5 Hollywood Happy Endings That Weren't So Happy In Real Life
We may have said this once or twice already, but we'll say it again: Based-on-a-true-story movies are often full of BS. Not only do they gloss over inconvenient details and get real people wrong, but in many cases they manufacture a "happy ending" that ignores the dire truth of the real events. These biopics may have ended happily, but their subjects had some very disheartening epilogues in real life.
The Finding Neverland Family Had Miserable, Often Short Lives
Finding Neverland is the story of J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp), and his relationship with the Davies family, who inspired him to write Peter Pan. The Davies mother dies near the end of the film, but Barrie becomes the legal guardian of her five sons, meaning they're all set for a magical life together full of imagination and awesome birthday presents. Right? ... Right?
All of the boys went on to find their connection with Peter Pan to be a bit more torturous than magical. Many had uneasy relationships with the controlling Barrie, and they were mercilessly hounded by the press, who would report their every move and, annoyingly, call all of them "Peter Pan" -- even though one of them really was named Peter.
And the headlines weren't always terribly positive. Two of the boys died young, and under devastating circumstances. George died in World War I at age 21, and Michael drowned at age 20 while swimming with a friend in their university's pool. It's widely believed that this was a suicide, since he couldn't even swim.
Unsurprisingly, Peter was the most heavily tormented by his association with Peter Pan. It continued to haunt him into old age, and he eventually threw himself in front of a train in London. Naturally, the headlines read "Peter Pan Commits Suicide."
Elliot Ness' Life Fell Apart Post-Untouchables (Thanks To Booze)
The Untouchables is a crime drama about Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his team of super-cops who take on Al Capone during Prohibition. At the end of the film, a journalist asks Ness what he'll do when Prohibition ends. His response: "I think I'll have a drink."
Well, Ness was definitely a man of his word. Within years of defeating the bootleggers, he became a hardcore alcoholic. It wasn't unusual for him to have 20 (or more!) drinks on a night out. After one such evening, he was involved in a hit-and-run incident which damaged his reputation and cost him his cushy job as a public safety director. Not surprising, as he'd clearly become a danger to it.
His alcoholism also ravaged his good looks and destroyed his family. He spent the rest of his life paunchy and penniless, hobbling through pedestrian jobs and failed business ventures before dying of a heart attack in his 50s. His death was mostly ignored -- many newspapers didn't even include an obituary for him. But we here at Cracked remember Elliot Ness, the guy who stopped Al Capone ... even though he could also easily have been one of his best customers.
The Villain Of Gladiator Became A Literal God
In Gladiator, Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) first kills his own father after overhearing an advisor telling him (quite rightly, it turns out) that his son is unfit to rule. Then he hands down a death sentence to the decorated general who would have replaced him, Maximus (Russell Crowe). He goes ahead and has Maximus' entire family killed as well, for good measure. Though Maximus escapes execution, he winds up in the hands of slavers, who force him to fight as some sort of Roman spear boxer (we forget the word for it). Maximus eventually takes on Commodus in a final showdown, and though it costs him his life, he emerges as the victor. He dies successful and beloved by his people, while Commodus is forgotten in the dirt.
Now, Maximus never existed, so you can't hold all those fictional deaths against the real Roman Emperor Commodus. But still, he was clearly an arrogant dick who was responsible for the wanton slaughter of both people and animals, as well as the total drain of Rome's treasury. Don't worry, though, he got his: After his death, Commodus went on to be deified.
The Senate was forced to formally recognize Commodus as a god. Instead of being reviled and forgotten, he was showered with honors. His face was engraved on coins, his birthday was made an official holiday, and he was posthumously awarded the honorary title of Herculaneus Commodianus. This was all thanks to Emperor Severus, who was closely aligned with Commodus' family and wanted to restore his buddy's reputation. Man, who'd expect such a shady move from a guy named "Severus"?
The Town In Erin Brockovich Only Got Worse After The Movie
In Erin Brockovich, our titular knight in shining miniskirt succeeds in bringing down the big bad Pacific Gas & Electric for polluting the small town of Hinkley, California with a dangerous chemical called chromium-6. She earns the downtrodden townsfolk a big financial payout, and the actress who played her earned a Best Actress Oscar.
Unfortunately, despite all of that, Hinkley would go on to sink to even more depressing depths. In the years following the film, chromium-6 actually became a lot more pervasive than it had been before the legal action took place. Brockovich herself recently lamented that the change she implemented is being undone by the people in power, and that the issues she highlighted over 20 years ago continue to persist.
Hinkley is now a virtual ghost town. People and businesses began fleeing the area en masse, and in 2012, Pacific Gas & Electric started buying Hinkley properties and demolishing them to prevent squatting. Apparently, destroying the town figuratively wasn't enough for these guys.
For Many Survivors, The Sinking Of The Titanic Was Only The Start
Mere days after the survivors of the Titanic disaster arrived on dry land, they were dragged in front of the Senate for a series of intense hearings which aimed to figure out how the disaster occurred. It seems "iceberg" wasn't good enough for them. The process was naturally traumatic for many of the survivors, as they were forced to relive awful (and incredibly recent) experiences.
And they got off light (uh ... comparatively speaking). Six Chinese men who survived the sinking were detained upon arrival and then deported, barred from entering the U.S. due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, which had been in place since 1882. They were never heard from again. Not even Lemony Snicket could dream up such a succession of bad luck.
Many male survivors were mercilessly, mercilessly shamed for living through it, as prevailing public opinion held that they should've given their lives to save more women and children. A prominent victim of that rancor was Masabumi Hosono, who lost his civil service job upon returning to Japan. He lived the rest of his life in disgrace, labeled a coward in newspapers and school textbooks. Normally you have to commit some serious genocide for that kind of treatment.
As a final insult, the White Star Line wasn't held liable for the tragedy, even though they were clearly responsible for it every step of the way. Survivors around the world -- many of whom suffered permanent injuries, trauma, and the loss of loved ones and priceless belongings -- launched a class-action suit against the White Star Line, demanding compensation of over $16 million. White Star ended up paying a minuscule fraction of that: $664,000. Maybe Rose did Jack a favor by not scooching to the side of that floating door.
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