Hollywood is a land of stories as well as myths. This applies behind the scenes, as well as in front of the camera.
Despite the community’s reputation for fragile egos and extravagant behavior, the wildest stories exist in the minds of the audience! A small detail or throwaway remark can lead to entire legends being built up. Here are 5 cases of classic Hollywood myths that are still believed today…
5. The Gerber Identity
Who was the original Gerber baby? This question over the face of America’s famous baby food brand still preoccupies people today. The original infant used in the illustration was chosen in the late 1920s. Gerber held an art contest and eventually accepted an angelic charcoal sketch by Dorothy Hope Smith.
What’s it got to do with Tinseltown? According to a famous myth, the baby was none other than Humphrey Bogart. That would certainly give new meaning to his iconic Casablanca line “Here’s looking at you kid”!
This offbeat guess wasn’t the only speculation. Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Seymour were also rumored to be on the label. Gerber maintained the mystique behind the peas and carrots until 1978, when Ann Turner Cook was revealed as the baby. Back then she was the daughter of the artist’s neighbor, and she went on to become a teacher and novelist.
Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in 2015, Cook said lifting the lid on her identity would have been “a little self-promoting. It’s not an achievement of mine, it’s the achievement of the artist is the way I look at it.”
4. Three Men and a Ghost Boy
Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg may have had mixed fortunes on the big screen. But 1987’s Three Men & A Baby was a smash hit for the trio. The film was directed by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy, and a certain scene seems to take the audience where no man has gone before.
A mystery child behind some curtains got people’s imaginations racing and became one of the biggest Hollywood myths of the 80s. Was their New York apartment in the movie haunted by the ghost of a little boy? It was even suggested a child had passed away in the real life location, making his presence felt on celluloid.
Selleck appeared on The Tonight Show in 2017, where he was asked about the myth by host Jimmy Fallon. Firstly the star pointed out they were on a soundstage, not on location. Secondly he wanted a cut from the resulting publicity: “I’m going to call Ted and Steve because I think we participated [financially] in the video sales,” he quipped.
As for the identity of the mythical child? The answer is less flattering. It was actually a cardboard cut out of Ted Danson, whose egotistical character had them lying around the place.
3. The Spielberg Intrusion
It’s common knowledge that Steven Spielberg was pro-active in getting his legendary career started. But did he behave like Catch Me If You Can con artist Frank Abagnale to get his break? A popular myth is that he embedded himself at Universal Studios as a teenage employee without them realizing.
“I put on a suit and tie and sneaked past the guard at Universal,” Spielberg told the Hollywood Reporter in 1971. He added that he “found an empty bungalow, and set up an office. I then went to the main switchboard and introduced myself and gave them my extension so I could get calls.”
This enterprising feat simply isn’t borne out by the facts. Editor Chuck Silvers gave Spielberg an intern job fair and square. The future director of Hollywood mega hits had a reputation for sneaking onto sets but that’s about as far as it went. Spielberg himself seemed to be the main source of these mischievous anecdotes…
2. Eaton’s Exit
One of the most memorable ends in the James Bond franchise was that of Shirley Eaton’s character Jill Masterson. She was infamously offed with a coating of paint in 1964’s Goldfinger. Apparently if the body’s pores are completely covered a person will die of asphyxiation.
An imaginative explanation, and the makings of a powerful myth. However this plot point was Hollywood hokum. Smithsonian Magazine went on a mission to discover the truth in 2014. “Bond was a much better agent than a scientist,” they observed. “We breathe through our noses and mouths, not our skin (though clogging the pores for an extended period can cause heatstroke).”
It just wouldn’t have been the same had Sean Connery said, “She died of heatstroke” rather than “skin suffocation”. The myth went on to include Eaton’s demise on set, though thankfully this was pure fiction!
2008’s Quantum Of Solace paid tribute by “drowning” Gemma Arterton’s Strawberry Fields in crude oil.
1. Amityville Accuracy
One of the most chilling details about The Amityville Horror is its roots in a true story. However is this one of the ultimate examples of a myth with a Tinseltown twist?
A shocking event certainly took place there in 1974. But when it comes to the people who moved in afterwards and experienced terrifying events, the facts are less established. The book and movie franchise stemmed from a tome written by Jay Anson, based on the experiences of former householders the Lutzes. It mentioned strange smells, slime and disembodied voices among other details.
Some are unconvinced. Biography.com wrote in 2017 that George and Kathy Lutz were reportedly “bogged down in legal and financial issues, which prompted skeptics to believe they had motive to create a fantastical story to sell to the public.”
Lawyer William Weber – who defended Amityville suspect Ron DeFeo – claimed in 1979 that “the three of them came up with the horror story ‘over many bottles of wine’.”
The truth is still up in the air. However the general view is that this was myth-making of the highest order. One that became a money-making hit in Hollywood – a place where myths prove very profitable indeed!