagpipes.)

Sergeant Alvin C. York:

Sergeant Alvin York shot a German in revenge when the latter threw a grenade for killing his friend. (York did shoot a German for throwing a grenade and refusing to surrender, yet the grenade killed no Americans.)

The German contingent that faced Alvin York was headed by a major. (It was headed by Lieutenant Paul Vollmer.)

Sergeant Alvin York used a Luger he took from a captured German soldier after losing his US Army Colt M1911. (He kept his Army Colt in the entire battle and never took a gun from any German prisoner to use. Yet, Gary Cooper does this in Sergeant York because the Luger was the only blank adapted handgun available on the set.)

Sergeant Alvin York was clean shaven even after the war. (He had grown a mustache during his service and kept it for the rest of his life. Still, I’m not sure Gary Cooper would’ve looked good in one anyway since I’ve never seen him with facial hair.)

Sergeant Alvin York was unfamiliar with electricity until after the war. (This guy spent weeks training in the army as well as considerable time in Europe. At this point, electric lights shouldn’t have been an oddity to him.)

Sergeant Alvin York received the Medaille Militaire for his heroism. (He didn’t receive this but he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre.)

Sergeant Alvin York shot Germans coming at him from front to back. (He actually shot at them from back to front, “just like a flock of turkeys,” he said. Yes, turkey hunting was a great training exercise for him.)

Sergeant Alvin York received his own farm by the state of Tennessee right after the war just before he married his sweetheart Gracie. (The farm was provided to him by the Rotary Club of Nashville who purchased the land in 1919, after the war ended. Alvin and Gracie were married by this point and didn’t move in until 1922.)

The Italian Front:

“Beer Barrel Polka” was played by Italian Army marching bands during the war. (It wasn’t written until the late 1920s and is a Czech song.)

The Middle East and North Africa:

T. E. Lawrence:

T.E. Lawrence was tall, blond, handsome, and asexual. (Sure he was blond, but that’s as true as it gets with his appearance. In real life, Lawrence of Arabia was about 5’5” tall and wasn’t as handsome as Peter O’Toole {Noel Coward is quoted as saying that the movie should’ve been called “Florence of Arabia”}. As for his sexuality, there’s some debate whether he was asexual or a gay sado-masochist.)

Farraj was mortally wounded by a detonator that went off in his clothes. (According to T. E. Lawrence, he was shot by a Turk while riding his camel.)

T. E. Lawrence was an egotistical eccentric who hungered for publicity and notoriety. (The real Lawrence shunned publicity and was greatly distressed by his enormous fame following the war and the publication of his autobiography The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He actually signed up for the Royal Air Force under an assumed name for ten years to avoid the spotlight and was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly after his enlistment ended. He even shunned a knighthood as well as simultaneously aided and disliked reporter Lowell Thomas. He was also a man born in the Victorian era who maintained strict rules about public behavior and typically exercised restraint keeping with the well-known British stiff-upper lip tradition. Still, he was an eccentric all right, but he was a complicated man who just wanted to share his story but at the same time also desired to be left alone.)

T. E. Lawrence favored Arab independence from European powers. (Some say he did. Others say he was actually a fierce imperialist who wanted the British to rule in the Middle East and didn’t wish to the French to have any influence in the region. Either way, he didn’t want the Turks to rule the area. Still, it’s fair to say he was a servant of two masters and was never really at home with Great Britain or the Middle East.)

The battle of Aqaba was glorious cavalry charge into the town by the Arabs themselves. (It was really a prolonged fight and the British fleet interfered, too.)

T. E. Lawrence had no idea about the Sykes-Picot Agreement until near the end of the war. (The Sykes-Picol was an agreement to divide the Ottoman territories between Britain and France, which was a catalyst for Lawrence’s conflict of interest. Still, Lawrence was probably well aware of it.)

T.E. Lawrence was on mostly good terms with his superior officers. (He was actually rather contemptuous of their military-rank-and-file and their strategies and how they drew the borders in the Middle East.)

T.E. Lawrence shot a servant to put him out of his misery. (He didn’t have to make such sacrifice since a Turkish gunman did the deed for him.)

Auda was an unreformed savage who cared only for violence, treasure, and his own pompous self-image. (He was a serious and intelligent leader who deserved more credit for taking Aqaba than T.E. Lawrence. His family was deeply offended by the Antony Quinn portrayal in Lawrence of Arabia and spent years trying but unsuccessfully suing the producers.)

T.E. Lawrence rescued Gasim Johar from the desert but was forced to execute him. (He didn’t have to shoot him. He shot a guy named Hamed in a dispute between the Syrians and Moroccans.)

The US entered WWI after Aqaba. (They entered before.)

Hajim Bey imprisoned, tortured, sexually assaulted, and perhaps raped T. E. Lawrence at Deraa. (Some historians consider the whole Deraa thing a fantasy since Lawrence described it so sensually. Also, he was seen unhurt afterwards but he did become more withdrawn and peculiar after Deraa. Still, it’s very likely he was raped to avoid further torture.)

T. E. Lawrence was left handed. (He was right handed.)

T. E. Lawrence ate with his left hand in the company of Bedouin tribes and was clumsy on a camel at the start of his Middle Eastern time in World War I. (Lawrence had traveled the region before and was much more experienced dealing with the people there than Lawrence of Arabia implies. Still, he would’ve known that you didn’t eat with your left hand around Bedouin tribes since it’s their customary hand for wiping their asses after going to the bathroom. Also, Lawrence would’ve never been clumsy on a camel and certainly knew how to ride one unlike how Peter O’Toole was {of course, such scenes are kind of played for laughs but you have to leave them in}.)

T. E. Lawrence’s Arab army entirely deserted him as he moved further north. (According to records, only one or two Arabs did.)


The British contingent at Gallipoli was lazy and incompetent. (The reverse is actually true, but you can’t have them as the heroes in an Australian war movie like Gallipoli. By the way, Gallipoli also carries the distinction has the most accurate historical movie Mel Gibson has ever made and he looks damn hot in it. Nevertheless, the Gallipoli Campaign is sort of like Australia’s version of the Battle of Gettysburg.)

The attack of the Nek was a diversion for the British contingent landing at Sulva. (It was actually a diversion for the Kiwi {New Zealand contingent} landing at Sair Bair.)

The British command at the Nek was responsible for the heavy Australian losses caused there. (Actually there was little British command and control at the Nek and the incompetent officers primarily responsible for the heavy losses were Brigadier Hughes and Colonel Anthill who were Australian. So it was actually Australian incompetence and miscommunication between these two officers that was responsible for the disaster at the Nek. Still, Gallipoli’s depiction of the British was very disrespectful.)

The British soldiers at Gallipoli drank tea as the Australians died for them. (Actually, the British sent two companies of Royal Welsh Fusiliers {whom they could ill afford to lose} to help when they heard the attack had stalled. These Welshmen suffered heavy losses trying to support the Aussie attack. Also, during the whole campaign, the British 29th Division {the “Incomparables”} suffered 34,000 losses, the highest of any siege unit at Gallipoli and earned 12 Victorian Crosses. Still, the idea of tea drinking British at Gallipoli was still a popular belief in Australia at the time despite that the British were actually fighting alongside them.)

The US entered the war before Gallipoli. (The Gallipoli campaign was fought in 1915. The US entered the war in 1917.)

The Australians lost more men at Gallipoli than they did at any time of the war. (They actually lost more men in the European trenches.)

The Eastern Front:

The Russians spent the beginning of World War I dealing with the Russian winter. (Barbara Tuchman has said that the Russians started fighting during the summer and St. Petersburg would’ve been extremely hot at the time.)

Russia was still fighting World War I in 1917. (Sort of, but Russia would be in a state of chaos that year with the Russian Revolution in hand that it would have to back out.)

War in the Air:

World War I pilots had exceptional flight instruction before they went off to war. (Only towards the end of the war, in the early part most of the pilots received minimal training because there weren’t many competent flight instructors. After that, they were on their own to fend for themselves. The average lifespan of a WWI pilot in flight was 20 minutes and the average WWI pilots lasted three to six weeks. Still beats the trenches though.)

Most pilots managed to survive their first dogfight. (Well, some is a more accurate statement.)

Fighter pilots fired machine guns by reaching up and pulling large levers. (No fighting aircraft functioned this way. From Imdb: “The guns were triggered by levers mounted on the control stick which pulled wire cables up to the guns.”)

The Luftstreitskraefte (German Imperial Air Force):

The Fokker DR-1 triplane was the standard German plane. (It wasn’t in widespread use until later in the war.)

The Fokker DR-1 carried overall lozenge pattern camouflage. (It didn’t.)

German single-seat fighter aircraft carried bombs. (No German aircraft did.)

The Blue Max was awarded to German pilots who shot down 20 enemy aircraft. (In the beginning of the war, German pilots had to shoot down 8 enemy aircraft to receive a Blue Max. That number was later raised to 16. So George Peppard definitely received his Blue Max fair and square.)

The Fokker DR-1 was powered by an Allied engine. (It was powered by a German engine.)

German Lieutenant Kurt Wolff was shot down in a nighttime mission. (According to his wing man, Lt. Carl-August von Schoenebeck, he was shot down in a dogfight during the day time.)

German pilot Stefan Kirmaier was shot down by a French pilot during the summer. (He was actually shot down by an English pilot in November.)

The L32 Zeppelin was shot down in France during the day time. (It was shot down in Great Britain during the night.)

German fighter pilots had a set uniform. (They actually wore the uniform of where they were from in they were from in the German Army whether it be the infantry, cavalry, navy, or artillery. The Red Baron wore a cavalry uniform. The German Luftstreitskraefte had no “standard” uniforms during World War I. Same went for ground crew.)

French Air Force:

Pilots in the Lafyette Escadrilles, lived in a grand castle like building. (They lived in a mansion.)

French World War I planes were heavy and hard to move around. (They were made out of wood and were easily maneuverable. Yet, they caught fire easily as well.)

The Red Baron:

Manfred Von Richthofen was in an older man during World War I. (He was only 25 when he was shot down.)

Jasta 11 and Richthofen’s Flying Circus were separate squadrons. (Jasta 11 was Richthofen’s Flying Circus.)

Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (a. k. a. The Red Baron) was a proto-pacifist who instructed his men not to kill any enemy pilots. (The Red Baron showed no such tendency and actually encouraged his men to aim at the pilots of enemy planes because it was the easiest way of shooting them down. Still, this is in his 2008 biopic from Germany. By the way, he had a cousin who married a British author named D. H. Lawrence and an uncle living in Colorado.)

Manfred von Richthofen saw Lieutenant Werner Voss get shot down. (Richthofen was on leave in a famous dogfight against a squadron of 8 British SE5’s led by James McCudden.)

Lothar von Richthofen was flying with his older brother Manfred, the day the latter got shot down. (Lothar had been shot down March 13, 1918 and was hospitalized by April 21 of that year due to injuries. He learned about his brother’s death during his stay there.)

The German pilots trained with the Curtiss JN4 (Jenny). (This plane was made in the US and only exported to Great Britain. The Germans wouldn’t have one of these.)

Baron Manfred von Richthofen had a girlfriend who was a nurse named Kate Otersdorf during World War I. (For God’s sake, the Red Baron didn’t have a known girlfriend since having one went against everything he believed. He believed that it was unwise and dishonorable for a pilot to have a relationship given that the average life expectancy was so short. However, he did have a “secret” love he intended on marrying after the war but it wasn’t the woman who nursed him back to health from his head wound. Still, Otersdorf probably would’ve wished to be the Red Baron’s girlfriend.)

Baron Manfred von Richthofen had always been interested in flying planes since his youth as well as to escape an unheroic death at Verdun. (It was more or less because he started out as a reconnaissance cavalry officer before his regiment was shortly dismounted and they later found themselves serving as dispatch runners and telegraph operators. Richthofen was already thinking of transferring to the army supply branch before he became fascinated with planes after seeing a German aircraft behind the lines so he applied to the Imperial German Army Air Service and was transferred in May of 1915. Still, he didn’t want to die an unheroic death though, which his 2008 biopic does get right. Not to mention, the Wright brothers made their first flight when Richthofen was 11 and it’s rather unlikely that he may have seen a plane as a child. And at 11, he was already training to be a cavalry officer who would’ve been more interested in horses than planes.)

Captain Roy Brown:

Captain Roy Brown was shot down by the Red Baron and escaped from a German POW  before sharing a drink with him in No Man’s Land. (Neither of these happened and Brown never met the Red Baron except in combat. Also, Brown was credited as the guy who shot down the Red Baron, though we’re not sure whether it was him or someone else.)

Captain Roy Brown was a member of the Royal Canadian Flying Corps. (Despite being Canadian, he was a member of the Royal Naval Air Service and later the Royal Air Force. The Royal Canadian Flying Corps never existed.)

Major Lanoe Hawker:

Major Lanoe Hawker flew a SE5 with a grim reaper painted on it when he fought the Red Baron. (He flew an Airco DH.2 when the Red Baron shot him down which didn’t have a grim reaper on it. The pilot who did have a grim reaper painted on his plane had a French Escadrille N.94, which Hawker wouldn’t have flown anyway due to being British.)

Lanoe Hawker had a beard. (He had a mustache but the as a British Army officer, he wouldn’t be allowed to have a beard.)

War in the Sea:

In 1916, the German armored cruiser SMS Frederich Carl sank in seconds after hitting a Russian mine causing a big loss of lives. (The Frederich Carl was sunk by Russian mines in 1914 but it stayed afloat for several hours, which was enough for the light cruiser SMS Augsburg to arrive to save most of the crew and resulted in only the loss of 8 crew members.)


Mata Hari was still holding performances in 1917. (Her last performance was in 1915.)

Mata Hari was a rather important spy for the Germans. (Yes, she had a lot of well-connected lovers, but she did try to assist the French secret service through Georges Ladoux, head of counterespionage. However, there’s scant evidence she was really an important spy or working for the Germans. Her execution by firing squad might’ve been rather unjustified.)

Mata Hari’s lover was a Russian aviator named Alexis Rosanoff. (It was actually a man named Captain Vladimir de Masloff whom she protected just as she did in the movie about her.)

The Home Front:

When asked by a military representative, “Would you care to tell us what you would do if you saw a German soldier raping your sister?” Lytton Strachey replied, “I believe I should attempt to come between them.” (He actually said, “I should try and interpose my own body.” Still, the sentiment is accurate as in Carrington. Strachey was eventually disqualified for military service on medical grounds.)

You could join the Australian Light Horse Brigade without bringing any horses. (In the Australian cavalry during World War I, you had to bring your own. Also, you couldn’t travel from Adelaide to Perth by train at this time either since the railroad wouldn’t be built until the 1920s.)

Australians had to be 21 to enlist in the military in 1915. (They could be between 18-45 years old.)

The Aquatania was used as a passenger liner during World War I. (It had actually been used as a military transport and had a camo makeover to boot.)

Ernest Hemingway was a famous author in 1917. (He was a soldier fighting in the war at this point and wouldn’t achieve fame until the 1920s with his books about the war like A Farewell to Arms.)

Germany had radio broadcasting during World War I. (There was no radio broadcasting in Germany until 1923 so everyone there would’ve known about the 1918 Armistice agreement through newspapers.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 53 – The RMS Titanic


Of course, I couldn’t do a post on the RMS Titanic without having a picture from James Cameron’s 1997 take on the disaster which propelled Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio to megastardom as well as won 11 Oscars including Best Picture. Still, it’s not the most accurate cinematic retelling but it’s by far the most popular and the one my generation most likely remembers (especially my neighbor who went to see it multiple times in the theater). Still, I may not have been allowed to see it as a seven-year-old at the time of its release, but I had some idea how big this film was. Nevertheless, at a historical stand point, despite this scene being a highly romantic moment between Jack and Rose, this scene most likely never would happen because people were specifically prohibited from being there, really. I mean there were signs on the Titanic specifically telling people not to do this!

It may seem odd for me to focus one of my posts on movie history on one single event that lasted for a less than a week but in many ways, the voyage of the RMS Titanic is a truly memorable one that once shook the world. However, somehow a story of a huge luxury liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg which killed about 1,517 people seems to have a certain hold on a lot of people that James Cameron’s 1997 epic was a critical and box office success at the time even if it’s not the most accurate nor the most entertaining rendition out of many films that covered the disaster. Yet, back in April of 1912, news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic sent shock waves throughout the world and it has been the subject of much captivation and artistic rendition ever since. The movie adaptation on this disaster actually came out in 1912, not long after it happened. But while many ships have met their watery graves in the ocean which carried far more people, it’s the one of the RMS Titanic that keeps grabbing the attention with so much that has been written and filmed of it. Nevertheless, the cinematic retellings do have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

The White Star Line:

The White Star Line was a public company. (It was actually a subsidiary of a private company and didn’t offer stock nor have a stock price to worry about. Oh, and it was owned by J. P. Morgan.)

The Ship:

The Titanic’s furniture at Palm’s Court consisted of tan wicker furniture and circular tables with bare walls. (Photos of the Titanic showed that the room had wicker furniture, square tables, and walls with real climbing ivy.)

Passengers on the Titanic were allowed on the forecastle, head, and bow. (They weren’t allowed on these parts on the ship. In fact, there were signs that said “Passengers Not Allowed Beyond This Point” mounted on the leeward side of the forward breakwater {both port and starboard}. So the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio says, “I’m king of the world!” wouldn’t have taken place.)

The Titanic’s first class dining hall had table lamps. (It didn’t.)

The Titanic’s entrance vestibule had wooden doors. (According to Imdb: “When James Cameron visited the wreck two years after filming ended, he discovered that the doors were in fact inaccurately portrayed in the {1997} film.”)

The Titanic’s Master at Arm’s office had a porthole. (It was an interior room and therefore, wouldn’t have portholes.)

The Titanic had shuffleboard, its own tailor shop, and regular bar in which people would get drinks. (There was no shuffleboard or a tailor shop on the Titanic. Also, on the Titanic, passengers would order their drinks through waiters and stewards who’d fetch them for the passengers.)

The Titanic had a dance floor in its first class dining saloon. (The Titanic did not have a dance floor. Also, among middle and upper classes, public dancing was seen as inappropriate in 1912.)

The grand staircase of the Titanic had an elaborate brass dome. (It didn’t.)

The watertight doors of the Titanic slid horizontally. (They didn’t.)

The Titanic was as big as the Mauretania and the Lusitatania. (It was actually 90 some feet longer than either ship.)

The Titanic had a piano in its lounge. (There’s no evidence on whether it was or not.)

The funnels on the Titanic were noisy on the outside but could barely be heard on the inside of the ship even during the sinking. (It’s said to sound like 20 locomotives blowing off steam at low key. Also, the noise of the funnels hindered Jack Philips from hearing transmissions from other ships since the Marconi office was below a funnel.)

The Crew:

The crew of the crows nest were equipped with binoculars and communicated to the bridge through screaming back and forth. (They didn’t have binoculars. They also communicated to the bridge through telephone.)

Captain Smith witnessed the Titanic colliding with an iceberg. (He was in his cabin at the time.)

The crew on the Titanic wore Royal Navy uniforms. (They weren’t in the Royal Navy. They wore uniforms from the White Star Line.)

First Officer Murdoch lowered Collapsible C boat. (Chief Officer Wilde did this.)

First Officer William Murdoch shot two innocent men to prevent them from boarding a lifeboat during the sinking of the Titanic and later committed suicide. (Murdoch more likely tried to do what he could to save the passengers and went down with the ship like most of the crew did except those who manned the lifeboats. His hometown and family were outraged by Murdoch’s depiction in the James Cameron movie since his locale treats him as a local hero. As to his fate, we really can’t say whether he committed suicide or not because there are many contradictory accounts of what happened to him. The crew members may have been inexperienced but there are plenty of stories of the crew members performing heroic actions. Actually, James Cameron treats most of the Titanic crew members in a negative light with the exception of Captain Smith of course, who I think bears the bulk of the responsibility for the Titanic sinking in the first place since he was the one who canceled the lifeboat drill, ignored prior warnings of icebergs ahead, and ordered the Titanic to go full speed.)

Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller was nervous martinet. (He was actually a hero who kept a dozen people alive on an overturned Collapsible B.)

German First Officer Petersen vainly tried to save the greedy British from their own destruction. (The First Officer on the Titanic was William Murdoch who went down with the ship. Not to mention, the Titanic was a British ship manned by a British crew! Petersen was a fictional character created for a 1943 Nazi propaganda film of the Titanic sinking, which James Cameron has seen since he borrowed plenty of its elements for the 1997 film {though he claims he hasn’t, nice try}. Strangely enough, while the German 1943 version of the Titanic sinking is flat out Nazi propaganda, it isn’t the worst film adaptation of the disaster.)

Captain Edward John Smith had a mustache while on the Titanic and made it to New York. (He had a mustache and a full white beard like in the Edwardian style. Also, he died during the sinking.)

Captain Smith went on the bridge of the Titanic during the sinking. (There are conflicting survivor testimonies as to what happened to him. Some say he stayed on the bridge, others say he jumped off the ship in a life jacket. A few accounts even said he committed suicide.)

Captain Edward John Smith planned to retire after the Titanic‘s maiden crossing. (It’s common knowledge and he was supposed to since he was 62 {though the Titanic registers list him as 59} while the mandatory retirement age on the White Star Line was 60. However, there’s some debate whether this was true or not. Still, he was probably not looking forward to it and if he was, he was probably more or less being pressured into retirement.)

Captain Smith visited the wireless cabin to tell the operators to send calls for assistance and gave the incorrect coordinates for the ship. (He actually gave the correct coordinates and it was 4th Officer Boxhall who gave the screwed up coordinates some minutes later to the Marconi operators Phillips and Bride.)

Captain Smith was at the starboard side during the Titanic sinking. (He was on the starboard side most of the time and Harold Bride says that Smith returned with him into the wireless room.)

2nd Officer Lightoller was wearing an overcoat during the loading of the lifeboats even when he was on the Collapsible B. (When launching the last two lifeboats, he said in his autobiography that he was wearing a pants and sweater over his pajamas as well as a life jacket. He had already discarded his overcoat by that point.)

Chief Baker Charles Joughin was drunk during the Titanic sinking. (He wasn’t though he did take a quick nip in his cabin during the evacuation.)

Sub-Lieutenant Harold Godfrey Lowe saw women and children among the debris. (He didn’t report seeing any women and children among the wreckage.)

The Passengers:

Thomas Andrews clearly noticed that the Titanic hit something while he was in his cabin going over the ship’s blueprints. (While Andrews was in his cabin working on improvements for the Titanic {which he designed himself}, he didn’t feel the iceberg collision and was informed of it when he was summoned by the crew.)

Thomas Andrews surveyed the iceberg damage and realized that the Titanic was going to sink. (From a page of goofs on James Cameron’s Titanic: “We don’t know what transpired between Captain Smith, Andrews, Chief Officer Wilde, First Officer Murdoch or Sixth Officer Moody, as all were lost.”)

J. Bruce Ismay was an arrogant bullying prick who forced Captain Smith to run the ship full speed into the ice field and acted as a sniffling coward who hopped aboard the first available lifeboat. (Actually it was Smith’s decision to run the ship full speed. Also, Ismay was diligent in helping load and lower lifeboats and only took his seat in one after he made sure that there were no women and children there to take it instead. Of course, he was wrong since most of the women and children on the ship by that time were all crowded in steerage and went down with the ship.)

There were Spanish passengers in steerage on the Titanic. (There were 3 Spanish passengers in 1st class and 5 in 2nd class. None were in 3rd.)

J. Bruce Ismay pressured Captain Smith to speed up the Titanic in order to achieve a new speed record for the White Star Line. (Everyone knew that the White Star Line couldn’t win against the Lusitania and the Mauretania. Also, the Titanic and its sister ships like the Olympic and the Britannic weren’t designed to beat the Cunard Line based on speed but on luxury and technological novelties {and even that’s subjective}. Furthermore, arriving early wouldn’t lead to applause but complaints from the passengers whose hotel reservations would’ve been set for the following day and annoyance from New York customs.)

Harold Sanderson was the chairman of the White Star Line who disembarked at during a port of call at Cherbourg, France before the Titanic set sail for the Atlantic. (Well, he was a senior official of the White Star Line in 1912. He wasn’t the chairman. J. Bruce Ismay was. This error is in the 1953 Titanic film with Barbara Stanwyck. Also, the Titanic made a port of call at Queenstown, Ireland before heading to New York, not Cherbourg, France.)

J. Bruce Ismay’s wife was Gloria. (Her name was Florence Schieffelin during the Titanic’s maiden voyage.)

All the Titanic passengers were white. (Most of them were, but there were some racial minorities among them.)

Madeline Astor was an old woman having an affair during the Titanic voyage. (She was actually a heavily pregnant 18 year old girl. Her son was born 4 months after the voyage. She wasn’t a buxom blond woman pushing 30 either but a slender teenage brunette. Of course, her husband John Jacob Astor was 54 years old which is kind of creepy.)

Molly Brown was one of the first passengers on board Lifeboat 6. (She was one of the last.)

The Maiden Voyage:

The Titanic set sail in brilliant sunshine at Southampton. (Photographs showed that the Titanic set sail in sky overcast.)

Tickets on the Titanic were easy to transfer to another passenger. (They were impossible to transfer so it’s very unlikely for the Jack and Rose love story to happen, historically speaking.)

The Titanic sailed out of Liverpool. (It sailed out of Southampton. In fact, one of the reasons why the White Star Line chose Southampton as its main terminal was because their newest ships were too big for Liverpool’s harbor.)

During the voyage, a bunch of third class passengers went to the first class hangout to find what was going on. (This never happened but it’s in the German 1943 Titanic film. Also, this was never allowed.)

The Titanic was christened before its maiden voyage. (The White Star Line never really christened their ships at this point. Also, the fact that the Titanic was never christened contributed to why some people believed it sunk in the first place.)

The Titanic was due in New York on April 15. (It was due to land in New York on April 17.)

The White Star Line was aiming to get a Blue Ribbon during the Titanic’s voyage. (It had already given up that goal by that point.)

Life in first class aboard the Titanic was boring while life in steerage was lively and fun. (Of course, James Cameron’s Titanic is told through Rose’s point of view and she may have believed this. However, let’s just say that in most of history, it was better to be rich than poor for obvious reasons {and casualty records on the Titanic’s sinking show this since more people in steerage died than from first and second class}. Also, single men and women were segregated in third class with single women in the bow and single women and families in the stern.)

The Titanic arrived at Cherbourg, France at dusk with every single light on in the ship. (It arrived at Cherbourg, France during the day time but we’re not sure how long it took to transfer passengers and mail to and from the ship so it could’ve been evening. But by that time only the anchor lights would’ve been on. Also, the Titanic was only 2/3 occupied at this point so all the lights wouldn’t have been on the ship even if it does look pretty in the James Cameron film.)

Colonel Archibald Gracie was British. (He was actually American but Cameron had him speaking in a British accent for some reason.)

The Iceberg Collision:

Titanic’s E deck was immediately flooded during the iceberg collision. (E deck was two floors above the collision site and wasn’t immediately flooded.)

The impact of the Titanic hitting the iceberg threw the passengers forward. (If it did, the Titanic would’ve had a lower body count. However, the impact caused the ship to shake slightly and was barely noticeable.)

The Titanic collided with a small iceberg. (The iceberg was actually quite huge, especially underwater.)

The first warning of ice was brought to bridge. (It wasn’t. Actually the Titanic received multiple warnings of icebergs from other ships but not all of them were relayed to radio operators and the ice conditions for that April were the worst for that month in the previous 50 years.)

The Titanic hit the iceberg by its port side. (It was hit on its starboard side but this is shown in multiple films.)

The iceberg collision ruptured five of Titanic‘s compartments. (It ruptured six. Still, five was the minimum number of compartments that had to be ruptured before the ship could sink.)

The Sinking:

“CQD” was sent from the Titanic as a distress signal. (Yes, it was but “SOS” was used later on.)

The Titanic sank in one piece. (It actually split in two pieces near the surface. Yet, many film adaptations made before the 1980s show this because the technology to find and view the wreckage itself didn’t exist at the time. Thus, it was popularly believed it sank in one piece.)

All the Titanic’s boilers were lit before it sank. (Only 24 out its 29 boilers were ever lit, yet it’s said there was to be a full speed test with all of them lit on April 15th, 1912. Of course, you know what happened by then.)

The Titanic sank on a starry night. (It actually sank on a dark and moonless night.)

Picasso paintings were lost on the Titanic. (There were no Picasso paintings on there and many of them depicted in the movies are still on display. Also, we know what happened to his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon since you can actually see it in a museum. Boy, Rose must’ve gotten scammed big time somehow.)

Lifeboats on the Titanic were loaded according to gender, age, and class. (They weren’t loaded according to class despite what James Cameron might imply. In fact, more third class women survived the Titanic than first class men. And many of the first class men who survived were vilified as selfish cowards willing to save their own skins as 150 women and children met their watery deaths.)

The Titanic passengers were awakened to find the ship sinking at the sound of the siren informing them of the collision. (No such system existed on the Titanic. Passengers in all three classes were informed about their sinking through stewards knocking on their cabin doors and only when crew members knew that the ship was going to sink.)

Men on the Titanic were prevented from getting to the lifeboats during the sinking. (Men were indeed prevented from accessing lifeboats on the port side. Yet, men on the starboard side allowed men if no more women and children were willing to go or didn’t show up. Also, a third of the men in first class survived.)

The red ensign was on the Titanic flagstaff during the sinking. (The Titanic sank during the night while red ensigns are flown during the day time.)

The Titanic sank almost immediately after hitting an iceberg. (The ship struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm. The ship sank at 2:20 am so sinking took a good 2 ½ hours at least.)

Men dressed in drag to get on to the Titanic life boats. (The idea of men dressing up as women during the sinking has been long discredited as a hoax. According to Imdb: “This was a rumor started by one survivor’s business competitor to discredit him.”)

The Titanic sank with the lights in its portholes. (The electrical power failed a few seconds before the ship went down.)

712 people survived on the Titanic. (The exact count of survivors has been disputed but there were 712 on the lifeboats.)

Only six people were in the ocean were saved 6 during the Titanic sinking. (13 were saved from the waters but 3 of them died.)

Only one of the Titanic lifeboats went back to search for survivors. (Two or three of them did.)

Engineers put water in the boilers while the Titanic was sinking. (Putting water into the boiler would’ve been a bad idea and engineers in 1912 knew that.)

Everyone survived the Titanic with no traumatic effects. (The sinking of the RMS Titanic actually killed well over 1,500 people which is why it’s so remembered in the first place. However, there are a couple animated films that actually have such an ending with one called Titanic: The Legend Goes On that features singing immigrant mice and a rapping dog {seriously} and The Legend of the Titanic which has singing mice, an octopus that saves the ship and a “save the whales” plot {which is totally irrelevant since kerosene had already put most whaling out of business back in the late 1800s. Most modern whaling is actually done for food. Also, nobody owns the seas and oceans.} It also claimed that sharks prevented the Titanic from swerving around the iceberg which is just wrong because the Titanic was going too fast at that point to begin with to turn in time. It also blames sharks as the reason why the iceberg was there to begin with. Oh, and did I say that the latter animated film had a sequel that takes place in Atlantis featuring mermaids, talking toys, and evil mice? Seriously not making this up. Also, they were both made in Italy. Still, at least people got to die in Anastasia and Pocahontas!)

Children from First and Second class died in the sinking. (Only one child from first class did by the name of Loraine Allison who stayed on deck with her parents.)

The band played “Nearer My God to Thee” as the Titanic sank. (There’s dispute on what they played. Yet, the band had no horns section nor did anyone stand up and sing. Most experts believe it was “Autumn.”)

The Titanic boilers exploded while the ship was sinking. (No boiler exploded during the disaster yet such is shown in multiple films.)

The Titanic’s lifeboats were available for every passenger. (The ship had lifeboats that were only available for 1,178  people. The limited number of lifeboats was one of the reasons why so many people died on the Titanic.)

All of the Titanic’s lifeboats were successfully launched before it sank. (Collapsible B wasn’t for it floated off upside down which allowed Second Officer Lightoller and others to survive. Also, the collapsible boats were unwieldy and had room for 47 passengers each.)

Third class passengers were locked aboard the Titanic to keep them from taking a seat in a lifeboat before the first and second class passengers. (It was a regulatory measure to prevent “less cleanly” third class passengers from transmitting diseases and infections to others so they could be the only ones requiring health inspections on their arrival in New York. And even when they were locked, they didn’t bar the access to the deck, only the first and second passenger areas of the ship. In fact, when the Titanic was sinking, crew members went there immediately to lead the third class women and children to safety. However, the reason why so many people in steerage died on the Titanic was that many of them had a hard time finding their way through the maze of corridors to the life boats, with those who couldn’t speak English at an even greater disadvantage since the signs were only in English. Also, the third class cabins weren’t as close to the deck and the life boats as those of first and second class. Still, maybe having crew members who knew a foreign language as well as foreign language signs could’ve saved more people!)

During the sinking, many of the passengers went inside because it was too cold. (Most survivor accounts said they went on deck as soon as they put their life belts on. And they weren’t too impressed by the poor efforts of some of the crewmen preparing the boats. Those staying inside during the Titanic‘s sinking were people who either chose to go down with the ship or had no idea where to fetch the lifeboats.)

The Carpathia was the closest ship to the Titanic when it was sinking. (The Mount Temple and the Californian were closer. However, the Californian had its radio turned off for the night and when the captain saw the signal rockets shot off by the Titanic as distress signals, he just assumed they were fireworks aboard a luxury liner and went to bed. Then there’s the Norwegian whaling ship the Samson which was illegally hunting seals in US waters who mistook the lights and the signal rockets from the Titanic as belonging to the US or Canadian Coast Guard and only learned about the tragedy at the next port of call. The Carpathia may just get notice in the movies because it was the closest ship that came in and helped.)

The forecastle and the well deck were submerged when the first two lifeboats were away. (They wouldn’t go under water until the very last lifeboats were launched.)

Lifeboat 7 nearly tipped passengers at sea. (No survivor ever recalled this happening. However, there was some similar mishap on Lifeboat 5.)

“Women and children first” was the officer’s orders at gunpoint during the sinking of the Titanic. (“Women and children first” was standard procedure of most ships at the time. Almost all the male survivors of the Titanic {save a handful of crew members} were vilified because of this.)


Everyone believed the Titanic was unsinkable. (The Titanic wasn’t big news until it hit an iceberg and sank. The ship claimed to be unsinkable was its sister ship the Olympic and that was before it experienced a minor collision. Yet, it had the same captain, traveled the same route, had the same facilities, and the same number of lifeboats.)

Life jackets on the Titanic had 12 pieces of cork in them. (They had six pieces of cork in them.)

The Titanic‘s lifeboats were tested in Belfast with the weight of 70 men. (There’s no way to verify this. However, there was testing on 66 people and the boats performed well. Still, many of the life boats on the Titanic left the ship half full.)

Father Thomas Byles prayed at the poop deck with the masses during the sinking. (He prayed at the aft end of the boat deck. Also, according to eyewitness accounts, Byles didn’t quote Revelation but recited the rosary, and performed acts of contrition and absolution to the doomed masses who congregated round him.)

The Titanic survivors on the Carpathia were all berthed in steerage. (Some Titanic survivors were berthed in 3rd class when suitable space in 2nd class couldn’t be found.)

The Titanic was badly designed, badly built, and badly operated by the standards of the time. (It was actually a very good ship even by modern standards since it managed to stay afloat well over 2 hours after being hit by an iceberg {even Thomas Andrews thought the ship wouldn’t last more than an hour and a half}. Still, it was built by the best available materials of the time period as well as not traveling too fast for the conditions by the standards of the time. Also, it was the second ship in a line of three Olympic sized ships. Besides, scientists have determined no man made structure could ever survive a collision with an iceberg going 30 mph. Also, it split at a 23 degree maximum tilt which is twice the intended design limits on modern ships. Thus, the Titanic was just torn apart by forces that were way beyond the extremes of what a structure was designed to withstand.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 52 – Early 20th Century Europe


Of course, I couldn’t think of any movie that characterizes Pre-World War I Europe than the 1964 My Fair Lady starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Yes, I know it’s a musical but it’s fun and entertaining with costume as authentic as the misogyny. And, yes, hats in that era were that big. For all the ladies out there, I sincerely recommend you making your boyfriends watch this with you.

Unless it’s set in Russia, no era in history has been shown as nostalgically as the early 20th century. Despite the fact that much of the world was under a ruling monarchy, the a small elite controlled much of the world’s wealth, most women didn’t have the right to vote and were willing to go through extraordinary measures to get it, and child labor existed in even the most prosperous nations, a lot of family friendly musicals, cartoons, and romances are set in this period. Perhaps there’s the steam punk appeal with the old timey automobiles out on the road with no traffic rules, seat belts, or speeding limits, and went as fast as 20 miles per hour. Perhaps there’s the appeal with the amazing flying machines like biplanes, balloons, and airship zeppelins. Maybe it’s the amazing costumes and the massive women’s hats. Or perhaps this period is so idealized by movies because this is the part of the 20th century which is before things like the Titanic, a war that would wipe out a significant fraction of a generation of young men, a flu epidemic that would also wipe out a lot of young people. Let’s just say the 1910s wasn’t a great era for young people. Still, for Europe, the early 1900s was a time when the British Empire was in it’s glory days, France still had its art scene and was getting into experimenting with film, Germany and Austria had their monarchies, and technology and science were creating a great range of new inventions. Nevertheless, there are significant inaccuracies in movies set in this time which I shall list accordingly.

Edwardian Great Britain:

The Duke and Duchess Marlborough had daughters before World War I. (The Duchess of Marlborough was an American woman named Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough who was married to the 8th Duke of Marlborough who was a cousin of Winston Churchill. They had two boys who weren’t yet of marriageable age and were separated until their divorce in 1921. Thus, the reference of the Duchess of Marlborough’s daughter in 1912 would’ve been historically inaccurate.)

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen killed and brutally mutilated his wife Cora. (Recent DNA evidence has found that the remains found in his basement not only weren’t Cora but of a dude. So it’s probably likely that he didn’t kill his wife like he’s alleged to.)

King Edward VII:

King Edward VII was alive in 1912. (He died in 1910. Yet, he’s the king in My Fair Lady.)

King Edward VII wanted his son the future George V to be frightened of him. (Actually they were very close and Edward VII actually brought George’s desk next to his at Buckingham Palace so they could work together. Of course, they come from a family in which it wasn’t very common for sovereigns to get along so harmoniously with their heirs apparent.)

King George VI:

King George VI was starved and pinched by his nanny when he was a child. (Actually, his original head nanny wasn’t really that abusive and actually pinched his brother David {the future Edward VIII} before taking him to see his parents and didn’t starve him or his siblings. Nevertheless, she was quite a piece of work who neglected the kids, particularly Bertie. Also, while Bertie might’ve had an eating disorder, he developed it all on his own and by that point the original nanny was replaced by a kind and motherly one named Charlotte Bill who swore like a sailor off duty. Still, she was a full time companion to Bertie’s youngest brother Johnnie when the boy was “hidden from view” and was with him when he died.)

Dora Carrington:

Dora Carrington was straight. (She was bisexual and had affairs with women which is left out in the 1995 movie about her. At least Frida Kahlo’s bisexuality wasn’t left out in her movie.)

James M. Barrie:

James M. Barrie was a normal sized attractive man. (He was actually very short with a head that seemed too big for his body {5’3 ½” to be exact which is about my height} with a receding hairline and a persistent cough to boot. Yet, in Finding Neverland, he’s played by Johnny Depp. Some said he might’ve had psychogenic dwarfism. Also, he’s said to have a lot of self-esteem issues stemming from when he had a brother die at six and how his mother made it clear to her surviving child that she preferred the dead son who’d never grow up to him. )

James M. Barrie set aside seats for children on Peter Pan’s opening night. (This didn’t happen.)

Peter Davies was James M. Barrie’s inspiration for Peter Pan. (Barrie met the Llewelyn Davies boys when Peter was only a baby and unlike as seen from Finding Neverland, he wasn’t the youngest brother. Barrie was actually closer to George and Michael with the latter being the inspiration for Peter Pan. Peter just shared the character’s name. Oh, and Peter Pan initially appeared as a character in a fictional universe in one of Barrie’s novels before he wrote the play.)

The Llewelyn Davies boys were all living with their widowed mother Sylvia when they met James M. Barrie. (Actually the father of the boys Arthur Davies was very much alive several years into Barrie’s friendship with his sons. He and Sylvia also had Michael and Nicholas during that time, with the latter being absent in Finding Neverland. And no, Barrie didn’t have any romantic feelings for Sylvia for their relationship was much more platonic though Barrie claim they were engaged. Besides, Arthur Llewelyn Davies was a much more attractive man even though he did die in 1907 of skin cancer and Sylvia 3 years later in 1910.)

Sylvia Llewelyn Davies had blond hair. (Photographs reveal her as a brunette.)

James M. Barrie and his wife Mary Ansell divorced before the Peter Pan premiere in 1903. (They divorced in 1909.)

James M. Barrie’s producer Charles Frohman was full of cynical misgivings of the Peter Pan idea. (He was actually very supportive of Barrie throughout his career and one of the few friends he ever had and was crazy about Peter Pan from its inception that he’d act out whole scenes of the play to friends. Frohman would die during the bombing of the Lusitania.)

James M. Barrie’s relationship with Peter Davies managed to achieve an equilibrium. (Their relationship became more strained as the boy grew up and Peter actually grew to hate his association with Peter Pan. As with George and Michael, they both died young and in tragic circumstances. George was killed by a sniper in WWI at only 21 years old. Michael and his close friend {possibly lover} drowned in either a terrible accident or a suicide pact. Peter committed suicide in 1960 at 63 though he was actually much luckier than the boys and might’ve did it because he was suffering from emphysema and found out that his wife and kids had inherited Huntington’s disease. Also, he became an alcoholic yet he probably had plenty of reasons why he drank and might’ve just been drunk when he threw himself in front the train. Still, he managed to start a publishing company that published works by his cousin Daphne Du Maurier and managed to win a Military Cross for his actions in World War I.)

Beatrix Potter:

Norman Warne proposed to Beatrix Potter in person and her parents softened their opposition to the match. (Contrary to Miss Potter, he proposed through letter but her parents never softened their opposition to the match. Lucky for them, Norman died a month later due to lymphatic leukemia. He’s probably the reason why she never married.)

Beatrix Potter had no interest in shrooms. (She had detailed studies in fungi and once wanted to be a mycologist, though you wouldn’t know it from Miss Potter. Still, being a woman at the time, she had to settle for children’s book author.)

Frederick Warne published Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. (Actually she published the story herself in a private manner before Warne took it up.)


Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein engaged in BDSM during their affair. (Their fantasies were more about an obsession with the Wagnerian hero Sigfried than anything related to BDSM as in A Dangerous Method. Still, Carl Jung did have a sexual relationship with this woman.)

Sabina Spielrein went crazy when Carl Jung tried to dump her that she was set on ruining him. (She did have trouble accepting the breakup yet the real Jung’s letters make him sound so much like an asshole that it’s impossible not to take his side. However, him and Freud also belittled her as a colleague throughout her career while simultaneously incorporating some of her ideas such as the “death instinct” into their own work. In A Dangerous Method, Spielrein is made to be like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. Yet, Spielrein might have some justification on wanting to ruin Jung’s career because he used her for his own ends, both as a sexual partner and as a colleague.)

Carl Jung was an open-minded, human-hearted, progressive who gallantly explored uncharted territory in search of ideals and nobly believing the possibility of more. (Jung may have put forward a lot of new and interesting concepts in psychology but vast bodies of his work were disproved, and his penchant for the mystical was rather detrimental to scientific theory like the equivalent of a creationist in the field of evolutionary theory. Not to mention, he was a Swiss evangelical who married a woman for money and had the habit of sleeping with his patients. Oh, and he was complicit with the Nazis.)

Carl Jung was under 6 feet tall. (He was 6’1.”)


Sigmund Freud’s work on a male’s preoccupation with penis size was around before World War I. (He actually didn’t publish anything about this until 1920 under the title “The Pleasure Principle.” Also, until 1919, Freud relied on data solely from females.)

Sigmund Freud was a gruff, stubborn, conservative crackpot who jumped to conclusions, reduced everything to sex, shirked any ideas that weren’t his own, impeded progress, and strived to preserve the status quo in psychiatry. (This is a popular image of Freud but he wasn’t really like this. Still, while Freud was fallible and stubborn, he was also lighthearted and brilliant. Also, many of his theories proved to be right and his Oedipus complex theory had absolutely nothing to do with parental incest. Oh, and he was never as hot as Viggo Mortenson.)

Sigmund Freud rejected the notion of the repression of ego during sex. (The repression of ego during sex was Freud’s own idea.)


Kaiser Wilhelm II spoke English in a German accent. (He spoke it like a member of the British Royal Family would since his grandmother was Queen Victoria. Then again, he was German and spoke the language so maybe having a German accent in World War I movies can be forgiven.)

“Deutschlandlied” was the national anthem for Imperial Germany. (Imperial Germany never had a national anthem, though “Watch on the Rhine” served as one in the unofficial sense. “Deutschlandlied” is actually the national anthem for the Weimar Republic when it was adopted in 1922.)

The Cecilienhof palace was built for Wilhelm II. (It was built for the last crown prince of Germany who lived there from 1917-1919 and 1926-1945.)


Colonel Alfred Redl was a essentially a scapegoat by officials of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to distract from a coup d’etat planned by Archduke Franz Ferdinand who actually betrayed military secrets to Russia. (There’s a movie about this but this premise is total bullshit. Redl actually did betray military secrets to the Russians. Most historical accounts claim that Redl committed treason because Russian agents blackmailed for homosexuality, while a few accounts say he merely did it for money. As for Archduke Ferdinand, there’s no way he was planning a coup, nor was he a bloodthirsty warmonger of any kind.)


Old timey cars were perfectly safe and navigable. (Yes, you certainly start seeing more cars on the road at this time and yes, they did go slower than nowadays. However, these were the days when there weren’t any speed limits, traffic rules, or seat belts. Also, while many people were upset when Matthew Crawley was killed in a car crash in Downton Abbey, such accidents were very common place. Not to mention, between 1890 and 1916, they used horses to haul stranded cars out of ruts, mud, and ditches. As for navigability, paved asphalt streets weren’t a common sight in this time and your early cars weren’t all-terrain vehicles. Oh, and you had to use a crank to get them to start.)

Early flying machines were perfectly safe. (Orville Wright and Lieutenant T. E. Selfridge found out the hard way in 1908 when Orville’s plane developed mechanical problems and crashed in Maryland, killing Selfridge.)

Wristwatches were a common accessory. (Not until after World War I. Until then, pocket watches reigned supreme.)
Electric trolleys were faster than horses and clanged to alert passengers of their presence. (Yes, they could but they usually didn’t travel that fast since they had to deal with traffic. They usually traveled at a horse’s pace and seldom at their rated speed because the horses just wouldn’t get out of their way.)

Knapsack parachutes were around in 1908. (They were invented in 1911.)

Nobody sweat in an old timey bathing suit. (They were made out of wool and were very impractical to swim in, more or less made for preserving modesty than actual swimming. Women’s bathing suits were black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses, often featuring a sailor collar, and worn over bloomers or drawers trimmed with ribbons and bows. Men’s kind of resembled striped pajama leotards or something worn by guys on the high school wrestling team. Still, if you were a woman who wanted to swim, you sometimes ran the risk of being arrested for indecent exposure. Also, it wasn’t unusual for beaches to ban topless bathing for men.)

Early psychoanalysis was permeated with sexual perverts. (There were a lot of early psychoanalysts involved who were there for the intellectual and humanitarian purposes. That’s not to say that there weren’t any perverts among the early shrinks for there certainly were like Carl Jung. Still, while Sigmund Freud has been portrayed this way in movies, he wasn’t a pervert though or at least knew to keep it in his pants.)

Wheels had metal rims and spokes at this time. (They actually had wooden rims and spokes.)

Modern frosted glass light bulbs were used at this time. (Light bulbs of the era were hand blown clear glass ones.)
Most roads were paved during this time. (Most of them were unpaved, cobbled or lined with crushed rocks, such as gravel and they weren’t properly maintained as well as often lay in disrepair.)

Gentlemen wore their hats indoors. (They didn’t do this until in very recent times.)

Suffragettes were just angry women shouting with signs. (Women in this era went through great lengths to get the vote even risking their lives and braving police brutality. One British woman threw herself at the horse tracks during a Derby race. A lot of suffragettes got arrested and went on hunger strikes in jail. Still, suffragettes make hippies and Occupy Wall Street protestors look like a bunch of wusses.)

Catholic priests at the time wore a traditional black garment with a white “dog collar.” (By this time, the Catholic Church forbade priests to dress this way.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 51 – America at the Turn of the Century


Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane has been deemed as the best movie of all time by many film organizations like the American Film Institute. It’s thinly veiled story about William Randolph Hearst who managed to use his media savvy to get the US into a war with Spain with “Remember the Maine.” Yet, this movie also talks about the rising presence in the mass media in America about the turn of the century which men like Kane and Hearst helped engineer. While I may not think it’s the best movie of all time, I do agree that it’s a movie of great cinematic and historical value which should’ve received more contemporary recognition than it got.

My last part of the series regarding history in the movies will pertain to the 20th century since much of 21st history is too recent for everyone to agree upon since we live in a world of political bias and events of our recent past are very prone to opinionated judgements which may or may not be accurate depending on who you believe. Sometimes relatively recent history isn’t actually considered history at all but may fall around the line of current events since many of the participants are still alive, which is helpful for historians in some respect but sometimes they’d prefer talking about someone who is dead since they can’t really talk back. There may have been certain events that happened within the last 20 years or so but such incidences aren’t times that historians can adequately judge at the moment. Besides, I need to stop somewhere.

The 20th century was an even more transformative time than the one that preceded it with massive changes taking place within the span of generations and decades. In 1900, there were barely any cars on the street and by 1999, much of the western world starting to head toward the information age. Whatever progress is made in any field during the 19th century, would practically be on steroids in the 20th and then some ranging with everything from electricity, fashion, entertainment, to civil rights. Yet, the 20th century brought on its share of new challenges, new problems, and compelled us to redefine our place in the world as in a global village. Not to mention, the 20th century would be fraught by global conflicts, worldwide economic crises, pandemics, genocide, cultural unrest, and other things. Of course, these incidences are nothing new at all and have happened a lot in the past, but 20th century history implies that they are. Yet, the difference is that 20th century events in history are more likely to be recorded and depicted right where they happened and when thanks to the accessibility of information at this time. Events that occurred earlier are more likely to be forgotten until several years later. Not to mention, advances in communication have managed to make manipulating history much harder to do in many cases, though it is possible for many to use the media in their favor. But let’s say that Egyptian Pharaohs had a much easier time toppling monuments of their predecessor and expunge them from records than most of our dictators would today, since camera images can provide plenty of damning evidence than stone hieroglyphs.

Of course, I can’t begin my blog series on movies set in the 20th century until I discuss movie history in the United States around the turn of the century between the end of the American Civil War and US entry into World War I in 1917. This was a time of much excitement and contradiction. It was a time of progressive politics, science and technological innovation, expansionism, and increasing prestige. Yet, this is a time of rampant ethnic and racial discrimination, political corruption, boom and bust economic cycles, and widening divisions between the rich and poor. You have new inventions like phonographs, telephones, airplanes, and film. You have great waves of immigration from all over the world at this time seeking a new life in this country, yet at this time the American Dream has never been so far to reach due to discrimination, limited educational opportunities, child labor, monopolies, and political opposition of unionization. In 1890, the top 1% of Americans possessed more wealth than the poorest 99% combined, which is a reason why much of this period is called the Gilded Age. Still, you have plenty of movies set in this era tell how great this time was but it wasn’t. Nevertheless, there are plenty of inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

The Statue of Liberty:

The Statue of Liberty was originally green like it is now. (It was originally brown and it took over 35 years for it to change color.)

The Statue of Liberty originally had a golden torch. (The gold leaf covered torch was installed in 1986. The original torch had portholes where it was illuminated from within.)


Pinkerton Detective James McPharlan’s initial contact with the Molly Maguires was at Port Clinton’s Emerald House. (It was at the Sheridan House in nearby Pottsville, Pennsylvania.)

Jack Kehoe brought Detective McPharlan into the Molly Maguires. (It was “Muff” Lawler who did since he was the master of the group’s membership. Of course, Kehoe is played by Sean Connery in The Molly Maguires. Still, Kehoe was seen by the Pinkertons as the master conspirator in the Molly Maguires and was seen by Allen Pinkerton as a diabolical figure. Still, in the Molly Maguires there was plenty of private and workplace squabbles, ethnic resentment, and class grievances that gave much rise to the violence in the coal patches of Western Pennsylvania. The movie about them is more about the immigrant experience.)

James McPharlan’s relationship with Mary Raines was a tragic love story. (The woman McPharlan courted was Mary Ann Higgins who was a sister-in-law to one of the Molly Maguires, Jimmy Kerrigan. However, it was a romance that furthered the investigation into the group and nothing more.)


Alexander Graham Bell:

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in his youth. (It was invented by Antonio Meucci in 1860 and Johann Phillip Reis in 1861 and both called it a “telephone.” Still, he invented a telephone called the Bell – telephone in the 1870s. Nevertheless, Bell would later invent a model for a wireless telephone called a Photophone, which would be precursor to fiber-optic communication. He also invented a metal detector and did experiments in hydrofoils and aeronautics.)

Alexander Graham Bell sent the first sound through a wire in the 1870s. (The first sound through a wire was made by Johann Phillip Reis in 1862.)

Mabel Hubbard fell for Alexander Graham Bell at first sight when she accidentally ran into him when he arrived to her family’s house. (Well, we’re not sure though he was definitely one of Mabel’s teachers and she was his favorite pupil. Still, they were a devoted couple until Alexander’s death in 1922.)

Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson were clean shaven men in the 1870s. (Both had beards.)

Alexander Graham Bell was a great humanitarian for the deaf. (Despite having a deaf wife and mother, he was a shitty guy to the deaf community {though he did think he was doing the right thing}. He was a big believer in eugenics {the idea that sterilizing poor and disabled people was rad idea} and wasn’t too thrilled with having deaf teachers or deaf people marrying each other. Not to mention, his ideas on teaching deaf people to read lips really didn’t help their quality of life. So yes, Bell was a real huge jerk.)

Nikola Tesla:

Nikola Tesla was an underrated inventor who was a crazy genius but was screwed by Thomas Edison. (Edison wasn’t a nice guy and did steal inventions from some people but you can’t blame all of Tesla’s failures on him though they did have an intense rivalry. When Tesla got bored of sane science his career totally bombed. Tesla’s attempts to build a death ray and the weather control machine or whatever else he was hoping to build just didn’t work. He may have done some important work in physics as well as been the first person to file a patent of a VTOL aircraft, but neither would actually be built decades later when the actual nuts-and-bolts engineering was being done by someone else. Yet, he’s seen as an awesome underrated scientist in whatever he’s in. Yet, Marconi did still Tesla’s patent for radio while Edison didn’t.)

Nikola Tesla succeeded at building a working death ray. (He didn’t but many of his ideas were used by later inventors and scientists.)

Thomas Edison:

Thomas Edison was a ruthless, violent man who crushed his foes by sending goons to burn down their labs and run them out of town. (Edison might’ve been ruthless and played dirty enough to order a disinformation against AC involving lobbying and killing animals. He’d even briefly switch his view on the death penalty and invent an electric chair if it meant making the other guy look bad. However, Edison would never have stooped so low as to burn his rivals’ labs and run them out of town. As for inventing the electric chair, he would live to regret it.)

Thomas Edison invented the electrical power transmission. (Actually Nikola Tesla did since he was the guy who advocated alternating current. Edison was on team direct current. From Imdb: “Edison insisted on powering his lights with direct current, which could only travel sort distances from the generators that produced it. Tesla used alternating current, which could be run through transformers to increase its voltage so it could be moved over long distances, then reduced in voltage again for home use. Tesla’s alternating current, not Edison’s direct current, quickly became the standard and is what we use today.”)

Thomas Edison was married once. (He was married twice. His wife depicted in Edison the Man only lived to be 30 and died in the 1880s. He also had three kids from each marriage.)

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. (He invented a light bulb that was more marketable. However, there were two other guys who have before him across the Atlantic Ocean.)

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg:

George Kellogg was a boozed-up vagrant who burned down his dad’s sanitarium. (He wasn’t though Dr. John Harvey Kellogg did adopt 42 children putting Angelina Jolie and Mia Farrow to shame. Oh, and George didn’t burn down his dad’s Battle Creek Sanitarium {though it did burn down in 1902 due to an accident but it had been rebuilt by the time The Road to Wellville is set which is in 1907}.)

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s sanitarium allowed mixed quarters among the sexes. (Men and women were segregated at his sanitarium.)

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg died attempting to demonstrate the high dive. (He actually peacefully died in his bed.)


Mark Twain:

Samuel Clemens was in Nevada before American Civil War. (He went there after the war started and his brief stint in the Confederate Army, partly to get out of the conflict. Nevertheless, he hated slavery which is well known.)

Samuel Clemens met Henry Huttleston Rogers who told the author he could avoid bankruptcy in his publishing company if he didn’t honor his overly generous contract to publish Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs. Clemens was willing to risk bankruptcy after seeing Grant dying and poverty stricken since the country owed him such a debt of gratitude. (Clemens’ company did publish Grant’s memoirs which were a huge success and eight years before he met Rogers. Still, like his 1944 biopic The Adventures of Mark Twain, Clemens would’ve risked bankruptcy anyway to get Grant’s memoirs published if he had to because he respected the man so much that he let Grant’s family have 75% of the royalties. However, publishing Grant’s memoirs wouldn’t have been seen as a financial risk because he was still well loved by the time of his death, especially among people who’ve actually known and served with him {which was a lot}. Not to mention, any publishing company would’ve wanted to get their hands on them. Still, Clemens’ business did go bankrupt but not because of Grant.)

Mark Twain wore his signature white suit while his wife Olivia was still alive. (He only started wearing it after he mourned his wife’s death in 1904, at which time he swore to only wear white for the rest of his life. However, knowing that his white suit is his signature look, this can be forgiven in any biopic of him.)

Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Jim were real people in Samuel Clemens’ childhood. (They’re fictional characters of Twain’s own creation but they were based on real people he knew when he was a kids. Still, their presence in his childhood is rather appropriate for his 1944 biopic even if those three were fictional creations. Still, at least Jim’s in it even though Twain’s hometown doesn’t include him.)

Samuel Clemens knew of his wife Olivia Langdon when he was still a river pilot on the Mississippi River. (They met in 1867 and before then he probably didn’t know she existed. Oh, and he didn’t meet her brother while he was still a river pilot. Yet, they did meet through her brother Charles and their father wasn’t really keen on the idea on their relationship. Interestingly, their first date was to a Charles Dickens reading and throughout their lives in Hartford, had Harriet Beecher Stowe as a next door neighbor.)

“Warm summer sun shine kindly here, Warm southern wind blow softly here, Green sod above, lie light, lie light – Good night, dear heart, Good night, good night,” was on Olivia Langdon Clemens’ grave. (It’s on Susy Clemens’ grave who died of spinal meningitis at twenty-four, which left her father Samuel Clemens heartbroken and her family devastated. Thirteen years later Mark Twain would later lose his youngest daughter Jean who drowned in a bathtub at twenty-nine following an heart attack triggered by epilepsy {this is widely believed but Jean did suffer from seizures throughout her life}.)


Molly Brown:

Molly Brown and her husband were never accepted into high Denver society until the Titanic sank. (Yes, they were even before then. Also, their Denver house was quite small with only one room having a smidgeon of red wall paper {unlike what The Unsinkable Molly Brown wants you to believe}. Yet, she did have another house called the Avoca right outside the city. Also, her parties were quite well attended. Not to mention, in 1912, she was known as “Maggie.”)

Molly and John Brown got back together after the sinking of the Titanic. (They didn’t though they did care and communicate with each other throughout their lives and his name was James Joseph Brown or “J. J. Brown.” Also, they had two kids absent from The Unsinkable Molly Brown {which gets everything wrong}. Also, she was never an orphan or an only child and she got married in a Leadville Catholic church, not at Brown’s house. Not to mention, The Unsinkable Molly Brown makes her look like a selfish immature bitch when she actually did a lot of philanthropy and activism, especially in the rights of women and workers, education, historic preservation, and others.)


George M. Cohan:

George M. Cohan was born on the 4th of July. (He wasn’t for he was born on July 3rd. His dad had him listed on the 4th of July out of patriotic fervor. Also, Josie was already two years old at George’s birth {in Yankee Doodle Dandy, she’s younger than him}.)

George M. Cohan received the Congressional Medal of Honor. (He was never in the military. However, he did receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Apparently the guys who made Yankee Doodle Dandy didn’t think people would know anything about the Congressional Gold Medal.)

Jerry Cohan was the last of the 4 Cohans other than George M. Cohan himself. (He actually died in 1917 while his wife Helen died in 1928. George’s sister Josie did 1916. Still, that deathbed scene in Yankee Doodle Dandy should’ve involved George with his mother which would’ve made much historical sense. Either that, or have Helen Cohan present at Jerry Cohan’s deathbed because she outlived her husband.)

George M. Cohan’s wife was named Mary. (Actually Mary Cohan is a fictional character. Cohan was actually married twice. First to a woman named Ethel Levey whom he divorced in 1907. His second was Agnes Mary Nolan but who knows what he called her. Unlike in Yankee Doodle Dandy, Cohan also had four kids who all had careers in show biz. As for his looks, Cohan was a much better looking man than James Cagney who more or less resembled an elder Peter Sellers in his later years.)

Will Rogers:

Will Rogers was white. (He was of mixed race and just over 1/4 Cherokee. He also grew up as a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.)

Cole Porter:

Cole Porter’s Yale “Bull Dog” song was instantly embraced as Yale’s anthem in 1914. (Actually “Bull Dog” is a fraternity smoking song and Cole Porter’s song for Yale was “Bingo! Eli Yale.” Also, he didn’t pay his way through college playing in a pit band or work at a sheet music store. Nor did he drop out of Yale either for he actually graduated. He actually switched from Harvard Law to its music school. Oh, and though he did serve in the French Army during World War I, he didn’t see combat nor was he ever injured. And unlike what Night and Day implies, Monty Woolley wasn’t his grizzled professor, he was an upperclassmen whom Cole knew socially and ended up becoming an actor {though he probably appeared as himself for he was an old grizzled bearded dude at the time}. Still, like Porter, Woolley was also gay.)

Cole Porter’s family was so happy when he decided to become a musician and quit law school. (Cole’s family wasn’t happy at all with his decision to get into music that on one occasion his mother and grandfather didn’t speak to each other or to Cole for several months. He and his grandfather never reconciled.)

The Progressive Era:

Theodore Roosevelt:

Theodore Roosevelt was nearly assassinated during his presidential campaign in 1904. (The attempt on his life was made in 1912, when he was a former president running as a candidate of the Progressive Party. Though the bullet hit him which resulted in him seeping blood, he delivered his speech as planned for a whole 90 minutes and didn’t seek medical attention until he finished. Yes, he was a medical marvel. Still, I wonder why there’s no Hollywood biopic of this man.)

Teddy Roosevelt had a deep, resonant, and bombastic voice. (His recording reveals him with a high pitched upper class New Yorker voice. However, he sounded like this because he typically used a high pitched voice that carries better in an outdoor venue, grew up with respiratory diseases like asthma, and came from an aristocratic family. Most Teddy Roosevelt portrayals sound nothing like the guy did in real life. Also, Hollywood tends to portrays him as a much older man despite the fact that he was only 42 when he became president {making him the youngest US president ever} and didn’t live past 60.)

Theodore Roosevelt was perfectly fine being called “Teddy.” (He hated being called “Teddy” since it was what his first wife Alice called him who ended up tragically dying in childbirth on the same day as his mother and in the same house. He actually preferred to be called “T. R.” Not to mention, he pronounced the name “Roosevelt” with the first part rhyming with “ruse.”)

Charles Curtis served as Vice President under Theodore Roosevelt. (He was vice-president under Herbert Hoover from 1929-1933, not under Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, in 1904, Roosevelt had no vice president since he had assumed the office after the McKinley assassination in the days before presidents in his position usually selected one. His eventual Vice-President was Charles Fairbanks, a senator from Indiana. Still, Ragtime should get its facts straight.)

Harry Houdini:

Harry Houdini jumped in the Detroit River locked in a trunk with the water turned into thick ice as well as had to conduct an excruciating underwater search for a hole in the ice directed by his dead mother’s voice. (Unlike what the movie Houdini says, while Houdini did jump in the Detroit River from Detroit’s Belle Isle Bridge, he was actually fettered in manacles and two sets of handcuffs. Of course, there were later embellishments which hadn’t been verified as depicted in the Tony Curtis film. However, hole in the ice or not, Houdini wasn’t guided by his dead mother’s voice because he performed the trick in November 27, 1906. At that time his mother was still alive.)

Harry Houdini’s mother died the same day as his Detroit River jump. (No, his mother didn’t die that day. Rather she died 7 years later but she was unquestionably the greatest loss of his life that he spent the rest of his life seeking authentic spiritual contact with her.)

Harry Houdini was an enterologist. (He was actually an escape artist contrary to the Tony Curtis film and his “Metamorphosis” trick with his wife actually had him freed and her take his place.)

Harry Houdini’s wife Bess always nagged him into seeking a normal day job a at a lock factory. (Actually their marriage was actually more boring that it was in the Tony Curtis film. Unlike most performers, Houdini had almost no problems reconciling love with his career or marriage and show business because Bess was his assistant and designed his costumes. Still, Bess may not have been able to have kids and there’s the fact that Harry’s family wouldn’t allow her to be interred with him after she died since she was raised Catholic and Harry was Jewish. Not to mention, Houdini’s work as an escape artist gave him more fame and fortune than he would’ve ever had.)

Harry Houdini’s work as an escape artist was inspired by a supernatural voice telling him to seek death at the price of fame. (Sorry, but the Tony Curtis movie has it wrong. His work as an escape artists was inspired by his psychological conflicts and teemed with elements of perverse anxieties like exhibitionism, mutilation, entrapment, insanity, and death. He was also a man who had been driven to escape his impoverished Jewish childhood, which is totally ignored in the film.)

All of Harry Houdini’s tricks were aided by a strange and hypnotic supernatural power. (He actually developed many of his acts by himself with modifications along the way. Besides, he performed many of his acts hundreds of times. Also, his escape acts took hours not minutes. Still, he was around at a time when there wasn’t a lot of venues for entertainment. Still, while Houdini did try to make a “scientific” search for the supernatural, he and his wife had briefly worked as sham mediums and they knew the tricks of the trade. He also devoted considerable energy to unmasking spiritualist charlatans with all the drama and publicity at his command, including one in which he duplicated all the effects of spirit photographs for all to see when Scientific American offered prizes for an authentic one under scientific conditions.)


Small town America, in the past, was populated by people who were more innocent and virtuous than we are today. (Ever hear of lynchings?)

Lynchings only took place in the South. (Lynchings took place nationwide, but the South was the lynching capital of the country. It was also an event in the South where the white people would have picnics and bring their kids, yeah really. And the victims weren’t always innocent black men either as westerns were quick to point out, especially older westerns.)

More immigrants came to the US around the turn of the century than ever in American history. (Unless you are referring to European immigration, then no. Actually there have been more people coming to this country in the present day than there has ever been before thanks to the dropped quotas and bans on non-white immigrants, and even those weren’t effective. The reason why it’s mostly focused on this time period is because most Americans are descended from the people who came at the time around my parents’ generation.)

Charles Ossining invented a cola containing cocaine in the 1910s. (Coca-Cola originally had substantial quantities of cocaine until between 1891 and 1903. By the 1910s, it had virtually none due to the fact that cocaine distribution was already regulated by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of You914.)

The US economy boomed during this time. (Well, the economy grew but prosperity wasn’t enjoyed by everyone since this is a time of great economic and social inequality. Also, just because the US economy was big doesn’t mean it was stable, which it wasn’t and had its own share of disasters. You have the Black Friday panic on September 29, 1869, a day when the whole US economy was taken down by two speculators named James Fisk and Jay Gould whose efforts {made possible by a government tip off} to corner the gold market leading to a 30% increase in gold prices followed by large plummet when the federal government stepped in to sell some of their own holdings causing many investors to lose fortunes. You have the Panic of 1873 caused by the closing of a large and respected bank that helped the government finance during the US Civil War and the Northern Pacific Railroad called the Jay Cooke & Company leading European investors to call in their loans to American companies and the New York Stock Exchange shutting its doors for 10 days. Then you have 40% of American farmers losing their farms with many becoming tenants on land they formerly owned during the 1880s. Those who mortgaged to railroad companies found themselves foreclosed and homeless. Finally, there’s the Panic of 1893 caused by the bankruptcy of the National Cordage Company that tried to corner the rope market and was the most actively traded company on the NYSE at that point. This resulted in the failure of more than 500 banks and the closing of 15,000 businesses. Oh, it also led to a run in US gold reserves that backed the dollar that led to President Grover Cleveland having to borrow $65 million in gold from J. P. Morgan. Yet, do you hear about any of these financial disasters in movies? Not a chance.)

It was very possible for immigrants to have their surname change on a whim and without their consent. (This almost never happened unless at the immigrant’s request though this is a commonly believed myth. From Imdb: “Each immigrant had to have paperwork specifically saying their first and last name, and if something did not match, they were sent back to their home country to retrieve the correct paperwork.” Perhaps many immigrants changed their names since it would’ve been easier than having to go back to their home country to retrieve the correct paperwork.)

Immigrants at Ellis Island who were marked with an circled X were suspected as having small pox. (In history, a circled X was a sign for a mental illness, which would be entirely plausible in Vito Corleone’s case.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 50 – Latin America


I couldn’t think of any other movie that pertains to Latin American history than The Motorcycle Diaries from 2004 which recalls 23-year old Argentine medical student Ernesto Guevara on his life changing journey through South America with his friend Alberto Granado. Of course, given his fame as a T-shirt image, Che Guevara has become America’s favorite Marxist guerrilla commander and revolutionary. However, the truth about Che isn’t as loveable as Hollywood portrays it to be.

Latin America doesn’t have a long history. Well, actually it does since it was once inhabited by indigenous tribes but and then colonized by the Europeans. Still, as independent entities, well, that’s only since the 19th century which is why I put it here. Of course, Hollywood portrays Latin American history as a long era with deserts, jungles, dictators, and hapless villagers. But is this a true portrayal of Latin American history? Not really since it’s more complex than that with interesting historical figures, events most people have never heard of, diverse cultures, and other things. Still, it’s kind of shown in the movies as a Third World travelogue like India and most of Asia you probably never saw in your life. Let’s just say it’s far more complicated than you see in the movies. Nevertheless, there aren’t many movies pertaining to Latin American history that people in the US know despite that it’s only south of the Southwest border like along Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Not to mention, the US Hispanic population is on the rise and it’s the place many of our immigrants are coming from undocumented and otherwise. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things movies get wrong about Latin American history which I shall list accordingly.


Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna:

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna wore a shako helmet. (His foot soldiers did not him.)

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna attacked the Alamo with 7,000 men. (More like 2500 men.)

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was a much older man during the siege of the Alamo. (He was only 42.)

Mexican general and president, Antonio López de Santa Anna was a villainous man who executed prisoners by cannon fire, puffed a gold braid, ate bonbons on fancy silverware while everyone else starved, and valued a human life as much as a chicken’s but not in a good way. (He was brutal but he’s actually a more interesting case. His hobbies included gambling on cockfights, consuming opium, and dishonoring women. Still, he had a great degree of charm alongside his brutality like a mustache twirling super villain.)

Benito Juarez:

Benito Juarez asked ex-Emperor Maximilian in Mexico to forgive him when the latter was about to be shot by firing squad. (Nice little scene for Juarez but the real Juarez didn’t regret Maximilian’s execution and wrote a manifesto saying it was “just, necessary, urgent and inevitable”.)

Pancho Villa:

Several of Pancho Villa’s associates spoke Quecha. (Quecha is a South American dialect that would’ve been spoken in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. Pancho Villa was from Mexico.)

Pancho Villa took Mexico City by himself from Victriano Huerta and made himself president. (Actually he took it in a three pronged attack with Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza. After Huerta fled, they ruled the country together but Zapata soon went home Carranza eventually forced Villa out of power and ruled Mexico by himself. But he had Zapata assassinated while Villa retired.)

Emiliano Zapata:

Emiliano Zapata talked like Speedy Gonzales. (Contrary to Marlon Brando’s disastrous performance in Viva Zapata!, Zapata was well known for his high pitched, delicate voice. Still, Brando’s performance as Zapata must’ve been very offensive to the indigenous community in Mexico because it’s really terrible though Anthony Quinn does a hell of a good job as his brother.)

Emiliano Zapata and his followers were pro-American and the US supported Latin American liberation during the Mexican Revolution. (Well, it’s more complicated. True, the Zapistas did have some admiration for the US system of government after spending years under dictatorial regimes. And yes, the United States did provide asylum to rebel figurehead Francisco Madero where he remained unmolested. However, this was the time of US imperialism and America was basically looking after its own interests as said by William Howard Taft: “The day is not far distant when three Stars and Stripes at three equidistant points will mark our territory: one at the North Pole, another at the Panama Canal, and the third at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally.” Nevertheless, while the US did interfere with the Mexican Revolution, they weren’t above switching sides when it suited their own interests. Madero only suited their interests briefly and there’s an unproven theory that Madero was killed by US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson {he wasn’t} but Wilson seemed to give the impression that the US was fine with Victoriano Huerta bumping off his rival until the US turned against him {still, Huerta was kind of a guy who switched sides as often as he changed uniforms}. As for Ambassador Wilson, well, President Wilson eventually fired him for interfering with Mexican politics.)

Emiliano Zapata was illiterate until he got married. (He may have not been the most educated guy in Mexico due to indigenous peasant background, but he could read and write by the time he was an adult. Still, Zapata’s wedding was interrupted by government troops riding forth against him. Also, contrary to Viva Zapata!, Zapata was assassinated by the forces of President Venustiano Carranza.)

Emiliano Zapata confronted Porfirio Díaz at Mexico’s National Palace. (This is the stuff of legend which has been discounted. Yet, this is in Viva Zapata!. However, while Porfirio Diaz was a bad president in his later years, he had earlier destroyed the brigands that plagued Mexico’s roads and set up the country’s infrastructure so the nation would benefit for years to come. Still, he was senile and surrounded by idiots and yes-men in his later years and should’ve retired.)

Francisco Madero:

Francisco Madero was a naïve idiot who didn’t know he was being executed by firing squad until somebody started shooting. (Madero’s family should’ve sued Elia Kazan for slander for portraying the guy this way in Viva Zapata!. The real Madero wasn’t so daft and knew very well he what was going to happen to him as he said to a loyal officer on his execution, “Adiós, my general. I shall never see you again.” His brother’s death was far more brutal.)

Mexican general Victoriano Huerta was present at Francisco Madero’s execution. (He wasn’t but he did order his execution.)

President Francisco Madero was overthrown in a coup and shot by General Pascal. (He was overthrown and assassinated by Gen. Victoriano Huerta yet he had someone else do the shooting. Also, there was no general named Pascal. Oh, and he was shot in a prison outside Mexico City not at the National Palace.)

Frida Kahlo:

Frida Kahlo seduced Italian photographer Tina Modotti in front of everyone at a party. (Yes, Frida was bisexual. Yet, Modotti might’ve introduced Frida Kahlo to her husband Diego Rivera, though they told several versions on how they met. Still, she didn’t publicly seduce Modotti.)

Leon Trotsky moved out of Frida Kahlo’s house to avoid falling in love with her and went to less secure digs where in which he would shortly meet his end with the ice pick. (Yes, she had an affair with Trotsky. Yes, he lived with her but so did her husband Diego Rivera. Still, though Trotsky and Frida ended the affair, she still allowed him to stay in the house but she left for Paris. Trotsky moved out when she was abroad possibly owing to a disagreement with Diego Rivera in 1939. However, unlike what Frida suggests, her libido had absolutely nothing to do with Trotsky’s murder since he was already Stalin’s #1 enemy by 1940 and Stalin had already killed members of his family and followers. Stalin was going to get him eventually. Also, he was killed by an ice axe not a pick contrary to popular legend.)

Frida Kahlo was completely able bodied before her bus accident. (Actually she had a lot of health problems as a child. She contracted polio at six that left her right leg thinner than her left, which she disguised by wearing long colorful skirts. It’s also been theorized that she may have been born with spinal bifida. Though she recovered from the bus accident, she had relapses of extreme pain for the rest of her life and had spent months of the time bedridden or hospitalized and was never able to have children.)

Frida Kahlo had no facial hair. (She had a mustache.)


Good Mexicans were weak and stupid while bad Mexicans were corrupt, ruthless, and cruel.

Mexican villages had constant problems with bandits ransacking the town who lived much better lives than they did.

Everyone in Mexico was a Mestizo and everyone in other Latin American countries was Hispanic.

Mexicans were lazy workers who took midafternoon siestas. (The reason that Latin American workers took siestas was because they’ve been working all day in the hot sun. They took naps because they were exhausted or they would die, not lazy.)

Three Finger Jack and Joaquin Murieta were a cheery band of California outlaws under Mexican rule in California with Murieta’s brother Alejandro using guile to steal from corrupt soldiers in California’s government. (Three Finger Jack and Murieta were Gold Rush outlaws with a gang believed to be responsible for the murders in the Mother Lode area in the Sierra Nevadas. Alejandro Murieta was made up for The Mask of Zorro yet he ends up naming his kid Joaquin in The Legend of Zorro. Still, Joaquin Murieta and Three-Finger Jack were brought down in 1853. Still, Murieta was said to be a Mexican patriot or “The Mexican Robin Hood” though he probably wasn’t either.)

The US Army fought the French occupiers of Mexico. (Yes, Mexico was occupied by the French during the American Civil War and the Lincoln administration wasn’t happy about it. However, there was never any fighting between the US and the French. Besides, the Lincoln administration was more interested in fighting Confederate forces anyway. Yet, both Union and Confederate forces did battle the Indian tribes at the US and Mexican border as depicted in Major Dundee.)

The war against Maximilian in Mexico was seen as a “revolution.” (From Imdb: “As the Juarez government had never fled Mexico during the intervention, and consistently insisted it was the lawful government, no loyal Mexican would consider the war a revolution; it was the expulsion of a foreign invader.” Kicking the French puppet regime out of Mexico formed the basis of celebrating Cinco de Mayo.)

Leon Trotsky was assassinated by a man named Frank Jacson. (The guy’s name was Ramon Mercader who was an NKVD mole for Stalin and had successfully got close enough to Trotsky to kill him {despite the fact only Trotsky and Mercader’s girlfriend trusted him}. Still, Mercader wasn’t the only NKVD mole in Trotsky’s organization. Nevertheless, Trotsky was a horrible judge of character since he seriously underestimated Josef Stalin and never understood him as a brilliant, calculating, and visionary megalomaniac with an insatiable bloodthirst and a pathological need to get even with his enemies, with Trotsky at the top of his list. It was underestimating Stalin, that got Trotsky exiled in the first place.)

El Salvador:

Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassin shot him while taking communion in front of him with photojournalist Robert Boyle sitting a few pews away. (Romero’s assassin was actually hiding behind a pillar when he shot him. Also, Robert Boyle wasn’t really there contrary to Oliver Stone’s Salvador, which isn’t a good reference source if you want to know anything about the civil war in El Salvador during the 1980. Robert Boyle also didn’t try to get his girlfriend Maria in the United States or photojournalist Jack Casady for that matter {because he didn’t exist}. Seriously, Oliver Stone is as bad with history as Mel Gibson, though his is more along current events.)


Manuel Noriega was in hiding while on the run after the invasion of Panama. (Contrary to The Men who Stare at Goats, he never was. In fact, he briefly sought refuge at the Vatican Embassy after the invasion of Panama and the US knew it.)


Eva Peron:

Eva Peron was a beloved figure in Argentina who championed for the people. (She also was a great spokeswoman for her husband’s regime which helped make Argentina a hospitable place for Nazis. Still, Juan Peron’s willingness for having diplomatic relations with Franco Spain had more to do with his country being 1/3 Spanish and Franco being in desperate need for a political ally. Also, while Juan Peron did facilitate the entrance of Nazi criminals to Argentina, Russia, Great Britain, and the US did the same thing and probably for the same reasons such as to acquire advanced technology developed by the Germans during World War II. Of course, those countries took in scientists like Heisenberg and Von Braun but they were nevertheless war criminals. It’s just that after WWII, Britain, the US, and Russia didn’t really care that much. Yet, at the same time, Argentina accepted more Jewish immigrants than any other Latin American country under Peron’s watch.)

Eva Peron had an affair with 36 year old Agustín Magaldi when she was 15. (This is in Evita, yet since it’s 38-year-old Madonna playing a 15-year-old girl, this isn’t squicky. However, the real Eva probably didn’t have a relationship with Magaldi, 15 or not since the guy usually traveled with his wife. Not to mention, he was actually a chubby mama’s boy and far from the suave matinee idol he’s depicted. Also, it’s said that Eva’s family may have traveled to Buenos Aires with her. Unfortunately, when Andrew Lloyd Webber did his musical in the 1970’s, the only English biography of Eva Peron available in English was by a political opponent of the Perons and hasn’t been found very reliable. Rather an American equivalent of Evita would be kind of like a musical about Barack Obama based solely upon his Conservapedia page.)

Eva Peron’s rise to power just consisted of a mere makeover. (Yeah, Andrew Lloyd Webber, except that you left out Eva Peron’s support and campaign for women’s suffrage and social justice causes, her creation of the female Peronist Party, her work in government {overseeing ministries of labor, social welfare, and health as well as eventually became her husband’s vice-president and received the title of Spiritual Leader of Argentina a few months before her death from cervical cancer at 33 in 1952 [even if she did all that in her husband’s discretion]}, and dubious rumors of her links to fascist regimes. Evita just gives us only hats and lipstick and practically says nothing about why she’s so remembered in Argentina and says that her status as a beloved figure wasn’t deserved. No wonder people in that country hated it.)

Eva Peron was an ambitious woman who slept her way to power. (Now I see why Argentinian’s don’t like Evita. She was ambitious and had many relationships with men but it’s said that her success as a radio actress had more to do with her own merit as well as her willingness to take any job she could get {though she did arrive to Buenos Aires lacking a formal education or connections so she probably submitted to the casting couch a few times as many aspiring actresses did in her day}. Her business partner at Radio El Mundo didn’t really like her but admitted she was “thoroughly dependable” and by the time she met her husband, she was earning 6,000 pesos a month. Still, while Eva Peron wasn’t what you called a saint, she wasn’t a bad person either. Not to mention, Eva’s political success most definitely had a lot to do with her marriage to Juan Peron as well as her loyalty to him when he was imprisoned {though she didn’t organize the effort to get him out since she had no political clout with labor unions and wasn’t well liked in his inner circle or in Argentina’s entertainment business}, her effectiveness as a political campaigner, as well as other things. More importantly, Juan loved her or he wouldn’t have married her when he got out of prison. It’s very fair to say she loved him since she stood by Juan during his imprisonment, thanks to his political opponents in government who weren’t happy with his growing popularity. Besides, by the time she got sick, Eva was working as many as 20-22 hours a day and even ignored her husband’s request that she take some time off, cut back, and cool it on the weekends.)

Eva Peron was from a humble rural Argentine family. (Yes, she grew up poor but her dad was actually a wealthy rancher named Juan Duarte who was married and had multiple families. However, he wasn’t married to Evita’s mother Juana Ibarguren and when he died, Juana and her children were barred from attending his funeral. Still, Eva wasn’t destined for a good life not just due to poverty, but also because she was born out of wedlock in the days when illegitimate children were rejected and stigmatized. When Eva grew up and moved to Buenos Aires, she dyed her hair blond {she originally had black hair} and changed her name to Duarte. When she married Juan Peron, it’s said she destroyed her birth certificate and forged a new one. Still, if she had any resentment to the upper classes, then there’s a good reason for it who often depicted her as a low class person who slept her way to the top.)

Che Guevara:

Che Guevara was a heroic figure who stood for civil disobedience, rebellion, and freedom. (He also personally killed hundreds of people to spread communism and “liberate” the poor even Cuban rock fans. He saw rock music as a staple of American imperialism and had a strong dislike for it. Oh, and did I say he hated gay people? Still, he was verbally abrasive toward everyone in his unit which sometimes makes him come off as racist toward black people.)

Che Guevara was clean-cut and handsome. (Well, it’s said that he looked like a movie star when he was groomed. However, he had a lifelong aversion to grooming so that didn’t happen that often. Also, he once wore a pair of underpants for 2 months and gleefully won a bet that they would stand by themselves. Gross! In fact, it was his aversion to grooming in which he earned his nickname “Che” which means “pig.”)

Che Guevara’s girlfriend Chichina gave him $15 to buy her a bathing suit when he reached the US. (The money was actually for a scarf. However, she did dump him though and they never saw each other again.)

Che Guevara and Alberto Granado were chased out of a dance hall in Chile and managed to escape in the nick of time after Che caused a scandal by having a fling with a mechanic’s wife. (Unlike The Motorcycle Diaries, they actually stayed in the town for another night, had lunch with a family next door to the garage, and left without incident in the afternoon.)

Che Guevara gave the $15 to an impoverished Communist couple in Chuquicamata, Chile. (He, Alberto Granado, and the $15 actually made it to Miami where Che spent the money on a scarf he sent to his ex-girlfriend.)

Che Guevara was Eva Peron’s creepy stalker who turned up in various points in her life to remind her of her impending death. (Contrary to Evita, Che and Peron never met though Guevara did send Evita a prank letter asking her to buy him a jeep.)

Che Guevara served in the Cuban Revolution as a mercenary and combatant. (He was actually hired to serve as a medic yet he became a combatant later.)

Che Guevara was shot dead in Bolivia three times. (He was shot 9 times.)


Argentina was a haven for Nazis. (Argentina wasn’t the only country to grant asylum to Nazis but gets a bad name for welcoming guys like Adolf Eichmann and Dr. Josef Mengele. Other Latin American countries did the same thing and so did Russia and the US. Still, many Latin American countries also provided asylum for many Jewish immigrants after the Holocaust as well. It’s a strange place.)


The sundial at the Inti Huatana had a piece broken off around the 1950s. (It was in perfect condition at this time and the damage occurred in 2000 when a crane fell on it. Of course, you couldn’t show that in The Motorcycle Diaries.)


Journalist Charles Horman’s body was shipped back from Chile after he was killed in the Pinochet’s regime. (While there is a scene of what is believed to be Horman’s body in the final image of Missing, DNA evidence has determined that the remains shipped back to Charles’ family in the United States didn’t belong to him. Still, as of now, they never found his body.)

Pinochet’s coup took place around the 1973 Christmas season. (Contrary to The House of the Spirits, it took place in September of that year, a little early to buy Christmas presents, you think?)


Carlos the Jackal was a diabolical mastermind who was part of many assassinations and was never caught. (He was just a bumbling terrorist with a huge ego that led to his downfall with his 1994 capture. His past reputation was highly exaggerated and he wasn’t viewed that highly dangerous as movies claim him to be in real life {only said to have killed 11 people and injured 150 during his attacks}. Still, there are plenty of movies made with him as a main villain when he’d already been caught. Seriously, the Bourne series gives him too much credit.)


Dr. Josef Mengele was a diabolical mastermind who tried to clone Adolf Hitler and launch am elaborate political scheme to recreate the Fourth Reich. (For one, while Mengele was a psychotic State-sponsored serial killer worthy of his nickname “The Angle of Death” he was actually a totally incompetent scientist {to the point other Nazi scientists thought him as a highly unqualified butcher} who wouldn’t be capable of undergoing a cloning project that was at least a century ahead of its time, let alone plan an elaborate scheme to recreate the Fourth Reich. Oh, and while he was in Paraguay for some time, he was actually living in Brazil where he died in 1979, hence the title, The Boys from Brazil from 1978. Still, he could’ve actually seen the movie despite having his health greatly deteriorated by that point.)

Dr. Josef Mengele fled to Paraguay after Adolf Eichmann was captured by Mossad agents in Argentina. (He was believed to be living in Paraguay but actually fled to Brazil.)


Brazil adopted soccer during the 20th century as its national pastime. (Soccer had been introduced in Brazil in 1884.)


Butch Cassidy spent 20 years living in Bolivia and tried to return to the United States in the 1920s. (It’s pretty much accepted that he and the Sundance Kid killed themselves in 1908. Yet, it’s the subject of a 2011 film called Blackthorn. Still, he probably didn’t have any children with Etta Place.)