History of the World According to the Movies: Part 73 – The Post-War American West

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Warren Beatty and Annette Bening star in the 1991 film of Bugsy where they portray the famed gangster Bugsy Siegel and “queen of the gangster molls” Virginia Hill. While their relationship was very accurately depicted in the film, their personalities weren’t. Bugsy Siegel was a notorious hitman who enjoyed killing and torturing people but did cultivate himself as an extravagant playboy. Virginia Hill was also an experience foul-mouthed criminal who had been involved with a string of gangsters and earned her way to the top through that and blackmailing thousands of dollars. Still, while this film says that Bugsy helped found Las Vegas, he was better known for making it the city it is today as a city of tacky glamor if you know what I mean. Still, we don’t know who killed him.

The American West seems to be a popular destination of post-WWII films set in the United States but it’s mostly different from the place we were accustomed to in the 19th century. Instead of the cowboys and Indian wilderness fare you see in the Old West movies, you have a much more cosmopolitan atmosphere with skyscrapers, fancy cars, glamor, luxury, gangsters, femme fatales, private eyes, fedoras, and Hollywood celebrities. Settings in Post-War films of the American West are usually set in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas or other swanky place. And many a time they usually revolve around crime and violence which would send people to flee to the suburbs if they could afford to do so. Yet, instead of the American idealism you see in westerns, these movies more or less portray the dark side of the American Dream in many respects with very few people you could trust if any since backstabbing is a common occurrence. Oh, and almost anyone could kill or be killed. Thus, many post-war era gangster and film noir movies are set in this location. Yes, Hollywood is still up and running yet the Old Hollywood Era as we know is about to decline due to TV as well as the end of the Studio System and Hays Code that will just be around the corner in the 1960s but RKO will get bought be a tire company before the 1940s are over. You also have many East Coast mobsters on a mass exodus to LA and Vegas where they will invest in new gambling enterprises as well as ritzy buildings but there will be killing. Then you have the Los Angeles Police Department, which is infamous for its corruption and violence against minorities. Nevertheless, there are movies set in this era that contain their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Gangsters and Criminals:

Mickey Cohen:

Gangster Mickey Cohen was taken down by the LAPD’s Gangster Squad trying to avenge the murder of one of their beloved wire tapper, Conwell Keeler during a shootout at the crime boss’s hotel with dozens of gangsters getting mowed down. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, the real Gangster Squad had no need to avenge the death of their beloved wire tapper since he was very much alive at the time and would actually outlive Cohen as well as most of the members on the original squad. Oh, and he did not have a porn stache either. As for Mickey Cohen, his capture didn’t happen in the way and he was arrested on tax evasion. The scene of his capture actually played out with cops simply confronting Cohen on some evidence that they found while digging into his incinerator. They also asked him how he could afford $50,000 to decorate his house all while shooting bullets. Also, unlike the movie, Jack O’Mara didn’t beat up Mickey or play any part of his capture since it happened in 1961, when he was retired {though he did watch Cohen’s trial as a civilian}.)

Mickey Cohen lived in a mansion. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, he didn’t. Rather he and his wife lived in a Brentwood house despite being wiretapped by police who listened to their conversations. The Cohens didn’t notice the wires until their gardener discovered them in 1948. The Vice Squad did this to blackmail him and the scheme ended in a public messy scandal.)

Mickey Cohen organized the murder of opponent Jack Dragna. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, Dragna died of a heart attack in 1956 so there’s no evidence Mickey ever organized the guy’s murder unless it was with through a regular diet of fried chicken or something else that’s bad for the arteries.)

Mickey Cohen murdered Jack Walen at his house. (While it’s possible he killed the guy, Whalen wasn’t killed at his home. He was shot in 1959 during a dinner with Cohen and his associates. Cohen wasn’t accused or convicted of the murder himself.)

Mickey Cohen was sent to Alcatraz for murder in 1949. (He was imprisoned in 1951 in which he was sentenced for four years and 1961 both times for tax evasion. He was sent to Alcatraz on his second arrest but he was later transferred to a federal facility in Atlanta, where he’d be released in 1972.)

Mickey Cohen often fired at cops. (Most organized syndicate mobsters would never try use violence on cops or other law enforcement because they knew shooting one would mean serious trouble. Also, the Gangster Squad often harassed Cohen’s organization to make it more difficult for him to conduct business.)

Mickey Cohen was killed with a lead pipe in prison. (He was hit with one, but he died in 1976 of stomach cancer and he was out of prison by then.)

Mickey Cohen was a violent sociopath. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, Sean Penn’s portrayal makes him a cardboard cutout. The real Mickey Cohen was a far more interesting man who hung out with celebrities like Errol Flynn and Robert Mitchum. He even had Billy Graham try to convert him. He was also seen as a suave gentleman beyond reproach as well as viewed by many as a real-life celebrity with his violent tendencies seen by few {with his shooting rampage after Bugsy Siegel’s death being one of them}. Those who made Gangster Squad seemed to use video games as source material.)

Mickey Cohen was slim and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. (Cohen had a great fondness for ice cream that he considered as one of the four essential food groups which he ate every meal and a pathological fear of germs. He was also rather short. A more accurate Cohen would be a short, chubby, and frowning man who was endlessly washing his hands. Definitely not Sean Penn. Perhaps Jonah Hill.)

Mickey Cohen was recruited by Bugsy Siegel after the latter saw him rip off one of his operations. (Actually contrary to Bugsy, Cohen was sent from Cleveland to help Siegel and become his #2. Yet, they did admire and respect each other. When Bugsy was murdered, Cohen was so angry he stormed to the Hotel Roosevelt where he believed the killers were staying and shot up his gun to the ceiling demanding they show themselves.)

Mickey Cohen never married and had a mistress named Grace Faraday who he was very possessive of. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, though he was a philanderer, he had been married since 1940. His wife was LaVonne Weaver who was a petite model and dance instructor who put up with his affairs. They split in 1951.)

After Mickey Cohen’s arrest, leaders of the LAPD tried to take over his operations. (While the LAPD had a notorious reputation for corruption, I highly doubt that police officers would be involved with taking over Mickey Cohen’s organization like in L. A. Confidential since they just wanted to dissolve the organization. But there was some sort of power struggle among his lieutenants that did result in a lot of violence.)

Bugsy Siegel:

Despite being a murderer and a philanderer, deep down Bugsy Siegel was a charmer, romantic, and doting dad who baked cakes for his little girl’s birthday. (Sorry, Warren Beatty, but I understand you played him this way. Yet, the philandering and murdering bit are pretty much true. Still, the real Bugsy Siegel was arrested various times for rape, drug possession, carrying concealed weapons, and a string of murders, though he usually got off. Witnesses were beaten up, and in some cases, mysteriously died. When his old pal Bo Weinberg got on Bugsy’s bad side, Bugsy pistol whipped him, stabbed him in the neck, and repeatedly stabbed him in the stomach while Weinberg was gasping his way to an agonizing death. After his death, Bugsy repeatedly punctured Weinberg’s gut before throwing him into the East River just to get rid of the intestinal gases that make human bodies float after death. Yeah, he was that kind of guy.)

Bugsy Siegel was reluctant to kill Hank Greenberg. (Contrary to Bugsy, Bugsy and Greenberg were more like colleagues of the Jewish mob hit squad Murder Inc. than friends. Also, Greenberg was a much smarter man than his Elliot Gould portrayal. Sure he would threaten to turn in fellow mobsters for cash, but he never visited Bugsy and lived in LA because he was almost killed while hiding out with his former gang in Detroit. As for his murder, the New York mob establishment had already viewed Greenberg as a stool pigeon when he sent a letter he’d narc them out unless they gave him money to survive since he had been on the lam for several months thus making him a marked man. Furthermore Bugsy killed Greenberg with 3 other mobsters including Siegel’s brother-in-law and Virginia Hill wasn’t waiting in the car. Not only that, but Bugsy was too happy to kill Greenberg that he was advised by his other posse members to stay away from the slaying. His gang was too scared of him to get him to change his mind or suggest a smarter way to kill Greenberg that the murder was sloppily handled. The ensuing trial would reveal Bugsy’s true image to the West Coast for the first time.)

When Bugsy Siegel arrived in Las Vegas, the place was just a barren strip of Nevada desert and the first guy to envision it as a resort city it is today. (Except that contrary to Bugsy, Bugsy Siegel didn’t really personally hew Las Vegas out of untouched sand. Las Vegas had been inhabited since the 1930s during the Hoover Dam construction and by the time Bugsy is set in 1946, it already had a casino as well as become a kind of tourist destination {except that it was a nuclear testing site}. As a matter of fact, Bugsy Siegel actually bought into an existing casino development headed by Bill Wilkerson, who’s not in the film. With that he brought the idea of a pampered and exclusive hotel on the Vegas strip at a time when most of the city’s lodgings had a cowboy theme. It’s through the Flamingo’s construction that Siegel laid the groundwork of some of the ritzy hotels that are seen everywhere in the Vegas strip today.)

The Mafia was reluctant to grasp Bugsy Siegel’s ideas about Las Vegas. (Contrary to Bugsy, they were happy about looking for ways to extend their gambling operations in havens like Vegas and Havanna. In fact, Bugsy had run several offshore gambling operations in California and Nevada was just an extension of that. What the Mafia wasn’t sold on was the cost. Still, even after Bugsy was killed, organized crime syndicates would move in to build several high end hotels in the 1950s. If it weren’t for the mob, Las Vegas would just consist of a bunch of cowboy joints.)

Bugsy Siegel launched a surprise attack against Chicago mob boss Joey Epstein for the latter’s comments on Virginia Hill. (Contrary to Bugsy, this didn’t happen.)

Bugsy Siegel went to California to try to claim the state’s rackets for the East Coast bosses. (Yes, but Bugsy didn’t tell you that he also went there to flee from the New York authorities who were cracking down on organized crime hard.)

Bugsy Siegel was duped by Virginia Hill for millions in the construction and running of the Flamingo. (Contrary to Bugsy, both might’ve been involved in the skimmings with Siegel controlling most of the money while Hill was his henchman. Yet, Hill might’ve informed on him to the Chicago bosses which might’ve led to Bugsy’s murder. Not to mention, construction materials weren’t cheap at the end of World War II and the hotel had opened too soon. Yet, it would make a profit but Bugsy wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.)

Bugsy Siegel was killed right after the Flamingo’s failure. (He lived on for another year but most historians say that he knew his time was coming. Yet, his death had more to do with cutting too many powerful interests {particularly those who sent him in the first place} out of his West Coast revenues. In other words, he had taken his famous cavalier attitude too far and failed to check himself. By the time of his death the mob families out east had grown tired of his losses and rebellion and sent someone to take him out.)

Bugsy Siegel met his end being shot in the chest while he was watching a showreel by himself seeing himself doing a Hollywood screen test. (Actually though Bugsy was watching showreels at the time of this death, he was in a conversation with another gangster during that time. And he wasn’t shot in the chest but in the head with such force that his eye was blown out and later found by some unfortunate person 15ft away from his body. Still, I can see why Barry Levinson would clean Bugsy’s death scene up.)

Bugsy Siegel wanted to kill Axis leaders. (Actually he wanted to sell explosives to Mussolini in order to prevent Jewish persecution. However, he didn’t meet any Nazis during his European trip. Wish he would though for he would’ve made a great Inglourious Basterd.)

Esta Siegel:

Esta Siegel was forced to stay back East while her husband set out to build his empire out West. (Actually contrary to Bugsy, she went with him and resided in their Los Angeles mansion which they rented at way more than $40,000. Also, Esta’s brother was involved in some of Bugsy’s criminal activities who was a well-known Mafia hitman in his own right, too. She probably knew more than the movie implies. She divorced Bugsy in 1946.)

Jack Dragna:

Jack Dragna was a pathetic mobster who let Bugsy intimidate him. (Actually contrary to Bugsy, he was just as scary mobster as they come and smart enough to know when he was outgunned.)

Jack Dragna was Mickey Cohen’s boss. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, they were equals in Bugsy Siegel’s organization. When Cohen succeeded Bugsy, Dragna resented it so much that he tried to have him killed several times. However, Cohen just refused to believe that Dragna wanted him dead.)

Johnny Stompanato:

Johnny Stompanato was shot in the head in 1949. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, he was stabbed with scissors in 1958 by Cheryl Crane, the daughter of his girlfriend Lana Turner. It’s said she did it due to how Stompanato was treating her mother bit the official motive was self-defense {and despite suspicion, it’s certainly not true that Cheryl had a crush on Stompanato because she’s a lesbian}. Still, Stompanato and Turner had a relationship filled with violent arguments, physical abuse, and repeated reconciliations. Stompanato also pulled a gun at Sean Connery on suspicion that the Scotsman was having an affair with Turner while they were filming a movie together in England. Connery grabbed the gun out of Stompanato’s hand and twisted the gangster’s wrist, causing the crook to run sheepishly off the set.)

Johnny Stompanato and Lana Turner dated in 1953. (They didn’t meet until 1957. But having Guy Pearce mistake Lana Turner for a Lana Turner lookalike hooker was just too funny to resist on L. A. Confidential.)

Meyer Lansky:

Meyer Lansky admired Virginia Hill. (Maybe in Bugsy, but in real life, he would’ve saw her for what she was but he may have had some respect and admired her for her ability to earn money. Still, Ben Kingsley’s portray in Bugsy is mostly accurate to the real guy.)

Virginia Hill:

Virginia Hill was a regular gangster’s moll. (Contrary to Bugsy, she was not. Rather she was an experienced criminal as well as a foul mouthed viper and it was this nature that actually drew Bugsy to her in the first place. Though she started out as a prostitute, she did move up as a co-conspirator in several Mafia operations as well as represented Chicago mob interests in Vegas. In 1951, she was known as “queen of the gangster molls.”)

Virginia Hill was linked to Chicago mob boss Joey Epstein. (Yes, but he wasn’t the only one for she was involved with several high ranked mobsters like Frank Costello, Joe Adonis and others before meeting Bugsy. In Hollywood, she took her lessons in her mobster affairs and was known to blackmail several actors for thousands of dollars under threat that she’d reveal vices that could ruin their careers. She also had enough money to rent two mansions which Bugsy frequented since his family lived in Los Angeles. Bugsy didn’t need to be her sugar daddy.)

Virginia Hill was in Las Vegas when Bugsy Siegel was murdered. (She was out of the country taking a flight to Paris four days before. Yet, Bugsy was killed at one of her mansions.)

Virginia Hill was so devastated by Bugsy Siegel’s death that she committed suicide. (Actually, while she kills herself in Bugsy, the real Virginia Hill wouldn’t do the deed until 20 years later when she was living in Austria, though it may have been under suspicious circumstances since it’s said Joe Adonis was in the same village she was. By that time, she already married and had a child. Also, she might’ve been involved in Bugsy’s murder in the first place.)

Barbara Graham:

Barbara Graham had one infant son by the time of her murder conviction. (She had 2 sons from her first marriage who aren’t seen in I Want to Live! who were at least school age. But their father had custody and she probably never saw them again. Also, her youngest son was named Tommy, not Bobby, yet his name was probably changed for legal reasons. Still, she was married 4 times.)

Barbara Graham was faithful to her husband Henry. (She had an affair with Emmet Perkins who was a bit player for Mickey Cohen. Not to mention, she was frequently associated with men with records of violent crime.)

Barbara Graham wasn’t addicted to drugs. (She was a heroin addict.)

Barbara Graham didn’t kill Mabel Monahan. (Contrary to I Want to Live!, we can never be sure because her credibility was destroyed since she offered $25,000 to a fellow inmate to pose as a friend to provide an alibi. However, she was an undercover informer who wanted to reduce her own manslaughter sentence. Not to mention, she had already served time for perjury. Jack Santo and Emmet Perkins were certainly guilty though. However, Barbara was at the Monahan house during Mabel’s murder, which we can’t dispute. Still, she may not have been completely innocent but there’s reasonable doubt on the murder charge. Nevertheless, she probably should’ve received life in prison instead because the prosecutor’s case was flimsy. The papers also failed to cover the Monahan case objectively because she was a pretty woman, opting for sensationalism and speculation over substance and significant developments. She got way more coverage than he co-defendants Jack Santo and Emmet Perkins and the media tended to assume her guilt even before the trial. You can say she was more or less convicted because her checkered past and good looks basically made her tabloid fodder and proven guilty by public opinion. Thus, this got her legally screwed over. Nevertheless, even if Graham did pistol whip Monahan, this doesn’t necessarily make her guilty of murder since Monahan’s cause of death was asphyxiation {a.k.a. strangled}. Also, she had no record of violent crime prior to the Monahan incident and there was no physical evidence linking her to Monahan’s murder.)

Barbara Graham was the last person to approach the Monahan House. (According to John True and Baxter Shorter, she was the first. But when it comes to their accounts, Shorter and True’s stories about the Mabel Monahan murder tend to diverge aside from the pistol whipping and search for valuables. For instance, in Shorter’s account Emmet Perkins and John True struck Monahan {with Perkins pistol whipping her} while Jack Santo and Perkins tied her up and dragged her into the hall closet. True’s account has Graham pistol whipping Monahan  and slipping a pillow case on her but has Santo and Perkins tying her up and fastening a strap around Monahan’s neck. Nevertheless, if you take the coroner’s report which states that Monahan was strangled and both these guys’ accounts, the filmmakers of I Want to Live! could’ve made a very convincing case of Barbara Graham’s innocence.)

John True implicated Barbara Graham for murdering Mabel Monahan. (Contrary to I Want to Live!, while it seems True would’ve done this {though legalities have his name changed to Bruce King}, he only implicated her for beating Monahan up, possibly so he won’t have to spend a day in prison. He might’ve thought Graham’s pistol whipping killed her, but Monahan didn’t die that way. So at worst, True’s account only implicates Graham of robbery and assault {or possibly attempted murder}, but not actual murder. Baxter Shorter didn’t implicate her for murder either. In fact, the last two guys Monahan’s even seen with in both their stories are Emmet Perkins and Jack Santo with both of them tying and dragging her away. Not to mention, it’s possible Shorter and True may not have seen or heard the actual murder take place {since Monahan was probably knocked out by then}. Still, it’s probably fair to say that the prosecutor screwed up somewhere.)

Barbara Graham, Emmet Perkins, and Jack Santo were caught with their clothes on. (They were all caught naked. Santo even sported an erection. Also, the guy accompanying them was John True not Bruce King. But True would later be released after he agreed to testify against Santo, Perkins, and Graham, especially after informant Baxter Shorter’s kidnapping. In short, John True was in fear of his life and quite possibly incriminated Graham to save his own ass. He also had no criminal record, prior to the Monahan episode so he made a more reliable witness. Not to mention, it took a couple of months for them to get caught for there was a reward of $5,000 for information on Mabel Monahan’s death. And they were all on the run as soon as True identified them as his crime partners.)

Barbara Graham was clothed in a scarlet outfit on her execution and a medal of Saint Jude. (According to Row Diva she wore, “a champagne wool suit with matching covered buttons, brown high-heel shoes, small, gold, drop earrings, and a crucifix around her neck, but no underwear and a stethoscope in her cleavage. It was a tight fitting suit for her slender 120 pounds body.“)

All Barbara Graham wanted was a normal life as a wife and mother. (While she might’ve wanted this, being married 4 times as well as a mother of 3 didn’t stop her from committing petty crimes and engaging in drug addiction and prostitution.Still, her husbands were probably as bad as you’d expect.)

Barbara Graham was straight. (She went both ways and might’ve been more than friends with in Donna Prow, an inmate she tried to bribe for a false alibi that she spent the night of the Monahan murder with undercover cop Sam Sirianni whom Prow was working for. Nevertheless, Sirianni played these tapes of their conversations in court but he was a cop just doing his job. Still, his was one of the most damning testimonies at Graham’s trial.)

Barbara Graham was telling the truth during her murder trial. (Actually, while she did admit to bribing Donna Prow due to desperation, she testified that she was home with her husband and son on the night of the murder, which definitely wasn’t the case. Thus, she committed perjury again. But I suspect she was probably desperate. Nevertheless, while Graham was certainly guilty of robbery, perjury, as well as breaking and entering {and possibly attempted murder or assault}, she shouldn’t have been convicted of murder.)

Edward Montgomery worked on Barbara Graham’s case before she was arrested. (He didn’t meet her until the latter part of her trial.)

Law Enforcement:

The Los Angeles Police Department Bloody Christmas incident was a short brawl. (This is seen in L. A. Confidential though the officers in the real 1951 incident had different names pertaining to the suspects and the victims {changed for legal reasons, no doubt}, but it was actually a 95 minute no holds barred beat down on seven guys {5 Hispanic, 2 white} by drunken cops during the LAPD Christmas party on Christmas Eve. And this incident wasn’t properly investigated until the LAPD was pressured to by the Mexican American community. This incident would eventually result in 8 indictments, 54 transfers, and 39 suspensions without pay. As with the indictments, only 5 were convicted and only one served more than a year in prison. Still, as many as 50 LAPD offers were said to participate in the ordeal as well were known and/or witnessed by at least 100 people. So the LAPD’s reputation for police brutality {particularly to minorities} even existed in the 1950s as well.)

The Gangster Squad:

The formation of the Gangster Squad was due to the fact that Los Angeles was a defenseless against a crime lord like Mickey Cohen. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, the main reason why the Gangster Squad was formed was because gang violence threatened LA’s image, not the city itself.)

Police officer William H. Parker was a no-nonsense Christian in his 70s. (Despite his Nick Nolte portrayal in Gangster Squad, Parker was far more controversial and was only 45 in 1949. During his tenure as chief, he faced accusations of police brutality and racial animosity toward Los Angeles’ black and Latino residents which led to the Watts riots of 1965. Yet, he did desegregate the police force during the Civil Rights movement.)

There were black and Latino members in the Gangster Squad. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, there weren’t. In fact, the LAPD isn’t known to be one of the most minority friendly organizations, to put it mildly. L. A. Confidential‘s LAPD is much closer to the norm, at least when it comes to minorities.)

Police officer William H. Parker created the Gangster Squad. (It was created by Chief Clemence B. Horrall in 1946.)

There were only 6 members of the Gangster Squad. (There were 18 but it would later expand to include 37.)

Conwell Keeler was the first to die on the Gangster Squad. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, he was the last of the original to die which was of a stroke in 2012, not shot in the line of duty. Max Kennard was the first of the squad to die.)

Max Kennard was shot in the line of duty. (Contrary to Gangster Squad, he died in a car crash in 1952 after he had retired.)

The Gangster Squad was responsible for Mickey Cohen’s arrest. (The IRS and the LAPD were since Cohen got nailed for tax evasion.)

Police officer John O’Mara had a son during his time in the Gangster Squad. (He had a daughter. Also, he died in 2003.)

Daryl Gates was Chief William Parker’s driver in 1949. (He didn’t enter the LAPD until September of that year and didn’t become Parker’s driver until many years later.)

The Black Dahlia Murder:

Everyone knew Elizabeth Short as “Betty.” (Contrary to The Black Dahlia, she was usually called “Betty” during her childhood but preferred to be called “Beth.” Nobody in LA knew her as “Betty.”)

Elizabeth Short’s organs were removed during her murder. (Contrary to The Black Dahlia, her autopsy didn’t say this.)

Elizabeth Short was a prostitute and made at least one porno movie. (Contrary to The Black Dahlia, she was an aspiring actress who was involved with quite a few men.)

Elizabeth Short dabbled in lesbianism. (I’m sure this is something Brian DePalma just made up as fetish fuel or something. Sure Short was no saint but I don’t think having her dabble in lesbianism is going a bit too far.)

Elizabeth Short was a young woman looking for trouble. (Contrary to The Black Dahlia, this probably isn’t true. She just wanted to make it into movies. Her childhood friend Mary Pacios said, “Elizabeth Short is one of the most maligned victims in the history of this country.”)

Hollywood:

Rock Hudson starred in North by Northwest. (Cary Grant did, not Rock Hudson.)

George Reeves:

All of George Reeves’ scenes were cut from the film From Here to Eternity. (Actually the finished film includes all of his scenes, contrary to Hollywoodland. You probably wouldn’t notice him though since he wasn’t part of the main cast. The test screening scene in the film was inspired by urban legend.)

George Reeves burned his costume to celebrate the cancellation of his Superman series. (He’s said to burn his costume at the end of each season contrary to Hollywoodland.)

George Reeves’ fiancée Leonore Lemmon attended the reading of his last will and testament and was shocked to get nothing. (She knew she wasn’t getting anything from him after he died and wasn’t invited to the reading contrary to Hollywoodland. Still, it’s no surprise that he left his estate to Toni who gave him his house, car, and paid many of his bills during their relationship. As to Reeves’ death, we’re not sure what happened since Leonore Lemmon proved to be an unreliable witness while most of the people there were drunk.)

George Reeves’ murder investigation was conducted by detective Louis Simo. (Adrien Brody’s character in Hollywoodland is fictional but he’s based on actual detectives Reeves’ mother hired. Yet, contrary to the film, George Reeves mother never accepted the police verdict of suicide and continued to agitate for a fuller investigation after her son’s death.)

George Reeves got the role of Superman as Eddie Mannix’s way to please his wife Toni. (Contrary to Hollywoodland, they didn’t know each other before Mole Men since they met on the set when Reeves was already playing Superman. Also, while Toni did a lot for him as a sugar mama such as buy him a house, he got the Superman job on his own.)

George Reeves dumped Toni Mannix for Leonore Lemmon. (Actually he and Toni broke up before he even met Leonore. Rather Reeves wanted Toni to leave Eddie and marry him but she refused.)

George Reeves was dissatisfied with being typecast as Superman. (Contrary to Hollywoodland, Reeves might’ve hated the job but not enough that he would take his own life over it. Also, he was said to be scheduled to do two more seasons of Superman and was given a pay raise. Also, he was scheduled to go on tour as Superman and box the former light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore which he had been excited about. Still, he may have hated the job but he loved some of the perks.)

George Reeves did all his own stunts in the Superman series. (Except he didn’t do most of them as implied by Hollywoodland. Yet, he did do a few cable aided takeoffs and did fall once.)

George Reeves was murdered before Toni and Eddie Mannix’s wedding anniversary. (Eddie and Toni were married on May 31 and George was killed on June 16.)

Toni Mannix:

Toni Mannix was pissed when George Reeves dumped her for Leonore Lemmon. (Actually contrary to Hollywoodland, she was furious that she’s said to have made constant harassing calls to his house, threatened to tell the press he was gay, and talked to friends about killing him. Even worse, she even possibly stole his beloved schnauzer and had him put to sleep. As for her husband Eddie Mannix, he was more disturbed that George deserted his wife than the whole affair and for good reason.)

Alfred Hitchcock:

Alfred Hitchcock was offered to direct The Diary of Anne Frank during the premiere of North by Northwest. (Contrary to Hitchcock, Hitch would’ve been the worst choice to direct that movie. Besides, the movie version came out four months before North by Northwest.)

Alfred Hitcock’s sign off on his show was “Good Evening.” (It was his greeting at the beginning of every episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He’d always sign off with “Good Night.” Why did Hitchcock get this wrong?)

Charlie Chaplin:

While still in New York Harbor on a steamer liner, Charlie Chaplin was barred from reentering the United States during the 1950s on account of his suspect politics. (He was actually barred from reentry when he was half way across the Atlantic. Of course, Richard Attenborough wanted to show the Statue of Liberty.)

Charlie Chaplin didn’t make any movies during his exile in Switzerland. (He continued to make films though his career wasn’t the same.)

Rita Hayworth:

Rita Hayworth was pregnant in 1951. (Contrary to Hollywoodland, she wasn’t. In fact, she had her last child in 1949.)

Joan Crawford:

Joan Crawford was an abusive mother who beat her children with wire hangers. (Even Christina Crawford admitted that Joan never beaten her kids with a wire hanger ever. In fact, she hated them that she didn’t want to use them on her clothes or her kids.’ Yet, the wire hanger scene is famous in Mommie Dearest and Joan Crawford has been associated with them ever since. As for the abusive part, when Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest came out, it met objections from a number of people who knew her including ex-husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, Van Johnson, colleagues, friends, and even her twin daughters Cathy and Cynthia who had fond memories of their adoptive mother. Sure Joan Crawford may not have been a perfect parent but just because she didn’t have a good relationship with two of her children, doesn’t mean she was a terrible parent. It’s been suggested that Christina Crawford wrote Mommie Dearest because she either had been left out of her mom’s will or that her mother replaced Christina on a soap opera she was a regular on while undertaking major surgery.)

Joan Crawford was fired from MGM. (She wasn’t contrary to Mommie Dearest. She actually paid MGM to be released so she could work for Warner Brothers.)

Marilyn Monroe:

Marilyn Monroe was a famous actress in 1951. (She was still a small-time player then.)

Bela Lugosi:

By the time he worked for Ed Wood, Bela Lugosi hadn’t made a film in four years. (Actually the year before Wood and Lugosi had done Glen or Glenda in 1953, Bela Lugosi did the 1952 “classic” Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. Never heard of it? Neither did I. He also did The Black Sheep in 1956. Probably never heard of that one either.)

During the time he was working for Ed Wood, Bela Lugosi had been living an isolated existence at his suburban bungalow Hollywood with his ex-wife’s two Chihuahuas. (Actually by this time, he was living with his fifth wife Hope Lininger, saw his teenage son Bela George Lugosi, and enjoyed visits by his biggest fan Frank Sinatra {yes, that Frank Sinatra}. When Lugosi entered rehab for his morphine addiction, Sinatra would send him either a $1,000 check or a lavish gift hamper {depending on the biography} with a note: “Thank you so much for many, many wonderful hours of entertainment.” Not only that, but Lugosi would die at 72.)

Bela Lugosi was prone to fits of swearing. (He wasn’t, especially in front of women.)

Bela Lugosi did his own water stunts in Bride of the Monster. (He didn’t.)

The Bela Lugosi’s scenes in Plan 9 from Outer Space were filmed outside his own house. (No, but they were filmed outside Tor Johnson’s house though.)

Ed Wood:

In order to appease his backers the Southern Baptist Church, the entire cast for Plan 9 from Outer Space was baptized at a Beverly Hills swimming pool. (Contrary to the movie Ed Wood, only Ed Wood and Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson were baptized by the Southern Baptists. 412lb Johnson crashed through the preacher’s hands and lay there at the bottom of the pool like a rock while the minister struggled vainly to heave him out. Wood would remember Johnson affectionately as “Always the showman, Tor allowed the suspense long enough for the drama to build, then swam away.” Still, at least Ed Wood looked more or less like Johnny Depp. Yet, he did get the Southern Baptist Church to fund his movie by lying them into thinking he was going to make a religious film.)

Chained Girls was made before Glen or Glenda. (It was made after Glen or Glenda, which was Wood’s first film and based on the life of one of the first transsexuals. And yes, Wood played the title role since crossdressing was one of his hobbies.)

Ed Wood was a closet alcoholic. (Everyone who worked with Wood knew he was a womanizing drunk.)

Ed Wood’s transvestite tendencies and strange friendships led to his break up with his longtime girlfriend Dolores Fuller. (Contrary to Ed Wood, his drinking did. Apparently, Dolores was perfectly fine with him putting on women’s clothing, wearing high heels, suspenders, and a bra, just not hanging around in bars.)

Ed Wood hooked up with Kathy O’Hara shortly after his break up with Dolores Fuller. (Contrary to Ed Wood, Wood had a short and impulsive first marriage to Norma McCarty in between his relationships with Fuller and O’Hara. “It only lasted for days and minutes,” remarked Kathy O’Hara, “ending as soon as he put on a nightgown.”)

Ed Wood met his idol Orson Welles. (He never met Welles, contrary to Ed Wood.)

Dolores Fuller:

Dolores Fuller was a moron who was a judgmental and wholly unpleasant person. (Burton biographer Ken Hanke criticized Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Dolores Fuller saying that she was a savvy and humorous woman. During her relationship with Ed Wood, she had regular TV jobs on programs like Queen for a Day and The Dinah Shore Show. She was also a successful songwriter for Elvis Presley. Yes, that Elvis Presley. Still, she didn’t like her depiction in Ed Wood either. Still, she was better off dumping Ed Wood since he drank himself to death at 54 and ended his career writing for porn. Not only that, but prior to his death, Wood and his wife were so poor that they were evicted from their flophouse apartment. His wife Kathy would be left destitute.)

Dolores Fuller was an unsupportive girlfriend to Ed Wood. (Contrary to Ed Wood, she did try to be supportive to Ed. For instance, in Glen or Glenda, she not only acted in the film, but also helped raise money, scout locations, and pick the wardrobe for Wood’s character {that included some of her own clothes.} And no, he didn’t make a woman hotter than her. She also adored Bela Lugosi for she was also of Hungarian descent herself and even cooked him goulash the way he liked it.)

Dolores Fuller smoked. (The real Dolores Fuller said she never did.)

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History of the World According to the Movies: Part 72 – Post-War America

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Joan Allen and William H. Macy are seen here in the 1998 Pleasantville about a community that lives in a 1950s TV sitcom with a plot that goes along the same lines as The Purple Rose of Cairo in reverse meets The Giver. Here are these two presented in 1950s caricatures. Joan Allen is seen here as the perfect mom who can make rice crispy treats and still look fabulous. William H. Macy is the standard 1950s dad who knows everything and always does the right thing but needs a martini after going through a typical day at the office. Yet, this kind of picture shows post war America as many would remember it with a picture of a perfect American home as a cover of burgeoning anxieties over social change.

The few posts I’m going to focus more on the post-war world between the end of World War II in 1945 to 1960. And right now I’m happy that I don’t have to do any more World War II posts anymore because I had to to eight. Many people tend to remember this time as the good old days (at least in America) with suburban houses, white picket fences, manicured lawns, wholesomeness, and fancy cars. Yet, underneath that fancy world of stability and consumerism is a deep underbelly of social anxiety. It was also a time of great change with a higher rate of consumerism, new styles of living like the suburbs of the urban sprawl, decolonization, and highway infrastructure.  And then there’s the advent of television which will find its way in the homes across the world of anyone who could afford one. It is a new media outlet for communication and entertainment as well as of great influence. Oh, and there’s the Cold War and the potential threat of nuclear annihilation that could come at any time. And they call these time the good old days and make nostalgic movies about them. Good grief.

The United States emerged from World War II with relative ease compared to other nations since it was one of the few major countries to come out of the conflict with its infrastructure intact. It was a time of great prosperity and stability with the baby boom, suburban explosion, highway expansion, and other things. However, it was also a time of great anxiety in the United States since World War II changed so much even as Americans tried to revert to what everything was supposed to be. Except it wasn’t. Dad would sometimes have PTSD induced nightmares while Mom would daydream about her days working in a munitions factory when she had a real job and nobody cared about whether she looked like crap. Uncle Arthur would sometimes come to visit from Greenwich Village with his “roommate” Rodney while Mom and Dad asked him why he’s not yet married and would try to fix him up with a nice girl he’d have absolutely no interest in. Then you have Susie who wants to be a doctor which the family doesn’t want to encourage or Elsie’s painting that’s seen as a selfish hobby. I mean after all, aren’t girls supposed to be more concerned with finding a husband than anything? Next you have Uncle Gary who’s in trouble for being a Communist Party membership in his college days and is being forced to name names and Aunt Gertrude’s “free-spirited” attitude doesn’t seem to be helping. Then there’s Little Bobby and Betty Lou who don’t understand why they can’t invite the black kids down the road to Little Mindy’s birthday party. I mean nobody else in inviting the black family to their social events for some reason. And the black family is thinking about suing the local nearby school so their kids don’t have to attend the one farther away. Nevertheless, while there are plenty of movies made in this era, there are a share of inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

Juan Trippe:

Juan Trippe was a smarmy airline vulture plotting with meretricious politicians to take over the world’s air routes. (Yes, he was a schemer but he was as concerned with long term survival as with achieving a monopoly. He knew that Pan Am needed domestic feeder routes and that his airline would be in a competitive disadvantage if limited to overseas operations. Trippe’s attempt to use political pressure to force Howard Hughes to sell TWA was perfectly rational in a business sense. Had Trippe had gotten his way Pan Am would still be flying and 2001: A Space Odyssey wouldn’t really look so unrealistic with the Pan Am spaceships.)

Howard Hughes:

In 1947, Howard Hughes’ Hercules plane managed to fly over boats and newsreel cameras for over a minute. (The real Hercules was airborne for only 20 seconds and was never more than 70 feet above the water. Also, unlike in The Aviator Odie wasn’t with him during the flight because Hughes wanted there be no doubt that he was at the controls. Those on board with him were: Radio Operator Merle Coffee, Flight Engineer Don Smith, Flight Mechanic John Glen, James McNamara, and various reporters. Oh, and witnesses weren’t seated and separated from Hughes when he was at the controls either since newsreel footage reveals people actually standing in the cockpit with James McNamara steps away from the rich eccentric.)

Howard Hughes loaned Donald Nixon {brother of Richard Nixon} $250,000 in 1956 to secure a Pentagon contract, which would’ve brought Richard Nixon down if made public. (Contrary to The Hoax, the money was to help Donald Nixon save his restaurant chain, which was public knowledge by the 1960 presidential race. So, no, it wouldn’t have brought Nixon down.)

J. Edgar Hoover:

J. Edgar Hoover was a visionary vigilante who stood alone against the reds with all American protests movements as indicative of communism. (Hoover himself believe this but he wasn’t since his red scare targets went beyond communists and anarchists to include prominent and unprominent liberals, federal judges, senators, anyone belonging to any union, the ACLU, black nationalists like Marcus Garvey, and others. His investigation created files on more than 200,000 people and organizations.)

Eugene Allen:

Eugene Allen got the job as the White House butler by getting caught stealing cake in a hotel, getting hired as a waiter and later impressing a White House who happened to be there. (Sorry, Lee Daniels, while it makes for an interesting story, Eugene Allen became the White House butler simply by applying for the job like a normal person would.)

Chuck Yeager:

Chuck Yeager’s NF-104 flight was an unplanned, spur of the moment thing. (Contrary to The Right Stuff, it was well planned as referenced in the book and his autobiography.)

Chuck Yeager was asked to break the sound barrier on October 13, 1947. (Contrary to The Right Stuff, he wasn’t. He had been flying the Bell X-1 since August of that year and made 8 previous powered flights. When he actually did break the sound barrier, it was by accident for he was aiming at Mach .97 but at speeds just under Mach 1, a shock wave made the Machmeter read low.)

When Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, people thought that his plane had exploded. (Unlike in The Right Stuff, a scientist actually predicted a sonic boom would happen, which was expected.)

There were fatal accidents on the Bell X-1 before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. (There weren’t any.)

Chuck Yeager’s wife was there when her husband broke the sound barrier. (Actually she wasn’t. Also, she didn’t know about the first supersonic flight until three months later because Yeager’s Bell X-1 supersonic flight was conducted in complete secrecy.)

Chuck Yeager became a major general. (He retired at brigadier.)

Bettie Page:

Bettie Page was a model in 1946. (She didn’t begin modeling until 1950.)

Bettie Page and her husband Billy didn’t attend Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville, TN. (Contrary to The Notorious Bettie Page, they did.)

Bettie Page was totally OK with her job in fetish/costume/modeling and was quite naïve as to the erotic uses of such photos of her. (Actually while The Notorious Bettie Page shows her like this, she wasn’t necessarily naive. Her attitude basically was “God made us nude, so how bad could it be?” but the more extreme fetish posing fostered sexual deviant desires. Numerous fully nude shoots she did for amateur camera clubs bears this out. Eventually she became fed up with this kind of modeling and became a born-again Christian in 1959, but I wouldn’t blame her.)

William Shawn:

New Yorker editor William Shawn arranged for Richard Avedon to take pictures of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, arranged Truman Capote’s reading, and accompanied Capote to Kansas for the executions. (Contrary to Capote, Shawn’s sons say he didn’t do any of that and actually felt squeamish about Capote’s reading project.)

Writers:

Ayn Rand:
Ayn Rand’s original title for Atlas Shrugged was Atlas Shrugged. (It was called The Strike when she was working on it contrary to The Passion of Ayn Rand. She didn’t change it to Atlas Shrugged until her husband suggested it. Yet, it’s true she did have an affair with a man 25 years younger than her.)

Truman Capote:

Truman Capote bribed the warden in order to visit Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. (It’s more likely he engaged in a legal firm named Saffels and Hope to negotiate his access deal with the Governor of Kansas no less. So, no, he probably didn’t bribe a warden under the table as Capote implies, but what would you rather see?)

Truman Capote promised to help Dick Hickock and Perry Smith find adequate legal representation. (Contrary to Capote, the real Truman Capote never offered to find a proper lawyer for Hickock and Smith.)

Truman Capote visited Perry Smith a lot from his prison cell. (They mostly communicated by letter but you sort of need to see Truman Capote visit Perry Smith in prison in Capote since you don’t get the suspenseful effect if Capote and Smith were just pen pals.)

During his trip to Holcomb, Kansas, Truman Capote saw the bloodied mattresses during his visit to the scene of the crime at the Clutter house. (Contrary to Infamous, by the time Capote arrived at Holcomb, the mattresses, bedclothes, sofa, and other bloodstained items were burned on November 16 by four friends of Herb Clutter volunteering to clean up the house.)

Truman Capote attended the Clutter family’s viewing at the funeral home. (Contrary to Capote, he arrived in Holcomb, Kansas several days after the funeral had taken place. Also, from Imdb: “According to “In Cold Blood”, the detail about the heads of the deceased being wrapped in gauze was related to Capote by Nancy Clutter’s friend, Susan Kidwell, who visited the funeral parlor with Nancy’s boyfriend Bobby Rupp, while the caskets remained open.”)

Truman Capote witnessed Dick Hickock and Perry Smith’s hanging. (He only witnessed Dick Hickock’s hanging. He couldn’t stand the thought of watching Smith die so he left before it happened.)

Truman Capote wrote with a typewriter. (Contrary to his Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayal, he wrote everything in longhand.)

Truman Capote’s hair was parted on the right side and he wore his watch on his left wrist. (Photos of him show his hair parted on the left side and wearing his watch on his right wrist.)

Julia Child:

Julia and Paul Child had a spat with Julia’s father about Joseph McCarthy during her sister’s wedding reception. (Yes, Julia and Paul were critics of Joe McCarthy but while Dorothy McWilliams got married in 1951, McCarthy was a relative unknown outside Wisconsin and wouldn’t have the kind of pull that would send Paul for questioning in Washington. So the argument in the wedding reception of Julie & Julia is fictional. However, Mr. McWilliams was a supporter of Richard Nixon, who did have a name for himself then.)

The original boeuf bourguignon recipe included carrots. (It didn’t, yet Julia uses carrots in the stew in Julie & Julia.)

Julia and Paul Child moved to Paris in 1949. (They moved in 1948.)

Julia Child’s father didn’t approve of either of his daughters’ marriages. (Julia and Paul’s marriage, yes. Dorothy’s marriage to Ivan Cousins, there’s no evidence he did though it’s implied in Julie & Julia. Nevertheless, despite being tiny, Paul Child was kind of a badass since he was a black belt in judo while he and Julia met each other in the OSS during World War II.)

Scientists:

Dr. John Nash:

John Nash’s hallucinations were visual and auditory. (Actually, Nash was just a schizophrenic who just heard voices in his head, though since film is a visual medium, depicting his illness more accurately in A Beautiful Mind wouldn’t be very helpful to viewers {and the real Nash was perfectly fine with this}. Also, he didn’t develop schizophrenic symptoms until some years after graduate school. )

Between his years at Princeton and MIT, John Nash worked for the Pentagon. (He actually worked for the RAND Corporation as a consultant but he did do work in decoding Soviet communications. Also, he didn’t work for the Wheeler Lab while at MIT because it doesn’t exist and there’s no such pen ceremony at Princeton either.)

Through his wife’s love and devotion, John Nash was able to reduce incidence of frequent hallucinations by committing to a medication regiment and learning over time to ignore them just in time to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. (That’s a nice story, Ron Howard, but it’s full of shit. John and Alicia actually divorced in 1963 {though she did help him and they did renew their relationship when he won the Nobel Prize [which he wasn’t allowed to accept due to being off his meds as well as for fear that he’d whip out his dick and scream racial slurs at imaginary Jews] as well as remarry in 2001}. However, Alicia’s reason for divorcing John had more to do with him getting caught picking up young men at public toilets and not things like schizophrenia, fathering a kid out of wedlock and not paying child support {though this happened before he may have met his wife}, anti-Semitism, throwing his wife to the ground and placing his foot on her neck in front of his own students at a picnic, and you name it. Yeah, somehow boning dudes at men’s rooms was a deal breaker for Alicia. As for the medication, he hadn’t been on anything since 1970 and he recovered despite refusing treatment, which actually might’ve been a better decision in the long run even if he wasn’t allowed to receive his Nobel Prize out of fear of making a TMZ worthy spectacle of himself. But Ron Howard put it in anyway because he didn’t want to encourage potentially mentally ill movie goers to stop therapy, which may not have been available for Nash.)

Dr. Alfred Kinsey:

Dr. Alfred Kinsey was a skinny average looking guy. (Contrary to Kinsey, he looked less like Liam Neeson and more like a slightly overweight William H. Macy. Oh, and he was in his fifties at the time when Sexual Behavior of the Human Male was published.)

Dr. Alfred Kinsey was a passive partner during his affairs with men. (He actually wasn’t, particularly during his affair with Clyde Martin in 1939 and he wasn’t the only one.)

Those who objected to Dr. Kinsey’s research on human sexuality were either anti-sex prudes or conservatives. (Yes, there were people who objected to Kinsey’s research as in the man’s biopic. Yet, some of his methods would’ve been pretty controversial even by our standards. Kinsey was known to persuade many of the male researchers who worked with him to try gay sex, often with him and insisted he was “happily married” to avoid scandal. He also made secret films of his subjects having sex, joining in, gathering unusual data on children’s sexual responses from a pedophile, and presenting them as a product of a wider study.)

Dr. Alfred Kinsey was a professor at Indiana University. (He was a professor of the University of Indiana.)

Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s parents were still together when he was working on his sexual research books. (Actually, his parents divorced in 1931 when Kinsey was 37 and he never saw or contacted his father again after that. Yet, in Kinsey, family and friends are visiting Alfred Sr. at home after Alfred Jr.’s mother Sara was just buried.)

Albert Einstein:

Albert Einstein accepted Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as a fundamental physical law. (He never did saying, “Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the ‘old one’. I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God)does not throw dice.” [Quantum Mechanics is based on laws of probability … hence the reference to dice.])

Albert Einstein had a niece named Catherine Boyd. (I.Q.’s plot has Einstein’s niece as a main character. However, she probably didn’t exist since Einstein had one sister who didn’t have children. Thus, he was nobody’s uncle, at least in a biological sense.)

Kurt Godel:

Kurt Godel was mischievous and gregarious. (He was famously shy and reclusive. Also, along with Boris Podolsky, he was between 17 and 30 years younger than Einstein. In I. Q. they’re about the same age.)

Sports:

The Houston Astros existed in the late 1940s. (They didn’t.)

Brooklyn Dodgers sportscaster Ray Barber broadcasted the away games for his team in Philadelphia and Cincinnati. (Contrary to 42, no team broadcaster ever went with his team during an away game. Also, at that time, away game broadcasting consisted of recreating the came back in the studio from a pitch by pitch summary transmitted over telegraph wire from the stadium where the game was played.)

Wendell Smith was the first black member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. (Contrary to 42, Sam Lacy was in 1948.)

Brooklyn Dodgers player Dixie Walker was traded for signing  a petition over Jackie Robinson. (While he certainly did sign a petition, he only did so under pressure from his teammates but he was more civil to Jackie Robinson by the end of the season and gained much respect for him. As for his trading, it had more to do with him being in his late thirties and nearing the end of his career.)

Brooklyn Dodgers GM Leo Durocher was suspended by team commissioner Happy Chandler over his affair with an Actress Larraine Day. (Though he was suspended and did have an affair with Larraine Day, Durocher was actually suspended by Chandler due to allegations of gambling.)

Pee Wee Reese put his arm around Jackie Robinson during the 1947 game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers. (Contrary to 42, this happened in 1948.)

Boxer Billy Fox was undefeated by November 1947. (He had lost a professional match a few months earlier in February against Gus Lesnevich.)

Jake LaMotta:

Boxer Jake LaMotta beat up his brother Joey on the vaguest suspicion that he might’ve slept with his second wife Vicki. (Contrary to Raging Bull, the victim was Jake’s friend and eventual co-author of his autobiography Peter Savage. Somehow they managed to bury the hatchet judging by hindsight but a fight scene between Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci is probably mandatory in a Martin Scorsese film, particularly if it’s about boxing.)

Jake LaMotta would often perform Marlon Brando’s scene from On the Waterfront during his club routines in the ring. (He actually did Shakespeare, but you wouldn’t expect a famous boxer to be into him. As with the fight with Marcel Cerdan, while LaMotta said it was the happiest moment of his life, Cerdan would die 4 months later in a transatlantic plane crash after agreeing to a rematch with him. What makes it sadder is that Cerdan was on his way to see his girlfriend, the singer Edith Piaf who was devastated.)

Jackie Robinson:

Jackie Robinson proposed to his girlfriend Rachel after he signed up with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. (Actually they were engaged in 1943 while he was still in the Army unlike what 42 implies. And the Dodgers spring training wasn’t held in Panama City, Panama but Havanna, Cuba, but you can understand why the makers of 42 changed that.)

Jackie Robinson broke a bat in the dugout tunnel. (He never did.)

When he was up to bat, Jackie Robinson was hit in the head by racist Pirates Pitcher Fritz Ostermueller which resulted in a fight between the two on the mound. (Actually, Ostermueller was a left handed pitcher whose pitch hit Robinson on the left wrist which he claimed was a brushback pitch without racist intent. There was no fight on the mound afterwards, though I would’ve preferred that over watching baseball.)

Jackie Robinson stole 27 bases without getting caught in his 1947 season. (The number of bases he stole during his rookie year is unknown since caught stealing wasn’t an officially recorded baseball statistic at the time and wouldn’t be until 1951.)

Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play Major League Baseball. (He wasn’t for the first one was Moses Fleetwood Walker, catcher for the Toronto Blue Stockings from 1884 to 1889, when the MLB officially erected its color barrier. Yet, Robinson was the guy who’d break the color barrier in Major League baseball in 1947.)

The Quiz Show Scandals:

Herbert Stempel’s time on Twenty-One was over when he answered On the Waterfront instead of Marty as the 1955 Oscar winner for Best Picture on the insistence of the show’s producers during his match against Charles Van Doren. (Yes, he did give the wrong answer on the Marty question despite that he watched the movie three times because he mistakenly believed that NBC would give him a TV job afterwards. However, Stempel and Van Doren would go on for another tie game before the latter won.)

Twenty-One’s host Jack Barry, Geritol, and NBC were all involved in the show’s rigging. (Contrary to Quiz Show they weren’t. Barry didn’t know anything about the rigging but covered it up when he found out. All the involvement NBC and Geritol had with the Twenty-One scandal is asking Barry and producer Dan Enright to change the show after the disastrous first episode. Without Barry’s knowledge, Enright opted to rig the show.)

Charles Van Doren was single during his time on Twenty-One and never taught again after the scandal. (According to a 2008 article, he said he had a regular girlfriend {not present in Quiz Show} and he actually did continue to teach after the scandal though is career wasn’t the same.)

Congressional lawyer Dick Goodwin met Charles Van Doren while the latter was teaching at Columbia University. (They actually met at the NBC canteen, but the outcome was the same as in Quiz Show.)

Charles Van Doren was a contestant on Twenty-One before the Soviet launch of Sputnik I. (Sputnik’s launched happened in October 1957. Van Doren was on Twenty-One from November 1956 to March 1957.)

Charles Van Doren weaseled his way out of Twenty-One by answering a question wrong live on air during the show as the game show rigging congressional investigation was underway. (Van Doren had already left the show by the time the rigging investigation began. However, Van Doren did throw a question but it was more of NBC’s choice according to him and show producer Al Freedman for they had already chosen his replacement.)

Twenty-One was the only show implicated in the quiz show scandals which lasted for a year. (It lasted for three years and Twenty-One wasn’t the only show that was implicated in rigging nor was it the first, though you wouldn’t know it from Quiz Show. Shows that were also rigged were Tic-Tac-Dough, The $64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge, and Dotto which actually set off the 1958 investigations. Nevertheless, the reputations of the key contestants on these shows were ruined and quiz shows virtually disappeared from prime time American TV for decades.)

Dick Goodwin played a pivotal role in the investigation of the quiz show scandals. (Though Goodwin co-produced Quiz Show, which was an adaptation of his Remembering America, he actually had relatively little to do with the investigations.)

Miscellaneous:

Homer Hickam’s dad was named John. (Contrary to October Sky, Homer was named after his father.)

The 1950s was a great wholesome time to grow up. (Despite racism, sexism, McCarthyism, homophobia, smoking and drinking, lead in paint, gasoline, and food cans, pesticides, pollution, conservatism, and threat of nuclear war.)

All adults smoked during the 1950s and had no idea it would lead to further health problems. (Actually only half of adult men in the US did as well as a third of women. Andy Rooney never smoked, for example. Also, doctors were well aware of the effects of smoking at the time.)

CBS producer Fred W. Friendly was a smoker. (Contrary to Goodnight and Good Luck, Friendly actually didn’t smoke and lived to be 82 though many of his peers did. Unfortunately, being smoke free didn’t make him as good looking as George Clooney.)

NBC’s Today Show studio was set in Studio 1A in 1958. (It wouldn’t move to its present day location until 1994 and was actually located further down but in the same building. Still, at that time, there would’ve been no windowed corner or a view of Rockefeller Plaza.)

The Reuben Sandwich was the only invented sandwich entered in a sandwich contest by Reuben Kay. (Well, some claim it was invented by a wholesale grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky at Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel in 1925. However, it was actually invented by one of Blackstone’s waitresses named Fern Snider who entered the recipe in the national sandwich competition in 1956 and won. So maybe we should just call it a Fern Sandwich then.)

Americans in the 1950s were prudes who didn’t talk about sex and didn’t experience until they were married. (Actually Americans in the 1950s enjoyed sex as much as they do now, they just didn’t talk about it nor were they as open to discussing sexual matters as later generations. And, no, unlike what you see on old sitcoms, most married couples didn’t sleep in twin beds {censorship regulations prohibited married couples in the same bed or the word “pregnant”}. Not to mention, after WWII, the Sexual Revolution was well under way with Kinsey’s books on sexual behavior {both which became bestsellers}, Masters and Johnson, the beginnings of the gay community, and the invention of the pill. As for premarital sex, it wasn’t uncommon for many women to be pregnant on their wedding day and the 1950s had the highest rate of teen pregnancy on record. Still, as for teen sex, it wasn’t very common since the prospect of a shotgun wedding was a deterrent for either gender but it did happen.)

You could buy drinks in Kansas in the 1950s. (Kansas was a dry state until the mid-1980s.)

The George Washington Bridge had 2 levels in 1952. (It just had one level then.)

Louis Bamberger was still alive in the 1950s. (He died in 1944 but he’s in I. Q. for some reason.)

Families with disabled children would often have them institutionalized because they didn’t want them to be seen. (Actually families that had a disabled child would often institutionalize them because conditions like Down Syndrome were so poorly understood and the necessary education and facilities for caring one in-home were few. A mentally disabled child simply had a better chance of getting the services he or she needed at an institution. It wasn’t that disabled kids were looked down upon, though that was true and some parents did tell their other children that the disabled kid in question had died.)

Suburban American homes often had sleek modern furniture. (Actually most of the average American family furniture in suburbia mostly consisted of heirlooms and antiques for furniture was comparatively more expensive than it is now. Not to mention, most Americans couldn’t afford to replace a lot of second-hand stuff they already had, even if they did qualify on the installment plan. Besides, there was no IKEA in the US yet.)

Laura Kinney found the Clutter family dead that fateful Sunday morning after the murder in November 1959. (It was actually Nancy Clutter’s two friends Nancy and Susan who found the Clutter family dead at their Holcomb, Kansas home.)

The 1950s era was a decade of conservatism. (Social conservatism, absolutely, especially in regards to sex and sexual orientation as well as the rights of nonsmokers. Yet, views on racial politics and gender roles varied by demographic but the status quo was largely in force in social mores and law books. However, the 1950s wasn’t a good decade for political conservatism in the modern sense, especially since it had been tarred by association by the McCarthy era early on. While we do see the 1950s as a decade of conservatism, most Americans at the time wouldn’t have approved the right wing antics of Fox News or the state of the Republican Party today, regardless of how much they would agree with them. Still, the 1950s was a decade of consensus where right-wing looneyness wouldn’t be tolerated. Both Democrats and Republicans usually elected moderate and bipartisan politicians like Eisenhower. Ironically many people on the political right today have a lot of nostalgia for this decade despite that 1950s American politics would’ve had no place for them, even among Republicans.)

Being drafted in the 1950s was an unpleasant experience. (If you were Elvis, but not everyone. The reason why the US government didn’t get rid of the draft in the 1950s America was more due to the fact many poor men saw it as a godsend, especially those who lived in areas where the only way out was a football scholarship. For a poor 18-year-old boy in the 1950s, the draft was something that gave him a guaranteed employment for 5 years with a reward for a college education under the G. I. Bill at little or no cost. Hundreds of thousands of men would’ve never had the chance to go to community college or attend good universities if it weren’t for the G. I. Bill. Many guys would sign up before they could be drafted so they could choose which branch they wanted to serve in. It was only during the Vietnam War when the draft would become unpopular enough to abolish. Yet, at this time, a military draft could be one poor boy’s ticket to the middle class and economic mobility, which was mostly true.)

Diesel locomotives went through Grand Central Station in the 1950s. (Actually Grand Central Station had only allowed electric locomotives long before then.)

Federal income taxes were due on April 15th at this time. (They were actually due on March 15th.)

Alvin Dewey learned of the arrests of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith while he was having Christmas dinner with his family. (He actually learned about the arrests on December 30, 1959.)

Perry Smith was substantially taller than Dick Hickock. (Contrary to Infamous, they were about the same height.)

TV personality Arthur Godfrey had brown hair. (He was famous for having red hair with his nickname being “Old Redhead.”)

The Interstate highway system was around in 1947. (It began in 1956.)

Americans in the 1950s were a lot more religious than they are now. (Actually while most people were members of a church, they didn’t necessarily go every Sunday. Even if they did, they were much more quiet about religion than churchgoers today and saw proselytizing as intrusive and unpleasant. Jehovah’s Witnesses weren’t well liked because of their efforts to seek more followers. Oh, and Christians did define themselves by denomination and would never have said, “just Christian.” Yet, many people on the Religious Right have nostalgia for this decade despite that most 1950s Americans would view such nuts as one notch above the KKK. Fanaticism of any kind didn’t have any place in 1950s America.)

Gay bars were quite out in the open in this time period. (They were extremely clandestine places since homophobia was rife in the US at the time.)

Frank Lucas began his life of crime when he saw his twelve year old cousin killed by the police when he was six. (This is entirely plausible as told in American Gangster but it was inspired by a story about his cousin being murdered by members of the Klu Klux Klan, which there is very little evidence to support it.)

California used an electric chair to execute criminals in the late 1940s. (It never has used the electric chair as a means of execution.)