This is rumour control. These are the facts.
You can see a dead munchkin in The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
One of the oldest movie myths of them all is responsible for countless blogs, hundreds of YouTube videos, one Irvine Welsh play and more misuse of a DVD pause button than Basic Instinct (1992). Stop the film at just the right time and you can see the apparent shadow of a depressed dwarf swinging from a tree above the Yellow Brick Road. The only problem is, the scene was filmed way before the munchkins were even hired. Also, it is quite clearly a pelican. Several birds were used on set, and they were not always well contained.
There is a ghost visible in Three Men And A Baby (1987)
No one noticed the ghostly figure on the cinematic release, but when the film was released on home video, viewers spotted a blurry figure standing by the window of the men and baby's house and obviously assumed he was the ghost of a small boy who killed himself with a shotgun. But no, the figure is in fact a promotional cardboard standee of Ted Danson's actor character. It was part of a storyline about a dog food commercial he was filming that was later (mostly) cut from the film.
A stunt man died during the chariot race in Ben Hur (1959)
This one is not so easy to debunk. While it is true that no stunt men were harmed during Charlton Heston's famous chariot race, most of the rumours seem to stem from the original Ben Hur movie made in 1925 – when quite a lot of stunt men were harmed. It was a nightmare shoot from start to finish – horses were shot, real fights broke out, people were set on fire and one rider was crushed to death during the hellishly violent chariot race scene.
People who saw the first moving picture of a train ran out of the theatre screaming
Remember your reaction the first time you saw a 3D movie? Or an IMAX film? The exact same thing happened in Paris in 1895 when audiences watched the first grainy, shaky footage of L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat. The short silent documentary, directed and produced by cinematic pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière, shows a train moving directly towards the camera. But bad history and urban legend have since turned the spectators perfectly normal reactions into shouting, screaming and running for the hills.
The gunshot that killed Brandon Lee is in The Crow (1994)
Possibly the most unbelievable of all movie myths, yet if you were a goth type back in the 1990s it was a stone cold fact that The Crow contained the actual moment when Brandon Lee was killed by a misfiring prop gun. The real footage was turned over to the police for investigation – who concluded that it was in fact a horrible accident, and not an elaborate murder plot by the Chinese mafia, as some conspiracy theorists still believe.
Walt Disney's head is cryogenically frozen under Disneyland
Although Walt Disney had expressed an interest in cryogenic freezing, he clearly forgot to tell his family, who assumed that he would rather be cremated and left in an urn in the middle of an LA cemetery.
The rain in Singin' In The Rain (1952) was actually milk
Water never shows up too well on camera, so it stands to reason that a few tricks were used for the most famous rain scene in movie history. Giant arc lamps were brought in to backlight the sprinklers, and poor old Gene Kelly spent so long perfecting the same puddle splash that he ended up singin' with a 103°F fever. Milk, though, was never added to the water to make it more visible. Director Stanley Donen has the last word: "There have been a lot of stories about how we put milk in the water so you could see the rain. It's not true."
A Japanese woman died looking for the Fargo (1996) money
Fargo is not a true story. It is an easy mistake to make, particularly as the opening line literally reads, "This is a true story". So when Takako Konishi lost her job in Tokyo, booked a holiday to Minnesota – where she had previously travelled with an ex-lover – downed two bottles of champagne and decided to kill herself in a snowdrift, the press thought that her death was just too Coenesque not to be related to the film, even though she left a suicide note in her hotel. Lies were told, myths were believed and families were devastated. Her story was later adapted into the indie film Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014).
The MGM lion killed a crowd of people after shooting the ident
It is a great story. Alfred Hitchcock was filming a ferocious lion for the famous MGM logo when two burglars broke onto the movie set. The animal looked at the camera, roared with rage, and jumped out of frame to rip the crooks to shreds. The truth, however, is less great. Hitchcock had nothing to do with filing the big cat, a total of seven tame lions have been used for the ident over the years and none of them have ever ripped anything to shreds. In fact Slats, the first Leo the Lion (1924-1928), didn't even bother roaring.
But there is one piece of trivia surrounding the indent that is true. Since 1957, the MGM lion footage has used a lion actually named Leo. But Leo has a dirty little secret. In the 1980s, sound designer Mike Mangini collected a series of cat roars to add to the scary aural ambiance of his latest movie project, Poltergeist (1982), and he offered the tracks to MGM so Leo could have a new, higher fidelity roar. He has since adopted that new roar for digital and 7.1 surround sound. But Leo has been lip-synching. The roar is "actually that of a tiger," says Mangini. "Lions don't make that kind of ferocious noise, and the logo needed to be ferocious and majestic." So you are actually hearing a tiger roar every time you settle in to enjoy a new film from MGM.