As noted, among other films this weekend Viv and I took in There Will Be Blood. For me it clearly seemed a step up from Anderson’s other ambitious films and while to claim I enjoyed watching it would be inaccurate, the film was clearly great.

In the ending sequences of the film, the oilman character played by Daniel Day-Lewis is living in a sprawing neo-Tudor 1920’s mansion, and I was struck by the interiors, which seemed exactly right for a late-20’s Tudor-revival construction. This style is familiar to me as I lived in a 1928 Anhalt building here in Seattle for thirteen years, and the interiors in the film seemed too detailed and persuasive to me to have been sets constructed wholly from scratch.

A bit of the old googly-moogly led me to the entry for Greystone Mansion, apparently a city park smack in the middle of Beverly Hills. The house was constructed in 1928 for the son of Orange County land baron and oilman Edward Doheny.

A prominent Orange County coastal feature in OC is named for the family, Doheny Point. coastal park in the city of Dana Point is named for the family, Doheny State Beach.

In the film, Plainview constructs an oil pipeline through from the interior to the sea in Central California, “near Santa Barbara,” according to the Wikipedia entry for the film. I myself heard reference to San Luis Obispo, which is just inland from Morro Bay, south of Carmel and north of Oxnard and Ventura.

Having long heard the Doheny name on visits to my in-laws, I was fascinated to learn of the connection to a real-world oil tycoon, and began to read the Wikipedia article on the house with relish. Imagine my eyebrows, if you will, as I read these words:

“On February 16, 1929, four months after Ned Doheny, his wife Lucy and their five children moved into Greystone, Ned died in his bedroom in a murder-suicide with his secretary, Hugh Plunket.[3] The official story indicated Plunket murdered Ned either because of a “nervous disorder” or inflamed with anger over not receiving a raise. Others point out that Ned’s gun was the murder weapon and that Ned was not buried in a Catholic cemetery with the rest of his family, indicating that he had committed suicide. Both men were involved in the trial of Ned’s father in the Teapot Dome scandal.”

Additionally, the character of Daniel Plainview comes from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, we learn in the film. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the elder Doheny:

“Doheny was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.”

A bit further down the page, in reference to the Teapot Dome scandal reference above:

Doheny faced criminal charges over the incident but was cleared of all charges. The scandal is also the inspiration for Upton Sinclair’s novel, ‘Oil!’, based in part on Doheny’s life.

Although my understanding is that Anderson and his filmmaking team have only loosely adapted Sinclair’s novel, they sought opportunities to closely relate Plainview and Doheny.

2 thoughts on “Doheny Blood

  1. You should have probably done your research on the Dohenys. The family, Greystone, Teapot Dome scandal et al, are all over the internet and are the subject of many books. the amount of donations, libraries, 60 million dollars to the Catholic Church alone etc. is well known.
    the Daniel Day Lewis character was not in any way based on Doheny — even though Anderson would have you think so.

    The film is good – long, flawed, inaccurate yes, but there’s no denying D. D. Lewis. Note, Doheny (of the film) never lived at Greystone, it was a home he built for his son.

  2. Hm, Elaine, I did my research (Wikipedist though it might be) and, like, posted it here. Your assertion that the Daniel Plainview character is “not in any way based on Doheny” is certainly inaccurate, as that character is based on the oil tycoon character in “Oil!” That character is based on Doheny, as I noted above.

    That said, as I was looking to learn more about the house, the scale of Doheny’s donations were apparent and certainly at odds with the depiction of Plainview’s character in the film. The links I provided include that information. This post is not about the charity of the elder Doheny. It is about the filmmaking choices of Paul Thomas Anderson and his collaborators and their artistic goals.

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