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Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013) Poster

Goofs

Jump to: Anachronisms (11) | Character error (2) | Continuity (1) | Factual errors (2) | Revealing mistakes (1)

Anachronisms 

The wall telephone in Cecil's kitchen has a modular jack and flat cord, introduced in the early 1970's. It should have a round cord hard-wired into the handset, like the phone in the front hall.
District of Columbia residents did not have the right to vote in presidential elections until the 1964 election. Vice President Nixon's appeal to the butlers to vote for him in the 1960 election is strange.
When Cecil talks to Louis at the bus station, as Louis leaves for college, they walk through a motion-activated bi-part sliding door. The scene is set between 1957 and 1961. The first automatic sliding doors were invented in 1960, and were activated by stepping on a floor mat. Motion sensors were developed in the late 1980s.
In the White House scenes from 1957, the U.S. flag has 50 stars. Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, so the 1957 flag should have 48 stars.
During the Barack Obama campaign scenes on the porch, Cecil wears an "Organizing for America" T-shirt. "Organizing for America" was the post-inauguration Obama organization, started in 2009. During the 2008 campaign it was "Obama for America."
In the shot from the Oval Office during the Ronald Reagan Administration a desk phone is shown with a rotary dial. Push-button phones were installed in the White House during the John F. Kennedy Administration.
Gloria is using a Pyrex bowl with the Spring Blossom pattern (white with green flowers) when she is peeling potatoes in a scene set around 1959. The pattern was not actually released until the '70s.
In the long shot of the White House dated 1957, the fence along Pennsylvania Avenue has concrete barriers. They were installed after the Beirut bombings in 1983. In a later scene, using an old film image, the barriers aren't there.
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Carol Hammie has an obvious piercing hole in her nose. That wouldn't have been fashionable in the 1950's.
During the first shot of the White House and titled as 1957, a bronze 1959 Chevrolet drives by.
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Several of the songs played in the film were released well after the particular time frames.
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Character error 

During the dinner scene, Cecil claims that Sidney Poitier won the Academy Award in 1968 for In the Heat of the Night. That is not true. It was Rod Steiger who won the Academy Award for the same film. The film also won Best Picture. Poitier won the Award in 1964 for Lilies of the Field, so Cecil may have confused the two.
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When his fellow butler clears Cecil's empty plate at the state dinner, he clears it from Cecil's left. Proper etiquette calls for dishes to be cleared from the diner's right.

Continuity 

In 1957, when the White House is shown from a distance, a red Volkswagen bug drives by, with its white convertible top down. Several years later, in front of the courthouse in Tennessee, the same car is parked on the street, with the top down.

Factual errors 

When the Freedom Bus is attacked and burned by a white mob, it happens at night on a bridge. In real life, the attack took place in the afternoon near a convenience store.
In fine dining, it is custom to set drinks from the right with your right hand, clear from the right with your right hand, and serve food from the left with your left hand. Several times throughout the film these customs were neglected, which seems strange for a staff of professional servers to do.
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Revealing mistakes 

In close-ups toward the end, Forest Whitaker's crisp white collar has brown make-up along the edges.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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