Warner Bros. Pictures
It's hard to imagine life without classic movies like The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind. They introduced us to some of the most iconic characters, gave us genuinely intriguing storylines and helped pave the way for countless other titles that followed. Not to mention, they continue to gives us huge waves of nostalgia to this day. But would you believe us if we told you that some of these classics had more drama happening behind the scenes than in the movies themselves?
Of course, it's no secret that the filming process can be quite challenging. Possible issues can range from technical difficulties to tension between feuding co-stars. However, some of these behind-the-scenes stories are so unsettling that they'll make you see these films in a whole new light. From painfully tedious rehearsals to verbally abusive producers, see all the drama you might not have known about your favorite classics.
Their infamous feud began even before the cameras started rolling. Apparently, Bette Davis was under the impression that Joan Crawford and the director, Robert Aldrich, were sleeping together, and that didn't sit too well with her. So as they started the filming process, there were several instances where they tried to physically hurt each other.
In one particular incident, Bette actually kicked Joan in the head while filming a fight scene. Joan's wound was so bad that she had to get stitches, so to get back at Bette, she purposely hid weights in her costume so that Bette (who had back issues) had to strain herself while dragging her character's body. Talk about intense...
Buster Keaton was actually a stunt master in his day, so in Sherlock Jr., when he decided to hang from a water tube and get washed out onto the track by a strong gush of water, it was nothing new. Several years later, though, he learned that this stunt actually fractured his neck.
That wasn't the only time he got hurt while doing his own stunts, though. For instance, when he worked on The Electric House, he broke his ankle and when he filmed The General, he was knocked unconscious at one point.
Remember that scene where the Wicked Witch made her fiery exit from Munchkinland? Well, during the film's second take, there was a trap-door malfunction, causing the fire to rise up too soon. As a result, Margaret suffered a second-degree burn on her face and a third-degree burn on her hand. She got these burns while she was wearing her green, copper-based makeup, so removing it from her burnt skin was a really painful process.
Margaret took six weeks off before she could finish her work on the movie, but after the incident, she said: "I won't sue, because I know how this business works, and I would never work again. I will return to work on one condition — no more fireworks!" Wise move.
Ray Bolger was originally slated to play the Tin Man, but then he swapped roles with Buddy Ebsen and played the Scarecrow instead. Little did Buddy know, however, that he'd get way more than he bargained for. Just nine days into filming, he started to get seriously ill due to his aluminum dust makeup. He had to be rushed to the hospital because of shortness of breath and he soon learned his lungs were actually failing. So as a result, he had to get replaced by Jack Haley.
Up until his death, Buddy was very vocal about the fact that this film caused him to have breathing problems for the rest of his life. Still, interestingly enough, he outlived all of the main cast members of the film.
In The Munchkins of Oz, Stephen Cox wrote that the Munchkins were paid $50 per week at the time (roughly $908 today). But Toto earned more than twice as much at $125 per week, which would be $2,270 today. What's sadder is that none of the Munchkins' names were listed in the film's credits. And Judy Garland's dehumanizing rumors about all of them being careless drunks didn't really help matters.
Sidney Lumet wanted the entire cast of 12 Angry Men to get a feel of what it was really like to be on jury duty. In order to do that, he kept them locked together in their rehearsal room for over two weeks, which also helped them memorize the script. It was definitely tedious, but on the bright side, shooting went more smoothly and actually took less time than was originally scheduled.
Working with Arthur Freed on Singin’ In the Rain was apparently a living nightmare. Debbie said that he constantly criticized her because of her lack of dance experience, so he kept her working for hours. In fact, in one particular shoot, she continued from 8 AM to 11 PM, which took a major toll on her. She said: "My feet were bleeding from hours of abuse. I couldn't move."
When Debbie reached her breaking point, she was found crying under a rehearsal piano. But she claimed Fred Astaire "came to her rescue" and encouraged her, explaining that learning to dance was supposed to be hard. He said: "If you’re not sweating, you’re not doing it right." Thankfully, this gave Debbie the push she needed to keep going.
Tippi Hedren was told that mechanical birds would be used in the scene where they attack her, but on the day when she had the film the scene, she discovered that everyone lied to her. Although she was told that the mechanical birds stopped working, she quickly realized that this was never the plan. She said: "When I got to the set I found out there had never been any intention to use mechanical birds because a cage had been built around the door where I was supposed to come in, and there were boxes of ravens, gulls and pigeons that bird trainers wearing gauntlets up to their shoulders hurled at me, one after the other, for a week."
To make matters even worse, director Alfred Hitchcock couldn't have cared less about the fact that these birds were pecking her bloody. After having a complete breakdown on the set, Tippi was taken to a doctor and told to rest for a week. Alfred, who clearly had no heart, apparently refused to let her rest and treated her horribly during the entire filming process.
"What is the Black Box," you ask? Well, it was a portable, sound-proof station that was originally meant for sound technicians, but THIS Black Box was turned into a mini punishment station for child actors who were out of line. The box was usually hot and humid, and the only way that kids could keep cool was by sitting on a big block of ice. Shirley was locked in there quite a few times and even got ear infections as a result. As for how the adults got away with this, they cleverly separated the Child Welfare Worker from the kids by giving them a separate room filled with refreshments and a comfy sofa. SMH.
RKO Radio Pictures
Jimmy Stewart was actually super nervous about kissing Donna Reed. He said: "She turned out to be the embodiment of goodness, and got me so disconcerted that I kept putting off that kiss scene, you know, when we're in that tight two-shot on the telephone? We put off doing that scene for weeks." But when the time finally came, they nailed that kiss scene in a single take. Jimmy said it was "one of the best things I've ever done."
The film's producer, David O. Selznic, locked himself in a room with the director and screenwriter for an entire week so they could turn Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind into a good screenplay. Ben Hecht, the writer. revealed that David refused to give them team any solid food, limiting them to just salted peanuts and bananas because he thought heavier foods would slow them down. But when they were finally done, David actually collapsed from exhaustion and the director, Victor Fleming, had a broken blood vessel in the eye. The entire story was made into a comedy called Moonlight and Magnolias.
Working on Gone With The Wind was a stressful experience for Vivien, and unfortunately, by this time, her struggle with bipolar disorder was already starting to take its toll. Her erratic behavior made things a bit more challenging for her and her co-stars on the set. But thankfully, everyone was still able to get through the entire film.
Those kisses between Rhett and Scarlett may have looked passionate and steamy on-screen, but it wasn't fun for Vivien at all. Clark Gable had a gum infection and had to get most of his teeth removed for dentures, which carried a foul odor. In an interview, Vivien said: "Kissing Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind was not that exciting. His dentures smelled something awful." Gotta give Vivien major props for still getting the job done.
It turns out that Leslie only agreed to be a part of the film because the producer, David O. Selznick, promised to give him a producing credit in his upcoming film. But he agreed to much more than he'd bargained for because he didn't enjoy playing a handsome young man who was half his real age. He once said: "I hate the damn part. I'm not nearly beautiful or young enough for Ashley, and it makes me sick being fixed up to look attractive." On top of that, Leslie wasn't even a fan of the film himself. He called it a "terrible lot of nonsense."
Had it not been for the efforts of David O. Selznic, Hattie wouldn't have been able to enter the Ambassador Hotel, which was where the ceremony took place. This would only prove to be a partial victory, however, because once she made it inside, she and her date weren't even allowed to sit with her co-stars. Instead, Hattie was forced to sit at a segregated table at the back of the room.
After she won her award, she said: "I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry."
It took Marilyn over 47 takes to correctly say her line, "It's me, Sugar," because she kept saying other variations like "Sugar, it's me" or "It's Sugar." Even after the director wrote down her line for her, she had to repeat the same take over a dozen more times before getting it right.
But that wasn't her only major flub. For another scene, all she had to say was "Where's the bourbon?" But this took 59 takes because she kept saying things like "Where's the bottle?" or "Where's the bonbon?" The director had to resort to taping her line inside of every drawer before she finally got it correct.
In the opening scene, where a dead body is floating face-down in Norma's pool, everything can be seen from below, but none of this was actually filmed underwater. The camera crew had too much difficulty when they tried to put a camera underwater to capture the shot, so they decided to get more creative. John Meehan, the art director, suggested that they shoot the entire thing by putting a mirror at the bottom of the pool and simply shooting the reflected image from a certain angle.
The actor and director had 20 pairs of licorice boots made for this supper scene. And, being the perfectionist that he was, Charles did 63 takes. He'd eaten so much that he suffered an insulin shock and had to be rushed to the hospital afterward. This isn't the only time he did a ridiculous amount of retakes for the same scene, though...
Yes, you read that right. In the scene where the mute Little Tramp purchases a flower from the blind flower-girl, Charles wanted to convey that the flower-girl thought him to be wealthy. However, it seemed like he wasn't satisfied until they did the 342nd take. Kudos to the flower-girl, Virginia Cherrill, for managing to get through this many takes without completely losing it.
It's by far one of the most memorable scenes in the film, but while Dustin was rehearsing this part, everyone almost got thrown out by the pastor of the church because the windows were shaking so much. Dustin explained: "In the middle of a take, I hear screaming. And it’s the reverend! And he’s screaming, ‘Stop! Stop! Everybody out. That’s it. Everybody out!"
The windows were a special, irreplaceable gift from a parishioner, so it's understandable why the pastor freaked out. To avoid having to find a new church and redo everything, the director had to ask Dustin to hit the window with his palms instead of his fists.