Ah, Hollywood…that most mysterious of places. Its dark secrets are legendary, its mysteries deep and often disturbing. Even its fruitily fraudulent and fictitious fables of fantastic fickle fate are frankly fascinating when foisted as fact.
Here, then, are some of Hollywood’s most tantalizing tales, titillatingly touted as truth, yet fabulously fabricated–and ribbed–for your pleasure…
“A VIN-VIN SITUATION”
Currently languishing in production limbo is a film biography of Vin Diesel entitled OUR VIN HAS TENDER GRAPES.
Interestingly, he wouldn’t be playing himself. “I do not think that Vin Diesel would be a good choice for the title role,” reveals writer-director Al Gore. “I believe that it would be more interesting to cast someone like Paris Hilton or Gary Coleman as Vin Diesel.” Vin Diesel himself would instead be portraying his mother, Mrs. Diesel, which insiders have already deemed likely to garner him a major acting award. When asked for his own opinion on this unique casting choice, Vin remarked: “I like hot dogs.”
Legendary comedian Buster Keaton was once hired by a studio known as Big Historical Pictures to write, direct, and star in an epic film about former president Millard Fillmore.
During filming, however, Keaton was struck on the head while performing a stunt and forgot what the movie was supposed to be about, subsequently turning in a raucous comedy entitled ME WHAT HUH? OH HA-HA POTATOES.
Big Historical Pictures, which had already spent thousands printing up posters proclaiming “Buster Keaton IS…’Millard Fillmore'”, retaliated by hiring an artist to replace the words “Millard Fillmore” with the words “a dumbass” and distributing the altered posters to movie theaters, airports, train stations, and elementary schools throughout the United States and Canada, effectively ending Keaton’s movie career.
The aborted ME WHAT HUH? OH HA-HA POTATOES project was then augmented with footage newly shot by William Beaudine and transformed into a prestige vehicle for George Arliss entitled MARS NEEDS HAMSTERS. Arliss’ career never recovered, although nobody noticed and he went on to star in several more films as Edna May Oliver.
“BORIS TO TEARS”
Legendary horror film bogeyman Boris Karloff…was a woman.
Born Wilma Henrietta Pratt, she first pretended to be a man in an attempt to win the lead role in a stage production entitled “Blarney on the High Seas.” After landing in Hollywood, her desire to reveal her true gender as “Doris Karloff” was thwarted when the role of Elizabeth in FRANKENSTEIN went to Mae Clarke, forcing the tearful young actress to audition as the Monster instead.
In 1966, she welcomed the chance to reveal her true appearance to the world as “Mother Muffin” on the TV series “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”
The role of “Star Trek”‘s Captain James T. Kirk, which made William Shatner an instant star, almost went to…Sean Connery.
“I thought it might be a lark,” the distinguished actor revealed to us over a late lunch of spaghetti and meatballs under glass in the Parisian Room at Toots Shor’s. “Wear a silly costume…shoot a ray gun…have sex with a few birds done up in green paint and sparkles. I was tired of playing Bond.”
Things got a little real, however, when Connery discovered that he would be expected to wear a toupee. “I was tired of balancing a rug on my head,” the chrome-domed actor admitted while casually tucking into a rich dessert of banana split under glass. “When I proposed doing the part sans hairpiece, they laughed at me. ‘Whoever heard of a bald captain?’ they jeered. Well, I was proven right after all, wasn’t I? I mean, just look at the bloody ‘Love Boat.’ So, I wished the next chap jolly good luck and hoped he didn’t mind wearing the damned thing.”
When asked by the producers if he would consider playing a different role on the show, Connery offered a dismissive reply. “‘Listen’, I told them,” the stuffed actor recalled while contentedly passing after-dinner gas in Toots Shor’s exclusive Flatulence Room, “I said, ‘Tell you what–why don’t you create a new character with ears like a jackrabbit, no emotions whatsoever, and hair like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, and then get some unknown Jewish chap from Canada with a funny name to play him.’ Then I told them all to ‘live long and prosper’ on my way out the door. Never did find out what become of their silly little space show.”
Although Universal Pictures successfully kept most of the rumors under wraps, insiders still whisper about the apparent curse of evil that plagued production of the supernatural comedy-thriller, THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.
Filming began under a cloud of unease when director Alan Rafkin mysteriously misplaced his megaphone and was forced to shout instructions to the cast and crew, which by the end of the shoot had resulted in a painful sore throat. The missing item was later discovered in a pawn shop in Philadelphia. “To this day,” Rafkin once told friends, “I sometimes I wake up screaming…still screaming at Reta Shaw to get away from the craft services table and back to the set.”
More ill fortune, seemingly from beyond, continued to stalk the soundstage. Charles Lane, as malevolent bad-guy lawyer Whitlow, reportedly showed up to work for days at a time in a good mood. “He had a sort of lilt in his step,” recalled co-star Robert Cornthwaite with a shudder. “Happy, whistling little tunes…and, God help us, smiling. It was ghastly. Finally, several of us had to physically hold him down and show him nude photos of Jim Begg on horseback just to snap him out of it.”
The worst, however, seemed reserved for hapless star Don Knotts, who appeared to be the center of whatever evil forces hovered over the set. Lurene Tuttle recalled: “One day, between scenes, Don was playing mumblety-peg with Skip Homeier, and something distracted him for just a moment, and the next thing you know, Skip was dead.” Added Ellen Corby: “Donny felt terrible about it. He hadn’t accidentally killed anyone since ‘No Time For Sergeants’, but that had only been a couple of extras from the mess hall scene.”
She continued: “Well, the casting people had a dickens of a time scrounging up another Skip Homeier before we fell behind schedule. But luckily a group of anthropologists in Uruguay had just stumbled upon a tribe of wild Homeiers in a jungle somewhere and captured one of them alive. Oh, he was wild–much wilder than the other one. Don eventually had to kill that one, too, when he attacked him during the typesetting scene.” Homeier’s part was then completed by a double who was shot from behind, when Don Knotts’ gun accidentally went off while he was cleaning it.
But the most horrific misfortune was yet to come. A distraught Dick Sargent explained: “I was there the day Don bent over to pick up an errant script page and split his pants. One moment he was happy, joking with Joan Staley about what a world-class rack she had, and then…” He mimicked the blood-chilling sound. “It was a gaping rip, right down the seat of Don’s pants, and…Joan saw his underwear. She tried not to laugh, but that just made it worse. Pretty soon everyone was laughing…Joan, me, Jesslyn Fax, Nydia Westman…even Burt Mustin, who wasn’t even there that day. And that’s when the infamous ‘Ghost and Mr. Chicken Death Curse’ began. Don killed us all–tracked us down like a rabid timber wolf, eyes blazing with blood lust, and slaughtered us all in our sleep.”
When later questioned about this startling accusation by his trusted family lawyer, Tom Hagen, Don Knotts was coldly dismissive. “I never felt as though I had to kill everyone, Tom–only my enemies. Now, are you going to go along with me on these things that I have to do? Because if not, you can take your wife, your kids–and your mistress–and move them all to Las Vegas.”
(Thanks to Ted Newsom for the “Obscure Movie Facts!” idea.)