We’ve seen their faces on the big screen and on the red carpet but have you seen your favorite vintage icons behind the scenes? It is a little glimpse into the real-life world of Hollywood, not just the glitter and glam. From camera crews to quick meals and cigarette breaks in between scenes, we see what life on set is really like.
These photos were actually taken for reference to each day’s makeup and costumes. But for us, it’s just a collection of images that show us the day-to-day life of vintage Hollywood. Child star of the 60s, Angela Cartwright explains that photos behind the scenes are “far more revealing than the posed publicity photos used in magazines.” So let’s jump right in!
Judy Garland on the Set of The Wizard of Oz, 1939
In recent years, it has become public knowledge that things weren’t great behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz. Little Judy Garland was only 16 years old when she starred in the hit movie. So she was really young and was exposed to an industry that she was not equipped to handle. But nonetheless, her performance blew us all away and will go down in history.
On top of that, there were five different directors who shot the movie. This doesn’t make for a very smooth sailing production. Some of the directors were more pleasant to work with than others, and some just had other commitments to get to. But clearly they finished the job, and most people have no idea about the production drama.
Adam West on the Set of Batman, 1966
We love looking behind the scenes of action movies. It is always cool to see how they put the chase and action scenes together. So we can’t go past an original superhero movie. People actually still say that Adam West is the best Batman of all time. And that is a really big call to make. Batman and his sidekick Robin were played by Adam West and Bruce Ward are spotted in their Batboat in a pool with splashing water.
This was actually the first time that the batboat appeared! And after it’s success, it was used in the 1960s Batman TV series. The boat itself was actually made by Glastron Industries Boats. And because the Glastron headquarters were in Austin in Texas, the film premiered in Austin. It was a deal that the two companies had made.
Elizabeth Taylor on the Set of Raintree County, 1957
When Raintree County was released in 1957, it was officially the most expensive film ever made. We can’t imagine what the budget actually was, especially compared to the high budget films that are made today. The filming was not all smooth sailing and there were a few production issues, so maybe that is why the budget was more than usual.
Elizabeth Taylor was the star of the show. So why is she doing her own makeup? Because she just wanted to perfect it herself. She wasn’t completely pleased with the period costumes and even had a panic on the set one day. She ended up hyperventilating and had to be calmed down.
Grace Kelly on the Set of Mogambo, 1953
We are sure that filming a movie is incredibly exhausting. So it is no wonder that Grace Kelly took a nap on the side of the set of the Mogambo. Actually, Grace Kelly and co-star Ava Gardner decided to take a little break during filming. And the two snuck off to Rome for a quick holiday together.
Even though Mogambo was one of Kelly’s first movies, her acting career actually only lasted around five years, so it was the first of few. She gave up acting after she married the Prince of Monaco because Hollywood was considered unbecoming of a princess. Her husband even banned her movies from being shown in Monaco! Reminds us a little of Megan Markle.
Natalie Wood and James Dean on the Set of Rebel Without A Cause, 1955
We can’t go through vintage icons and not include some of the biggest stars like Natalie Wood and James Dean. And especially when James Dean is captured in that unforgettable red jacket. It is a period of time in American pop culture that is highly idolized for its fashion and style, as well as music and culture.
This moment that was caught on camera shows Wood and Dean having a quiet moment with the director, Nicholas Ray, in between filming. But what is Natalie Wood hadn’t been cast for the role? The director didn’t want Wood to play the role because of her innocent reputation as a child star. But after she was involved in a car accident, her new rebel reputation scored her the role. And we’re glad it did!
Vivien Leigh on the Set of Gone with the Wind, 1939
Vivien Leigh is seen taking a smoke break while working on Gone with the Wind. The role Scarlett O’Hara actually won her one of her two Academy Awards for Best Actress. But it turns out, the director really didn’t want her to play Scarlett because he thought she was way too British.
She thought otherwise and flew to L.A. to prove to him that she was right for the role. Director George Cukor wrote to his wife, “She’s the Scarlett dark horse and looks damn good. Not for anyone’s ear but your own: it’s narrowed down to Paulette Goddard, Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett, and Vivien Leigh”. And well, we know how the end of that one went.
Steven Spielberg on the Set of Jaws, 1975
Jaws will always be known as the movie that launched Steven Spielberg’s career. We would never have guessed that there were so many issues with the fake sharks on set. It turns out that there were three mechanical sharks to play the part of the great white. They were all called Bruce by the cast… the name of Spielberg’s lawyer. LOL.
But after the full-sized shark sank the first time it was put in the water, the crew started calling it “Flaws” and “Great White Turd.” So because of all of these issues, Spielberg says he channeled Alfred Hitchcock’s technique of terrorizing the audience with an invisible threat. And it really worked in this case too!
Mia Farrow on the Set of Rosemary’s Baby, 1968
According to Mia Farrow, the director “Roman [Polanski] was so young and so full of ideas and enthusiasm that he was on fire with making this happen the best possible way. His imagination was alight and all his artistic sensibilities were at the fore and it was fun to watch him.” He had pretty unconventional ideas and at one point, filmed Farrow crossing a busy New York street without closing it off so the beeps and screams were all real.
We’re sad to know that during production, the cast and crew weren’t all smiles. Farrow actually created a chart so that she could keep track of the people who were nice to her and who was mean. Polanski then created a chart specifically just for Farrow. We are not sure if it was to mock her, and therefore adding to the people who were mean to her. It doesn’t sound too nice to us!
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on the Set of Towed in a Hole, 1932
Sitting here is Stan Laurel with a blackened eye, and Oliver Hardy. They are taking a break during the filming of their movie Towed in a Hole. The movie was directed by George Marshall. And because it was well before high tech editing and effects, the movie was filmed in November and released in December… yes, of the same year! Today, that is completely impossible.
The Laurel and Hardy duo appeared in 107 films together. And 32 of the movies that they starred in together were actually silent movies. The dynamic duo was clearly lovable and definitely rode the wave of their success till the very end.
Christopher Reeves on the Set of Superman, 1978
We all know that Christopher Reeves will always be the most iconic Superman of all time. He almost didn’t get the role because the director thought he was too skinny. So obviously he worked out a lot and made sure he fit the build. But he worked out so much that during filming they had to reshoot some of his earlier scenes.
And before offering the role to Reeves, the director actually offered the role to Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, and James Caan. To be honest, we just can’t imagine anyone other than Christopher Reeves as our leading man. And clearly the world agreed, the movie actually topped the box office for 13 weeks when it opened.
John Travolta on the Set of Grease, 1978
We all know and love the movie Grease, it’s a classic and always will be. It’s one of those movies that somehow appeals to all generations. But let’s get to the behind-the-scenes facts that we all want to know. John Travolta played Danny Zuko opposite Olivia Newton-John who played Sandy. It is probably not a huge surprise that Travolta was self-centered on the set. He just wanted to make sure he got as much screen time as possible.
But our favorite behind-the-scenes fact is that Travolta was actually star-struck by Newton-John when Grease first started filming. Thank god he managed to pull himself together and find such a strong on-screen connection. We wonder how he dealt with all of his nerves. The Danny and Sandy duo will be loved forever, how could it not be, especially with the amazing iconic costumes!
Marlon Brando on the Set of The Godfather, 1972
So apparently Marlon Brando was known for his bad on-set behavior. And because of this the head of Paramount, Charles Bluhdorn told director Francis Coppola that Brando would never appear in a Paramount film. But Coppola pushed back and was determined to get Brando. So, they settled on a couple of conditions for Brando to be allowed in the movie.
Firstly, he had to do a screen test. Secondly, Brando would have to do the movie for free. Thirdly, he would have to personally put up a bond for potential losses caused by his infamously bad on-set behavior. But when the studio saw his screen test, they loved it and dropped the second and third condition and signed him.
Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart on the Set of Key Largo, 1948
John Houston’s Key Largo is a quintessential part of Film Noir movie history. And it only took 78 days to shoot the entire thing. It must have been more common at the time because it definitely isn’t common in today’s film productions. Almost the whole movie was shot at the Warner Bros. lot, except for a few opening shots that were filmed in Florida.
The film process was so quick and it was mainly to do with the fact that the cast was cooperative, professional and just worked well together. It was like a well-oiled machine from the get-go. Actually, it was the fourth, and final movie, that Bacall and Bogart appeared in together. Lauren Bacall actually said that Key Largo was one of her most positive movie experiences.
John Wayne on the Set of The Alamo, 1960
John Wayne was one of the most famous actors and box office draws for over three decades. Wayne actually appeared in over 170 films. This number seems almost impossible! So we can all agree he had a pretty amazing career as an actor. But he really wanted to transition to directing.
He only ended up directing two movies, The Alamo and The Green Berets. Whenever he tried to push to be hired as director, production companies always just wanted him to act and feature in the movie. They knew his performance would be a big moneymaker and would draw people in.
Julie Andrews on the Set of The Sound of Music, 1965
Can you imagine if Julie Andrews had turned down the role of Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music? Seeing her on set with the film crew, it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing the character. But it actually almost happened because she was worried that the character was too similar to her role as Mary Poppins! And she didn’t want to play the role of a nanny twice.
Julie Andrews couldn’t be a more lovable character. But it turns out that Christopher Plummer who played Mr. Von Trapp hated filming the movie because he didn’t like working with Julie! He said working with her was like “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.” But somehow they pulled off the movie perfectly anyway and to this day, it’s considered one of the most successful movie musicals. One of our faves!
Audrey Hepburn on the Set of My Fair Lady, 1964
Audrey Hepburn looks as gorgeous as ever in her costumer on the set of My Fair Lady. Hepburn is spotted with director George Cukor on set. The two are having a chat in between scenes. And Cukor is also giving Hepburn some tips on the scene they’re working on. It’s nice to see that they’re having a good time and a laugh!
But we didn’t know that Hepburn wanted to sing in the movie and even prepared for months leading up to filming with a voice coach. But Cukor decided to dub her voice by Marni Mixon, and she was not happy about it. Regardless, Audrey Hepburn will forever be an icon of the Golden Age of cinema, with My Fair Lady as one of her most famous roles.
David Prowse on the Set of Star Wars, 1977
You might not have guessed but it actually took four men to play the role of Darth Vader. They wanted to make sure that his character was as dominant as possible so the six-foot-five bodybuilder David Prowse played the on-screen body. But the voice of Vader was recorded by the great James Earl Jones.
Two other actors were used to played Vader’s stunt man as well as the unmasked face in The Return of the Jedi. It is hard to believe that it took four actors to play one role but they clearly found the perfect recipe for the character. We can’t imagine Vadar any other way.
Boris Karloff on the Set of Frankenstein, 1931
We never thought we would see Frankenstein having a light snack break. But here it is, Boris Karloff in his Frankenstein costume eating toast and drinking tea on the set of Frankenstein in 1931. Boris Karloff got the name as a horror legend because of these movies. And we can’t fault it, even eating toast, the guy looks pretty scary.
He actually ended up playing in four Frankenstein movies. We didn’t even know that there were that many Frankstein movies out there. He was even awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, not just one but two different stars. It was for his contribution to film and television history!
Marilyn Monroe on the Set of Some Like It Hot, 1959
Here we’ve got the iconic Marilyn Monroe standing on the set of Some Like It Hot with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and the director Billy Wilder. Monroe actually won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for role in the movie. Even though they had some trouble with the production of the film, it has since become widely known as legendary.
But some of the trouble came Monroe herself. She actually demanded to take a lot of re-takes. And she often didn’t remember her lines. Sounds like it would have been a painful process. But in the end, Wilder was really pleased with Monroe’s performance. He even, “Anyone can remember lines, but it takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did!”
Jim Henson and Frank Oz on the Set of The Muppet Show, 1976
Although many people think that The Muppet Show, was the first actual muppet show, it wasn’t. Jim Henson actually created the characters for a segment called Sam and Friends in 1955. The characters were pretty similar to how they appeared later on the show in 1976 but with a few little modifications.
Muppets actually got their big break on Saturday Night Live. The weekly segment helped gain an audience and love for the muppets. But only official SNL writers were allowed to write the sketches. So Henson, Nelson, and Oz just performed the sketches each week on the show but didn’t write the scripts.
Peter Sellers on the Set of Dr. Strangelove, 1964
Columbia Pictures gave director Stanley Kubrick quite a few conditions at the start of the production of Dr. Strangelove. One of their demands was to make sure that Peter Sellers played multiple different characters. It seems like a pretty strange request to us. Originally he was cast as four characters.
He was supposed to play Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, Major Kong, and the mad scientist. But Sellers had a little trouble with the Texas accent, and he also injured his leg so they decided to get Slim Pickers to play Major Kong instead. And Sellers played the other characters as planned.
Linda Harrison on the Set of Planet of the Apes, 1968
We think that we can agree that Linda Harrison looks absolutely gorgeous as Nova in the Planet of the Apes. But Harrison actually wasn’t the first pick to play the character. They actually went through a number of actresses before settling for Harrison. They had considered Raquel Welch and Ursula Andress as well as others.
During the making of the movie, Harrison became involved with Richard D. Zanuck, one of the producers of the film. But as it turns out, it wasn’t just a quick fling. The two actually got married following the production and even had two children together. So sweet!
John Wayne on the Set of True Grit, 1969
There were quite a few controversies at the beginning of production for True Grit. Firstly, John Wayne had promised his daughter the role of Mattie Ross, but he did not have the authority to make that call. And director Henry Hathaway refused to cast her, saying she wasn’t right for the role.
Secondly, John Wayne did not get along with Robert Duvall and didn’t like his method acting. He actually threatened to punch him in the face if he argued with the director again. Nothing like a little bit of drama on the set to keep things interesting, no?
Barbara Eden on the Set of I Dream of Jeanie, 1965
Barbara Eden is so iconic to the role of Jeannie in I Dream of Jeanie. But the producers really didn’t want a blonde to play the role. They were scared of being too similar to the show Bewitched. But when Barbara Eden walked into the audition and read a few lines, the producers couldn’t say no and hired her almost immediately.
And we’re glad they did. But Larry Hagman wasn’t as pleased. He actually hated being on the show and regretted accepting the role. This made him rather unpleasant to work with on the show. And it was all because he wasn’t happy that his character was not the central focus.
Robert De Niro on the Set of Taxi Driver, 1976
In this shot we see a young Robert De Niro looking inquisitive as he takes some pointers from director Martin Scorsese on the set of Taxi Driver. There is a bottomless well of crazy stories from that set. Apparently, some of the Manhattan shooting locations were so run down and seedy that the production had to hire criminals to protect them on set.
This move angered other criminal groups in the area, so it was a constant struggle. Some of the scenes were originally so gritty that the whole film got a big fat X rating. Scorsese was disappointed but he eventually agreed to tone some scenes down a little bit to make it more accessible to a wider audience.
Jayne Mansfield on the Set of The Girl Can’t Help It, 1956
In general, The Girl Can’t Help It wasn’t well-received by critics. It pretty much bombed. But interestingly – despite bad reviews – it had a significant influence on music. The musical comedy featured several cameos from prominent rock stars, including a 16-year-old John Lennon. A few years after his appearance, The Beatles made it big.
We all know and love Jaye Mansfield, but for this film, the critics also reserved special vituperation for her acting performance. One critic wrote, “Her range, at this stage, appears restricted to a weak imitation of Marilyn Monroe.” The fact is they can bash on Mansfield all they want, but her charm, beauty, and acting skills made her into a timeless legend.
Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren on the Set of The Pride and the Passion, 1956
Despite tanking at the box office and being described by its director, Stanley Kramer, as being “one of the most difficult and disappointing experiences” of his career, the 1957 film became canonized (pun intended). Starring Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Sophia Loren, it was a war movie set in Spain during the Napoleanic Wars. Here we see two co-stars, Sinatra and Loren chilling between shoots and enjoying some shade.
The first difficult part of the movie is that there are two lead macho male roles, played by Grant and Sinatra, the latter wasn’t happy about being cast as a guerilla. Also, he was the filmmakers’ second choice. He took the role after Marlon Brando turned it down. In fact, Sinatra allegedly acted like a second choice, as he was grumpy and a little awkward the whole time.
Mel Gibson on the Set of Mad Max, 1979
You wouldn’t be wrong if you said that Mel Gibson really doesn’t look like himself here. It’s threefold; there’s the fake blood, it’s the smile, and it’s the fact that he’s so young. This photo was taken during the filming of Mad Max, which came out in 1979. Like Gibson, the film’s director is Australian.
He said the inspiration for the film comes from what he sees as a “deadly” culture of cars in his home country, which he compared to the culture of guns in America. Tragically, three of Miller’s friends died in a car in a crash. This sadness combined with the trauma he witnessed every day in the casualty unit when he worked as a doctor provided him the raw material for this high-speed, post-apocalyptic theme.
Bolaji Badejo on the Set of Alien, 1979
Alien is by many considered one of the best science fiction films of all time. And we can see why. It’s creepy, it’s futuristic, it’s innovative, and it’s downright terrifying. In this photo, we see a costume artist standing beside Bolaji Badejo in full costume. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that the alien is pretty massive. They had to find someone super tall to play the part; Badejo is 6″10!
The film was groundbreaking in the sci-fi genre, but it also had heavy horror elements, almost like a haunted house movie set in space. The most pivotal moment of the film is arguably when the xenomorph alien busts through John Hurt’s chest and escapes. No one had seen anything like it before. Interestingly, this historic scene was shot in one take.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the Set of I Love Lucy, 1951
Here we see Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz smoking cigarettes and looking really concentrated behind the scenes of I Love Lucy. The 50s were a different time, of course. Arnaz was a very talented guy but he often had trouble finding work because of his Cuban identity, which put some people off.
The main problem with his Cuban-ness was his accent. The studio was worried. But Arnaz and Ball decided to prove everyone wrong. So they decided to grab take the initiative into their own hands. They formed a club and decided to tour around the country. Their tour was a huge success, everyone loved them. This impressed the TV channel, and the couple was given the green light.
John Brown on the Set of Thunderbirds, 1966
Here we see John Brown and other members of the series art department crowding around the Thunderbird dolls during the filming of “The Duchess Assignment” in 1966. The idea and the technological requirements for the series were pretty advanced for the 60s, so the producers decided to try something different to speed up the gruelingly slow process.
They decided to shoot the episodes in pairs. This means that for each episode (labeled as A and B), there were two sets and two crews. This meant double the cost but half the time. The two episodes were literally filmed simultaneously.
Peter O’Toole on the Set of Lawrence of Arabia, 1962
Here we see a smiling Peter O’Toole taking some instructions from director David Lean. When Lawrence of Arabia hit the box office, it was pretty much an instant success. It was so epic, in fact, that it went on to snatch the Academy Award for Best Picture. In a lot of ways, Lawrence of Arabia was a moviemaking endeavor like no other of its time.
To stay authentic and to capture as much atmosphere as possible, the production filmed in Jordan, Syria, and other Middle Eastern locations. These were places where the real Lawrence of Arabia lived, fought, and died. It goes without saying that lugging cameras, people, props, costumes, food, and pyrotechnics was no easy task.
Rudolph Valentino on the Set of The Son of the Sheik, 1926
The Son of the Sheik, a silent movie, went on to become a classic. So much so, in fact, that it was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. Sadly, the star of the film, Rudolph Valentino, passed away just before the film’s release, due to tuberculosis. The movie was a huge hit, but he would receive the widespread acclaim for his performance posthumously.
The Son the Sheik was the sequel to the immensely successful film The Sheik. Valentino was already famous during the making of the sequel, but he struggled. He felt that people saw him not as himself. He said, “Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas on which women paint their dreams.” Though Valentino didn’t like his character, reports say he did love making the film.
Ingrid Bergman on the Set of Indiscreet, 1958
Originally, the female star of Indiscreet was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield. But in the end, the producers went with Ingrid Bergman. And what a great choice that was. Paired up with Cary Grant as his romantic interest, Bergman knocked it out of the park.
In this shot, we see producer Stanley Donen standing next to Grant and Bergman. It wasn’t the first time the two actors teamed up. Alfred Hitchcock hired the two a few years prior. After working together for years, the two stars began to fall for each other, often talking late into the night. By the end of filming Indiscreet, the actors were two peas in an old Hollywood pod.
Jack Nicholson on the Set of Chinatown, 1974
Here, we see an ever-playful Jack Nicholson sticking his tongue out and catching the camera off-guard. What makes Chinatown so great are the absolutely riveting performances by Nicholson and his co-stars. When Robert Towne, the screenwriter, was approached to write The Great Gatsby, he turned it down, and took a job writing Chinatown, while accepting $100,000 less as payment.
This just goes to show that Towne already saw the potential, even before there was a script or anything. Apparently, Nicholson, too, loved the production so much that he decided to never take another role as a detective because he didn’t want to tarnish his reputation as the perfect noire cop.
Mark Goddard on the Set of Lost in Space, 1965
The original Lost in Space cast is seen here looking all smiley while getting some grub on set. For it’s time, the original Lost in Space was revolutionary. From real computers in the spaceship control room to intricate and innovative costume design for aliens, the show seemed to have it all.
The costumes were so advanced for their time that the show went on to win the Best Dressed TV Series award, given by the Costume Designers Guild. The craziest costume of all was the robot. No expenses or effort were spared. It weighed about 200 pounds and it cost around $70,000!
Joan Crawford on the Set of Possessed, 1947
Joan Crawford said that her role in Possessed was the most difficult in her entire career. The film tells the story of a woman dangerously obsessed with her ex-lover. Crawford said that to prepare for the role, she frequented wards for the mentally ill. Her hard work and that of the rest and the crew and cast paid off – Possessed was a hit.
Crawford was even nominated for Best Actress at the 20th Academy Awards. In this vintage pic, we see Crawford taking some pointers from director Curtis Bernhardt. In her hand, we see a ball of wool and some needles. She was known to knit between scenes.
Giulietta Masina on the Set of La Strada, 1954
La Strada is a seriously sad movie. An odyssey through the woes of abject poverty in post-war rural Italy, the film has some real tear-stimulating potential. One writer from The Guardian said it’s the only film that makes him cry. But La Strada was good; it even won the Academy Award for Best Film in a Foreign Language.
Here, we see Giulietta Masina getting her makeup done in preparation for a circus scene. As the end of the shooting approached, Federico Fellini, the director, suffered a nervous breakdown. He seemed to have some existential despair. Over the years, people have wondered if this movie – and its full-on display of misery – was Fellini’s answer to his own angst.
Lon Chaney on the Set of London After Midnight, 1927
In this shot of the vintage horror classic, we see Lon Chaney all dressed up holding a sign that says “Easy Lessons in Hypnotism.” Though these days, almost 100 years after London After Midnight first aired, we might consider the costumes and special effects rudimentary or lackluster, for their time they were quite freaky. Lon Chaney used an assortment of doctored fake teeth and over-the-top spectacles to achieve his creepy vibes.
To add to the creepiness, the production ordered 100 real bats to be released on set while filming. The effort and the good acting earned the production positive reviews. One critic wrote that the film was “a story certain to disturb the nervous system of the more sensitive picture patrons.”