David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Sex, Sound, Special Effects, Telegrams

Sex

• Judy Holliday, star of The Solid Gold Cadillac, was a wonderful comedian, but she occasionally had to deal with sexual advances from studio executives. During one such episode, she reached into her dress, pulled out her falsies, handed them to the studio executive, and said, “Here. I think these are what you’re after.”

Sound

• While making his very first movie, in the days in which sound equipment was unsophisticated, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen ran into a problem trying to get the sound of the voice of Charlie McCarthy, his dummy, onto the movie soundtrack. Eventually, the source of the problem was discovered to be a soundman who moved the microphone over to Charlie McCarthy whenever the dummy had a line.

• The voice of the character Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies is menacing and easily recognizable — filmmaker George Lucas wanted the character, who has been badly burned and must stay in his costume to survive, to sound like a “walking iron lung.” The voice was created by using a microphone inside a breathing regulator used by scuba divers.

Special Effects

• For the movie The Time Machine, Wah Ming Chang and Gene Warren needed to show a volcano erupting and its lava flowing through a town. Therefore, they created a miniature town and cooked 250 gallons of red-colored oatmeal to represent the lava. Unfortunately, they cooked the oatmeal on Friday and did the filming on Monday. Only after pouring the containers on the set during filming did they discover that the oatmeal had spoiled. The special effects room was so small that Mr. Chang and Mr. Warren found themselves pinned to a wall by 250 gallons of stinking, spoiled oatmeal. Nevertheless, they eventually filmed the scene correctly and ended up winning two Oscars for their special effects in The Time Machine.

• In Steven Spielberg’s movie Jaws, he used a huge mechanical shark. During one scene in which Richard Dreyfuss’ character goes underwater in a protective cage, Mr. Spielberg used a real great white shark. The real shark was much smaller than the mechanical shark, so to make the shark appear as big as the mechanical shark, Mr. Spielberg used a little person (aka midget or dwarf) to stand in for Mr. Dreyfuss in the scene.

Stars

• When Psycho was first released, director Alfred Hitchcock ordered that no audience member be admitted after the film began. The audience assumed that something shocking would happen right away, although the film begins slowly. Actually, Mr. Hitchcock was doing something radically different — killing off the big star, Janet Leigh, early in the film. Mr. Hitchcock didn’t want members of the audience to arrive late, then keep wondering when Ms. Leigh was going to appear on screen.

• Once a star, always a star. When she was in her 70s, child star Shirley Temple showed up for a People magazine photo shoot featuring breast cancer survivors. She announced, “I want to be in the middle of the shot because that’s the star position. They can’t cut you out if you’re in the middle.” All of the other people in the photo shoot were happy to give her the star position.

Telegrams

• Peter Lorre was an excellent actor who became renowned for his performance as a child murderer in Fritz Lang’s film M. Because he was Jewish, he left Germany at the beginning of the Nazis’ rise to power and moved to Vienna. Nazi propagandist Paul Joseph Goebbels did not know that Mr. Lorre was Jewish and asked him to come back to Germany. Mr. Lorre replied with this telegram: “THERE ISN’T ROOM IN GERMANY FOR TWO MURDERERS LIKE HITLER AND ME.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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