Weird History
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Facts We Just Learned About Old Hollywood That Made Us Say 'Really?'

Updated September 29, 2021 10.5k votes 1.5k voters 149.8k views15 items

List RulesVote up the facts about Hollywood's early days you just learned today.

Modern Hollywood is still America's dream factory, an industry dedicated to committing beautiful fictions to the silver screen - but there's no longer a curtain hiding the wizard or his secret levers and knobs. In other words, the mystery is gone.

For the most part, this is actually a good thing. The Golden Age of Hollywood was a spectacular era of glitz and glamour, but it hid a lot of ugly truths, misogny, racism, and outright illegality. Several Redditors have shared what they've learned about this bygone era in film history, and their finds range from the disturbing to the delightful. Check out these Old Hollywood facts, and vote up the ones you never knew before.

  • 1

    The Hollywood Sign Used To Be Lit By Thousands Of Light Bulbs, And Was Maintained By One Man

    From Redditor u/superkissel:

    TIL that in 1920s the Hollywood sign was lit by thousands of light bulbs - and the guy who changed the burnt ones lived in a little cabin near the sign.

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  • 2

    Billy Haines Was The First Openly Gay Star, And Refused To Participate In A Lavender Marriage

    From a former Redditor:

    TIL the first openly gay celebrity was actor Billy Haines. In the 1920s, Haines was a silent film star with films like The Midnight Express, Little Annie Rooney, and Navy Blues. Haines, who was under contract with MGM, was told to marry a woman by MGM. He refused and never acted again.

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    [Editor's Note: A "lavender marriage" refers to a marriage orchestrated by old Hollywood studios to cover up actors' true sexuality and avoid speculation. As an upbeat postscript to this story, though Haines' acting career was over, he went on to become a well-regarded interior designer whose clients included Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, and many others.]

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  • 3

    One Of The First Hollywood Sex Symbols Was Japanese-Born Sessue Hayakawa

    From Redditor u/DrScientist812:

    TIL about Sessue Hayakawa, a Japanese-born actor who became a major Hollywood star in the early silent film period of the 1910s. He was noted for his status as a sex symbol, with "his most rabid fan base [being] white women."

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  • 4

    An African-American Film Industry Operated Parallel To Hollywood Through The Early 20th Century

    From Redditor u/TheAfternoonStandard:

    TIL as early as 1915, an African-American film industry ran parallel to the Hollywood mainstream, catering to the community's segregated filmgoers. "Race movies" had their own Black-owned studios, directors, and popular stars - though the majority of these early film reels are lost or damaged today.

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