Quentin Tarantino's film is filled with references to TV shows, movies and other totems of mid century Los Angeles. We explain who's who and what's what.
It's no coincidence that the title Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood evokes, as A.O. Scott pointed out in his New York Times review, "bedtime stories as well as a pair of Sergio Leone masterpieces."
Quentin Tarantino's latest movie, set in 1969 Los Angeles, mixes fictitious characters with actual celebrities, TV series, films and landmarks of the era, as it tells the story of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an invented TV star, and his equally made-up stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
In Tarantino's alternate reality, Rick lives in Benedict Canyon on Cielo Drive, next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), a real-life ingénue who was 8 1/2 months pregnant and wed to Polish director Roman Polanski when she was brutally murdered along with other houseguests by members of the cult led by Charles Manson.
Here's a glossary to sort out the real references from the fake ones.
(Warning: Major spoilers ahead!)
MOREY AMSTERDAM AND ROSE MARIE: The actors who played the star's sidekicks on The Dick Van Dyke Show are mentioned as next week's guests by Allen Kincaid (Spencer Garrett), a fictional Hollywood journalist who opens the movie by interviewing Rick and Cliff.
BATMAN: The 1966-68 TV series is mockingly mentioned by Al Pacino's character, an invented bigwig named Marvin Schwarzs — not to be confused with Marvin Schwarz, who produced the 1969 hit-man drama Hard Contract. The Batman stars Adam West and Burt Ward can also be heard during the closing credits promoting a contest on the real radio station KHJ-AM.
THE BIG VALLEY AND BONANZA: These TV westerns — the first one starred Barbara Stanwyck, the other Lorne Greene — are derided by Sam Wanamaker (the real-life actor-turned-director played by Nicholas Hammond). Wanamaker tells Rick he wants the TV western they're making together, Lancer, to be hipper than those old-fashioned series.
C.C. AND COMPANY: This 1970 biker drama starring Joe Namath and Ann-Margret is promoted in a trailer when Tate goes to see herself at the movies.
CINERAMA DOME AND THE VINE THEATRE: These actual movie palaces pop up in a montage of local landmarks that also includes hot dog chain Der Wienerschnitzel, restaurants El Coyote, Casa Vega and Chili John's, and period prop and costume shop the Supply Sergeant.
COMBAT!: This war drama starring Vic Morrow is advertised on the side of a bus.
SERGIO CORBUCCI: The real Italian filmmaker is name-checked as "the second-best director of spaghetti westerns in the whole wide world" (presumably after Leone). Corbucci's actual movies included the recently rereleased 1968 cult favorite The Great Silence, but Once Upon a Time credits him with directing Rick in the imaginary flick Nebraska Jim. During Rick's time in Europe he acts opposite Telly Savalas, the Kojak star who did actually appear in several Italian westerns, and marries Francesca Capucci, a fictitious actress.
DON'T MAKE WAVES: Tate's 1967 sex comedy, co-starring Tony Curtis and Claudia Cardinale, is memorialised in a poster at her home on Cielo Drive.
RON ELY: The star of the 1966-68 TV series Tarzan is mentioned by Rick — who had a recent guest shot on the jungle show — as well as by the Pacino character, who mispronounces the star's last name as "Ee-lie." (It's "Ee-lee.")
FABIAN: The singer-actor is said to have dropped out of a role in Rick's faux World War II movie The 14 Fists of McCluskey after breaking his shoulder on the set of the TV western The Virginian. In fact, Fabian made guest appearances on three episodes of The Virginian between 1963-66.
THE FBI: This TV crime drama, which ran from 1965 to 1974, comes up several times. George Spahn — the owner of the ranch where the Manson family lives — enjoys watching it. With Cliff, Rick watches himself inserted as a guest on the real 1965 episode All the Streets Are Silent.
WOJCIECH FRYKOWSKI AND ABIGAIL FOLGER: The Polish actor and the coffee-empire heiress (played by Costa Ronin and Samantha Robinson) were houseguests at Cielo Drive and were killed along with Tate.
HOBO KELLY: The kids' show that ran on KCOP in Los Angeles during the '60s and '70s is seen on a bus-bench ad.
THE GOLDEN STALLION: A poster for the 1949 Roy Rogers western hangs on Rick's wall.
ROBERT GOULET: The crooner is seen singing MacArthur Park on TV.
THE GREEN HORNET: This 1966-67 TV series, co-starring Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), figures into a flashback to the time Cliff sabotaged his career. The stuntman gets into a fight with the martial-arts master on the set and damages a car owned by the wife of a fictional stunt coordinator (Kurt Russell).
HEAVEN SENT: The Helena Rubinstein perfume is touted in a radio ad. Other audio spots include a promo for the 1969 big-screen adaptation of Ray Bradbury's sci-fi novel The Illustrated Man.
DENNIS HOPPER: The hippie Easy Rider star and director comes up when Tex Watson (Austin Butler) and his fellow Manson family members show up on Cielo Drive. A drugged-out Cliff derisively compares Tex to Hopper.
HULLABALOO: The 1965-66 TV dance show is recreated in a clip of Rick dancing with a group of young women to the 1956 hit The Green Door by Jim Lowe.
KHJ: The actual AM radio station is heard throughout the movie, with a spotlight on the D.J.s the Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan.
KID COLT OUTLAW: Marvel's Wild West comic book can be found in Cliff's trailer.
LADY IN CEMENT: The 1968 Frank Sinatra-Raquel Welch mystery plays on the screen at the once-functioning but now-closed Van Nuys Drive-In.
LANCER: This was a 1968-70 CBS western that in Tarantino's telling books Rick as a guest villain. On set he meets the stars James Stacy and Wayne Maunder, who played brothers in this tale of ranchers (and are here played by Timothy Olyphant and Luke Perry). Rick also crosses paths with a wise-beyond-her-years young actor named Trudi Fraser (Julia Butters), who may be inspired by Jodie Foster, a guest on Gunsmoke and other TV series as a child in that era. The patriarch of Lancer, Andrew Duggan, is glimpsed on the cover of a TV Guide.
LAND OF THE GIANTS:
The producer Irwin Allen's 1968-70 sci-fi TV show is said to have cast Rick in an episode.
THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS: Members of the California Dreamin' band — including Michelle Phillips (Rebecca Rittenhouse) and Mama Cass Elliot (Rachel Redleaf) — attend a party at the Playboy Mansion. Folger also sings along to the group's 1966 hit Straight Shooter.
MANSON FAMILY MEMBERS: Several real-life acolytes of Charles Manson are depicted. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Dakota Fanning), who appears as Spahn's bedmate, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. Susan "Sexy Sadie" Atkins (Mikey Madison) and Patricia "Katie" Krenwinkel (Madisen Beaty) were convicted of participating in the Tate murders. Credited only as "Flower Child" in the movie (where she's played by Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke), Linda Kasabian served as a lookout on Cielo Drive and later testified against her co-conspirators. Other real-life members include Catherine "Gypsy" Share (Lena Dunham), and Dianne "Snake" Lake (Sydney Sweeney). Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), who flirts with Cliff, appears to be a figment of Tarantino's imagination.
ANDREW V. McLAGLEN: The veteran director and producer of TV shows (Gunsmoke) and movies (The Undefeated) is cited as a major employer of stuntmen.
MANNIX: This series, set in Los Angeles and starring Mike Connors as a private investigator, is one of several that Pacino's agent character cites in trying to convince Rick that his future lies in spaghetti westerns, not playing the villain of the week on shows like this, Batman and others.
STEVE McQUEEN: The so-called "King of Cool" (portrayed by Damian Lewis) played the lead in The Great Escape, supposedly winning the role over Rick.
TERRY MELCHER AND DENNIS WILSON: Melcher, a producer who was Doris Day's son, had previously rented the Cielo Drive house and worked with Wilson, the drummer for the Beach Boys. Manson, a frustrated musician, had co-written an early version of a Beach Boys song, but Melcher had turned him down for a record contract. Manson went to the house looking for Melcher, unaware it was now occupied by Tate and Polanski. Manson later ordered his followers to return to the house and kill everyone there.
THE MERCENARY: The poster for the 1968 Corbucci western hangs on the wall at the Bruin-Westwood Village theater where Tate goes to watch herself in a movie.
MUSSO & FRANK GRILL: The legendary eatery is the site of the meeting where Schwarzs first woos Rick.
THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY'S: The director William Friedkin's 1968 burlesque comedy is listed on the marquee of a movie theatre.
PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS: The band's album The Spirit of '67 plays on Tate's turntable. She acknowledges that they're not as cool as Jim Morrison and the Doors.
GEORGE PEPPARD, GEORGE MAHARIS AND GEORGE CHAKIRIS: The three actors — perhaps best known for Breakfast at Tiffany's, Route 66 and West Side Story, respectively — also lost out on the lead role in The Great Escape to McQueen, in the movie's telling.
GEORGE PUTNAM: The longtime local newsman is seen in a bus-bench ad.
ROMEO AND JULIET: Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film adaptation of the Shakespeare play is advertised on a marquee.
JAY SEBRING: The Hollywood hairdresser (Emile Hirsch) had been romantically involved with Tate before she married Polanski, and he perished with her at the hands of the Manson clan.
SHORTY SHEA: A former stuntman, this ranch hand on the Spahn estate (mentioned but not seen in the film) was killed by the Manson gang.
CONNIE STEVENS: The singer and actress (Dreama Walker), who was married to the Lancer co-star James Stacy from 1963 to 1966 and to the pop idol Eddie Fisher from 1967 to 1969, takes a horseback tour of the Spahn Ranch, led by Tex Watson.
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES: Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel is bought by Tate as a gift for Polanski. A decade after her death, he filmed it with Nastassja Kinski in the title role.
3 IN THE ATTIC: The 1968 sex comedy starring Yvette Mimieux plays on TV.
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS: Tate's hit 1967 film, based on the pill-popping best seller by Jacqueline Susann, gets a name check from the ticket-taker (Kate Berlant) at the Bruin-Westwood theater. She's trying to explain who Tate is to her manager. (He initially mistakes Tate for her Dolls co-stars Patty Duke and Barbara Parkins.)
JOHN WAYNE: The Duke appears on the August 8, 1969, cover of Time to promote his role in True Grit, which ultimately won him an Oscar. The Cielo Drive murders occurred just after midnight on that date.
THE WRECKING CREW: Tate goes to the movies to watch herself in this 1969 Matt Helm film she made with Dean Martin. And that's the original movie — and the real Tate — onscreen.
Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood is in NZ cinemas now.
Written by: Bruce Fretts
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