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21: Unfortunate Hollywood - Superman was a Murderer

Cody and Sam discuss some of the more unfortunate moments in Hollywood history (although there are many). The guys talk about everything including poltergeists, Jesus, and Superman (same thing, right?). /// The show will be having a break until 21 September for Cody to spend time with his new daughter.

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Episode Information

Hollywood has had its fair share of unfortunate history. We could literally discuss almost any part of Hollywood and it would likely fit with the Unfortunate History brand. Some might even argue that Hollywood’s just a terrible place that’s destroyed the lives of many people. Either way, we decided to narrow down this episode to talk about some particularly interesting unfortunate moments in Hollywood history.

Creepy Stuff

A good place to start is with the more paranormal side of Hollywood history. A lot of our listeners will likely have heard about some odd stories involving different films. Some are relatively well-known, some not so much. We’ll try to cover a bit of both.

Firstly, let’s start with the original Poltergeist Trilogy. If you’re unfamiliar with the Poltergeist films, here’s a bit of a synopsis: The original trilogy centers around the Freeling family, who are stalked and terrorized by a group of ghosts led by a demon known as the Beast. All of the ghosts are attracted to the youngest daughter, Carol Anne. Through all sorts of crazy hijinks the family is really just terrified for a while until the ghosts are batted away by a smooth talking medium.

The whole film seems like a breeding ground for paranormal activity, but it wasn’t necessarily paranormal activity as much as it was incredibly unfortunate deaths. Which, I suppose, may or may not have been paranormal in nature.

During the six years between the release of the three films, one of the actresses playing a daughter in the family (Dominique Dunne) was strangled to death by her boyfriend and the actor who played a priest in the second film died unexpectedly of stomach cancer. Another actor in the second film died suddenly of postoperative complications following a kidney operation. Finally, and most unfortunate of all, Heather O’Rourke, who had played the ghost magnet Carol Anne, died from septic shock due to a misdiagnosed bowel blockage.

All of these deaths may have been somewhat understandable on their own, but again, they all occurred within the six years it took to release all of the films. Absolutely odd timing, to say the least. Also, some of the circumstances around their deaths are also quite odd.

It is claimed that this particular “curse” was due to Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper using real cadavers during the filming. Whether it’s coincidence or paranormal revenge, it’s interesting.

 

Another film centered around the paranormal that has a relatively colourful past was the 1975 film, The Omen. This film was based on the birth of the AntiChrist, and coincidentally, it was a film that many claimed the Devil would not allow to be made.

Some of the strange occurrences surrounding the film include the suicide of the lead actor Gregory Peck’s son two months prior to filming. In another moment an animal handler was attacked by the trained Rottweilers on the set. In another pretty unfortunate animal-related moment, a professional tiger handler was killed two weeks after filming when he was pulled headfirst in a lion’s cage and eaten alive.

Further, the main actors were involved in a relatively headon crash the day filming began. Director Richard Donner’s hotel was bombed by the IRA, and, most interesting of all, lead actor Gregory Peck and writer David Seltzer’s planes were both struck by lighting...on two separate occasions.

Finally, one of the most odd and intense moments was the death of Visual Effect Supervisor John Richardson’s assistance on the set of A Bridge Too Far one year later. Apparently, his assistant was killed in a very similar fashion to a photographer in the film, by being decapitated in a car crash. Richardson was in the car during the crash and the first thing he remembered seeing after regaining consciousness was a road sign just ahead that read ‘Ommen – 66.6 KM’, although this is hearsay. 

 

A final film in the paranormal realm which we can’t forget is the Exorcist. Now, I don’t believe we should go into great detail about this film because many people have already done so. The tv channel E! did a two-hour True Hollywood episode on it that I’m sure you could find somewhere online. We’ll discuss a bit of it though. 

As the name may suggest, the Exorcist is centered on a family and their experience with dealing with their daughter being possessed. The family then goes on a journey to have their daughter exorcised by a good ole catholic priest. 

A film with this type of premise is ripe for some unfortunate incidents, and here are a few:

  • Around nine people died during filming;
  • Actress Ellen Burstyn suffered a severe spinal injury during a stunt gone wrong;
  • The sets would literally catch on fire for seemingly no reason;
  • Actress Linda Blair apparently inadvertently correctly predicted a crew member’s death during filming; 
  • And well known piece of shit evangelist Billy Graham stated that he “felt the darkness” surrounding the film and that “There is a power of evil in the film, in the fabric of the film itself.” 

Apparently, initial audience reactions included widespread fainting, vomiting, and a powerful unease while watching the film.

One of the most odd stories occurred during the film’s premiere at the Metropolitan Theatre in Rome. This theatre was near two 16-century churches, each with large crosses. While audience members entered the theatre, an incredibly intense storm started to rage with heavy rain and lightning. Shortly before the start of the film, a loud noise was heard outside the theatre. It was found that one of the crosses, which was 8 feet long and over 400 years old, had been struck by lightning and fell from the church.

Holy Crap

Let’s move away from the demonic side of things and instead go towards the light that is the lord almighty Jesus Christ. There haven’t actually been that many successful depictions of Jesus on the big screen. Although, I may argue that the Life of Brian is a close one even if it only shows Jesus for a moment. However, Jesus finally got his big break when Mel Gibson finally stepped in with the Passion of the Christ.

If you’ve not seen the Passion of the Christ (I haven’t), it’s a film depicting the life and (torturous) death of Jesus Christ. It was a huge success in the box office grossing just over $620 million on a $30 million budget. Arguably much more successful than any other strictly religious film. However, it seems that even Jesus can take some issue with his portrayal in film.

For one thing, the film director Mel Gibson’s descended into absolute madness following the film. Which led to problems with alcoholism, public meltdowns, and a relatively disastrous breakup with his longterm girlfriend. But the really unfortunate things were saved for Jim Caveziel, the actor who portrayed Jesus.

Some of the things Caveziel dealt with during filming included hypothermia, lung infections, pneumonia, an accidental whipping, a dislocated shoulder, and 8-hour makeup routines that left him with severe headaches and skin infections. But the most ridiculous thing happened when he was struck by lightning while filming the Sermon on the Mount. I’m going to quote Caveziel describing the incident in an interview I found while researching this episode, because I found it to be absolutely hilarious. It’s important to remember that Mel Gibson is obviously the director and is obviously behind the camera at this point.

When asked if he was struck by lightning, Caveziel says:

“I was lit up like a Christmas tree! I was doing the Sermon on the Mount. I knew it was going to hit me about four seconds before it happened. I thought, "I'm going to get hit." And when it happened, I saw the extras grab the ground.

What they saw was fire coming out the right and left side of my head. Illumination around the whole body. And during the shot they said, "Do you have it on camera?" What happened was Mel had said, "Action" and the cameras were panning to me and here is where this light just flashed. And by the time the cameras got to me, I hear Mel screaming out, "What the heck happened to his hair?"”

Following the film, Caviezel also had no real acting career, just like Mel Gibson afterwards. However, apparently the dynamic duo is hoping to make a comeback with Passion of the Christ 2: The Resurrection, where the hero comes back! So maybe Jim Caviezel and Mel Gibson can use this chance to resurrect their careers as well. I believe this may only work if they include a ton of guns and fight scenes. That’s the only true way to honour the lord.

James DAY-UM Dean

Now we’ll discuss another pretty well-known unfortunate moment in Hollywood history: the death of James Dean. Most will likely know James Dean as the 1950s heart-throb that starred in Rebel Without a Cause. Some younger listeners may not know that he only starred in three films prior to his untimely death. Some may wonder why only three films would make someone such an icon, but I think it was a culmination of: 1) the fact that James Dean was a perfect representation of 1950s teenage angst, 2) he was a damn sexy man, and 3) he was actually a pretty damn good actor.

Dean’s death was caused by a head-on collision while he was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder, which he also drove during Rebel Without a Cause. The odd portion of history actually comes after his death when the car is passed on. Apparently, the man salvaging the wreck following the accident had his leg inexplicably crushed by the car. Following this, the wreckage of the car was recycled by two private buyers and the recycled parts were included in two other cars. Both of these cars would go on to be involved in head-on collisions which killed the drivers. 

Super, Man That Sucks

For our final bit of unfortunate Hollywood, I was to discuss something that I was not actually aware of prior to researching this topic: the issues and odd occurrences surrounding Superman. It would seem that Superman was cursed from the very beginning.

Right from the moment of his creation, creators of the character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster began a legal battle with DC Comics over the small amount of money they received for the creation of the icon. Although, this is really just unfortunate, because that’s how it works most of the time with intellectual property. If you’re employed to create something, or you create something for the business during the course of your employment, nine times out of ten your employer will own this intellectual property. 

The problems surrounding Superman obviously didn’t stop there. The Fleischer Brothers, who were responsible for some of the most iconic animation figures such as Popeye and Betty boop, were apparently poor and failing after they introduced Superman into their animation.

More problems even persisted with the actors who portrayed Superman. Actor Kirk Alyn portrayed Superman in the 40s, but never found work afterwards. George Reeves, who was first to actually be recognised nationally as Superman, was found dead in his hotel room from an alleged suicide. Although there are many rumours claiming Reeves’ death to be a murder.

Superman may have even went on to murder JFK. John F. Kennedy signed a deal with DC for Superman to advertise the President’s fitness routine, with both Superman and John F Kennedy appearing together in the comic. This occurred in 1963, the same year of JFK’s assassination.

The list doesn’t stop there for the Man of Steel. Here’s some of the most notable downfalls he’s caused:

  • Christopher Reeve, one of the most famous of all the Superman actors, suffered an accident that left him permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
  • Margot Kidder, the actress who portrayed Lois Lane alongside Christopher Reeve’s Superman, suffered a severe mental breakdown and was found wandering for days in a state of delusional paranoia.
  • Marlon Brando, who played Superman’s biological father in the Richard Donner films, suffered a complete and total breakdown of his career and personal life. 
  • And finally, possibly most unfortunate, Lee Quigley who portrayed Superman as a baby died at the age of 14 from inhaling solvents. 

I had never heard about these unfortunate moments caused by Superman. I honestly worry for Henry Cavill, because he is a treasure and we must protect him while he films season 2 of The Witcher.

Hollywood seems to be filled to the brim with death and destruction, but there’s no doubt that it’s still the place to be for a career in film. However, I’m not sure I’d want a career in film if the end result has a high probability of a violent death, whether it’s due to a poltergeist, Jesus, or the Son of Krypton. I suppose we can say that Hollywood chews up and spits out many more than it places on a pedestal, effectively paving its roads with the dead bodies of hopeful stars, and let’s just agree that that’s truly unfortunate. 

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