When you come right down to it, there’s nothing in this whole wide world that’s more fun and entertaining than looking back at the magic that is Old Hollywood. And if you disagree with that, then you’re just plain stupid! So let’s turn back the clock and revisit the legendary land of make-believe, shall we? We’ll begin with some memorable movie quotes that should evoke the proper mood of golden-hued nostalgia and set our course for Memory Lane…
“Hey” — James Caan, “The Godfather”
“The” — Marlon Brando, “On The Waterfront”
“My” — Claudette Colbert, “Cleopatra”
“It’s” — Sylvester Stallone, “Rocky”
“But” — Judy Garland, “The Wizard of Oz”
“You” — Joe Pesci, “Goodfellas”
“Instead” — Meryl Streep, “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”
“Now” — Gregory Peck, “To Kill a Mockingbird”
“Or” — Ben Kingsley, “Schindler’s List”
Ha ha, oh boy, does that ever bring back some golden memories. And now, here’s one of those delightful stories from Old Hollywood that may be true, or it may be apocryphal…but if it isn’t true, it should be!
As the story goes: During the crucifixion scene in the star-studded production of THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, John Wayne played the Roman centurion who delivered the famous line: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Unhappy with the first couple of takes, director George Stevens asked Wayne to try the line again, only this time with “more awe.”
Wayne considered Stevens’ advice carefully and, during the next take, dramatically intoned the line “Truly…this man was the Son of God”–and then exploded. The blast took out three soundstages and killed the entire cast, including a thousand extras, and the resulting inferno destroyed most of what was known at the time as “Little Israel”, which was also used in such films as ABBOTT AND COSTELLO STAY HOME and THREE GUYS AND SOME SPINACH.
Wayne had given the line “more awe”, all right! He was discovered three months later in Hackensack, New Jersey, managing a small boutique under the name “Beaufort Shmeck.” The famous actor had no memory of the incident, but was later said to often wake up in the middle of the night screaming, “Gah, prunes!!!”
Wow! What a story. That Old Hollywood sure had its share of incredible anecdotes that entertain and astound us to this day. And here’s another one, this time involving popular comic actor Don Knotts during the filming of his classic comedy THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN.
It seems Don had an unforeseen problem during the big sex scene in which he and co-star Joan Staley are rolling around “buck-nekkid” and covered with molasses in the back of what, unbeknownst to their characters, turns out to be a float in the city’s Founders’ Day parade. Well, Don and Joan are having furious “X-rated” sex all the way down Main Street before their characters realize they’re being watched by hundreds of shocked townspeople, in what is to be one of the comedy highlights of the film. Suddenly, Don stands up right in the middle of a take and shouts, at the top of his voice: “Hey! I forgot that this is supposed to be a G-RATED movie!”
Whoops! Sure enough, while writing the screenplay, the fact that THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN was meant as a wholesome family film had totally slipped Don’s mind. It was only after he’d had sex with former Playboy centerfold Joan Staley approximately sixteen times that this crucial bit of information finally dawned on him. The scene was then hastily re-written to place Don and Joan’s characters (tastefully clothed, of course, and not having sex) at a Chamber of Commerce picnic in honor of Don’s character “Luther Heggs.” Attaboy, Luther!
Don later would jokingly refer to the incident as “that funny old slip-up where I accidentally had sex with Joan Staley sixteen times.” Ha, ha–it sure was a humorous mix-up, all right! But not as humorous as the fact that during filming of Don’s next movie, THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT… the same mistake happened again! This time Don inadvertently had sex with attractive co-star Joan Freeman a whopping THIRTY-FIVE TIMES before he remembered that the film was intended for general audiences. (Sounds like that particular “astronaut” wasn’t quite “reluctant” enough!) The doubly-embarrassed Knotts later admitted: “It was all my own bone-headed fault, no doubt about it. I just need to pay more attention while I’m writing those darn screenplays.”
And now, here are some more fun movie quotes. See if you can remember these from your favorite blockbuster films:
“This” — Vincent Price, “House on Haunted Hill”
“I’ve” — Jean Harlow, “Grand Hotel”
“Unless” — Ronald Colman, “The Story of Mankind”
“Because” — Rock Hudson, “Giant”
“What” — George Kennedy, “Cool Hand Luke”
“If” — Fay Wray, “King Kong”
Hoo-boy, you never know what those famous stars are going to say in their classic films! And finally, here’s a terrifying tale from the mist-shrouded mysteries of Old Hollywood’s voluminous vault of apocryphal anecdotes. It’s an unnerving urban legend that’s reluctantly referred to by the denizens of Dreamland as…”Rhett Butler’s Fart.”
It was during the filming of one of Hollywood’s most memorable scenes, as Victor Fleming directed Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in the unforgettable climax to GONE WITH THE WIND. All that was left was for Vivian, as Scarlett O’Hara, to breathlessly implore a departing Rhett Butler: “Rhett, Rhett! If you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?” and for Gable, as the roguish Rhett, to deliver his immortal comeback: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Whew…now that’s movie history in the making!
There was just one catch…Clark Gable had eaten beans for lunch. And not just the ordinary portion, but bowls and bowls of them. It seems Gable was a bean fanatic, known to down a dozen cans in one sitting when the craving was at its peak, and right before the fateful scene was to be shot he had gobbled a record fifteen cans of “Old Faithful” Extra-Strength Ranch-Style Beans while guzzling an entire gallon of Grade A whole milk and six quarts of tutti-fruitti ice cream. Thus, Gable’s innards were positively roiling as Vivian Leigh fed him the line that prompted his historic retort.
“Rhett, Rhett!” Leigh dramatically intoned. “If you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?” Without missing a beat, Gable twisted his ruggedly handsome face into that familiar roguish smirk and confidently proclaimed: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” FRRRRRRRRRRT!!!
The horrendous fart blasted the seat out of Gable’s pants and took out thousands of dollars worth of scenery, setting it on fire, while the ghastly stench swept instantly throughout the soundstage like a full-scale gas attack. Cast and crew who were caught in its wake dropped like flies or stood petrified on the spot.
Vivian Leigh’s hair turned white as she sagged backward and crashed through one of the mansion’s front windows. Paint melted and dripped down the backdrops used to represent the scenery surrounding Tara before they, too, went up in flames. The hapless Fleming, who had been standing directly behind Gable at “ground zero”, went missing for six weeks and was later discovered in a traveling circus, where the amnesia-stricken director was performing nightly as “Stinko the Chicken Geek.”
When asked about the incident later by famed gossip columnist Louella Parsons, an insouciant and unrepentent Gable gave his customary smirk and remarked: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” With that, he threw back his head with a resounding belly-laugh. Everyone else joined him in laughter, there was a freeze-frame, and the closing credits rolled. And folks–that’s Old Hollywood for you!