Eerie Behind The Scenes Moments From Hollywood History
By | December 2, 2022
Bela Lugosi serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army, 1916
Some photos tell a story far beyond what is actually present in the film. This is especially true for Hollywood. From untimely deaths and alcohol addictions to horrendous childhoods and mental illnesses, many of the stars in these photos have experienced tragedies like these and many more. Join us as we discover the awful yet sometimes surprising truths behind the lives of some of Hollywood's best stars.
While Lugosi will always be known for his frightening yet sensational portrayal of the world's most dangerous vampire in the 1931 movie, Dracula, he has a not-so-exciting past as a member of the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He rarely talked of his time in the Great War, and now we know why. As he was filming The Black Cat, he revealed to cast and crew members that he was a hangman for the Austro-Hungarian army and the war-time experience had left him feeling "thrilled and guilty all at once."
Hedy Lamarr and Marlene Dietrich sharing a kiss while director Billy Wilder is standing near, 1948
Carole Lombard and Clark Gable in a photo taken by a fan, 1940
"Gable was self-centered and never felt it necessary to have self-discipline when it came to sex outside the relationship because he had a sense of what a catch he was."
Unfortunately, Lombard died in 1942 while flying home to save her marriage with Gable.
Marilyn Monroe with photographer Milton Greene's son, Joshua, at the set of "Bus Stop," 1952
Pictured here with Milton Green's son, Joshua, Marilyn Monroe and Milton Greene were not only close friends but also business partners. He captured many photos of Monroe throughout her film career. On a Sunday afternoon in 1956, they stopped at the 20th Century Fox costume department and had a blast, while she tried on costumes and he snapped memorable photos.
Greene's son, Joshua, says of their friendship:
"They loved doing pictures together, so every now and then on a day off, they would rummage through the costume department, come up with an outfit, and do a series of pictures."
Natalie Wood and the New York City skyline, 1961
Most of us know about the untimely and mysterious death of Natalie Wood, who played Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street and Maria in West Side Story. In 1981, her death was classified as an accidental drowning, but years later — 40 to be exact — in 2011, the Los Angeles County sheriff's office officially reopened the investigation. In 2013, her death was changed to "drowning and other undetermined factors." The new coroner had found physical evidence of a possible assault the day she died.
Judy Garland with her daughter Liza Minnelli, 1950
Liza Minelli pretty much had no choice when it came to entering stardom. Her mother, Judy Garland, was performing in London when Minelli came out on the stage next to her, and that's when she realized her daughter would one day become a star. But fame takes its toll and it certainly did on their relationship. Minelli stood by while watching Garland fall victim to overdue bills, addictions, and suicide attempts, but the Wizard of Oz star was still her mother, and said of her,
"I thought my mother was perfect, perfect. Every little thing she did."
Jean Harlow, 1935
Greta Garbo with MGM's Leo the Lion, 1926
It seems this publicity photo of Greta Garbo and Leo the Lion was a bit more nerve-racking for Garbo than Leo. The King of the Jungle was actually MGM's third lion mascot, with both Slats and Jackie appearing before, who were trained by MGM's animal wrangler, Volney Phifer. Ms. Garbo arrived in the U.S. from Sweden in 1926, and the production company wanted to create some excitement about their new star, thus the famous picture of 19-year-old Great Garbo with Leo the Lion.
James Dean and Burl Ives on the set of "East of Eden," 1955
Bette Davis in front of a portrait of her younger self and her Oscar Awards
Bette Davis was an independent and fierce woman who had the ability to play a wide range of difficult yet powerful roles. She was truly a leader for women in the early film industry. That didn't mean she didn't have a few rivalries with fellow actresses. She and Joan Crawford clashed for several years with their feud coming to a peak during the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? when Davis installed a Coca-Cola machine on set as a jab to Crawford, whose late husband was the CEO of Pepsi.
Grace Kelly as photographed by Milton Greene, 1953
But the movie business has changed so much since I was there.
Audrey Hepburn with her Yorkshire Terrier, Mr. Famous, at Paramount Studios, photographed by Bud Fraker, 1961
During World War II, Audrey Hepburn lived in Nazi-occupied Holland with her mother as her father left the family when she was only six years old. Her mother was initially a supporter of the Nazi regime, but when they killed Hepburn's uncle, her mother took her daughter and they fled to a nearby town, where her mother joined the resistance. Many years later, Hepburn recalled that time of hardship, which included being a volunteer nurse in an Allied hospital and being so hungry her and her family had to eat tulip bulbs.
Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers on the set of the film "The Magic Christian," 1969
This 1960s wacky comedy featured several film stars alongside Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers like John Cleese, Racquel Welch, Roman Polaski, and Yul Brenner. During an interview, while filming The Magic Christian, The Beatles' incredible drummer said,
I try to keep two lives going. One is only to do with me and mine, and the other is to do with thous and thine. I agree to give them the Beatle Ringo, but the Ritchie I prefer to keep for my family.
Anne Bancroft and husband Mel Brooks photographed at home by Douglas Kirkland, 1983
Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks were one of those Hollywood couples that actually made it. They were married for 41 years until her death in 2005. The two made several films together, and in a 2013 interview for Sirius XM, Brooks noted that his favorite film was 1942's To Be Or Not To Be because he got to hang out with Bancroft for 24 hours.
"How many people could stand their wives for 24 hours? I could cry now," he said. "She was easy ... she was fun ... I liked her so much. I couldn't get enough of her."
Film actress Ava Gardner hanging out at Ciro’s Nightclub in Hollywood, photographed by Gene Lester, 1950
The owner of Ciro's Nightclub, Billy Wilkerson, was a hard-core gambling addict who had been in the speakeasy business in New York City. He specialized in creating glamorous and lavish nightclubs along the Sunset Strip for his upper-class, luxurious, and showy clientele: Hollywood stars. He thought of everything for his wealthy patrons, from phone jacks installed at every table for important calls to a huge spotlight that greeted every single star that entered the building and, of course, a hidden gambling parlor in the back.
Film actors Buster Keaton and Jackie Cooper, 1933
Buster Keaton, born Joseph Francis Keaton, got his name in a most peculiar way. At six months, he met Harry Houdini when he fell down the stairs with no injuries and fairly undisturbed, the world-renowned magician said he could take a fall or a "buster." At three years old, Buster joined his family's vaudeville act where he was knocked over, dropped down stairs, and thrown through windows, which pretty much prepared him for his knockabout comedic timing during the silent movie era.
Robert Montgomery with his daughter, Elizabeth Montgomery, at the Stork Club, New York City, 1955
Shirley Temple playing tennis, 1936
Activist, United Nations delegate, and breast cancer survivor, Shirley Temple lived her incredible life to the fullest up until her death in 2014. Her older adult life was remarkable compared to her weird and raunchy start in show business. At the beginning of her childhood career, Temple appeared in several cringe-worthy films titled Baby Burlesques, where she exchanged kisses for candy and played an exotic dancer at the age of three. In her biography, Temple denounced the series calling them,
a cynical exploitation of our childish innocence that occasionally were racist or sexist.
Handsome actor Randolph Scott at home, 1937
It's probably obvious from this photo that Randolph Scott was an animal enthusiast. This well-known actor was featured in several Western movies from the 1930s through the 1960s and rode many horses throughout his career but his favorite, by far, was Stardust. With his striking palomino coat and full white mane and tail, Stardust appeared in over a dozen films with Scott as his rider. The two worked so well together that fans wrote letters asking Scott questions about his movie partner.
Comedy duo Lou Costello and Bud Abbott, 1947
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello have gone down in history as one of the best comedy duos of the 20th century, thanks in part to the routine they're best known for, "Who's On First?" This celebrated and familiar wordplay was indispensable to the duo's popularity, and if their radio producers had the final say, it never would've happened. They believed that listeners wouldn't get the joke and "Who's On First?" would've gone right over their heads. Boy were they wrong.
Groucho Marx walking his daughter Melinda to school, 1953
Groucho Marx was born as Julius Henry Marx and was the third of five brothers to Sam "Frenchie" Marx and Minnie Schonberg. The Marx Brothers made themselves famous as one of Hollywood's funniest comedy troupes, but Groucho's life was not as enjoyable as their shows were to audiences. Initially, Marx did not want to pursue entertainment but rather had dreams of becoming a doctor. His mother pushed him towards Hollywood as their family lived in poverty and they could no longer afford his schooling by the age of 12.
Actress, singer, and dancer Dorothy Dandridge photographed by Edward Clark for Life magazine, 1953
Leslie Caron visits Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor on the set of the film "Singin’ in the Rain," 1952
Leslie Caron began a bright and successful Hollywood career at a young age, but this lively and elegant young actress had a personal life that was never free from past ghosts. Her mother became an alcoholic and committed suicide following WWII. Caron also recalled how the war caused great shame to the people of France, including herself.
Everyone talks about the solidarity of the war, and it may have happened in England, but not in France. We were ashamed to have given up and to have the German enemy right there.
Sonny and Cher made their first live UK appearance at the 100 Club in London, 1965
All you have to do is say their names and immediately people start singing "I Got You, Babe." They had a rather tumultuous relationship that ended in divorce, but even from the beginning, their marriage was overshadowed by her daddy issues and his unrelenting infidelity. As Cher's mother once said,
I think the father image had a great deal to do with Cher’s feelings, but I didn’t think it would have helped if I’d told that to Cher. When a girl is as much in love with a man as she was, not much can be done about it.
Walt Disney, 1940s
Walt Disney was not the type of man to let success and wealth keep him from being generous and thoughtful. He drove his daughters to school every day and the Disney family housekeeper was like a member of their family. Once he reached the pinnacle of success, he bought his parents a brand-new house and sent his own studio repairman to fix anything in need of repair. Unfortunately, in 1938, the furnace broke down, and due to it not being repaired correctly, his mother died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Manis the Orangutan and Clint Eastwood behind the scenes of the film, "Every Which Way But Loose," 1978
Who doesn't love watching Clint Eastwood in a movie, and with an ape co-star nonetheless? Manis the orangutan was definitely the main attraction in Every Way But Loose, and when the ape returned to his day job at a Vegas show for the sequel, Any Which Way You Can, a younger orangutan named Buddha was cast. This sweet and docile ape was tragically in the care of an abusive trainer who beat him to death for eating a doughnut. We can rest assured this would never happen had Buddha been featured in a film today.
Actress Louise Brooks lounging on a large armchair, 1928
Louise Brooks was a talented and smart beauty of the silent film and flapper era, but a horrendous event when she was young left a lasting mark on her soul. A neighbor of the family sexually abused Ms. Brooks at the young age of nine, and later she commented that this tragedy caused her to never fully be able to commit to men either in her marriages or many affairs.
[This man] must have had a great deal to do with forming my attitude toward sexual pleasure.
Actress and comedian, Beatrice Arthur, in her U.S. Marine Corps uniform, 1940s
Bettie Page as "Jungle Bettie" in an animal print costume alongside two cheetahs, 1954
"Jungle Bettie" was the image of liberated sexuality and body positivity, something that would be celebrated in the current climate; but in the 1950s it was her pinup photos that made her famous. Today, her fan-base is mostly women who adore her for her self-confidence and sensual authenticity. For a woman who was the most-photographed model of the 20th century, her life certainly didn't start out with that kind of fame. She grew up in a neglectful, impoverished, and abusive household, but still managed to graduate school and earn herself a college degree.
Actress Myrna Loy, known as the "Queen of Hollywood," 1933
Myrna Loy had an impressive film career, working with such leading men as Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, and Paul Newman. She was known for keeping her personal history, well, personal. She was so private that, of the archival papers she left to Boston University, she carefully removed several personal letters. What we do know of the Queen of Hollywood is her political activism, primarily her work in World War II relief campaigns and as an advocate for the United Nations.
Sandra Dee, 1962
The "Queen of Teens" quickly became a box-office hit with her film Gidget and A Summer Place. She married pop idol Bobby Darrin in 1960, but their divorce seven years later started her journey away from film and movie stardom. The Hollywood couple had one child together, Dodd Mitchell Darrin, who later wrote a book about his parents, Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee. Within its pages, he shares about his mother's sexual abuse as a child and her struggle with anorexia, drugs, and alcohol, as an adult.
Robin Williams in Paris, 1994
The beloved and wickedly funny Robin Williams was a once-in-a-lifetime gem for many movie goers. Beyond his fatal struggle with depression, Williams is known for several life successes, some more quiet than others. He was instrumental in getting Ethan Hawke (Dead Poet's Society) a Hollywood agent and helped Steven Spielberg handle the emotional heaviness of filming Schindler's List by calling him once a week for an over-the-phone stand-up routine. Williams also quietly donated $50,000 to the Seattle Food Bank during the 2007 financial crisis, and never once asked for any recognition.
Van Dyke and Howes taking a break while filming "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" in Bavaria, 1968
While Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang is a lighthearted, family-friendly musical, its origin is filled with tragedy. Although adapted by Roald Dahl for film, this children's classic was written by 53-year-old Ian Fleming while recovering from a heart attack. At that time, his son, Caspar, told Fleming he loved James Bond more than him, and in response, Fleming wrote a series of children's stories called, The Magical Car. Fleming passed away when Caspar was 12, and it affected him so deeply that the event was instrumental in his intentionl deat via drug overdose at the age of 23.
Marlon Brando and his dachshund relaxing at his grandmother's house in California, 1949
The Godfather actor is known for his tremendous acting talent, but did you know he also had a knack for being a storyteller of nonsense? It began when he was playing a small role in I Remember Mama, when he told Playbill he was born in Calcutta, and then changed it to Bangkok, Thailand, and China. He also claimed that he had a Greate Dane who ate dehydrated dog food, and as Brando aged, he took to the Internet and joined chat rooms simply to begin arguments with strangers. Apparently, he never did retire from acting.
Film producer, director, and actor Tony Dow at Dodger Stadium, 1980s
We all remember Leave It To Beaver and the Cleaver family. Tony Dow played the role of Beaver's big brother Wally, the responsible All-American son of June and Ward. As Dow entered his 20s, depression began to take hold of him. While he did have a genetic predisposition to this mental illness, he also noted that the show did play a part.
But certainly, Leave It to Beaver had something to do with it. Certainly, it had something to do with raising one’s expectations and establishing a certain criteria that you would expect to continue in life.
Judd Nelson, Michael J. Fox, and Rob Lowe on a DNC bus, 1988
In the '80s, Judd Nelson and Rob Lowe were unofficial members of The Brat Pack, which left Michael J. Fox out of the exclusive group. Not wanting to be left out, Fox, who was gaining fame from Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, and Family Ties, asked Lowe about his invitation to the group when the two first met at a boxing match.
"Your invitation? Invitation to what?" Lowe asked. 'To join the Brat Pack," said Fox. "I guess it was just lost in the mail," Lowe said.
Gilda Radner, Mary Hemingway, and Margaux Hemingway at Studio 54, 1978
Various celebrities could be seen at Studio 54 any night of the week, however, Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, became a staple there in the 1970s. She was the world's first million-dollar supermodel at only 21 years old. The fame and fortune of her successful career and her struggles as a teen — depression, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders — were altogether too much for her to handle and she died of an intentional overdose in 1996. She was the fifth member of the Hemingway family to commit suicide.
William Shatner as Captain Kirk with the Jupiter 8 car from Star Trek, 1965
Ask anyone, even those who have never seen an episode of Star Trek, and they'll know exact who this man is in the above picture. William Shatner started out as a normal joe who thought this new sci-fi show was just another gig, but he, along with Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura), broke some pretty huge boundaries early in their careers. The famous interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura rocked a lot of people's worlds back in the '60s. But kudos to both of them for playing a huge role in one of television's most important moments.
Valerie Leon, English actress, taking her kitty for a walk during a break in the filming of "Blood from the Mummy's Tomb," 1971
English actress and Bond girl Valerie Leon had the privilege of working with both Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me and Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. When asked once how she was discovered for this sought-after role, she believed it had something to do with a series of commercials she was in for men's aftershave.
It involved this really tall, buxom woman chasing a small man and smelling his aftershave. We got into all sorts of situations, which were very amusing. I think that opened a lot of doors for me.
Gloria Swanson, 1917
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, 1923
Business partners who became lovers, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks began a whirlwind romance when they wed in 1920. Their European honeymoon started with swarms of fans surrounding them as they disembarked the Red Star cruise liner in London. They spent a weekend on the Isle of Thanet, bought a car in Switzerland and hired a chauffeur to drive them around, visited the ex-Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and were honored at a dinner in Paris with 200 other French actors in attendance. The pair divorced in 1936, and Fairbanks died shortly after, with Pickford following in 1979.
Theda Bara, 1917
One of the earliest sex symbols of film, Theda Bara was a popular and oft-imitated silent film actress. She portrayed several femme fatale roles that earned her the nickname "The Vamp" which soon became a buzzword for a woman who was a sexual predator. She had many other female partners who also helped to develop the seductress character, including Valeska Suratt and French actress, Musidora. While the origin of her stage name still remains a mystery, some thought at the time it was an anagram of "Arab Death."
Marlene Dietrich, 1955
Steve McQueen looking groovy, 1969
Recognized as one of Hollywood's leading men, Steve McQueen had a laid-back yet counterculture persona about him. Before he became the celebrated film star he is today, he found himself in juvie after stealing hubcaps with neighborhood gang members in Los Angeles. After a few attempts at trying to, yet unsuccesfully, escape the California Junior Boys Republic school, a sympathetic staff member took McQueen under his wing, reining in some of his rebellious behavior. After becoming a hit Hollywood star, he would often return to the school to give inspirational talks to the students there.
Model and actress Ali MacGraw, 1970
While Ali McGraw gained success as the co-star of Love Story, along with Ryan O'Neal, she had never felt comfortable in her own skin and endured a kind of imposter syndrome throughout her acting career. Between that and her tumultuous marriage to Steve McQueen, she found solace in alcohol, love affairs, and several other personal challenges. it wasn't until she checked in to the Betty Ford Clinic that she finally find peace.
. . . I began to feel an underlying peace and sense of order that I had yearned for forever.
Rita Hayworth, Cesar Romero, and Dolores Del Rio in Beverly Hills, 1977
Cesar Romero, nicknamed the Latin Lover, was in a variety of acting roles that included westerns, dramas, and comedies. He became known for his signature moustache, which had to be painted over, not shaved, for his appearance as the Joker on Batman. Romero was known as "the bachelor" among Hollywood stars and was the go-to date for many actresses at movie premieres and other events. He did reveal he was gay two years before his death, although this part of his life was apparently not a secret among fellow actors and actresses.
Actress and singer June Allyson with her children listening to records, 1957
Melissa Sue Anderson in the thriller "Happy Birthday to Me," 1981
If you ever turned on the television in the 1980s then you most likely recognize this lovely lady as Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary on Little House on the Prairie. Outside of this popular family series, she pursued many roles unlike those of the sweet oldest sister from Walnut Grove. She was a guest star on The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, and The Equalizer. She was also offered the main female role in The Blue Lagoon, but was not comfortable with the nudity, so the part went to Brooke Shields instead.