Warning: Spoilers are ahead for Hollywood.
Hollywood creator Ryan Murphy's fictional major studio was based on Paramount Pictures, the fifth oldest surviving move studio and the only major studio that is still headquartered in Hollywood. In the 1940s, the studio gave the world movies like Holiday Inn, The Lost Weekend, and Double Indemnity. But the new series imagines what it would have been like if Paramount and other major studios gave even more.
The look of ACE Pictures' marble archway and the hallowed gates where up-and-comers wait for their big break were based on Paramount's legendary entrance. “Paramount still retains that classic studio look,” production designer Matthew Flood Ferguson told Variety.
The inside of ACE Pictures is also based on Paramount's interior. Flood said that the sun-soaked commissary where the studio's big wigs eat alongside struggling actors was meant to give a peek inside the real studio. Look close and you'll see framed portraits of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Betty Grable, who was one of Paramount's contract players, lining the wall of the cafeteria, which was built on a stage.
Beyond its look, ACE Pictures also exists in its image. From the '30s through the '50s, Paramount found major success with stars like the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, and director Cecil B. DeMille. Paramount won its second Best Picture Oscar in 1944 for Going My Way.
In many ways Paramount Pictures is symbol of Hollywood for better and worse. While Hollywood imagines a studio system that was quick to push boundaries in the '40s by casting a Black actress as the romantic lead, letting queer people in Hollywood live out of the closet, and having a woman in charge, Paramount and the other majors at the time didn't do any of those things at the time out of fear.
In 1949, 20th Century Fox released Pinky, an interracial love story between a light-skinned African American nurse and a white doctor. It's written about as one of the first major studio film romances between a Black female character and a white male one. It should have been historic, but the studio cast the very white Jeanne Crandall as the leading lady to appease moviegoers who didn't want to see Black or Asian women actually play Black or Asian roles.
Worries over their bottom line led studio heads to take half measures instead of setting a progressive precedent. But the studios never paid the price, the people did. Closeted gay star Rock Hudson gets a happy ending in Hollywood, but in actuality he didn't come out until his final days. It wasn't even his own choice to do so, but as a means of getting ahead of tabloid stories reporting that he had HIV. He had always felt coming out would be "career suicide," according to People.
Hollywood forces viewers to think about what could have been if a studio was as boldly progressive as ACE Pictures. Would we have needed #OscarsSoWhite or #StarringJohnCho? Would we have more LGBTQ+ representation if queer people could have lived out loud in Hollywood sooner? In 1980, Sherry Lansing became the president of production for 20th Century Fox, which made her the first woman to head a Hollywood movie studio, but would time have been up much sooner if more women were in power earlier?
These questions can't be answered; not even Ryan Murphy can re-write Hollywood's past wrongs. But if Hollywood's revisionist history teaches us anything it's that it's never too late to make changes. Hollywood can still learn from its past to create a better, more inclusive future. Now, that's something we'd like to see.