30 Weirdest Movie Myths

Separating fact from fiction

Bursting Through The Screen

The Myth: Audiences at the first public screening of a film - the Lumière brothers' Train Arriving At A Station - were so convinced a real train was bearing down on them that they fled in panic.

How It Started: Who knows? This has been long reported as fact that it has taken on the mystique of being cinema's founding myth.

Any Truth? Film historians have confirmed that - contrary to legend - this wasn't the first film ever exhibited, as it wasn't part of the original 10-film screening organised by the Lumières in 1895. So if that's not true, then the rest must be treated with scepticism.

Part Three In The Madness Of George Trilogy

The Myth: When Alan Bennett's play The Madness Of George III was adapted into a film, the title was changed to The Madness Of King George because producers worried that American audiences would assume it was a threequel.

How It Started: Unknown, but it's a good gag so we suspect it originated with a comedian.

Any Truth? Not really. According to director Nicholas Hytner, American sensibilities were a factor in the retitling, but largely because "it was felt necessary to get the word King into the title" to help audiences realise what the film was about.

No White

The Myth: Walt Disney prevented Snow White voice actress Adriana Caselotti from getting work in Hollywood in order to preserve the illusion that the character was 'real.'

How It Started: Disney asked Jack Benny not to have Caselotti guest on his radio show shortly after the film's premiere; combined with the lack of an official screen credit for the actress, people put two and two together.

Any Truth? Caselotti later admitted that Disney himself couldn't use her again because her voice was too identifiable as Snow White's but it didn't stop her getting work elsewhere - she appears in The Wizard Of Oz and It's A Wonderful Life , albeit uncredited.

Lightning Strikes

The Myth: On seeing D.W. Griffith's Ku Klux Klan-worshipping drama The Birth Of A Nation , U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was moved to declare, "It's like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all terribly true."

How It Started: The quote was first published in the New York Post in 1915 and used extensively in the publicity materials for the film, which proceeded to break box office records and led to a resurgence in support for the KKK.

Any Truth? Thomas Dixon, a former classmate of Wilson who wrote the film's source novel, set up a White House screening precisely to try and secure Wilson's endorsement. But it's most likely that Dixon himself composed the quote, as Wilson asked his press secretary to tell people who wrote to him about the film, "Please say I have expressed no opinion about it."

Wrong Candidate

The Myth: Star/producer Frank Sinatra had The Manchurian Candidate mothballed after the assassination of JFK, fearing that the film's subject of political assassination had inspired Lee Harvey Oswald.

How It Started: The film was indeed unavailable throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until a re-release in 1988 led to a critical rediscovery - at which point the rumours about Sinatra's suppression of the film were being stated as fact.

Any Truth? At the time of the assassination, Candidate was in the limbo between cinema release and television broadcast, but did indeed appear on US TV several times from 1965 onwards. However, Sinatra did indeed pull the film from circulation in 1972 when the rights were up for renegotiation, but only out of revenge at the perceived poor deal he'd received ten years earlier. It wasn't until 1988 that a new deal was struck.

Doing It For Real

The Myth: The sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in Don't Look Now isn't acting; they're doing it for real, and there are secret outtakes to prove it.

How It Started: Nobody knows for sure, but a few years ago Variety editor Peter Bart claimed to have been on the set and saw Sutherland properly going at it.

Any Truth? The two actors at the centre of the rumour have always denied it. Sutherland went so far as to issue a statement rebuffing Bart's claims, insisting that Bart didn't see the scene being filmed.

Tears Of A Clown

The Myth: Jerry Lewis is so afraid of the backlash should the public see his notorious Holocaust drama The Day The Clown Cried that he keeps the only known copy under lock and key.

How It Started: Since the film's troubled 1972 shoot and its failure to be released, the legend has spread, with Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer claiming to have seen a rough cut that confirmed the film as a disaster.

Any Truth? Possibly; Lewis has publically confirmed that he's unhappy with the film. However, the more prosaic explanation is a legal dispute dating back to the film's production that remains unresolved.

A Lang, Lang Way Away

The Myth: After being offered the top position for the entire German film industry by Josef Goebbels, Fritz Lang fled Germany that very night to escape Nazi rule.

How It Started: Lang himself propagated the idea after he settled in Hollywood before, during and after WWII.

Any Truth? Lang was exaggerating. Detailed records exist, not least Lang's own passport, which confirm he didn't leave Berlin until July 1933, four months after his meeting with Goebbels.

The Lion Roars

The Myth: Next time you watch an MGM film, spare a thought for the people killed by the lion-in-the-logo, who (depending on which version you hear) mauled to death its trainer and his assistants, or two burglars who inadvertently chose the wrong place to rob.

How It Started: The version involved the trainer was spread by a website called Factropolis.com.

Any Truth? Not at all. There have been various lions used by MGM over the years, all of whose handlers lived to tell the tale. As for the burglars, that's just people on the Internet being silly.

Doesn't Give A Damn

The Myth: In 1933, Clark Gable was drunk-driving and killed a pedestrian. An MGM executive took the rap in promise for a pay-off to take the heat off Gable.

How It Started: Gable took a lengthy leave of absence in 1933, and was later subbed to Columbia; rumour has it as punishment for his 'crime.' (Ironically, the film he left to make, It Happened One Night , earned Gable an Oscar.)

Any Truth? The mythbusting website Snopes.com has investigated this rumour at length , and determined that Gable was AWOL in 1933 after an infection led to his teeth being extracted. Meanwhile, Gable did crash his car.. but not until 1945, and he only hit a tree - not a pedestrian.