How 'Hollywood' Re-created Old Hollywood, From George Cukor's Dining Room to the 1948 Oscars

1:30 PM 8/11/2020

by Carolyn Giardina

For its alternative account of Tinseltown during the '40s, Ryan Murphy's Netflix miniseries went for authenticity. "I really wanted the locations and builds to be almost a character," says production designer Matthew Flood Ferguson, who reveals to The Hollywood Reporter how 10 key locations sprung to life.

How 'Hollywood' Re-created Old Hollywood-Hollywood- Publicity 1- H 2020
Courtesy of Netflix

  • 1940s Movie Soundstage

    This set of a ’40s movie soundstage, constructed at Sunset Gower Studios, was dressed with a vintage Panavision film camera, crane, lighting and other production gear true to the period. "We rented authentic equipment from prop houses in Los Angeles," says Ferguson.

  • George Cukor's Dining Room

    After careful research, director George Cukor’s home in the Hollywood Hills — the setting of a pivotal party in the miniseries — combined four different locations, including a Paul Williams Hollywood Regency house in Beverly Hills that was used for the dining room sequence. A mansion in Pasadena was employed for the pool and exteriors, while the guest house where actress Vivien Leigh stayed and the cottage were built on stages.

  • Ace Studios' Commissary

    The set of the Ace Studios commissary was modeled after Paramount’s. Reflecting the attention to detail, the team found actual chairs that were used in the Warner Bros. commissary during the '40s, and they were restored for the production. 

  • Jack Castello's Apartment

    The exterior for fictional aspiring actor Jack Castello’s apartment was a Spanish Baroque apartment building off Hollywood Boulevard in the area below Whittier Heights, "where silent films stars lived," says Ferguson. "It seemed appropriate that by the ’40s, when most stars were moving to Bel Air and Beverly Hills, Jack would be living in that building." The interior, built on a soundstage, featured thick plaster walls with earth tones, a palette that ran throughout the series: "Ryan was very clear about wanting harvest tones," the production designer adds.

  • Beverly Hills Hotel Bungalow

    The Netflix production was unable to shoot at the actual Beverly Hills Hotel. Instead, Pasadena’s historic Langham Huntington hotel, which opened in 1907, was used for exteriors, while a set was built for its bungalow interior, incorporating the hotel’s pink palette and spacious design. "We were able get the iconic banana leaf wallpaper, which is the original wallpaper from the hotel, and we had it printed for the bedroom," says Ferguson.

  • Schwab's Pharmacy

    During the ’40s, Schwab’s, located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, was a popular hangout for actors and agents. It opened in 1932 and was demolished in the ’80s. "There was quite a bit of research to find out what they actual sold there, [such as] perfume and shaving equipment," says Ferguson.

  • Ace Amberg's Office

    The office of studio chief Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner) was modeled after Jerry Mayer’s office at MGM, with an art deco ceiling and casement windows. Ferguson says it has a "big, oppressive feel. When [his actor wife] Avis had to step in, she’s put into this man’s environment." This set includes the original desk used by Jack Warner when he ran Warner Bros.

  • Anna May Wong's Home

    El Cabrillo, the Cecil B. DeMillebuilt Spanish Revival courtyard apartment building, was used for the home of actress Anna May Wong. "[It] was one of the types of architecture that was springing up in L.A. during that period," Ferguson says, adding that the interior was dressed to be "a little out of date … as if she had decorated it when she had her initial success, and it sort of stayed that way."

  • Academy Awards Green Room

    Only the exterior of the Shrine Auditorium was available for the final episode, which revolves around the 1948 Academy Awards. For the interior, they used the Orpheum Theatre, which opened in 1926 in downtown Los Angeles, and the woodpaneled green room (pictured) was a room in the theater’s basement that was dressed for the scene.

  • Golden Tip Gas Station

    The fictional Golden Tip, a front for a high-end brothel, was based on a gas station owned by Scotty Bowers, a real-life Hollywood pimp. The location is a redressed auto repair shop in L.A.’s Atwater Village. "We completely redid it," Ferguson says, adding that the building had the architectural style he was seeking. The team added fresh paint, an overhang and neon signs, and repaved the location with asphalt.

    This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.