6 Stories That Will Have You Rethinking the Glamour of “Old Hollywood”

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

When I think of “Old Hollywood,” I tend to think of glitz and glamour: Women in evening gowns, men in hats and tailored suits. I think of suave actors like Clark Gable and Cary Grant and icons like Katherine Hepburn.

Of course, we know there’s a dark side to “Old Hollywood.” I just didn’t know it was this dark.

Here are six stories that will have you rethinking your affections for “Old Hollywood.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

1. Toto earned more than the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz

Terry, the dog who played Toto, was already a movie star before The Wizard of Oz, having appeared with Shirley Temple in 1934’s Bright Eyes. When executives learned Terry could do her own stunts, she was hired for $125 per week. The Munchkins were paid $50 to $100 per week.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

2. The Birds was truly a horror movie for lead actress Tippi Hedren

One of the most frightening scenes in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is when Hedren is attacked by birds in her bedroom. To film the scene, Hedren spent five days having live birds thrown at her. On the last day of shooting the scene, live birds were tied to her costume while more live birds were thrown at her. The horror only stopped late in the day when Hedren broke down after a bird pecked her too close to her eye.

That’s five days longer than I would have made it.

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

3. Hollywood icons Joan Crawford and Bette Davis feuded for decades

Although it hasn’t been confirmed, some think the rivalry started when actor Franchot Tone fell for Bette Davis instead of Joan Crawford. At the time, tabloids played up the rivalry, and things weren’t helped by the two competing for roles. Their rivalry played out behind the screen in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

During filming, Davis kicked Crawford in the head. In return, Crawford put weights in her pocket for a scene where Davis had to drag her. Davis ended up straining her back.

The rivalry continued until Crawford’s death. When Davis was asked about Crawford’s death, she said, “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

4. Lana Turner’s boyfriend was murdered by her daughter

Lana Turner was a beauty icon who was known as the “Sweater Girl.” Her best-known roles were in Peyton Place and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Her love life was also tabloid fodder, and coverage reached fever pitch when her boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, was stabbed to death by Turner’s daughter Cheryl Crane.

In 1958, Crane was just 14 years old. She was at home and her mother and Stompanato were arguing. Stompanato threatened to disfigure Turner and hurt her family, and Crane took action. According to Crane, she was holding the knife, Crane stepped forward, and Stompanato walked into the blade. He died from his injuries.

A coroner’s jury found that that the incident was a justifiable homicide, and Crane was released from juvenile hall without a trial and without having to serve any time.

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

5. Sunset Boulevard outraged Hollywood executives

Director Billy Wilder knew a film about a silent star who had been abandoned by Hollywood wouldn’t go over well with executives. He hid what he was making by telling everyone it was a comedy called “Can of Beans.”

When executives saw the movie, they were outraged. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer told Wilder, “You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood!”

Wilder replied, “Go f*** yourself.”

The film went on to be nominated for 11 Academy Awards.

Photo Credit: MGM

6. Filming Guys and Dolls was a nightmare

Frank Sinatra was jealous that Marlon Brando had the bigger, more romantic role. Sinatra referred to Brando as the world’s most overrated actor. Sinatra refused to rehearse with Brando, and Brando retaliated by forcing multiple takes for their scenes together, which Sinatra hated.

After one scene where Sinatra had to eat cheesecake for eight takes, he threw his plate on the ground and screamed at the director, “These f***ing New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?”

Yikes, right?