Hollywood Fact Check! This Netflix Drama Abandons Truth and Reality

Liberals are constantly telling conservatives they are living in an “alternate reality” whenever they want to shut down discussion of the facts. The hilarious aspect of this is that it is usually the liberals who live in an alternate reality, or reel-ality, since they often rely on movies for their information which turns out to be misinformation.

A recent example of this is the Netflix movie Mank about Hollywood screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz which has been cited over and over again as a realistic portrayal, especially his support of 1934 California gubernatorial candidate of socialist leanings, Upton Sinclair. 

The basic plot of Mank is about the efforts of the heavy drinking Mankiewicz to write the script for “Citizen Kane.” An important subplot and primary reason for the antipathy of Mankiewicz towards William Randolph Hearst upon whom Kane is based is the opposition of the newspaper mogul to Sinclair. 

The problem is that there is no evidence that the real (not “reel”) life Mankiewicz supported Sinclair and in all likelihood didn’t even think about him much one way or the other. Here is a fact check on this from History vs Hollywood:


Was Herman Mankiewicz influenced by Upton Sinclair’s run for the governorship of California?

No. The movie’s attempt to tie Herman Mankiewicz to Democrat Upton Sinclair’s loss in the 1934 California gubernatorial race is almost entirely fictional. Sinclair, who was a well-known author and prominent socialist, ran a campaign that challenged the state’s business leaders. He had even written a book outlining his plan, titled I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty: A True Story of the Future. Ultimately, Sinclair lost the race to Republican incumbent Frank Merriam. The movie somewhat downplays the fact that Mankiewicz was an outspoken conservative who staunchly opposed fascism. There’s no evidence that he was a supporter of Upton Sinclair, nor does it make much sense that he would have backed him as a candidate.

It’s true that Mankiewicz was also anti-union and refused to join the Screen Writers Guild. In speaking of joining the union in the film, he tells his brother Joseph (Tom Pelphrey), “You have nothing to lose but your brains.” This dialogue comes almost straight from a full-page ad he took out in Variety opposing the guild (Slate). So, again, it makes little sense that he would sympathize with Upton Sinclair’s viewpoints, or be angry for years over Sinclair’s election loss. The Mank movie uses this as a fabricated explanation as to why his Citizen Kane script presented such negative characterizations of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and his mistress/actress Marion Davies.

As to the “Mank” claim that Mankiewicz was forced to donate to Sinclair’s opponent, again History vs Hollywood sets the record straight:

Did Herman Mankiewicz donate to the campaign of Upton Sinclair’s rival, Frank Merriam?

Yes. Unlike in the Mank movie, there’s no evidence he was unwilling to donate and had to be talked into it by Irving Thalberg as the film implies. Rather, it seems that he made a willing donation in support of Republican Frank Merriam’s campaign.

Finally, did Mankiewicz accidentally influence Irving Thalberg to produce anti-Sinclair newsreels? Again, more sad news fact check for the alternate reel-ality liberals.

Did Herman Mankiewicz indirectly influence Irving Thalberg to produce a series of staged newsreels against Upton Sinclair?

No. This is perhaps the movie’s biggest deviation from reality. While Irving Thalberg did produce three newsreels that were created to crush Upton Sinclair in his campaign against incumbent Frank Merriam for the governorship of California, an offhand comment by Mankiewicz never gave Thalberg the inspiration to make the faked newsreels. Mankiewicz never made such a comment, which in the film he later regrets. The movie also has him finding out that newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst helped fund the newsreels. Mankiewicz is broken up when Upton Sinclair loses the election, and the film implies he’s distraught over it for years. It becomes the driving force behind him writing Citizen Kane and creating the movie’s negative characterization of Hearst. This is complete fiction.

We know that in reality (as opposed to reel-ality) the invitations to Hearst’s San Simeon parties most likely started drying up due to the drunken antics of Mankiewicz including making disgusting smelly messes on the floor which  “Mank” showed yet emphasized the non-existent motivation of support for Sinclair for his anger at Hearst. 

Among the worst purveyors of the Mankiewicz as Upton Sinclair sympathizer myth has been Variety magazine which for months has been slobbering over both “Mank” and the Herman Mankiewicz who did not exist. The last example was by Tim Gray on Friday in “David Fincher on ‘Mank’: ‘ I Don’t Want Sympathy for Mankiewicz, I Want Empathy’”

In September 1934, Variety said a KNX radio poll showed Sinclair leading 2-to-1 over Republican candidate Frank Merriam. On the same page, Mayer in Paris said if Sinclair is elected, “it would plunge the state’s industries into chaos.” So Mayer used MGM talent to create propaganda films to undermine Sinclair.

The “Mank” script shows how Mankiewicz was affected by that turnaround, but director Fincher didn’t want to overexplain.

He probably didn’t want to “overexplain” because Mankiewicz was not motivated at all by the candidacy of Upton Sinclair.

“Upton Sinclair was a big deal,” says Fincher. “He was like Bernie Sanders and Studs Terkel, a formidable person. But we didn’t want to stop and give the audience a history lesson of who he was. We needed to give audiences the brushstrokes and move on.”

Upton Sinclair might have been a big deal for the producers of “Mank” but for the real life Mankiewicz he was insignificant. An inconvenient fact that alternate reality liberals such as those at Variety prefer to overlook by somehow believing that “Mank” represents the truth.

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