‘Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood’ | One-Page Fact Check: Fail

Karina Longworth’s ‘Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood’
The one-page fact check of Karina Longworth’s “Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” was even more successful than I expected. Well done, Brain Trust. Grade: Fail.

Ready? Here we go:

Google Earth, Ambassador Hotel

Here is the RFK Community Schools, via Google Earth, built on the footprint of the Ambassador Hotel. Do you see the ocean? Do you think the hotel had “an unobstructed view straight through the building and 15 miles out to sea?”

Item: A Dec. 9, 1918, article in the Los Angeles Times said:  “Provision is made for over 600 guest rooms, from every one of which will be visible either the ocean or the mountains.” (A bit of advertising hype, I would say).

Item: The Ambassador Hotel opened at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1920, delayed from the original target date of December 1919.

Item: Rudolph Valentino wasn’t a movie star at the time. His breakout film was “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” shot in 1920, but not released until March 1921, after the Ambassador opened. Movie folklore kicking around the Internet says — erroneously — that the palm trees of the Cocoanut Grove were from “The Sheik,” filmed in the summer of 1921 and released Nov. 20, 1921, after the hotel opened.

Item: The Hollywood sign didn’t exist in 1921, and when it was built in 1923 it was the Hollywoodland sign.

Item: Los Angeles before the aqueduct wasn’t a desert, despite the line in “Chinatown.”

Ambassador Hotel

Item: The Ambassador, shown above, was not an example of Spanish architecture. A Los Angeles Times article from Dec. 9, 1918,  when the proposed Ambassador was called the California Hotel, said: “Architecturally, the plans follow Italian lines.” The Los Angeles Conservancy lists the hotel as Mediterranean Revival and Streamline Moderne.

Item: The Ambassador was a little less than six miles south of the Hollywoodland Sign. Not eight.

You might not know the architectural style of the Ambassador, or when “The Sheik” was filmed. But it is basic Los Angeles literacy to know that the Hollywood sign said Hollywoodland for many years. There is simply no point in reading a book from an author who makes such rudimentary errors and fails a one-page fact check; you’ll just have to unlearn everything.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1920, 1921, 1923, 1925, Another Good Story Ruined, Architecture, Film, Hollywood, One-Page Fact Check and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to ‘Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood’ | One-Page Fact Check: Fail

  1. aryedirect says:

    But it sure was chic!


  2. Jason says:

    I love Karina Longworth’s podcast. She wouldn’t like knowing about all these errors. Perhaps you should drop her a line.


    • lmharnisch says:

      Consider the possibility that having a popular podcast may not be the best credentials for writing a factual Hollywood history or biography. I cannot overemphasize that making this many mistakes on one page — the opening page, mind you — is an achievement. On the scale of errors, this is “Hollywood Babylon” or “City of Nets” territory. (Note to fans: “City of Nets” is just “Hollywood Babylon” for intellectuals.)


      • The funny thing is that the podcast has many episodes fact-checking “Hollywood Babylon”! From the episodes I’ve heard, and know enough to judge, it’s usually pretty good, but not perfect. I think it just takes too much time to research the details of all of these things in time for a regular show. You would think a printed book would have gone through a more rigorous system.


      • lmharnisch says:

        Anybody who takes on “Hollywood Babylon” should be applauded — but it also raises the bar in terms of being scrupulously accurate.


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