Movies – the place where the line between fact and fiction is often blurry, and for good reason too. We want to believe in everything we see on the screen. We want to get caught up in the action, to become involved and to suspend our disbelief. That’s the mark of a good movie, after all.
But sometimes the line between fact and fiction can be even more blurry than we realize. We all love a good urban legend about our favorite films; it’s in our nature to be fascinated by strange facts and coincidences, and beyond all that we have a morbid fascination with death – especially if we think we might accidentally catch a glimpse of it in a film. Throughout the years, seemingly endless rumors and myths have formed around some of our favorite classic movies. Some of them might even be true! Or if there’s not true, they at least have a fascinating true story behind them.
5. Back to the Future II correctly predicted the 1997 World Series.
People love looking at the Back to the Future movies and pinpointing futuristic items or predictions that the moviemakers guessed correctly. Some fans seem to think that Back to the Future II predicted not only the winner of the 1997 World Series several years before it happened, but that it was also won by a team that had yet to come into existence at the time of the filming of the 1987 film.
The myth states that Biff makes a passing comment about Florida winning the 1997 World Series after getting his hands on a sports almanac – which would have all the more eerie considering Florida didn’t even have a baseball team at the time. Another version of the rumor states that it’s a billboard proclaiming the then non-existent team as winners of the World Series. The Florida Marlins did win the 1997 World Series, so that part is true… however, there was no such comment nor a billboard in the movie.
In fact, it makes very little sense for him to say such a thing. The Biff that allegedly made the comment would have been from 1955, so why would he make such an outlandish comment about a game 40-something years in the future? And the billboard rumor is even more improbable considering Biff traveled to the year 2015 – why would a billboard in 2015 state the outcome of the 1997 World Series when they don’t here in the year 2014?
The rumor has resurfaced several times over, including in 2003 when people believed the movie predicted the outcome of the 2003 World Series as well – even though there was never any mention of the year 2003 in the movies themselves. And in 2004, it surfaced again saying that the Red Sox beating the St. Louis Cardinals was also predicted. None of these “predictions” were, in fact, depicted in the film.
4. A munchkin killed himself on the set of Wizard of Oz – and you can see him hanging in the movie.
It’s said that if you look closely, during a scene at the end of the Tin Woodsman sequence – where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man head down the yellow brick road – you can see a figure hanging from a tree in the woods. Some say it’s a lovelorn munchkin actor driven to suicide over a rejection by a female “little person” on the set. Others say it’s a stagehand who hung himself.
But in fact, to make the set appear more outdoorsy, birds of all sizes were borrowed from the Los Angeles Zoo and they were allowed to freely roam the set. We can see a peacock outside the Tinman’s shack at one point. And at the end of the sequence, when it’s suspected to be a hanging human, it’s actually a very large bird (either an emu or a crane) that’s spreading its wings.
And if you still don’t believe us, well, consider this fact; the scenes for Munchkinland were actually filmed on different days than the forest scenes, and no little people were present during the filming of this particular scene. Not to mention the fact that it’s simply not plausible that someone could have hung themselves on a movie set, during filming, without having it caught by one of the dozens of people present at that time. And even if something as disturbing as the myth suggests had happened and gone through the editorial process at the time, chances are good that someone would have discovered it and cut it out during one of the many re-released versions.
3. There’s a ghost child in the background of Three Men and a Baby.
The myth states that during a scene in the movie where Ted Danson’s character is talking to his mother, they walk past a window and the figure of a child is seen behind the curtain. It’s been said that it’s the ghost of a young boy who died in the house in which the movie was filmed. Some versions of the rumor say that a 9-year old boy killed himself with a shotgun in the house, which was why it was available for them to film there. Of course, this makes for a very interesting theory – but the truth is far from it.
Most movies are not shot in real houses, and this one is no different; all the interior shots were filmed on a soundstage. The figure behind the curtain was nothing more than a “standee”, or cardboard cutout used for advertising purposes. This specific standee was of Ted Danson in a top hat and tails. The cutout was a prop for a segment of the movie (which was later cut) about Danson’s character being involved in a dog food commercial. The standee can be seen one more time when Ted Danson himself stands next to it, when the mother comes to reclaim her child.
2. A stuntman was killed during the chariot scene of Ben-Hur and his death was left in the film.
Not only was a stuntman supposedly killed during the chariot scene of Ben-Hur, but many have believed over the years that his death (like the munchkin’s above) was supposedly left in the final cut. Some say that even if the entire myth isn’t true, at least the part of the stunt man dying is true. After all, the scene is very chaotic so it’s not entirely unbelievable that someone could have died during the filming. But nope, this just didn’t happen.
Someone was, however, injured during the shoot. Charlton Heston’s stunt double did flip out of the chariot, and he hit his face on the hitching rail as he was pulling himself back up. And in fact, this take was left in the film, but his injury wasn’t life threatening – it was a gash that required a few stitches, nothing more.
Most likely this incident got confused with an older, silent movie version of the film from 1926 where a stuntman did in fact die during the chariot scene; though there were other problems associated with that filming as well. But the Ben-Hur we remember with Charlton Heston was fatality-free. Two different movies from two different eras.
1. An actress died while filming Goldfinger, due to having her body covered in gold paint.
In Goldfinger, the evil Auric Goldfinger kills his secretary by painting her entire body gold. James Bond explains that when you cover a person with paint, it will cause them to die because the body “breathes” through the pores. He states that you must leave a small patch of unpainted skin at the base of the spine in order to keep the person from dying of asphyxiation. It’s said that the actress, Shirley Eaton, who played the secretary, was filming the scene and ended up dying for this exact reason – somebody forgot to leave a small patch of unpainted skin.
But luckily, you don’t breathe through the skin. As long as your nose and mouth are uncovered, you should be able to breathe just fine; even covered head to toe in gold paint. Now, it could be said that a person can die if they don’t perspire. Eventually, you could overheat if the paint completely blocked all your pores. Or the toxins in the paint could make you sick if exposed to them too long. But Eaton didn’t die nor did she get sick. She just retired from acting shortly after the movie was made.