It may be very early in 2016, but it looks like the most star-studded film of the entire year is already set to arrive in theaters on February 5. George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand, and Josh Brolin are all coming together for the Coen Brothers' next film, Hail, Caesar! In the film, which takes place in the 1950s, Brolin portrays a Hollywood "fixer" — his job is to keep movie stars' scandals out of the press. He especially has his work cut out for him when his studio's biggest star (Clooney) is kidnapped and held for a $100,000 ransom. It's up to Brolin's character to get him back, while simultaneously keeping the story out of the headlines, a seriously impressive task if he can pull it off. But is Josh Brolin's Hail, Caesar! character a real person?
Sort of. The name of Brolin's character is Eddie Mannix, who was a real life Hollywood producer with a reputation for being a fixer. At the height of his power, Mannix was the general manager and vice president of MGM — one of the biggest studios in the first half of the twentieth century, producing such films as The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind during Mannix's time there. Mannix also notably kept a ledger that tracked the finances of every single MGM film produced between 1924 and 1948, but it's his reputation as a fixer that have made him a pop culture icon with depictions in films like Hollywoodland .
Brolin's version of Mannix in Hail, Caesar! is fictionalized, according to the New York Times, but some of Mannix's real life exploits could certainly provide plenty of inspiration for a film — albeit a dramatic one rather than a comedy.
The famous fixer was married to actress Toni Lanier from 1951 until his death in 1963. During much of their relationship, Lanier had an affair with Superman TV star George Reeves, an affair that Mannix (and much of Hollywood) allegedly knew about and approved of. But after Reeves ended the affair in 1959 and became engaged to a younger woman, he died mysteriously of a gunshot wound to the head. The case has never been solved to this day, and a popular theory put forth by The Guardian suggests that Mannix, who was believed to have had numerous mob connections, allegedly had Reeves killed in retaliation for breaking his wife's heart.
Mannix is also credited with boosting the career of screen legend Ava Gardner by way of alleged coercion, according to Gardner's biography, The Secret Conversations. Gardner was married to Mickey Rooney, one of the biggest movie stars of the '30s and '40s, but reportedly planned on divorcing him in 1943 due to his constant cheating. At the time, Rooney's image was that of wholesome film character Andy Hardy, so the claim goes that Mannix paid Gardner a visit to make sure that she wouldn't reveal the real reason for their divorce, allegedly threatening that she'd be "finished" if she did. Gardner reportedly then agreed to keep Rooney's alleged infidelity a secret, and Mannix supposedly rewarded her with a lucrative deal with MGM, which saw her celebrity skyrocket, according to The Telegraph.
Mannix's alleged "fixes" over the years were countless and diverse. He is rumored to have arranged secret abortions for pregnant starlets, paid off victims of car accidents caused by drunk actors, and covered up homosexual affairs by famous celebrities, according to Slate. One of the most infamous claims made against Mannix by The Fixers author E.J. Fleming is that Mannix was responsible for arranging actress Loretta Young's secret birth and sham adoption of her daughter, who was fathered by married star Clark Cable. He is also accused by Vanity Fair of covering up and paying off witnesses in the case of Patricia Douglas, who claimed she was raped at an MGM executive party and unsuccessfully sued Mannix and other executives before fading from public view.
Hail, Caesar! is a comedy, and Brolin's Eddie Mannix is the film's protagonist. But it should be noted that other than the name of the character and his reputation as a Hollywood fixer, the movie's Mannix and the real Mannix share little in common. The claims against the real Mannix portray him as a bad guy, who allegedly was willing to break any law and hurt anyone to protect the image of MGM studios. The true extent of his actions as a fixer will probably never be known, but they certainly shouldn't be celebrated.