Hobie Doyle's Western movie called "Lazy Ol' Moon" has a copyright date of 1951, but claims to have been made in VistaVision, which has yet to be invented. In 1954 Paramount Pictures engineers created VistaVision which is a higher resolution widescreen variant of the 35mm motion picture film format, which allowed the same cinema print of the film to be shown in either the normal Academy ratio of 1:37 or could be soft matted into widescreen aspect ratios between 1.66 to 2.00:1.
A modern-day skyscraper is visible behind some trees in the first scene where Thora Thacker speaks with Eddie Mannix in the studio courtyard. The skyscraper is "The Tower" at 3900 W Alameda Ave, Burbank, CA 91505, constructed in 1989.
The opening credits to Hobie's Western movie-within-a-movie that he attends with Carlotta state that it is filmed in VistaVision. But VistaVision was not introduced until 1954, and the events in "Hail, Caesar" itself apparently take place in 1951, according to the date listed on some literature shown at the secret Communist meeting, and according to the comment made by a studio executive that television was just beginning to catch on with the American public (true in 1951, already an established fact in 1954).
At one point, the narrator refers to the area depicted during the Roman legion marches as "Palestine". It was known as "Judea" in the First Century C.E. It didn't acquire the name "Palestina" until the Second Century C.E., under the Roman emperor Hadrian. This may be intentional on the part of the Coen Brothers, to show how sloppy the film-making *in* the film was.
Most of the film clips are presented in the correct-for-1951 aspect ratio of 1.37:1; however, when Mannix screens dailies of "Hail, Caesar!", they're being projected at 1.66:1, which did not come along until 1953. (The Hobie Doyle western is, as noted by others, also incorrectly projected at roughly 2:1.)
The movie is set in 1951. In Eddie Mannix's kitchen, there are two sets of incorrect electricity receptacle outlets that take three-prong (grounded) plugs, that for the year 1951 should have been the (2-prong) non-grounding electricity receptacle outlets. Homes built before 1962 had most of their original 125 VOLT electricity receptacle outlets of the (2-prong) non-grounding type. In 1947, the NEC (USA) code first required grounding type (3-prong) receptacles for the laundry. In 1956 the required use of grounding type receptacles was extended to basements, garages, outdoors and other areas where a person might be standing on ground. From 1962 grounded outlets became required in American homes, because the NEC (USA) code was revised to require all branch circuits to include a grounding conductor or ground path to which the grounding contacts of the receptacle must be connected.
Baird Whitlock's Roman soldier says he is going to bathe at Caracalla. The baths at Caracalla were not built until the Third Century C.E.; the film being made takes place in the early First Century C.E. This may be intentional on the part of the Coen Brothers, to show how sloppy the film-making *in* the film was.
When Gurney is about to leave on the Soviet sub, the head writer tells him to take the ransom money as their "modest gift to the Comintern." The Comintern had been dissolved in 1943, something that party members would have known.
Baird Whitlock's Roman soldier uses the term "godforsaken"--it should have been something like "forsaken by the gods" (plural). This may be intentional on the part of the Coen Brothers, to show how sloppy the film-making *in* the film was.
One of the Romans refers to the Hebrews as a "far-flung" people. The Diaspora that made them far-flung did not occur until 70 C.E., well after the events of the film that was being made. This may be intentional on the part of the Coen Brothers, to show how sloppy the film-making *in* the film was.
In one scene one of the communist writers, the film-Charakter Dutch Zweistrong (Greg Baldwin), in the cast "coummunist writer # 5" lies asleep on a camp bed in the beach-side house. On his lap you see an item of the magazine "Soviet Life". This magazine was founded in 1956. But the events in the film play in the beginning of the fifties. The Magazin is now published under the title "Russian Life".
The Lockheed recruiter shows Eddie a picture of the March, 1954 Bikini Atoll nuclear test. The HUAC "blacklisting" hearings had started in 1947-48, so the "study group" seems rather blasé about the "naming names" threat.
Assuming the Communist Party USA was not backdating its membership cards, the year this film's story takes place is 1951. In a couple of scenes, Eddie meets Arthur Cuddahy at the Imperial Gardens restaurant. However, that business did not open until 1953. Before then, it was The Players restaurant.
The story of Saul's vision on the road to Damascus takes place 3-6 years after Jesus' death. Much later in Eddie's meeting with the director Walt it is revealed that the final scene of his movie will take place during the Crucifixion; therefore the scene with Saul doesn't belong.
During the crucifixion the centurion says that the day before he saw Christ distributing water to the Roman soldiers and to the slaves in the desert. The day before the crucifixion Jesus was in Jerusalem.
During the "No Dames" dance number, there's a drunken sailor passed out at the bar. When Burt Gurney does a slide along the bar, and other dance moves, the drunken sailor is no longer there. Later, when Gurney leaves the bar, the sailor is back at his spot, still passed out.
When Burt Gurney puts a bar rag on the bartender's head, then slides along the bar, the bartender can be seen starting to remove the bar rag. In the next shot, a close-up of the bartender, the bar rag is still on his head, with him not trying to remove it.
When the cucumber sandwiches are being prepared in the kitchen for the communist study group, they are shown as having the crusts cut off in thin slices. When they are served to Baird Whitlock, they are cut into squares, without crusts.
In the opening scene where Eddie Mannix (played by Josh Brolin) comes to interrupt the photo shoot it rains. Mannix walks through the rain to the front door of the building, but when we see him enter the building his trench coat does not show any signs of rain on it. When the police shows up moments later, their coats are covered in rain.
At 42:00, Eddie is walking down the paved area between the buildings. In the first shot, as he walks away from the camera, the buildings' shadows are parallel to the area he's walking down (i.e., they don't cast a shadow across where he's walking); in the second, as he walks towards the camera, they go almost half way across the paved area.
We know that he hasn't turned a corner of 45 degrees, as he would need to have done for this to have occurred, because the map in his office shows that the studio area is a grid, with all buildings at 90 degrees.
In the Dames dance scene, a sailor slides along the bar (twice) clearing it of bottles. Immediately, that sailor slides onto a bar stool (between two other sailors) and a beer bottle is seen standing up directly behind him.
The beach-side house where Baird is being held for ransom has a close-up view of Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands. The film alludes that it is in Malibu, but that is too far from these Channel Islands to have such a view.
The driveway for the beach-side house is shown as being just east of Mugu Rock, currently part of Point Mugu State Park. The bay there is far broader than the narrow bay depicted in the film. In addition, the profile of Mugu Rock is far pointier than in reality; obviously a matte painting.
The voice-over narration for the film-within-a-film of Hail Caesar! says that the stomp of the Roman army's sandals can be heard from the Iberian Peninsula in the west "through the halls of the great library of Alexandria in the east!" However Palestine, where much of the story takes place, is located east of Alexandria and was also under Roman rule.
When the scarf gets stuck in the editing deck, stopping the film, the lamp melts the frame on the screen. The lamps in editing decks are much lower intensity than those used in projectors and do not produce the heat necessary to melt stuck film.
When Eddie is having lunch with the Lockheed headhunter, he is shown a photo of a nuclear test. He's told it's a Hydrogen Bomb test in Bikini Atoll. It was an Atomic Bomb test at Bikini Atoll in July 1946; the hydrogen bomb hadn't been invented yet, much less tested, in 1951. The first hydrogen bomb test (Ivy Mike) took place on Enewetak Atoll, not Bikini Atoll, on November 1, 1952.
When the communists' phone call to Eddie Mannix is disconnected on the first attempt we hear a burst of "precise dial tone," the same as today. This was not used until more than 10 years later. At that time the standard dial tone was 600 Hz modulated at 120 Hz.
In the editing suite scene, the female editor is seen smoking as she operates the editing machine. Since the film is set in the early 50's, the film would have been nitrate which was highly inflammable. Potentially, the whole studio could have burnt down.
In 1951, film production was transitioning away from nitrate to safety (non-flammable) film stock. The fact that only one frame is burns indicates that the editor was working with safety film. Had it been nitrate, the entire reel would probably have caught fire.
Baird says he knew Dave Chasen (of Chasen's Restaurant) when he was a busboy. Dave Chase was never a busboy. I knew the man personally. He started as a tap dancer in Vaudeville. He came to Hollywood to get into the movies but Hollywood wasn't casting men with Uncle Dave's plain looks as a dancer. So he work on his personal chili recipe in his kitchen and borrowed some money (partly from my grandfather Nate Blumberg) from friends and opened a chili stand on Beverly Blvd. The rest is history.
The Soviet submarine is heard giving the the distinctive sonar "ping", often heard in WW 2 movies. This ping is only made when a surface ship is bouncing a sonar signal off of the sub, trying to determine it's location.
The gift model plane from the Lockheed headhunter, which Mannix sets on his son's dresser, is a Grumman Albatross seaplane. The sleek Lockheed Constellation was the state of the art airliner in the early 50's, and would have been a meaningful gift from a Lockheed employee who is selling the promise and possibilities of the future.
When Eddie's secretary tells Eddie that he has a call on line 2, Eddie picks up the telephone handset but does not press the line 2 button. The last call Eddie had on that telephone was on line 1, so he still would have been using line 1 on that line 2 call.
The goof item below may give away important plot points.
When Channing Tatum's character leaves on the Russian sub, it is clearly a nuclear powered sub. Russia did not commission its first nuclear powered sub until 1961, a full 10 years after this movie takes place. As a matter of fact, the USS Nautilus wasn't commissioned until 1954, 3 years after this movie takes place.