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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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

Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images
Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

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.

Cary Grant’s Furry Friend Offered Moral Support

Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images
Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

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.

The Future Princess Of Monaco Needed A Rest

Photo by Gene Lester/Getty Images
Photo by Gene Lester/Getty Images

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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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

Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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.

Ann Blyth Should Have Been More Famous

Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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.”

Ruby Dee Starred In Jackie Robinson’s Movie

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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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

Photo by Weegee (Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images
Photo by Weegee (Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

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.

Marlene Dietrich Accompanied Mike Todd To Oklahoma

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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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.

Jack Carson Probably Felt Honored To Work With Ginger Rogers

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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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

Photo by Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo by Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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

Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images
Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images

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

Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images
Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

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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Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

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.

Bette Davis Wearing Fur in the Desert

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Gene Lester/Getty Images
Gene Lester/Getty Images

Bette Davis was one of the most iconic actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Here she’s shown between takes, sitting in Director William Keighley’s chair on the set of The Bride Came C.O.D.

The film was shot in Death Valley, so you can imagine just how hot it is sitting in the direct sunlight waiting for the next take. While she’d probably rather be in a bathing suit, Davis is dressed in a fur coat for the next scene, kicking around sand while smoking a cigarette.

Joan Crawford on the Set of Chained

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Tann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Tann/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo taken on June 12, 1934 shows actress Joan Crawford on the set of director Clarence Brown’s drama, Chained. This was the fifth of eight collaborations between Clark Cable and Brown, seen in the background here.

This was the first film that Crawford worked with cinematographer George J. Folsey, who had discovered a lighting scheme that emphasized her best features. Folsey found that using soft light best highlighted Crawford’s eyes and cheekbones. Crawford was elated with the result, and requested Folsey’s lighting on every film after.

Gene Tierney and Walter Lang on the Set of On The Riviera

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Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Leading actress Gene Tierney was admired for her incredible beauty and she had the talent to back it up. Her top films include Leave Her to Heaven, Heaven Can Wait, The Razor’s Edge, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Here Tierney is pictured on the set of the musical comedy film On The Riviera in 1951, receiving direction from Director Walter Lang. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Music and Best Art Direction.

Actress Jean Harlow on the Set of Red-Headed Woman in 1932

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Actress Jean Harlow stood out with her platinum blonde hair and stunning figure. She caught the eye of Howard Hughes, who signed her on for her first major appearance in the film Hell’s Angels in 1930. By the late 1930s, Harlow was one of the biggest film stars in the world.

Here she’s pictured on the set of the comedy Red-Headed Woman, for which she received a pay of $1,250 a week. It’s one of the few films that Harlow appeared without her signature platinum blonde hair, instead wearing a red wig.

Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe Didn’t Get Along

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Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

By 1957, Marilyn Monroe was finally earning more respect in the entertainment industry as an actress. However, director and actor Sir Laurence Olivier didn’t show the icon much respect on the set of The Sleeping Prince. Here he is, critiquing Monroe’s performance.

He was frustrated by the fact that her acting coach, Paula Strasberg was always on the film set and she was irritated by Olivier’s comments such as, “All you have to do is be sexy.”

An All-Star Cast for Mister Roberts

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Slim Aarons/Getty Images
Slim Aarons/Getty Images

Initially, Henry Fonda wasn’t the first choice to star in Mister Rogers. The producers believed that he had taken too much time off (eight years) for movie-goers to be interested, but they were wrong.

Directed by John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy, and Joshua Logan, the 1955 film had an all-star cast that also included James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon. On the set in Hawaii, Jack Lemmon is behind the camera while Slim Aarons takes a picture of him as Fonda looks on.

Actors Do a Script Reading for Cafe Metropole

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Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Actress Loretta Young had an incredible list of film credits during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Here she is on the set of Cafe Metropole in 1937, doing a script read-through with actors Tyrone Power, Edward H Griffing, Adolphe Menjou, and Charles Winninger.

The romantic comedy didn’t receive glowing reviews, and it certainly wasn’t Young’s most memorable performance. One critic commented, “The Rivoli [movie theater] has given us much worse, and much better.”

Actors Joke Around at a Hollywood Studio

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FPG/Getty Images
FPG/Getty Images

This photo was snapped on August 26, 1932, at a Hollywood studio at Mary Pickford’s bungalow. Pickford, along with actors Al Jolson, Douglas Fairbanks, Eddie Cantor, and Ronald Coleman, and film producer Samuel Goldwyn joke around with an over-sized telephone.

You can see two of the men wearing the two-tone black and white leather shoes that were popular during the era with everyone looking polished and happy. What a time to be alive in Hollywood!

Orson Welles, Happy as a Clam on the Set of Citizen Kane

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RKO Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images
RKO Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Many men would be envious of the predicament Orson Welles is in, in this photo taken on the set of Citizen Kane. It was 1940 and Welles was surrounded by beautiful women while flipping through the script.

He seems to have the full attention of all eleven women who are swooning over Welles, who was the producer, co-screenwriter, director, and star of the film. Welles’ first feature film, Citizen Kane would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award in nine different categories and is considered by many to be the greatest film ever made.

The Cast of the Thin Man, 1934

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John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

The Thin Man was a detective novel by Dashiell Hammett that was turned into a six-part film series, beginning in 1934. Here, the cast socializes between takes on the set in New York City. Actress Maureen O’Sullivan, on the left, is the only one smiling as William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Ronald Colman all give the photographer a smirk or a stern look.

The film was a success, proving to MGM executives that Powell wasn’t “too old and strait-laced” to play Nick Charles, and Loy wasn’t typecast in exotic femme fatale roles.

On the Set of The Sunset Derby

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo was taken on the set of The Sunset Derby in 1927. Take a look at the car, motorcycle, and wardrobe of this fine cast. This was a silent drama film directed by Albert S. Rogell, who is pictured standing next to the camera.

The film was released on June 5, 1927 with a running time of “six reels”. The film starred Ralph Lewis and Mary Astor, who began acting as a teenager and was just 21-years-old while filming The Sunset Derby.

Bogart and Jenkins Stopped for Speeding at the Studio

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Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

Boys just want to have fun… While waiting to be called back to the set, actors Humphrey Bogart and Allen Jenkins decided to take some scooters out for a joy ride around the Warner Bros. Studio lot in 1938.

Of course they were speeding, exceeding the 8 miles-per-hour limit on the studio grounds. They were subsequently stopped by a guard and told to slow down. Neither of the men look very impressed by the guard’s orders.

June Allyson and Humphrey Bogart on the Set of Battle Circus

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Frank Worth, Courtesy of Capital Art/Getty Images
Frank Worth, Courtesy of Capital Art/Getty Images

Look at the beautiful customized chair created for actress June Allyson. Here she’s pictured on the set of Battle Circus with her costar Humphrey Bogart in 1953. Directed by Richard Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay, the film is set in Korea during the Korean War.

Bogart plays the part of a surgeon, pictured in his scrubs, while Allyson plays the newly-arrived nurse at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Originally, the film was to be named MASH 66 but MGM studio rejected the title because they didn’t think people would understand that it referred to a military hospital.

Jane Russell on the Set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

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Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Jane Russell was one of the most memorable sex symbols of the 1940s and 1950s. She was another actress who got her start in a Howard Hughes’ film, as The Outlaw set her career into motion in 1943.

This photo was taken on the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which she played a starring role alongside Marilyn Monroe. Russell was noted for being a down-to-earth actress with a sharp wit. Combined with her timeless beauty, Russell was on the minds of many men.

Veronica Lake Gets Tied Up for This Gun For Hire

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John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Veronica Lake was most well-known for her femme fatale roles during the 1940s. She was also known for her trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle. This caused problems in factories as women workers tried to replicate the style, which caused accidents with their hair draped over one eye. At the government’s request, Lake changed her hairstyle.

This photo shows Director Frank Tuttle talking to Lake as a crew member ties her up for the next scene of This Gun For Hire in 1942.

French Dancer and Actress Leslie Caron Jokes Around

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Mondadori via Getty Images
Mondadori via Getty Images

French actress and dancer Leslie Caron appeared in 45 films between 1951 and 2003. She was one of the few starlets who have danced with icons Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Rudolf Nureyev.

Here she’s pictured joking around behind the scenes in 1965, locking up a man who might have been a love interest of hers at the time, as her second divorce, from Peter Hall, was being finalized.

Marlon Brando Chats With His Stand-in

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Columbia Pictures/Getty Images
Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

This photo captures actor Marlon Brando on the set of On The Waterfront in 1954. He’s pictured with Carl Fiore, who acted as his stand-in. Stand-ins are important in the film-making process, as they act as a substitute for the actor as the crew makes sure the lighting and camera set-up is ready to go before calling out the stars.

The film was set in Hoboken, New Jersey, and received twelve Academy Award nominations, winning eight. It was also deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.

Cary Grant and Sophia Loren film Houseboat

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Richard C. Miller/Getty Images
Richard C. Miller/Getty Images

This photo was taken in 1958, on the set of Houseboat, starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. Here, they shoot a scene at a Hollywood studio– ah, the magic of Hollywood. Director Melville Shavelson holds the boat steady while Loren looks uneasy as she finds a seat.

Grant’s wife, Betsy Drake, wrote the original script and was set to star alongside her husband. However, Grant began a love affair with Loren during The Pride and the Passion, and arranged to have her take his wife’s place in the film instead. Ouch.

James Dean Takes a Smoke Break During Giant

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Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

This photo was taken in October of 1955 in Marfa, Texas, on the set of Giant. Here, James Dean is pictured taking a smoke break at his trailer between scenes. The epic Western drama was based on a screenplay and starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and Dean.

It was one of the last three films that Dean would shoot before his untimely death, and his accident took place before the film was released. Nick Adams stepped in to do Dean’s voice dubbing for the film in post-production.

John Wayne Takes a (Much Needed) Smoke Break

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Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images
Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images

This photo taken in 1974 shows John Wayne on the set of Circus World. Directed by Henry Hataway, the film was shot in Madrid, Spain and had several problems throughout filming. Actress Rita Hayworth appeared to be suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and while Wayne had originally looked forward to working with her, he was frustrated with Hayworth’s drunkenness, abusive behavior, and constantly forgetting her lines.

Both David Niven and Rod Taylor dropped from the film, as well as Frank Capra, who was originally scheduled to direct it. Despite all the commotion, the film won the Golden Globe for Best Song while Hayworth was nominated for Best Actress.