David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Actors


• In the screwball classic movie It Happened One Night is a famous scene in which Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are hitchhiking, but they can’t get a lift until Ms. Colbert shows her legs by the side of the road. At first, Ms. Colbert was shy and declined to show her legs in the scene, so director Frank Capra brought in a chorus girl to serve as Ms. Colbert’s body double. Ms. Colbert looked at the chorus girl’s pudgy legs, realized that movie-goers would think that the pudgy legs belonged to her, and decided to show her own thin and shapely legs in the scene.

• Joe E. Brown was a wide-mouthed comedian who was featured in such films as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Showboat, and Some Like It Hot. For one movie, the hard-working comedian had to dive into a shallow lake. His director, Mervyn LeRoy, warned him that the lake was shallower than it looked, but when Mr. Brown came up after a dive that went too deep, his face was bloody. Mr. LeRoy wrote in his autobiography, “I passed out — I never could stand the sight of blood — but he just mopped it off and got ready for the next shot. He was a wonder.”

• As a writer, H. Allen Smith felt that he should not regard actors as being entirely human — it only encourages them. Therefore, despite being secretly thrilled when he met one of the celebrities of his day, he frequently did his best to show actors that they were nothing special. While working on a Hollywood movie studio lot, Basil Rathbone dressed in a costume such as one of the three Musketeers might wear: sword, very high boots, feathered cap, long cape, etc. Mr. Smith looked at Mr. Rathbone and asked, “You in pictures?”

• Craig Russell, a Canadian female impersonator of genius, wrote and starred in the cult classic movie Outrageous. When the film was shown at the Virgin Islands Film Festival, Mr. Russell had the pleasure of winning awards for both Best Actor and Best Actress. A comedian, Mr. Russell used to say, “I’m a drag queen. I’m a transvestite. I’m a drug addict. I’m an alcoholic. I’m a homosexual. Other than that, I’m perfectly normal.” He died of AIDS at the age of 42 on Oct. 30, 1990.

• In the movie Marathon Man, a character played by Dustin Hoffman is tortured by a character played by Sir Laurence Olivier. On the day the torture scene was to be shot, Mr. Hoffman showed up looking very, very bad. He explained that in order to get ready to shoot the scene, he had stayed up two days and two nights without any sleep. Sir Laurence smiled, then said to Mr. Hoffman, “Why don’t you just try acting? It’s so much easier.”

• While housesitting for a friend, author Boze Hadleigh interviewed Cary Grant. That evening, the owner of the house came back. The telephone rang, and Mr. Hadleigh went to another room to answer it. When he returned, the owner of the house asked, “Who was that?” Mr. Hadleigh replied, “It was Cary Grant.” The owner of the house laughed, although she was sitting in the armchair Mr. Grant had sat in earlier that day.

• Whoopi Goldberg’s first movie appearance was in The Color Purple, directed by Stephen Spielberg. Ms. Goldberg wanted to play the part of Sofia, but Mr. Spielberg offered her the bigger part of Celie. At first, Ms. Goldberg hesitated to accept the part, then she remembered that this was the great director Stephen Spielberg offering her an important part, and she told herself, “Wake up, stupid. Say yes.”

• The three Marx Brothers were such wild and crazy people in real life that movie directors had a hard time controlling them — they were always wandering off the set to place bets or to chase skirts. Finally, their directors were forced to lock up the Marx Brothers in cages on the set — they were released only when it was time for them to do a scene. (Chico had a telephone installed in his cage so he could call his bookie.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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