For ‘Mank,’ it wasn’t impossible to track down L.A.’s history. But it sure wasn’t easy

Gregory Ellwood
March 31, 2021
Los Angeles Times

When Donald Graham Burt first began working on David Fincher’s “Mank,” the filmmaker passed along some location photos from the late 1990s, when he had first tried to get the movie off the ground. Even for a film set at the peak of the Golden Age of Hollywood, the 1930s and 1940s, you might expect more of Los Angeles’ period architecture to have survived. Looking through the photos, Burt quickly realized that that wasn’t the case.

“So many places in L.A. have been razed that were [standing] even at the turn of the century. And I was seeing places like Perino’s [restaurant] and, of course, the Ambassador Hotel, but it seemed like all the Paul Williams architecture, for some reason, was being destroyed. And it was so interesting just to see the locales of Los Angeles from the late ’90s and realizing, ‘Oh, wow, we are removed from that. Aren’t we?’”

Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including production design, “Mank” centers on screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) during the period in 1940 he spent writing the screenplay for the cinematic classic “Citizen Kane.” It also flashes back to Mank’s life a decade prior, when he found himself in the social circle of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his very public mistress, screen star Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).

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