Myth # 1: A Munchkin’s suicide was caught on film in The Wizard of Oz.
One of the longest standing and persistent rumors from tinsel town is the notorious Munchkin suicide story. For decades, many have insisted that one of the Munchkin actors committed suicide during the filming of the Wizard of Oz and his death was caught on camera, unnoticed by the director, editors and everyone else, and still remains there to be seen today.
The origin of this myth comes from the scene where Dorothy and the Scarecrow first meet the Tin Woodsman. After the Tin Man sings “If I only had a heart,” and the wicked witch shows up to warn him and the Scarecrow not to “help the little lady along”, they decide to stick with Dorothy and, arm-in-arm, skip down the yellow-brick road singing, “We’re off to see the wizard”. As they skip away from the camera, in the far left-hand side of the screen, you can see something moving in the shadows, among the fake trees.
From far away and viewed quickly, it looks like a small figure, moving around strangely, and then spreading his/her arms Christ-like, and finally falling to the side, out of sight. This hard-to-see figure has long fueled rumors of a depressed little person (one of the Munchkin actors) killing himself. Some of the rumors have it that he was love-lorn and killed himself over a female Munchkin actress. Other rumors have it that he frustrated by the typecasting of roles his small stature limited him to.
The truth, however, is much brighter than the dark suicide story. Looking at the scene in slow motion and with enhanced clarity (thanks modern technology) we see that it is not a man but a large bird! As viewers of the Wizard of Oz know, several large, exotic-looking birds are seen wandering around the landscape of Oz at various points in the picture. The studio flew in a dozen large birds, such as peacocks, to make Oz seem more visually interesting. It is one of these large birds, spreading its wings in the background, which is caught on camera. (Don’t ask me the species.)
Seriously, the idea that the director and the hundreds of other people involved in filming a movie wouldn’t have noticed an on-camera suicide is pretty crazy.
Myth # 2: A Ghost child is seen in the background of Three Men and a Baby.
This is another of those depressing urban legends that spring up from nowhere. The rumor comes from the scene in Three Men and a Baby, when the character of Jack Holden (Ted Danson) is talking to his mom Celeste Holmes and they are walking through the house Jack and the other two ‘men’ of the title share. As momma stops to play with the baby, in the background, a small, out-of-focus figure can be glimpsed standing near the window, between the curtains on the left side screen. On film, it looks like it could be a child or a very small person.
From this scene came the rumor of the Ghost Child. The myth goes that a child was killed in the house where the scene was filmed. Some rumors have it that it was a suicide, while others say it was murder! Supposedly, the ghost child had been haunting the house for years. Guess what? It wasn’t a real house they used for the film. It was a sound stage. No one ever lived there, and there was no suicide or murder on the site. So what was the blurry image in the background?
Actually, it was a card-board cutout of the Holden character (Danson) himself, left standing by the window. The cut-out was part of a subplot that was mostly edited from the movie, regarding a dog food commercial where the cut-out of Holden would be used. A better look at the same cut-out can be seen later in the film, when the baby’s mother comes to reclaim her child. Danson can be seen standing next to it
Myth # 3: The word SEX can be seen in the background of The Lion King.
This one is actually a little closer to the mark than most Hollywood myths, but it’s still untrue. The story goes that in one scene of the Lion King, as Simba lays down to sleep, and you see a dust cloud swirl in the sky in the background, and the clouds form the word “Sex” for a brief moment, if you freeze-frame at the proper moment.
Well, close but not quite. A gag was put into the film by the animators, and the letters SFX (meaning Special Effects) are momentarily visible. Some eagle-eyed viewers have spotted the letters and thought it read “S-E-X”. So this myth has some logic to it, but it’s still just a myth.
Myth # 4: There is an alternate ending to King Kong vs. Godzilla.
This is one of the few movie myths that I personally used to believe before I realized it was all hooey! As any monster movie fan can tell you, at the conclusion of the Japanese Dai Kaiju Eiga cult classic, King Kong vs. Godzilla, the big American ape emerges victorious. After Kong and Godzilla falls into the sea during their titanic struggle, only Kong rises, roaring triumphantly and swimming off for home, having bested the big reptile from Japan.
This ending has infuriated fans of the Big-G for 50 years. In fact, it’s made generations of Godzilla-philes so mad that the rumor of an alternate ending has persisted for decades. The myth goes that Kong only wins in the English-dubbed version (the one they show in the US and other western countries) but in the Japanese version, it is Godzilla who rises from the sea, having vanquished his simian opponent.
Not true! (Much to my surprise, I might add.) The long-held belief in an alternate ending is totally fictitious, having been spread by word-of-mouth. To this day, despite no footage of the supposed alternate ending ever being seen by anyone, fans of Godzilla still insist that somewhere there is an alternate ending where Godzilla reigns supreme. And some of them will get very angry if you say different!
Myth # 5: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on a True Story.
Horror film fans have held onto this sacred cow of the cinema for years, refusing to believe the naysayers. Many slasher-film fanatics believe that the deformed and deranged family depicted in the 1974 cult favorite The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a real life basis. But sadly for them, the facts don’t hold water.
Some people hold that the TCM was based on the Ed Geins case of the 1950s but the two cases are substantially different in most ways. There was no family of killers; no leather-faced man; etc., etc. Much like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, the director Tobe Hooper took some aspects of the sensational case and incorporated them in his script, but to say that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is ‘based on a true story’ is a fantastic stretch of the truth. It would be like saying Dracula is a true story because it utilized the real-life historic figure Vlad the Impaler.