Behind The Scenes Of The Golden Age: Life In 1950s Hollywood

Film’s transition from silent film to talkies thrust cinema into the Hollywood’s Golden Age. The world of film was gifted with unforgettable classics and iconic stars. Back then, star’s lives outside of their films weren’t closely followed like they are today but these photos will show you otherwise. Take a look at these behind the scenes glimpses at what iconic actors and actresses did when the cameras weren’t rolling!

Then-Unknown Julie Andrews Had Help From Bing Crosby

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Behind the scenes of 1955’s High Tor, Bing Crosby ran lines with Julie Andrews, who was then an up and coming actress. High Tor was originally written as a play by Maxwell Anderson in 1936. Ten years later, Anderson decided to adapt High Tor into a television musical. High Tor is based on real-life events and legends surrounding the Lower Hudson River.

High Tor was Julie Andrews’ American television debut. She landed the role after Bing Crosby witnessed her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend. High Tor is considered one of the first made-for-television movies since Crosby was uncomfortable with doing a live performance on television.

Elvis Presley Didn’t Forget The Little People

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Even with his enormous celebrity status, Elvis Presley was never too busy to take time to meet with fans who visited him on set. Here he is, posed with a fan. This is no ordinary fan, though! He’s 14-year-old Tommy Rettig, aka Jeff Miller from Lassie! In 1956 when this photo was taken, Presley signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures.

At the time, many older Americans were outraged at the effect Presley had on the youth. Not only were the adults disapproving of Presley’s style of music, they were enraged by his hip-swinging stage presence. During an appearance on the Milton Berle Show, Presley began gyrating his body when he was told to leave his guitar backstage for a performance.

James Dean And Natalie Wood Welcome Perry Lopez

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Here Natalie Wood has a laugh with actors James Dean and Perry Lopez on the set of Rebel Without a Cause. In 1955, Lopez was an up and coming actor who had just signed with Warner Bros. Studios, who also produced Rebel Without a Cause.

James Dean and Natalie Wood starred in Rebel Without a Cause, directed by Nicholas Ray. Dean plays the forlorn teen Jim Stark, who has a hard time coping with his life at home. Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood were both nominated for Academy Awards for their supporting roles, while director Nicholas Ray was nominated for Best Writing.

The Future Princess Of Monaco Needed A Rest

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Grace Kelly worked so many long hours, that sometimes she had to take a nap on set! In 1953, Kelly starred alongside Clark Gable and Ava Gardner in Mogambo, directed by John Ford. Kelly plays Linda Nordley, who arrives in Africa with her husband to film gorillas. She won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the role and was also nominated for an Academy Award.

Mogambo was a remake of Victor Fleming’s 1932 film Red Dust, which also starred Gable. Both films were adapted from a 1928 play written by Wilson Collison. Keep reading to see Grace Kelly having too much fun on the studio lot!

Jerry Lewis Put His Director In A Sticky Situation

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Comedic actor Jerry Lewis must have gotten into all kinds of antics on set, including taping director Norman Taurog to his chair. This photo was taken in 1956 when Taurog directed Lewis in Pardners. The western musical comedy also featured Dean Martin. Since 1946, Lewis and Martin were a popular comedy duo who made several films together.

Norman Taurog also worked with Jerry Lewis for 1959’s Don’t Give Up the Ship and 1960’s Visit to a Small Planet. While filming Pardners, Lewis allegedly filmed a 16 mm documentary behind the scenes.

Life Was Easygoing For Hollywood Stars

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Actors Jane Russell and Robert Ryan enjoyed their time off from the studio by splashing around in the pools of their Hollywood homes. In 1955, Russell and Ryan starred alongside Clark Gable in The Tall Men, directed by Raoul Walsh. Produced by 20th Century Fox, The Tall Men was shot in Sombrerete, Mexico at Sierra de Órganos National Park.

It can’t be said that anything went on between Russell and Ryan. Ryan was married to wife Jessica Cadwalader throughout his career. Around the time this photo was taken, Russell was married to her high school sweetheart, Bob Waterfield.

These Rear Window Stars Had To Take A Break From Being Serious

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Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart had some downtime in between filming for Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. On at least one occasion, they let off some steam at the Paramount Studios lot by riding bikes and playing with Rosemary Clooney’s Great Dane puppy.

In this 1954 mystery thriller, Stewart plays L.B. Jeffries, a photographer who begins spying on his neighbors when he is bound to a wheelchair. Rear Window was nominated for four Academy Awards. It is widely considered one of Hitchcock’s greatest films.

This isn’t the only time a furry friend was seen on set! You’ll think Cary Grant’s pal is too adorable!

Ann Blyth Should Have Been More Famous

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Ann Blyth must have been having a bit of fun on a studio lot in this photo from 1955. Around that time, Blyth was cast in lead roles for the films The King’s Thief and Kismet.

Blyth was signed to Universal Pictures but was loaned to Warner Bros. to play Veda Pierce in the 1945 film Mildred Pierce. Blyth starred alongside Joan Crawford, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the titular role. Blyth was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Despite her success in the role, a broken back prevented her from taking on more movies right away.

Even The Most Private Scenarios Weren’t That Private

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The intimate scenes in Autumn Leaves might have been shocking to audiences back then, but here you’ll see that filming the scene wasn’t very private at all. Director Robert Aldrich hovered over Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson while filming their bed scenes. Crawford plays Milly Hanson in the 1956 drama about an older woman who falls in love with a younger man who is haunted by past demons.

Crawford believed that Autumn Leaves was a fantastic movie that got overshadowed by her other work. She once said, “The cast was perfect, the script was good, and I think Bob [Aldrich] handled everything well.”

Cary Grant’s Furry Friend Offered Moral Support

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Cary Grant had a furry friend to run lines with on the set of the 1953 film Dream Wife. Grant plays Clemson Reade, a businessman who leaves his hardworking fiancée for someone who fits his idea of the perfect wife and will take care of him and their future kids.

During Hollywood’s Golden Age, Grant acted in at least 75 films. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor only two times throughout his career — for 1941’s Penny Serenade and 1944’s None but the Lonely Heart.

With animals in the studio, things can get a little hairy behind the camera, as you’ll soon see…

Ruby Dee Starred In Jackie Robinson’s Movie

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Legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson proved he could also act in The Jackie Robinson Story. He starred as himself alongside Ruby Dee, who played his wife Rae. The biopic was directed by Alfred E. Green and produced by Eagle-Lion Films. The New York Times wrote that Robinson “displays a calm assurance and composure that might be envied by many a Hollywood star.”

Robinson had already broken boundaries when he became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. By the time the film was made in 1950, the second baseman was the highest paid Dodger up to that point.

No Monkey Business Backstage

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There were a number of chimpanzees employed as animal actors throughout Hollywood’s Golden Age. Most of the chimps played Cheeta, the animal sidekick in numerous Hollywood productions of Tarzan films and television shows.

Zippy was one such chimp to play Cheeta in 1951. Zippy was owned by animal trainer Ralph Quinlan. His most memorable portrayal of Cheeta was in Gordon Scott’s Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle. At least 18 male and female chimpanzees were employed to play Cheeta over the years. In each production, more than one chimp took turns playing the role, depending on what talents the scene called for.

Apparently, chimps need hair and makeup too! You’ll never guess who volunteered to do it…

Marlene Dietrich Accompanied Mike Todd To Oklahoma

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Actress Marlene Dietrich attended the Hollywood premiere of Oklahoma on the arm of producer Mike Todd in 1955. At this point, the esteemed German actress had already established a lengthy stage and film career. At the onset of the ’50s, Dietrich primarily performed cabaret shows in major cities around the world.

Mike Todd developed Todd-AO with the American Optical Company. Todd-AO is a widescreen, 70 mm film format that was first used commercially in the 1955 film adaptation of Oklahoma. The following year, Todd produced his most memorable film, Michael Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days.

Just Monkeying Around Behind The Scenes

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Actor Johnny Weissmuller sometimes served as the personal makeup artist for Neal, the chimpanzee named Tamba in the 1950’s television series Jungle Jim. Fresh off his popularity from the Tarzan films, Weissmuller went on to star in Jungle Jim, as the titular character who is an explorer in Africa.

Jungle Jim was based on a comic strip of the same name created by Alex Raymond and Don Moore. The television show also starred Martin Huston as Jungle Jim’s son Skipper, as well as actors Dean Fredericks and Paul Cavanagh.

Come to find out, hair and makeup is one of the most integral parts of making a movie…

Jack Carson Probably Felt Honored To Work With Ginger Rogers

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Actor Jack Carson was just horsing around with Ginger Rogers when he pretended to feed her some hay in her stall on set. In 1951, Carson and Rogers co-starred together in The Groom Wore Spurs. Rogers plays lawyer A.J. Furnival, who bails out “tough guy” Ben Castle, played by Carson. After marrying the “tough guy,” Furnival quickly discovers that it was all just an act.

By the ’50s, Ginger Rogers was already established as one of the most popular actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Carson was one of four alternating hosts on NBC’s Four Star Revue.

There’s A Lot More People Behind The Camera Than You Think

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This image shows actress Patrice Wymore filming a scene as Johanna Carter in Rocky Mountain. The film starred Errol Flynn and was directed by William Keighley. Wymore was a replacement for the more popular Lauren Bacall, who turned down the part. Because Bacall was assigned to the role under her contract, Warner Bros. studios suspended her but she would end up terminating the contract.

Westerns filmed in the 1950’s were big productions, especially when they were filmed on location. In scenes where there are just two people, there are at least a dozen on the other side of the camera.

Getting Made Up Was Half Of Their Day

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Actors George Sanders and Märta Torén spent a lot of time in the makeup chair behind the scenes of the film Assignment – Paris! in 1952. Taking place during the Cold War, the film noir follows a news reporter to Budapest, where he gets framed for espionage.

Assignment – Paris! was filmed on location in Europe. These actors can attest to long days on set, where only a fraction of that time was actually spent acting. Time while not filming is spent setting up scenes and putting the actors through makeup and wardrobe like you see in this picture.

Director George Stevens Was Into His Shots

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On the set of A Place in the Sun, director George Stevens determined the best angles for actors Montgomery Clift and Raymond Burr. Produced by Paramount Pictures, A Place in the Sun was based on Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.

The 1951 drama stars Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, a working-class man who gets involved with two women from different sides of the track, played by Shelley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor. A Place in the Sun earned six Academy Awards, including Best Director for George Stevens.

Smoking On Set Was Pretty Normal

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In this photo, Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh relaxed behind the scenes of A Streetcar Named Desire with cigarettes. The actors starred in the 1951 film alongside Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. Leigh plays Blanche DuBois, who comes to New Orleans to visit her sister and brother-in-law, played by Hunter and Brando.

Elia Kazan directed the film, which was adapted from the 1947 play of the same name by Tenessee Williams. In 1948, Williams won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire, while Leigh, Hunter, and Malden all won three of four Academy Awards given to the film.

You Can See The Love In Eddie Fisher’s And Debbie Reynold’s Eyes

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Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds apparently couldn’t keep their eyes off each other while rehearsing for a show on CBS. The night before this photo was published in 1954, Fisher and Reynold had announced their engagement.

The couple married in 1955, but the marriage wouldn’t make it out of the decade. Fisher caused an uproar when he was outed for a relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. The romance began when Fisher began consoling Taylor over the death of her third husband, Mike Todd. Reynolds was publicly humiliated by the ordeal and left to care for their two kids when Fisher married Taylor.