What Really Happened At The 20th Academy Awards?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: This story contains spoilers for Hollywood, streaming on Netflix May 1.
Even on TV, it’s all about the Oscars. The final episode of Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood centers around a lavish and emotional recreation of the 20th Academy Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium on March 20, 1948. 
In keeping with the theme of the show, “A Hollywood Ending” offers us a glimpse of a very different Hollywood past — and future — at a flashpoint in the industry’s history. What if a woman had taken charge of a major studio? What if a Black woman had won Best Actress a full 54 years before Halle Berry? What if a Black man had openly declared his love for his boyfriend on stage? What if Chinese-American movie star Anna May Wong, the first actress of Chinese descent to infiltrate Hollywood in real life (to fluctuating degrees of success), had gotten her comeback role sooner? What would Hollywood look like now?
Director Jessica Yu took great pains to meticulously recreate the vibe of the era, and if you look at old footage of the real ceremony, you’ll be hard pressed to find a flaw. The only real difference, of course, are the winners. 
In Hollywood, the ceremony belongs to the cast and crew of the fictional movie Meg. In reality, the winner’s list was a lot less diverse. The only person of color to win an Oscar that year was James Baskett, who took home an honorary Oscar for his portrayal of Uncle Remus in Disney’s extremely problematic Song of the South. Wong was not nominated — in fact, she would die of a heart attack 13 years later, and wouldn’t enjoy a resurgence in pop culture until much later. And though most of the movies mentioned in the episode — Gentleman’s Agreement, The Farmer’s Daughter, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Miracle on 34th Street, Great Expectations, Mourning Becomes Electra — are real, Meg is not.
What really happened on that glamorous night? The Oscars go to the winners listed here.

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