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26 Shocking "Old Hollywood" Facts That'll Change How You See Your Favorite Actors And Movies

"Marlon Brando slayed me good. He was one of the most sexual men on earth." —Rita Moreno

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their favorite facts about Old Hollywood celebs and movies. Here are the fascinating results.

1. If a child actor ever misbehaved on set, they were occasionally sent to "the black box" and were forced to sit on a block of ice as punishment.

20th Century Fox, MGM

Later in her life, Shirley Temple recalled the events, saying, "So far as I can tell, the black box did no lasting damage to my psyche."


2. Robert Redford really wanted to play the lead in The Graduate, but director Mike Nichols insisted he could never play the part because the main character was "a loser" and no one would believe Redford was a loser.

Embassy Pictures, 20th Century Fox

Nichols said that he and Redford once met to discuss the movie. After Nichols insisted that Redford could never play a loser, Redford said, "What do you mean? Of course I can play a loser." Nichols asked, "Okay, have you ever struck out with a girl?" Redford sincerely replied, "What do you mean?"


3. Lucille Ball auditioned to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind.


Lucille Ball appeared on a TV special with Bob Hope in 1984 and revealed that she auditioned for the iconic role of Scarlett O'Hara, saying, "Everybody knew it was just a huge publicity gimmick, but I was just a young starlet, and when you're under contract to a studio you do what you're told to do."


4. Rita Moreno had an on-and-off eight-year love affair with Marlon Brando. She even dated Elvis Presley because she wanted to make Brando jealous.

United Artists / Warner Bros. / MGM

In a 2018 interview, Moreno was asked who was "the better lover." She responded, "Oh, honey. That's like a 2-year-old [Elvis] and the king [Brando] ... Elvis wasn't so good. He was really a sweet fellow. He was a very shy, handsome boy. But, you know, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando? Come on. Amateur night."


5. While filming on location for The African Queen, everyone on the set (including Katharine Hepburn) got dysentery from drinking contaminated water...

United Artists

Everyone on the set took huge precautions to avoid getting sick. All the water came from bottles, and it was also boiled and treated with water purifier tablets. However, people still got sick.


6. ...well, everyone except Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston, simply because they drank nothing but scotch on set.

United Artists, Wikipedia / Public Domain /

In Huston's autobiography, he said he and Bogart seemed to be immune to the illness. He accredited it to the fact that they "always drank scotch with our water."


7. Angela Lansbury moved her entire family to Ireland after her daughter became involved with the Manson family and her son got addicted to drugs.

CBS, Wikipedia / Public Domain / San Quentin State Prison, California

Lansbury has gone on record saying that she claims this decision helped save their lives.

—Sarah Crawford, Facebook

8. In The Wizard of Oz, the "snowstorm" that took place was actually asbestos.


9. Using asbestos on production sets was actually really popular back in the day, and Steve McQueen believed it contributed to his death.

Paramount Pictures, Solar Productions

McQueen died in 1979. He had pleural mesothelioma, a cancer that's associated with asbestos exposure. He attributed his sickness to his time on movie sets and in the military, where he was also in contact with asbestos.


10. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Fonda took acting classes together.

OWN / United Artists

In Fonda's Oprah's Master Class episode, she said: "There were maybe 40, 50 people in a class in a small theater on Broadway. Marilyn was always too scared to get up and do anything."


11. Ralph Nelson, the producer-director for Lilies of the Field, had to use his house as collateral in order to get the movie made.

United Artists

United Artists, the production company, would only give him $250,000 to make the picture. Because of this, Nelson managed to shoot the whole thing in just 14 days.


12. Additionally, Sidney Poitier gave up his usual salary in exchange for a percentage of the movie's profits in order to make Lilies of the Field.

United Artists / ABC

This worked in Poitier's favor, ultimately earning him an Academy Award for Best Actor. He was only the second black person to ever win an Oscar, the first being Hattie McDaniel for Gone With the Wind.


13. Debbie Reynolds enlisted the help of Cary Grant after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, started doing LSD.

Loew's Inc. / MGM / CBS

Later on, Carrie's father saw Grant at Grace Kelly's funeral, and he wanted an excuse to talk to him, so he also said: "My daughter has an acid problem. Will you call her?" Grant then called Carrie a second time.

—Stephanie Chapman, Facebook

14. Years after filming The Conquerer, most of the cast and crew developed some type of cancer, presumably because the movie was filmed extremely close to nuclear testing grounds.

RKO Radio Pictures

The movie was filmed near a nuclear weapons testing site in the Utah desert, and even though the government said it would be safe, the cast and crew was still exposed to radiation. It also didn't help that 60 tons of dirt from the location were later shipped to Hollywood for reshoots.

There were about 220 cast and crew members on location. Nearly half of them developed some type of cancer within the next two decades, and 46 died from the disease, including John Wayne: "In a group this size you’d expect only 30-some cancers to develop. With 91, I think the tie-in to their exposure on the set would hold up even in a court of law."

—Danielle Kilburn, Facebook

15. Lana Turner's abusive boyfriend was stabbed to death by her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane.

Wikipedia / Fair Use / / WIkipedia / Public Domain /

Turner's boyfriend, John Stompanato Jr., was an enforcer for a famous gangster. After he threatened to disfigure Turner, Crane took action and stabbed him in the abdomen with a butcher knife: “I ran back upstairs, the door burst open, and mother was there looking at me and John was coming toward me. I stepped through the door, and he literally ran into the knife.” The death was deemed "justifiable homicide," and Crane was released without trial.


16. Bette Davis once kicked Joan Crawford so hard during a scene in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? that she needed stitches.

Warner Bros. Pictures

17. And Joan Crawford retaliated by putting weights in her own pockets before shooting a scene where Davis had to carry the character's near-lifeless body, causing Davis to strain her back.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Their feud is famous. Crawford even campaigned against Davis so she wouldn't receive an Oscar for the movie. Had Davis won, she would have been the first actress to win three Academy Awards.


18. In the end, Davis had the final blow. A reporter wanted a quote from her about Crawford's recent death, and Davis nastily responded: "You should never say bad things about the dead, only good… Joan Crawford is dead. Good." /

—Elizabeth Howard, Facebook

19. Betty White is older than sliced bread.


Betty White is 97 years old and was born in 1922. The first time a presliced loaf of bread was sold was over six years later in 1928. I guess the popular phrase should be changed to "That's the best thing since Betty White," not sliced bread.


20. Shirley Temple was such a talented child actor that there was a rumor she was actually a dwarf, so the Vatican literally sent someone to investigate.

20th Century Fox / Wikipedia / Public Domain /

For some reason, this was a popular rumor in Europe. The Vatican even sent Father Silvio Massante to confirm that Temple was in fact a child. Spoiler alert: She was.


21. A few years later, Shirley Temple was promised the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but the deal ultimately fell through. / MGM

Temple was signed to 20th Century Fox, and for years she was expected to star in some type of Oz film series. The movie rights were fought over between studios, but ultimately the rights went to MGM. There was a lot of drama about casting over the next few years, and the part ultimately went to Judy Garland.

Soon after, the press stated that Temple not being cast as Dorothy was “the greatest disappointment of her brief and eminently griefless career.” A few decades after that, Shirley Temple commented on the fact that Judy Garland had been picked for the movie and graciously said, “Sometimes the gods know best.”


22. Julie Andrews was actually flung into the mud every single time the helicopter passed her while filming that iconic hilltop scene in The Sound of Music.

NBC / 20th Century Fox

A camera operator was strapped to a helicopter in order to get the shot. It had been raining all day, and they shot the scene half a dozen times. Julie Andrews revealed that "every time the helicopter had finished, it went around me, but the downdraft from the jet engines just flung me into the grass."

—Stephanie Chapman, Facebook

23. Silent film star Harold Lloyd was doing a publicity shoot for Haunted Spooks when a prop bomb (which turned out to be a ~real~ bomb) went off, instantly removing his thumb and index finger.

Wikipedia / Public Domain / / Pathé Exchange

Lloyd was posing for a shot on set, and "he remarked to the photographer that, for a fake, the bomb was producing an awful lot of smoke." A few seconds later, the bomb actually exploded. It "blew the photographer clear across the room, injuring his assistant, and taking off the roof." Lloyd lost two fingers on his right hand and was blinded for several months.

—Amy DeRosa, Facebook

24. Harold Russell, a nonprofessional actor who lost both hands in World War II, was the first and only person to win two Oscars for the same performance.

RKO Radio Pictures / The Academy / /

He was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the Best Picture winner The Best Years of Our Lives. The Academy didn't think he was going to win that night, but they wanted to honor him in some way, so they presented him with an Honorary Oscar for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives." That night, Russell beat out four acting legends and ended up taking home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.


25. Harold Russell was also the first and only person to legally sell his Oscar at an auction.

Wikipedia / Public Domain / / RKO Radio Pictures

In 1950, the Academy added a new rule for all future winners: No one is allowed to sell their Oscar statue "without first offering to sell it to the Academy for the sum of $1." Because Russell won the award three years prior, these rules didn't apply to him. In 1993, despite objection from the Academy's president, he sold his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for $60,500 to help pay for his wife's medical bills.

Russell ultimately said: "I don't know why anybody would be critical. My wife's health is much more important than sentimental reasons. The movie will be here, even if Oscar isn't." But don't worry — Russell kept the second Oscar that he earned.


26. And Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were consistently forced to take "pep pills" and sleeping pills so they could work three days straight and then crash for a few hours before filming more scenes.


As Judy Garland's star power grew, the MGM studio doctors started prescribing her pills to "control both her weight and her energy levels."

Judy told biographer Paul Donnelly that they'd give her and Mickey Rooney the pills "to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted ... then knock us out with sleeping pills … then after four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row. Half of the time we were hanging from the ceiling, but it was a way of life for us.”