Arts & Entertainment

Pittsburgh Plays Cameo Role in "Green Book"

Film leaves out history of Hill District.


Pittsburgh plays a cameo role in one of the favorite films heading into Oscar season.

Green Book tells the story of African-American pianist and performer Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) on a cross-country tour with his Italian American driver and bodyguard Tony Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen.) The film's title comes from the guide published for black travelers in the mid-20th century, directing them towards safe motels and restaurants in various U.S. cities.

But as the Post-Gazette reports , there is a possible historical inaccuracy in the film's retelling of Shirley and Vallelonga's brief 1962 stay in Pittsburgh. The film shows the pair staying in an elegant downtown hotel, while nearly all of the establishments listed in the actual "Green Book" were located in the Hill District, mostly on Wylie and Centre avenues.

The article notes that a black celebrity likely would have been able to stay in a downtown hotel without major incident. But while segregation was not legal in Pittsburgh and other Northern cities as it was in the Jim Crow-era South, other black travelers likely would have elected in to stay in the Hill District avoid "trouble or discourtesies."

You can check out the Post-Gazette's article for more details on the history of the "Green Book" and the fate of the Pittsburgh establishments it listed.

Green Book is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Mortensen) and Best Supporting Actor (Ali.)

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