Hollywood has such a hold on the hill industry nowadays, that it’s become the hub for the film industry itself! You have a ton of big name movies being made in Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles, Hollywood; those major cities are a big part of film culture. You also have a ton of big name actors and actresses involved in Hollywood and film culture.
We also know that Hollywood has been involved in a lot of major scandal, and has been pretty sketchy for a long, long time. You’ve heard it all before. Drugs, sex, and a whole lot of abuse is prevalent in Hollywood.
What’s it’s history? What was Hollywood founded and grown from? By who? And what lays under the sick, and twisted underbelly that Hollywood doesn’t dare show to the rest of the general public?
Right now, we’re breaking down Hollywood, and it’s dark history of abuse, and one terrifying instance where drugs took over someone’s life.
Disclaimer: We will be discussing topics such as drugs, child abuse, sexual assault, and abortion. If you’re a bit squeamish about those topics, please proceed with caution. The sources used here will be cited down below.
History: Hollywood’s Beginning
According to History.com, Hollywood started out as a small hut in 1853, hardly reminiscent of the booming film industry we know it for today.
A man by the name of Harvey Henry Wilcox moved into Los Angeles from Topeka, Kansas, and planned to start farming in the Hollywood hills in 1883. Well, whataya know, it doesn’t work. So in, 1887, Wilcox hatched a plan with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s office, and subdivided the land for lavish homes.
Fast forward to 1902, the “Father of Hollywood” H.J. Whitley — who is a real estate agent at this point — opens up the Hollywood Hotel. Down the line, that hotel will become the Dolby Theater, where the Oscars are routinely held.
Where the name “Hollywood” came from is a bit of a mystery. No one really knows for certain how it came to be, and neither does History.com. One source says that the name came from a town in Ohio from the same name, and that Wilcox’ wife named their ranch after it. Another source says that H.J. Whitley came up with it in 1886 while honeymooning.
Skipping ahead to 1910, the first ever film to be fully made in Hollywood was a film called In Old California. By 1911, the first ever studio was created in Hollywood, and by 1915, many big name studios started migrating from one place to Hollywood.
There were multiple reasons as to why Hollywood was a more ideal choice than any other. One, it has pretty good weather all year round, and it wasn’t common to suddenly expect anything less than sun and blue skies. And two, copyright infringement. Thomas Edison and his Motion Picture Patents company can’t sue you in Hollywood, so why not move house?
Of course, then we reach the Silent Movie Era, which is pretty self explanatory. You’ve got classics like The Kid starring Charlie Chaplin, and the poorly aged The Birth of a Nation from 1915. And from there, Hollywood just sort of catapulted into one of the most famous landmarks in America!
But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its fair share of horrible secrets.
Hollywood’s History of Control and Abuse
Woody Allen is a man who has vehemently denied any child abuse that he did to any of the alleged victims speaking out against him. His wife, Soon-Yi Previn, also denies anything that the allegations bring up. But let me backtrack for a second, here.
Woody Allen is a longtime film writer, actor, and comedian, who’s most famous works include Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, and a few other works. But a scandal that has followed his career from the 80’s up to today has to do with child abuse.
The Chicago Tribune provides a pretty understandable timeline of events. It begins when Allen meets Mia Farrow, who then becomes his partner for 12 years in 1980. By 1991, Allen adopts Mia’s adopted children, Dylan and Moses, as well as have their own biological son, Ronan Farrow, in 1987. In January of 1992, Mia discovers explicit photos of Allen and her 20-year old daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, and conclude that they were sleeping together.
In August 4th, 1992, Allen visits the kids, and two days later on August 6th, Mia takes 7-year old Dylan to a pediatrician, who hears her sexual abuse experience and reports it to the police. It’s May of 1993, and a Connecticut judge finds inconsistencies in the story, and in June 7th of that same year, Mia Farrow is given sole custody of Dylan, Moses, and Ronan.
In September of 1993, the judge now has enough to prosecute Allen, but doesn’t want Dylan to get re-traumatized. And in 1997, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn marry each other. Hopefully that wasn’t too complicated.
From then on, it’s been a loop of the allegations popping up every time Allen releases a new movie. Even today, in 2020, Allen denies everything, and states that he has moved on from the allegations.
Even Previn has denied the allegations, stating, “But what’s happening to Woody is so upsetting, so unjust. [Mia] has taken advantage of the #MeToo movement and paraded Dylan as a victim. And a whole generation is hearing about it when they shouldn’t.”
Dylan Farrow, back in 2018, provided a statement on Twitter about the article by New York Magazine, stating, “Woody Allen molested me when I was 7 years old, part of a documented pattern of inappropriate, abusive touching that led to a judge to say that there was no evidence that I was being coached, and that it was unsafe for me to be in Woody Allen’s presence.”
The statement goes on to say that the New York Magazine had described various falsehoods when they contacted her, and even suggested that her mother had bribed her somehow. She says that her family have been huge supporters of her, and, “Shame on New York Magazine.”
That was a bit rough, so let’s continue with something else.
Actresses Being Forced to Get Abortions
You heard that right. Old Hollywood was insane.
So back in the day, according to Vanity Fair, “…the decisions being made about women’s bodies were made in the interests of men — the powerful heads of motion pictures studios MGM, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, and RKO.”
In the article, it’s stated that abortions were given freely and willingly because back in Old Hollywood, if was believed that if you had a kid, then that would diminish your popularity. And you know big studios; they’d do anything for that sweet drop of money and fame.
MGM had even allegedly helped get actress Jean Harlow an abortion when she had become pregnant, and the same had been allegedly done for actress Jeanette McDonald in 1935.
Bette Davis also had abortions so she could continue her acting career. She was the breadwinner of her family. She states that if she hadn’t gotten an abortion, that she would’ve, “missed the biggest role in her life thus far,” this being Of Human Bondage, which earned her an Oscar.
Ava Gardner — who’s well known for her roles in The Killers, Mogambo, and The Night of the Iguana — also had an abortion, and MGM had flown her out to London to get it done.
MGM is pretty involved in a lot of these cases, which isn’t surprising since it’s a big name studio. Well, know you know! This is only a small part in a big case, so if you want to learn more, you could totally do your own research. For now, let’s move on to our final topic.
Judy Garland, and her Career
Judy Garland and her career serves as a troubling example of how Hollywood can take control of someone, and warp them to their own needs and advantages. Judy Garland, who many, many people know her from her role as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, led a life and career that was heavily and massively affected by the strict standard of Hollywood’s directors. Or, at least by the people at MGM.
You see, MGM was concerned about Judy Garland’s weight. So much so that they made her take “pep pills” to help her keep her weight down, and her energy up. This was during the filming of Wizard of Oz, and at the end of each filming, they also fed the child stars sleeping pills. So here Judy was, being fed diet pills and sleeping pills — otherwise known as amphetamines and barbiturates — during the filming of her most well-known work yet.
This left her dependent on those drugs for the rest of her life.
In the biography, it states that the focus on her insecurities became her downfall. She fell from grace? Comeback. She gained weight? Focus on trying to lose that weight. She canceled a concert? Do a ton of consecutive concerts to make up for it. She was a hard-worker, but it led to a ton of nervous breakdowns.
She passed away at the age of 47 from overdosing on barbiturates on June 22, 1969.
Hollywood’s secrets have yet to be uncovered. There’s a lot that Hollywood’s history shows us, and it’s fascinating to see the way that Old Hollywood was like compared to New Hollywood. Keep in mind that this is definitely not all that there is in Hollywood. There’s plenty of other scandals and secrets to be seen and read from; it’s only a matter of finding those secrets and learning.
Sometimes it’s not always sunshine and rainbows in Hollywood.
Do you know any other Hollywood facts? Comment down below, and let us know!
Featured Image: X
Chval, Lauren. “A History of the Sexual Abuse Allegations against Woody Allen.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 10 June 2018, www.chicagotribune.com/redeye/redeye-history-sexual-abuse-allegations-woody-allen-20160719-story.html.
History.com Editors. “Hollywood.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 27 Mar. 2018, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/hollywood.
Johns, Marcie Bianco and Merryn, et al. “Classic Hollywood’s Secret: Studios Wanted Their Stars to Have Abortions.” Vanity Fair, www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/07/classic-hollywood-abortion.
Mapes, Josh. “Judy Garland: Troubles From the End of the Rainbow.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 3 Mar. 2020, www.biography.com/news/judy-garland-troubles-from-the-end-of-the-rainbow-20860565.
Nordyke, Kimberly. “Soon-Yi Previn Breaks Silence on Woody Allen Sexual Assault Claims, Alleges Years of Abuse by Mia Farrow.” The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Sept. 2018, www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/soon-yi-previn-break-silence-woody-allen-sexual-assault-claims-1143839.
Hi! My name is Carolina Cisneros, and I am a new intern at Society 19. I’m so glad to have this opportunity! I have an Associates in Studio Art, and I will be heading into university for Cinematic Arts and Technologies. I plan to go into the animation industry, designing characters and bringing more diversity into the world. For now, I’m building my skills. Thank you for reading!