This is the twenty-seventh in a series of examinations of legends from movies and the people who make them and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous movie urban legends.
MOVIE LEGEND: A scene of Jack Palance mounting a horse in Shane was a rewound shot of Palance dismounting the horse!
Jack Palance’s work in westerns was a defining aspect of his stellar career in the film industry. Heck, he even ended up winning an Academy Award in 1992 for spoofing his “tough guy cowboy” image in the Billy Crystal film, City Slickers…
But the role he is most known for is almost certainly the ominous hired gun Jack Wilson in the Alan Ladd western Shane.
Palance is almost effortlessly menacing in the film. There was just one problem that popped up in the filming of the movie – Palance did not know anything about horses!
You see, Palance had just recently gotten into making films after an extended stay on the Broadway stage (he understudied Marlon Brandon in A Streetcar Named Desire) – this came after a stint as a professional boxer and serving his country in the Air Force during World War II. Palance had never been around horses in his life (well, at least not in terms of riding them), so he was completely lost when it came to working with them.
This causes George Stevens to improvise his film, including at least one bit that ended up making the film probably better than originally intended.
Wilson was originally set to make his debut in the film by galloping into town on a horse at high speeds. Naturally, Palance could not do anything close to that. So instead, Stevens re-wrote the scene to have Wilson ride slowly into town.
The resulting scene was a good deal more ominous.
Note here that the scene cuts off as Palance is getting off of the horse – this was because Palance had a great deal of trouble dismounting his horse.
Well, later in the film, there is a scene where Wilson and his boss, ruthless cattle boss Rufus Ryker (played by Emile Meyer) are waiting at the home of Joe and Marian Starrett (played by Van Heflin and Jean Arthur) in an effort to intimidate them.
Shane, a former gunslinger who was staying with the Starrett and Wilson size each other up.
To achieve this effect, Wilson had to get off of his horse, and Palance manages to dismount nicely.
He then goes over and takes a sip of water (all ominously, of course).
Then he re-mounts his horse, but hilariously enough, Stevens felt that the shot they got of Palance getting back on the horse was not good enough, so for the film, he simply edited the film to include the dismount scene..in reverse!!
It’s hard to tell without actually seeing it on video, but hopefully this screen shot of the mounting scene can help – as you can tell, it’s identical to the earlier dismounting scene.
Pretty hilarious and really clever editing work on Stevens’ part because I never noticed it in the film until I was specifically looking for it!
MOVIE LEGEND: Sigourney Weaver actually making a trick shot ended up causing a bit of a scene during the filming of Alien Resurrection.
You don’t need me to tell you that the amazing basketball shots, home runs and touchdown passes in films are invariably achieved through trick photography. Sometimes, the scenes are less well done as others (the basketball game at the end of Teen Wolf, for instance, has a special place in film historians’ hearts for its awfully unrealistic looking basketball sequence – people barely bending their arms and the ball happens to fly into the basket).
Well, that was NOT the case in the film, Alien Resurrection…
Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is effectively brought back from the dead via cloning by “The Company” after her death in the third Aliens movie (she kills herself because she has a Queen Alien embryo implanted in her)
The new Ripley, though, has enhanced abilities due to her DNA merging with the Alien.
She demonstrates these skills on the basketball court. Ripley is sparring with a group of mercenaries, particularly a character called Johner, played by Ron Perlman.
To demonstrate her new powers, Ripley was to shoot a basketball one-handed with her back to the basket a goodly distance away and have it go in.
Weaver was determined to make the shot “live,” and had practiced to the point where she could actually make it about once every six shots.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was getting a bit impatient, as he was perfectly fine with just using trick photography (or special effects) to get the shot, but Weaver was adamant. Ultimately, Jeanet agreed to give her six takes to get the shot in.
Weaver missed the first five times, but on the six try, the ball went right in!!
However, as you can see from the middle screen shot, Jeanet framed the shot with the ball disappearing from the frame at the top of the frame – this was done so that, if need be, he could then use special effects to have the ball drop from the sky without having to show the entire arc of the ball. So now, due to this framing, a REAL shot looked like a FAKE shot!
He offered to edit in a special effect of the arc of the ball, but Weaver was content just making the shot.
Amusingly enough, though, the ball going through on the last take proved too much for Perlman to take, and when the ball went in he broke character to shout his surprise at the ball actually going in!
This is why in the film, they cut away from the shot to a separately filmed reaction shot by Johner…
MOVIE LEGEND: Judy Garland did not make as much money for making The Wizard of Oz as the dog who played Toto in the film.
Judy Garland was a young actress under contract with Metro Goldwyn Meyer (MGM) when she made the Wizard of Oz.
As a result, her salary for the film seems quite low compared to the other actors in the film.
This has led to a story that has made its way around the internet that Garland actually made less money than the dog who played her pet, Toto!
The exact quote (you can find it in a number of places) is:
For the movie the Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was paid $35 a week while Toto received $125 a week.
This is a pretty straightforward case of nope, that’s not true.
Eric Gjovaag, my personal favorite Wizard of Oz expert, has the facts at his awesome Wizard of Oz FAQ.
As it turned out, Garland made $500 a week while Terry (the dog who played Toto) and her trainer, Carl Spitz, were paid $125 per week.
Do note that after the film ended, MGM tore up Garland’s contract and gave her a sizable raise.
Thanks, Eric, for clearing up this little bit of misinformation!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org