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Crazy Stories From Old Hollywood That Are Actually True

The legendary stories of Old Hollywood offer an endless treasure trove of fascinating tidbits, out-of-this-world characters, and unforgettable tales. One could pen many volumes just detailing all of the strange but true facts about the vintage film industry.

In this thought-provoking video, we are going to learn how some legends of the big and small screens got their unique stage names. If that’s not intriguing enough just wait until you find out that color films were actually around a whole lot longer than you might have assumed. When it comes to Hollywood secrets, they come a dime a dozen.

Keep watching for a healthy dose of intriguing trivia about the Golden Age of the silver screen and make sure you let us know in the comments section what you think are the stories that are the least believable. So, let’s dive on in, shall we?

Up Until 1934, The Highest Paid Screenwriter Was Female

It’s an undisputed fact that Hollywood, especially the part seated behind the camera, has historically been a mostly male-dominated industry. As such, it might come as a bit of a surprise to you that the most revered screenwriter of the silent era of film was in fact a woman. Later on in her career, she tried her hand out as a director as well.

Between the years 1915 and 1934, Frances Marion was the highest-paid screenwriter in the US. From 1916 to 1919, while Marion was writing exclusively for the superstar Mary Pickford, she earned an impressive $50,000 a year which when adjusted for inflation is closer to $1 million today.

Marion dabbled in directing twice in 1921 with the films The Love Light which starred Mary Pickford and Just Around The Corner. Although her directing career never really got off the ground, she continued to write screenplays until the 1940s.

Marion felt a deep and unwavering connection with the film industry and its star players like Pickford and Irving Thalberg absolutely adored her.

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And don’t even think about sneaking off so soon. Stay tuned to learn the tragic fate of Rudolph Valentino, one of Hollywood’s most beloved silent film stars.

A Full-Color Motion Picture Hit Theaters In 1918 But It’s Since Been Lost To History

There’s a bit of debate as to whether Cupid Angling was the world’s first color feature film. But seeing as how it was released in 1918, a full twenty years before the momentous Technicolor Adventures of Robin Hood, it’s definitely among the first.

The film was shot in Douglass Natural Color, a process developed by film producer Leon Douglass. This system would alternate red-orange dyed and green-blue-dyed frames to give watchers a viewing experience that incorporated naturalistic colors.

There were quite a few attempts at bringing color film technology to theaters in the early years of cinema. In the 1920s, Technicolor came up with a two-step process that brought the industry a bit closer to the celebrated three-color process utilized in movies like The Wizard of Oz, Robin Hood, and Gone With The Wind.

Sadly, no prints of Cupid Angling are known to still be in existence. At least for right now, it’s considered a lost film but who knows, perhaps someday a film reel will be discovered in some sort of Hollywood warehouse or storage unit that will enable us to witness its groundbreaking use of color.

Rudolph Valentino’s Death Stirred Up Much Chaos 

Although his career was relatively short-lived, silent film star Rudolph Valentino amassed a fairly dedicated and devoted fan base. In 1921, he appeared in two movies, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Sheik. The films were big hits and established Valentino as a star with a reputation for being an irresistible romantic heartthrob. 

Male writers implied in Photoplay Magazine and in the pages of the Chicago Tribune that Valentino was gay. More than likely, they were just jealous of his undeniable magnetism. They even went as far as to label him as a ‘Pink Powder Puff’.

Valentino tried his best to counter these rumors by giving a fiercely athletic and intensely masculine performance in 1926s The Son of the Sheik. After leaving the premier in New York, he was bombarded by fans who tore his clothing. It looked like Valentino was destined for fame and fortune but just two weeks after the film’s debut, he suddenly collapsed from a ruptured appendix. He was rushed to surgery but his health took a sudden turn when he fell into a coma. Not long after, Valentino passed away. 

More than 100,000 mourners grieved on the streets outside the place where Valentino’s body was being held. The situation became so chaotic that New York Police Department officers were called in to help restore order. 

Valentino’s untimely death at the age of 31, unfortunately, meant that the world would never know whether he would have successfully staged a transition from silent films to talkies. 

John Wayne Was Given His Stage Name At A Meeting That He Wasn’t At

The man who would eventually become the legendary film star, John Wayne, got his start working as a prop boy and an extra for the Fox Film Corporation. He eventually climbed the ladder and started landing bit parts before he was cast in his first lead role in 1930s The Big Trial.

The director of that film, Raoul Walsh, wanted a relatively unknown actor who was capable of bringing life to the gritty, unrefined world of the Old Wild West. The actor that would eventually go by the name John Wayne was first noticed by Walsh when he was moving heavy furniture across a soundstage.

Walsh was impressed by the warm and wholesome look on John’s face. He also took notice of his physique, strength, and grace in his movements. He knew that John was his man but there was just one little problem. At the time, this budding young actor was named Marion Morrison, and having a macho Western male Lead named Marion simply wasn’t going to fly.

So Walsh and the head of the studio, Winfield Sheehan, had a meeting where they came up with the name ‘John Wayne’ in part because Sheehan idolized the American Revolution General Anthony Wayne and because the name had a suitable masculine ring to it.

The Marx Brothers Earned Their Nicknames At A Card Game In 1914

The Marx Brothers are so inseparably associated with their stage names that very few people actually know what their real names actually are. In case you were wondering, Groucho was Julius, Chico was Leonard, Harpo was Arthur, Gummo was Milton and Zeppo was Herbert. There was also a sixth brother, the firstborn named Manfred, but he passed away when he was still an infant. 

Apparently, their famed aliases were given to them at one of their good friend’s card games. Groucho claimed in his memoir that the brothers received their nicknames on May 15, 1914, although that date has been contested. The young vaudevillian brothers were evidently playing a game of poker backstage in Galesburg, Illinois after giving a performance. Art Fisher, one of their fellow vaudevillian friends, had a fifth seat and dealt a new hand while dishing out nicknames as he went around the table. 

Arthur earned his nickname of Harpo because he was a self-taught harpist. Leonard was a lover of the ladies so he was bestowed with the nickname Chico. Milton was especially fond of galoshes or gumshoes as they were sometimes called, so that earned him the name Gummo. Julius was given the name Groucho probably because of his short temper. 

Herbert on the other hand likely already had his nickname, Zeppo, since around 1900. 

The First Hollywood Spoof Of Hitler Was A Three Stooges Film 

Tinseltown’s relationship with Nazi Germany before Pearl Harbor was a particularly challenging one. Film producers, especially Jewish ones, had more than enough reason to hate the Nazis, but America had not yet declared war with them and it wasn’t particularly good for business to poke fun at the government of a huge foreign market. You didn’t want to alienate your audience, so with few exceptions, the film industry did its best to tread lightly in the early 30s when it came to lampooning the German fascists. 

Charlie Chaplin famously spoofed Hitler in The Great Dictator which hit theaters in October 1940. The Three Stooges, however, beat Chaplin to the punch nine months earlier when they released their own Third Reich Parody in January of that year.

The 1940 film You Nazty Spy depicted the comic trio as dense wallpaper hangers who got installed as dictators of the nation of Moronica. The business big-wigs that elevated them to their positions thought that they were dumb enough to be easily controlled and manipulated. 

Moe played the Hitler-esque leader. Curly portrayed Field Marshal Gallstone, a character that seemed to be a hodge-podge of Goering and Mussolini. Larry was Propaganda Minister Pebble who was a pretty clear parody of Goebbels. 

Of course, the Stooges got themselves into all kinds of shenanigans and trouble in the flick. At the end of the film, however, the trio of dictators gets deposed and eaten by lions. A sequel film called I’ll Never Heil Again was released in 1941. 

Hollywood’s First Star Was Canadian And Her Name Remained An Industry Secret

Can you imagine being famous but no one knows your name? The first film star’s name was Florence Lawrence but a shockingly low number of people back in her time knew it. Throughout the industry, she was simply known as The Biograph Girl.

Lawrence was born in Hamilton, Ontario to a vaudevillian family. She eventually moved to the US to start acting in the burgeoning motion picture industry. By 1908 she was regularly working with Biograph Films and appeared in dozens of short films directed by the trailblazing director D.W. Griffith.

Fans referred to her as The Biograph Girl because she wasn’t credited by her real name in those shorts. Back in those days, producers didn’t want actors to gain that sort of fame because they feared that they would inevitably just insist upon being paid more money.

In 1910, Lawrence jumped ship and signed on with Carl Laemmle’s Independent Motion Picture Company. Laemmle celebrated his newly acquired star by organizing a huge publicity campaign that included finally giving Lawrence the credit she was owed using her real name.

And just like that, the modern film star was born, but Lawrence didn’t end up becoming quite as rich as some of her successors like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. By the 1930s, she was forced to rely upon bit parts offered to her out of a sense of charity by Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer. In 1938, Lawrence likely felt like she had run out of options and ended up taking her own life. 

If you take just one thing away with you after watching this video, it just might be that Hollywood is a vastly different place than it used to be. The film industry has evolved immensely since the days of silent films and the first talkies. In a lot of ways, the Hollywood of yesteryear is almost unrecognizable. 

Anyway, what did you think about the stories featured in this video? Which one stands out the most to you? Let us know in the comments section below.

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As always, thanks for watching!. We’ll see you next time when we present to you another facts-packed video. 

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