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"Here at Capitol Pictures, as you know, millions of people look to us for inspiration and uplift and, yes, entertainment. And we're going to give it to 'em."
Edward "Eddie" Mannix

Hail, Caesar! is a 2016 film from The Coen Brothers and Universal Pictures.

It's The '50s. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a fixer for the Hollywood studio Capitol Pictures who's getting tired of juggling the eclectic personalities that his business attracts. He's considering taking an offer to work for an aviation company, but before he can accept or deny the offer, Mannix still has to do his job for at least one more day. So, within twenty-seven hours, Mannix must deal with an out-of-his-depth singing cowboy's conflict with his Shakespearian director, an A-List actress's out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and a Communist plot to kidnap the star of Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ, all while fending off gossip columnists and attempting to quit smoking.

Watch the first trailer here. Its cast includes the aforementioned Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich, Channing Tatum, and Tilda Swinton.

Hail Caesar provides examples of:

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    Tropes A-M 
  • Actor Allusion:
    • George Clooney's character is seen inspecting and rubbing his teeth, something his character did constantly in the Coen Brothers' previous film Intolerable Cruelty.
    • You'll have to look at the movie's IMDb page to figure it out, but the Soviet commander of the submarine that greets Burt Gurney and the communist screenwriters is played by Dolph Lundgren, best known for his role as the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.
    • Scarlett Johansson plays an actress who has to hide her pregnancy while filming a very physical role. She had just come off Avengers: Age of Ultron, where she had hidden her pregnancy for real.
  • Advertised Extra: Jonah Hill is billed as one of the film's main stars, being featured in the trailers and even on the poster. However, he only appears in one scene in the final film.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of The Golden Age of Hollywood, with its stars and studio-controlled gossip, elaborate musicals, and over-the-top epic films.
  • Alliterative Name: Director Laurence Laurentz, and the twins, Thora and Thessaly Thacker.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The dialogue in Merrily We Dance, much to Hobie's discomfort. The scene in the cab with Jack Huston and Agyness Deyn is dripping with it.
    Cad in Cab: It seems I left my valise in your foyer.note 
  • Artistic Licence – History:
    • In-Universe: The Film Within a Film depicts Saul's conversion as occurring before the Crucifixion. It also mentions the Caracalla-thermes, which weren't built until nearly two centuries later (the emperor Caracalla, for whom the baths are named, wasn't even born until 188 AD).
    • The film is set in 1951, but the Future describes their donation of the ransom money as their "modest donation to the Comintern", though the organization was publicly dissolved in 1943 by the Soviet Union, its founder (as a concession to the anti-Communist western Allies). Maybe they meant the Cominform?
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: For his role as a Swedish director, Christopher Lambert worked with a dialogue coach who told the actor that no one knows what a Swedish accent really sounds like. Instead, Lambert was instructed to blend his French accent with a German accent.
  • Author Appeal:
    • This isn't the first Coen Brothers film set in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
    • The Coens are Jewish, and typically insert some Jewishness into the narrative of their films. They're clearly having fun with the scene where the rabbi pointedly offers his perspective on a Christian story.
  • The Beard: The studio mandates a date between Hobie Doyle and Carlotta Valdez — while both are straight, they've never even met before, and the studio is trying to cook up a phony romance story. In a subversion, Hobie and Carlotta genuinely hit it off really well and enjoy a surprisingly sweet date at least until Hobie catches sight of Gurney carrying the ransom money and has to make his excuses and rush off after him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Hobie follows Gurney to where Whitlock is being held and rescues him. And by "rescue", we mean he shows up at the empty mansion and orders Whitlock to come back home, which he does since he has no reason not to. Still, A for effort.
  • Book Ends: The closing scene mirrors the movie's second scene, in which Mannix gets his morning briefing from his secretary.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: The Future comprises disaffected Hollywood screenwriters who have formed a secret Communist club to sneak Marxist messages into their films. They also hold their meetings in a decadent Malibu mansion owned by Burt Gurney while sipping martinis, eating tea sandwiches, and smoking expensive tobacco.
  • Brick Joke: Laurentz spends ages trying to get Hobie to say the line "Would that it were so simple," with the proper emotion and without the cowboy accent... they still haven't succeeded by the time the film moves on. Later, Mannix views the dailies from the filming, and discovers that Laurentz had to find another solution to Hobie's inability to say the line.
    Hobie: [as "Monty"] ...It's complicated.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Mannix pays the $100,000 ransom in cash. While ordering the money, he asks the banker how big that volume of money will be. The bills don't quite fit into his suitcase, so he holds it shut with Hobie's belt. Doubles as a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Bronson Canyon and Caves: One of the rare movies where Bronson Canyon plays itself, as a popular shooting location for old movies.
  • Brooklyn Rage: DeAnna lashes out at the crew between takes, spurred on by how her fish costume is too tight, in a raspy New York accent.
  • Busby Berkeley Number: In a direct homage to the work of Busby Berkeley and Esther Williams, Eddie Mannix stops by to see Scarlett Johansson's character filming an extended underwater dance sequence featuring her rising up out of the sea in a mermaid costume while swimmers circle around her in synchronized movement. This is accompanied by orchestral music and is shot from directly above (In-Universe and out), like many of Berkeley's iconic numbers. It's a very beautiful, elaborate spectacle, which makes it much more jarring when Johansson throws her crown directly at the conductor and starts complaining in a raspy voice about being stuck in a plastic "fish ass."
  • Call-Back: Eddie Mannix is a fixer for Capitol Pictures, a studio featured in another Coen Brothers film, Barton Fink.
  • The Cameo:
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Parodied by the Future, a rather hypocritical group of communists. As communists, they see capitalism as an oppressive system that takes their good work as writers and gives them nothing for it. This doesn't stop them from listening to a professor who says the best way to fight capitalism is to try and obtain the most wealth as possible, a capitalist mindset. The whole philosophy is presented as humorously contradictory, except when Eddie Mannix hears one of his stars using it to badmouth the studio after all it sacrificed to rescue him and secure his career. Mannix slaps the actor silly.
    • To be fair, they try to redeem their hypocrisy by handing the ransom money over to Burt Gurney, to give to the Soviet authorities "to help the cause". Unfortunately, after Burt's accepted the money, his dog leaps into his arms and, not wanting to drop his dog, he drops the money into the sea, meaning that the entire kidnap plot was completely pointless.
  • Cardboard Prison: Baird isn't locked up or tied up — the main thing keeping him at the house is not having a car and not actually being bothered by the kidnapping enough to look for one. When left alone in the house, he just reads magazines until Hobie turns up.
  • Casting Couch: Among the fires Mannix finds himself having to put out is a story Thora Thacker is threatening to print revealing A-List star Baird Whitlock's big secret: he got his first job by "sodomizing" the director. He is able to quash the story by telling Thora that she doesn't want to be associated with the source of her story, since he's a Soviet spy.
  • Cast the Expert: In-universe, this is how Hobie Doyle's screen career took off. He explains to Carlotta Valdez that he started out as an animal wrangler, and when the studio needed someone with his skill set to fill minor roles in westerns, they put him in front of the camera.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Hobie recognizes the brown leather briefcase secured with a belt sitting next to Gurney in a restaurant. This leads him to Whitlock.
  • Confessional: The film opens with Mannix, wracked with guilt, confessing to his priest that he bums cigarettes even though his wife wants him to quit... just twenty-four hours after his last confession, in the dead of the night. He visits again near the end, seeking advice on whether or not to leave his job and confessing that he "struck a movie star in anger." The priest counsels him, and also says he should stop coming in so often because he's really not that bad. Still, Eddie learns what he needs to hear in the confessional: God wants him to do what feels right, which is helping people at Capitol Pictures.
  • Credits Gag: At the very end of the closing credits, there appears the disclaimer "This motion picture contains no visual depiction of the Godhead," which can be considered a theological variant of No Animals Were Harmed.
  • Crucial Cross: The first shot of the movie is of a church with a crucifix in the middle of the frame, which is followed by a close-up of the face of Jesus. We then cut to our main character in a Confessional, and the rest of the movie concerns his conflict between whether to pursue his personal security or goodness for its own sake. Like Jesus is said to have done, he chooses goodness.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Mannix is involved in a subplot regarding DeeAnna Moran's pregnancy while unmarried. DeeAnna is also shown smoking while pregnant.
    • The films within the film include a sum total of one non-white cast member, a black extra strategically placed to draw attention to the otherwise all-white casts that were typical of 1950s Hollywood.
    • The big scandal behind Baird Whitlock's career is that he had relations with Laurence Laurentz to land his first major role. In the modern entertainment scene, and particularly in the wake of the Kevin Spacey scandal, such a scandal would purely be about the implications that a major movie star was forced into a sexual relationship to advance his career. In the movie's time period, it would come with the extra shock of homosexuality, which was obviously unfathomably taboo by the standards of The '50s (not to mention illegal in those states enforcing anti-sodomy laws). Mannix outright tells Thacker that she can't spill the story, because it would be too much for contemporary audiences.
  • Dirty Commies: Played with. The kidnappers seemingly fit the trope to a tee, and they do appear to attempt to blackmail Whitlock into letting them send their message. However, they're Harmless Villains at worst; they never fail to treat Whitlock any way other than impeccably politely, and in the end it's heavily implied that it's actually the Dirty Commies who are putting the true message of the Gospel into the films the studio system churns out (including the production that gives the film its title). This is, however, complicated by the Hypocritical Humour.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The titular Film Within a Film is a lavish period piece about the Roman Empire, portraying it as a decadent military juggernaut at the height of its wealth and power. The movie itself is a similarly lavish period piece about 1950s America, portraying the United States at the height of its wealth and power after becoming a superpower in the wake of World War II. Note that the Film Within a Film and the film itself are both titled Hail, Caesar!
  • Dramatic Thunder: When Whitlock kneels before the cross in the final scene of "Hail, Caesar!" (the in-universe one).
  • Everything Has Rhythm: Burt Gurney's musical number does this with everything in a dockside bar.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie spans a full day from one morning to the next, as indicated by the Book Ends scenes.
  • The Fixer: Eddie Mannix works without rest, day in and day out, to make sure that the public image of every scandalous star stays sacrosanct and that every movie Capitol Pictures produces films on time. He's amazingly suited for it, but he seems to have some issues with just how difficult and demanding it all is.
    Eddie: Bless me father, for I have sinned.
    Father: How long since your last confession, my son?
    Eddie: 27 hours.
    Father: It's really too often. You're not that bad.
  • Foreshadowing: Almost all of the Films Within the Film mask some hint about how the ultimate climax of the movie will play out:
    • Merrily We Dance features Hobie Doyle's character realizing that something's amiss at a high society party after he recognizes another man's suitcase at his love interest's house. Hobie ultimately manages to find Baird Whitlock after he recognizes Burt Gurney carrying the suitcase with the ransom money.
    • "No Dames!" features Burt Gurney's character preparing to return to sea after being on shore leave, and his dance number features a stunt where he jumps onto a ladder from afar. Gurney ultimately goes to sea to board a Russian submarine so that he can defect to the Soviets. To climb onboard, he jumps onto the boarding ladder from afar. Furthermore, it is implied that Gurney is gay, as not only is the choreography for "No Dames!" more than a little homoerotic, but Mannix identifies Gurney as Laurentz's latest protegé, which is hinted to mean that he and Laurentz have had sex as Laurentz and Baird Whitlock did years earlier.
    • Neptune's Daughter features an elaborate synchronized swimming number, ending with DeeAnna Moran majestically rising from the water as dramatic music swells. The climax features a Russian submarine similarly majestically rising from the water as the same dramatic music swells.
    • Lazy Ol' Moon features Hobie Doyle playing a classically heroic cowboy hunting down a gang of bandits in its Cold Open sequence. Hobie ultimately tracks down the kidnappers' hideout in similarly heroic fashion, and manages to rescue Baird singlehandedly.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: DeeAnna Moran asks the agent helping her with her faux-adoption out to dinner the day that they're introduced, and they promptly get married that same night. This of course, solves her dilemma of being unmarried and pregnant on its own.
  • Funetik Aksent: The Coen Brothers wrote the screenplay in this manner. "Would that ih-twuuuuuuuh so simple."
  • Funny Background Event: During the meeting of clergymen, while the Catholic priest is speaking about Jesus's relationship to God, you can see the rabbi behind him checking his watch, drumming his fingers, and fidgeting boredly.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Mannix's favorite tactic for dealing with misbehaving actors and actresses. He does this to Gloria DeLamour when he catches her posing for "French postcard" photos at the beginning of the film, and to Baird Whitlock at the end of the film when the latter begins regurgitating the Communist ideology he heard from the members of the Future.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Burt Gurney and the Hollywood writers who make up the Future are (rather hypocritical) Soviet sympathizers who kidnap and blackmail an actor, but they're shown to raise valid points about the exploitative practices of the studio system and treat their "captive" very well otherwise. Eddie Mannix is an absentee husband and father who, on behalf of the studio, alternates between being very controlling towards his actors and covering for them when they get themselves in trouble, sometimes to the point of physical abuse, but he's also shown to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who genuinely believes that films have artistic merit, and he stands up to a smarmy gossip columnist who wants to out Baird Whitlock's homosexual affair.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: In a scene of the Film Within a Film, Hail Caesar! A Tale of the Christ, that is viewed in the screening room by Mannix and his assistant, Baird Whitlock is seen encountering Jesus, whom we see from behind with astoundingly blonde flowing hair. "Squint, squint, against the grandeur," we hear the director instruct him.
  • Head Desk: A subdued version, but when the priest realizes Mannix has come in to confess again, he lets his head fall against the back of the booth with a thud.
  • Heaven Above: The movie ends with the narrator describing how the protagonist's story is "written in light everlasting," as a choir sings and the camera shifts up to the sky. Along with the film's use of the Confessional and an In-Universe Passion Play, the ending shows the essential role the protagonist's relationship with God plays in his life.
  • Hello, Sailor!: Parodied with the very homoerotic "No Dames" sequence, which features a Cast Full of Pretty Boys in sailor outfits tap dancing about how they'll only have each other once they're out at sea with no women in sight.
  • Historical Beauty Update: The real Eddie Mannix wasn't anywhere near as handsome as Josh Brolin. To put it into perspective, in his appearance in Hollywoodland, he was played by Bob Hoskins, who was a much closer fit.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Eddie Mannix, a real Hollywood fixer and devout Catholic, as portrayed. Mannix was previously portrayed by Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland.
    • Herbert Marcuse actually was a German-born Communist academic, though he was never at Stanford.
    • Gus Hall was the Communist Party USA's chairman and a perennial presidential candidate.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Eddie Mannix is presented as a more or less relatively sympathetic fixer Surrounded by Idiots and self-destructive stars who tries to protect his employer's interests by covering up dirt (though most of the dirt isn't really of a criminal nature). The real Mannix was not so introspective and serious, and some of the real Eddie Mannix's many "fixings" involved such unsavory things as covering up the rape of MGM actress Patricia Douglas, including erasing all evidence that the star-filled party it happened at ever took place and repeatedly attempting to intimidate her into silence.note  As noted by the writer, the film is a movie about Mannix as Mannix would have made a movie about himself.
  • Historical In-Joke: The antagonists are Hollywood screenwriters who are sneaking subversive communist messages into their films, playing straight the exaggerated Red Scare fears of the McCarthy era. It also calls to mind the numerous Writer's Guild strikes since 1960.
  • Hollywood Costuming: Used within the various movies-within-a-movie to reflect the fact that films in the fifties were not especially accurate in the costume department.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Burt Gurney's In-Universe South Pacific/On the Town-style musical seems to run on this, with an all-male cast singing a song called "No Dames" while dancing in pairs, and the choreography involves faces near crotches, backsides near crotches, backsides near other backsides, and so on. Also a case of Deliberate Values Dissonance, since what would be seen as blatantly homoerotic by modern standards (such as having sailors dancing together and talking about "spending time" together out at sea) actually wouldn't be seen that way in The '50s, since depictions of homosexuality were virtually nonexistent and out of the public consciousness. The closest the musical gets to acknowledging any of it is when Burt's character gets caught between two other sailors' rear ends and bumped around, to which the already grouchy bartender barks, "hey, cut it out, this ain't that kind of a place!" — a line that could've passed on Broadway, but would've faced some difficulty with the Hays Code, to say the least.
  • Horny Sailors: In the scene from Burt Gurney's musical, a bunch of sailors spend one last night drinking and partying before going onto an 8-month-journey. They mourn the fact that they won't see no dame during that time.
  • Humor Dissonance: In-Universe, within the film Hail, Caesar!, the Romans at a lavish dinner party laugh at the prospect of trouble brewing from an itinerant preacher in Palestine. They laugh (at the director's call) for a really long time, way out of proportion with the actual remark, but totally in keeping with the overdone artifice of the rest of the movie.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Future turns out to be a group of disgruntled Hollywood screenwriters who have turned to communism and are sneaking socialist messages in their films, yet still indulge in the luxuries of Hollywood and capitalism from their Malibu-mansion meeting ground; they also enlist the services of a proletariat maid, whom they categorically ignore. The Coens even considered including Barton Fink — fitting, since Fink claims to speak for the common man in his work but habitually disregards and demeans them in person.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Mannix describes her first husband as a "minor mobster", DeeAnna Moran objects that he wasn't minor.
  • Jewish Smartass: A rabbi is among the clergymen consulted by Eddie Mannix for a film about Christ, the others being a Catholic priest, a Protestant minister, and an Eastern Orthodox patriarch. When the subject of Jesus' parentage comes up, the Catholic priest, the Protestant minister, and the Eastern Orthodox patriarch (who all believe in the Trinity) get into a debate about the nature of Jesus. The Jewish rabbi (who does not believe in the Trinity) scoffs, "God has children? What, and a dog? A collie, maybe? God doesn't have children, he's a bachelor, and very angry."
  • Jerkass Gods: In the scene with the clergymen, two of the pastors insist that the Jewish God is unmerciful and has no love, which the rabbi responds to by saying:
    Rabbi: Not true: he likes Jews.
  • Lighter and Softer: This is one of the lightest of the Coen Brothers' films in terms of both tone and content. The stakes are low, nobody dies, and the focus is on absurd comedy.
  • Maybe Ever After: Despite the date between Hobie Doyle and Carlotta Valdez being set up by the studio to increase public interest in them and therefore their movies, the two actually get on incredibly well, with the implication being that they may strike up an actual relationship, or at least a good friendship. However, we never find out either way.
  • Monochrome Casting: All of the films within the film have all-white casts (except for one very strategically placed black extra), as was typical of Hollywood films of the 1950s. By extension, this means the film itself has an almost entirely all-white cast. Carlotta Valdez, who is Hispanic, is the only significant non-white character.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: DeAnna is trying to make a movie while she's in the early stages of pregnancy. She can still just about fit into her costumes, but she's unable to perform her stunts for too long.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed:
    • Scarlett Johansson's character DeeAnna Moran, who is introduced filming an aquatic Busby Berkeley Number, is a clear parody of Esther Williams. Being forced into a Zany Scheme to adopt her own child is based on Loretta Young's having to do the same.
    • Hobie Doyle goes on a studio-arranged date with actress Carlotta Valdez, who is an Expy of Carmen Miranda, right down to him commenting on how he doesn't know how she dances "with all them bananers on your head." Hobie himself is a paper-thin Expy of Roy Rogers and Kirby Grant, right down to his "singing cowboy" shtick.
    • Tilda Swinton plays twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker, who are parodies of the real Hollywood gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who had a very public feud. The Thacker sisters' wardrobes, particularly their hats, are based on Hopper's taste in clothes.
      • The twin-aspect is inspired by identical twin-sisters and bitter rivals, advice columnists Pauline Phillips and Eppie Lederer, aka 'Dear Abby' and 'Ask Ann Landers'.
    • Burt Gurney, and the musical number he is filming, parodies both Gene Kelly and On the Town.
    • Baird Whitlock parodies both Kirk Douglas and Charlton Heston. While Hail, Caesar! is a clear parody of Ben-Hur (which Heston starred in), his "prima donna leading man" image takes just as many cues from Douglas, the star of Spartacus.
    • Marcuse, the intellectual of the Future, is named for Herbert Marcuse, a famous Frankfurt School philosopher who settled in the USA after the war and was part of the German emigré community. note 
  • Laurence Laurentz is a parody of Laurence Olivier, being a classy British director who just prefers to be called Laurence rather than Mr. Laurentz. His struggle with Hobie Doyle reflects Olivier's infamous struggle with directing Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The Southern-born actor Hobie Doyle has to put on a British accent for one of his films. He can't pull it off in the slightest. The second trailer basically consisted entirely of him and the film's British director Laurence Laurentz practicing how to say his lines with a British accent, while his co-star and the crew look on with exasperation. In the film itself, it's not that they want him to sound British, it's just that since he's going to be starring in a "serious" dramatic picture, the director wants him to sound less like his usual cowboy yokel self, to mixed results.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The movie is a period comedy set in 1950's Hollywood with its main focus on the protagonist's personal conflict and a kidnapping plot, but the various movies being made all around the protagonist give the Coens a reason to have extended sequences imitating the typical films of the era. The most drawn-out are the aquatic dance sequence featuring Scarlett Johansson's character and The Musical number "No Dames" featuring Channing Tatum's character and a host of naval dancers.
  • Overly Long Gag: Laurentz spends two whole minutes trying to teach Hobie how to say "Would that it were so simple," most of which consists of the two of them just repeating the phrase back and forth to each other.
  • Passion Play: The In-Universe film, Hail Caesar! A Story of the Christ, lives up to its second title in its final scene, which sees the Roman protagonist giving a speech about the virtues of Christ at the foot of the Penitent Thief's crucifix. This is also the last scene to be filmed, so it becomes imperative to recover the actor from his kidnappers before filming for the scene begins. Ultimately, the filming of this scene is the third-to-last scene of the movie, and the film's speech about having faith in something greater resonates with the film as a whole.
  • Playing Against Type: In-universe, this is why Hobie Doyle has been cast as the lead in Merrily We Dance. After a string of successful "singing cowboy" films playing to his strengths and background as a former ranch hand, Capitol have decided he should branch out with a role in a stage-to-screen adaptation of a drawing-room drama. Unfortunately for all involved, he doesn't have the range to pull off such a major career shift, and he unknowingly infuriates the perfectionist director with his every syllable.
  • Publicity Stunt Relationship: The studio invents a romance between Hobie and Carlotta in order to distract the Thackers from the actual scandals going on. Their studio-mandated date goes surprisingly well until Hobie has to cut it short to chase after Gurney and the ransom money.
  • Questionable Casting: In-universe — Hobie Doyle, career cowboy (both in real life and in the pictures) in a period drawing-room drama.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: A version with Hobie and Laurentz.
    Laurentz: "Would that it were so simple", trippingly.
    Hobie: Would that it were so simple trippingly.
    Laurentz: No, don't say "trippingly," say the line trippingly!
  • Red Scare: The Future turns out be a Communist group comprising disaffected screenwriters. Burt Gurney is in league with them and collects and delivers the $100,000 ransom for Baird Whitlock. This works to Mannix's advantage when Thora Thacker reveals that Burt told her about Baird's relationship with Laurence Laurentz at the beginning of his career; if it gets out that her source for this story is a Communist sympathiser, her career will be ruined.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The first thing the camera focuses on is a crucifix, and it zooms in on Jesus's face before cutting to our over-worked protagonist, Eddie Mannix, confessing his sins. This sets him up as some type of Messianic Archetype, as he suffers through his arduous job in order to better others around him, as Jesus suffered on the cross for others.
  • Running Gag: The sword on Baird Whitlock's costume keeps getting stuck when he tries to sit down.
    • Each time Whitlock's earlier film, On Wings As Eagles, is mentioned, a bird can be heard cawing in the background.
  • Scooby Stack: The two extras/kidnappers peek around a wall this way when following Baird Whitlock to his dressing room.
  • Seen It All: When Baird stumbles out of the room in which he has been left to come to from the drugs after his kidnapping, he is still in full costume as Antoninus, the Roman tribune he is playing in Hail, Caesar!, and he runs into a housekeeper pushing a vacuum cleaner. It seems that her job has left her indifferent to such peculiar sights, as she doesn't even bat an eyelid when she asks, in a bored voice, "You from Hollywood?", and when he confirms that he is, she simply directs him to the room where the Future are meeting and carries on with her vacuuming.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The entire kidnap plot. The Future kidnap Baird Whitlock and hold him for a ransom of $100,000. While he's being held "hostage" (in a completely unguarded and unfortified house) his kidnappers teach him about Marxism, and he comes around to the idea that the studio system is exploitative and unfair. It turns out that his kidnappers want the money not because they're motivated by making the world a better place: they just want to be paid more. The ransom is paid, they take the money... and then Hobie Doyle follows their leader, Burt, to the house and "frees" Whitlock, actually by just inviting him to come back to town with him. Whitlock goes back to the studio and tells Mannix all about his newfound Marxist principles, and it takes one bollocking from Mannix for him to forget all about them and go back to work as usual. Meanwhile, the kidnappers and Burt rendezvous with a Soviet submarine, where the kidnappers think better of their greediness and hand over the money to be given to the Soviets to further the cause of communism, but then the money is accidentally dropped into the sea and lost forever. Burt leaves, the kidnap plot has come to nothing, and it's implied that they're all about to be arrested.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the Roman actors has a very noticeable lisp, much like Pontius Pilate in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
    • The film-within-a-film, Hail, Caesar! is very clearly supposed to be Ben-Hur, and the scene in which Baird Whitlock's character falls prostrate before the Christ evokes a similar scene (with Richard Burton playing the equivalent role) in The Robe.
    • The name "Carlotta Valdez" is from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, in which a woman by that name is claimed to be possessing her great-granddaughter during the first half of the film.
    • The title sequence and opening music of Merrily We Dance imitate Shadow of a Doubt, another Hitchcock film (both films open with footage of waltzing couples set to Franz Lehar's "Merry Widow" Waltz).
    • The submarine rendezvous scene parodies pretty much every World War II and Cold War submarine action-adventure film in existence.
    • "No Dames" is a tribute to "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" from South Pacific, complete with a randomly deep-voiced sailor.
    • At the film's ending, Mannix's secretary briefs him on the production of a film titled Tucumcari. That was the name of a town featured briefly in the Spaghetti Western from 1965, For a Few Dollars More.
  • Show Within a Show: There are several of these, ranging from musicals about mermaids or the navy, to the Roman epic that gives the film its title, to the British period piece in which Hobie Doyle is miscast. All of them are somewhat subject to Stylistic Suck, although they are also highly accurate portrayals of films of the period.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: DeeAnna mentions that she doesn't want to get into another studio-enforced marriage after just getting out of two failed marriages with deadbeat significant others. She ends up falling for Joseph Silverman, the surety agent who regularly sacrifices his time and effort on behalf of the studio and who offers to serve as the temporary foster parent to her child.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Baird Whitlock is drugged and kidnapped after drinking from a prop goblet containing water that has been spiked by extras on behalf of the Future. (Water into wine in a biblical story, indeed.)
  • Spontaneous Choreography: In-Universe; in the "No Dames" Show Within the Show, there's really no reason all those servicemen going off to sea should be able to tap dance on tablecloths so well that they can keep dancing as the bartender pulls the sheets out from under them, but hey, that's what the movies are for.
  • Stalling the Sip: Two members of the Future infiltrate the set of "Hail Caesar" as extras and roofie the chalice from which Baird Whitlock is supposed to drink in one scene. Whitlock raises his chalice four times, but gets interrupted each time, much to the commies' disappointment. He finally drinks up, and later passes out in his trailer.
  • Stealth Pun: The maid in Malibu is using a hoover vacuum. J. Edgar Hoover was famously the scourge of US Communists.
  • Stealth Sequel: It's subtle, but the film studio which serves as the film's central location is the same studio (Capitol Pictures) from the Coens' earlier period film about Hollywood, Barton Fink. Whether this is intended to be set in the same universe as the former or simply an Internal Homage is unknown, although at some point Fink was apparently intended to appear among the other Communist screenwriters.
  • Swallowed Whole: DeeAnna Moran's aquatic musical number begins with her underwater in her mermaid costume reaching towards a treasure chest, only for an animatronic whale's mouth to close around her. The animatronic whale shoots some water out its blowhole, and a few moments later Moran is lifted out of the water as if the whale shot her out of its blowhole.
  • Sword and Sandal: Hail, Caesar! (the film within the film) is clearly meant to be of the same genre as Ben-Hur and other Biblical epics of the time. Mannix goes so far as to hold a meeting with religious leaders of various faiths in order to make sure Capitol Pictures won't be offending any devout potential moviegoers. Their various responses all amount to "meh". Oh, and the Orthodox priest doesn't think it's believable for someone to jump from one chariot to another at full speed.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Baird Whitlock's failed speech from the main trailer is his last scene, after being returned from the clutches of the Future. Mannix's confession from the same trailer (where the priest tells him he's "not that bad") is the second-to-last scene of the film.
  • Tranquil Fury: Eddie Mannix sits silently at his desk while Whitlock burbles about how Communism is great and the studio system is an arm of capitalism intent on keeping the masses down. Though clearly angry, Mannix only responds with non-committal, terse phrases until Whitlock badmouths Schenk, the studio's owner. Then he lets loose.
  • Troubled Production: Each of the films-within-a-film being produced is having trouble getting completed or contending with some other sort of behind-the-scenes drama. The film's entire plot is essentially Eddie smoothing things over and sweeping the troubles under the rug as best as he can so that the studio can avoid scandal in the gossip columns.
  • Tutti Frutti Hat: Discussed when Western actor Hobie Doyle goes on a publicity date with musical starlet Carlotta Valdez (a Carmen Miranda Expy):
    Hobie: Is it hard to dance with all them bananers on your head?
    Carlotta: Oh, anyone can do it. (demonstrating with her purse balanced on her head) It's all in the hips, the lips, and the eyes and the thighs.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Word of God has said this film is loosely based on the lifestyle of actual Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses:
  • Visual Pun: Hobie, a star of Westerns, uses a noodle of spaghetti as a lasso. It's a Spaghetti Western.
  • The Voice: The studio owner, Mr. Schenk, whom Mannix talks to every day on the phone.
  • Walk and Talk: The scenes of Natalie briefing Mannix while he is rushing across the studio grounds.
  • Water Is Dry: The scene where DeeAnna rises from the pool was filmed in reverse. As a result, it appears that she emerges from water completely dry. It becomes all the more noticeable when Mannix asks her afterwards "how are you?" and she responds "Wet", even though she doesn't look wet in the slightest.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mannix delivers two well-timed slaps to an actress who was breaking her contract at the beginning of the film, during his Establishing Character Moment. His treatment of Baird Whitlock once he's returned from the Future makes it clear that this is how he knocks some sense into all of his celebrity delinquents.
  • Writers Suck: The reason all of the Future's screenwriters have turned to a very bourgeois sort of Communism, namely, that they are unappreciated for all their hard and miserable work.


Video Example(s):


"No Dames"

The "No Dames" musical number from Hail, Caesar! has a ridiculous amount of homoerotic subtext, although it's unclear if the filmmakers within the film realize it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / HelloSailor

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