Sometimes, you just cant help it: You need a Fake Shemp.
Brownings practical difficulties in shooting the film aside, the performers inFreaksalso faced resistance from various MGM employees who were reportedlydisgustedby their presence on the studio lot. Studio head Louis B. Mayer was apparently so shocked by the performers that he wanted to shut the picture down. Thalberg was able to keep Mayer at bay, but other employees also raised objections after see the freaks in the MGM commissary.
The burly, brawling Reed died during the filming of director Ridley ScottsGladiator(2000). How did Scott deal with the challenge? Stand in? Check. Digital mask? Check. This time, though, the digital trickery looked reasonably convincing. The price tag for such Shempery –some $3 million– probably explains its effectiveness.
In 1931, fresh off the success of his horror hitDracula, director Tod Browning finally got the go-ahead to pursue a longtime passion project of his: a revenge tale centered around sideshow performers in a traveling circus. Eager to produce their own horror films that could rivalDracula, MGM let Browning makeFreaks, one of the most ambitious and gutsy filmmaking efforts in Hollywood at the time. Though today many regard it as a classic, or at least a cult favorite,Freaksdid not have the same reception in the early 1930s. Its title character faced scrutiny and revulsion on the MGM backlot, and the film itself faced scandalized audiences nationwide.
Though there were certainly monstrous characters populating various silent films (particularly those portrayed by Chaney inThe Phantom of the OperaandLondon After Midnight), the horror film as a genre didnt really take off until the era of talkies began. Shortly after Chaneys death due to complications from lung cancer, Browning was off at Universal Pictures, helping to lead the horror wave with his now-classic adaptation ofDracula. When Browning returned to MGM in the wake ofDraculas success, head of production Irving Thalberg wanted to capitalize on the horror boom. The hope was that, with the director ofDraculaback at the studio, MGM could best Universal with something even more horrifying, and so Browning was finally given the go-ahead to makeFreaks, which had remained a pet project of his for years.
After the disastrous preview screenings ofFreaks,Thalberg decidedchanges needed to be made, and moved the films wider release from January 30 to February 20 of 1932. Without Brownings input, Thalberg trimmed the film from a length of 90 minutes to only about 60, cutting both footage that depicted the attack on Hercules and Cleopatra in greater detail and some scenes that further humanized the freaks through small character moments (the scene in which Prince Randian lights his own cigarette using only his mouth, for example, also originally included footage of himrollingthe cigarette). Thalberg also cut an epilogue sequence that depicted a London museum opened by Madame Tetrallini (Rose Dione) and replaced it with a framing device featuring a carnival barker who showed off the mutilated Cleopatra to a crowd. Thalberg also added a different epilogue in which Venus and Phroso the clown (Wallace Ford) bring Frieda to Hanss mansion for a reunion and reconciliation.
Freaksfinally held its first previews in San Diego in January of 1932, where theaudience reactionwas swift and brutal. One woman ran screaming from the theater during the movie, while another apparently threatened to sue the studio, claiming that the film was so horrific it had caused her to suffer a miscarriage (it remains unclear whether or not these stories were actually publicity stunts cooked up by MGM to play up the films horror elements). Onereviewfrom a critic who saw the films first cut called it rather gruesomely dramatized for the edification (or education) of those morbid persons who enjoy gazing upon unfortunate, misshapen, cruelly deformed humanity. Fearing further disaster, Thalberg decided to act.
Manipulative matriarch Livia Soprano was a highlights of the first two seasons of HBOs groundbreaking seriesThe Sopranos. But after actress Marchand died in 2000, series creator David Chase was left with with the problem of filming an appropriate exit for the character. His solution –using old clips of Marchand, as well as digitally pasting her head on a stand-ins body– wasnt particularly well received.
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Until this point, the Fake Shemps weve seen have been analog. But with 1994sThe Crow, digital Shemps made an early appearance. Lee was fatally shot while filming a scene, meaning thatfilmmakers had to scramble to rescue the film. As usual in such cases, a stand-in was used, along with repurposed footage. But a digital mask of Lees face was also used to disguise his stand-in. And such trickery was only getting started.
After its critical and commercial failure in the United States,Freaksfaded into the background as a kind of Hollywood curiosity, and was banned in several countries (including the United Kingdom) for decades. The film was licensed by distributor Dwain Esper in the late 1940s, and played on the grindhouse circuit at various independent theaters, but it wasnt until the 1962Cannes Film Festivalthat the films revival really began. After screening there, it was heralded as a kind of forgotten classic. Noted film collector and archivist Raymond Rohauer picked up the baton from there, landing the rights toFreaksand showing it as a cult film. It gained prominence on the midnight movie circuit, and found particular success with members of the 1960s counterculture movement, who saw kindred spirits in its cast.
Though both initial audience and critical reactions were rather negative,Freakscontinued to march through its release across the country in the early months of 1932. Along the way it found box office success in some major cities, and even some positive reviews, but the horrified responses to the film drowned out any sense thatFreakscould ever become a box office success. The films New York engagement was delayed for months, and when it finally arrived in the summer of 1932 the writing was on the wall. The studio pulledFreaksfrom circulation andreporteda loss of $164,000 against its $316,000 budget.
The creation ofSuperman IIwasrife with conflict. Director Richard Donner shot most of the movie simultaneously with the firstSuperman. But he wasnt allowed to finish the second film, being replaced by British comedy director Richard Lester. Gene Hackman, who played Lex Luthor, refused to have anything to do with Lesters reshoots. Therefore, he was Shemped in a handful of shots by stand-ins and vocal impersonators. Despite all this, the 1980 release has become a fan favorite.
It got to the point where I had nightmares. I mean it. I scarcely could sleep at all. There was one terrible dream in which I was trying to shoot a difficult scene, Browninglaterrecalled. Every time I started, Johnny Eck, the half-boy, and one of the pinheads would start bringing a cow in backwards through a door. Id tell them to stop but the next take theyd do it all over again. Three times that night I got up and smoked a cigarette but when I went back to bed Id pick up the dream again.
Since then, Fake Shemps have appeared repeatedly. While they originally were other actors or stunt performers, the field has expanded to include digital replacements. Here are 11 cases when real actors were replaced by Fake Shemps, with directors crossing their fingers that no one would notice.
2015sThe Good Dinosaurmay haveflopped, but Idaho still loves it.Coco, Pixars ode to The Day of the Dead, was the most popular pick in California, whileInside Outwon the top spot in both Colorado and Vermont. New Mexico favoredCars, possibly because the films fictional town Radiator Springs neighbors Route 66, which goes through the state.
All images courtesy of Getty Images, unless otherwise noted.
Ultimately, we should all be grateful that no state picked notorious flopCars 2.
To keep tempers from flaring, Thalberg arranged a compromise: Though the more normal looking cast membersincluding Harry and Daisy Earles and the conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hiltonwere allowed to remain in the commissary, the rest of the cast was relegated to a tent erected outside, which served as their mess hall. This perhaps still didnt stop certain reactions, though. According to one possibly apocryphal story, F. Scott Fitzgeraldwho was doing some screenwriting work for MGM at the timewalked into the commissary one day and was so shocked by the sight of the Hilton sisters that he fled the room to govomit. Fitzgerald later worked what seems to be a version of this encounter into his short story Crazy Sunday, which is about a Hollywood screenwriter.
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According to Skal, it became a classic lesson for Thalberg in being careful what you wish for: The story goes that after he was presented with the screenplay for the film, Thalberg reportedly hung his head and said, Well, I asked for something horrible, and I guess I got it.
Casting the other characters inFreaksmay not have required as much of an outside-the-studio effort, but it was nonetheless met with a few challenges. When casting the scheming trapeze artist Cleopatra, Thalberg apparently wanted Myrna Loy, who was then a rising star recently signed to an MGM contract. According to Skal, Loy was absolutely horrified by the script, and begged Thalberg not to make her do the film. Thalberg relented, and the role went to Olga Baclanova, a former Moscow Art Theatre performer who left the company during a U.S. tour in 1925 and went on to co-star inThe Man Who Laughsin 1928, alongside Conrad Veidt. For the seal trainer Venus,Browning wantedJean Harlow, who was apparently announced to the press as one of the films stars near the start of production. Thalberg eventually nixed that idea too, and the role went to Leila Hyams.
Aiming for authenticity, Browning sought real sideshow attractions and performers to play the freaks at the heart of the story instead of relying on movie magic (as he so often had with Chaney) to portray them. Earles, who brought Spurs to Browning in the first place, naturally came on board to play the wealthy dwarf Hans, and enlisted his sister Daisy to play Hanss dwarf fiance Frieda.
The next year, in an effort to recoup some of the money lost during the initial theatrical run, Thalberg re-released the film, without the MGM logo, under the new titleNatures Mistakes. The new release was accompanied by an ad campaign that asked questions like Do Siamese Twins Make Love? and What Sex is the Half-Man-Half-Woman?
Tod BrowningsFreaks: The Sideshow Cinema (Warner Home Video, 2004)
Raimi formalized the term while filming the firstEvil Deadmovie in 1979.According to star Bruce Campbell, the movies stars werent always available (it was an extremely low-budget production), and there were frequent special effects shots of characters covered with gore or turned into zombies. Raimi thus enlisted a veritable army of Fake Shemps — thefilms creditslist 18 — to fill in as both monsters and doubles for his absent stars. Most of Raimis films since then have included Shemps in the credits.
Sam Raimi, the director of films includingSpider-ManandArmy of Darkness,coined the term, which refers to the stand-in required to replace an absent actor onscreen. The first Fake Shemp was employed in 1955, when one of the Three Stooges, Shemp Howard,died with the group owing Columbia Pictures four short subjects. To finish them up, Shemps stand in, Joe Palma, appeared in the films, but with his back to the camera.
Now, nearly 90 years after its initial release,Freaksremains a unique work in Hollywood history. Here are 11 facts about how it got there, from the original idea to its unlikely revival.
Browning, himself a former sideshow and vaudeville performer, took an interest in the story and convinced MGM to purchase the rights. The original plan, according to Browning biographer and historian David J. Skal, was to make the film another Chaney vehicle, but the film never got off the ground during the silent era. Chaney died in 1930, shortly after again co-starring with Earles in a talkie remake ofThe Unholy Three, but Browning never lost interest in the story.
3. CASTING THE FREAKS WAS AN INTENSE PROCESS.
When the 28-year-old Ledger died from a drug overdose in 2008, he was in the middle of filming Terry GilliamsThe Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. For Gilliam, who has a legendarily difficult time getting his films financed and finished, it might have seemed like the end. But his daughter Amy, serving as a producer on the film,persuaded him to persevere. Gilliam ended up enlisting Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to play other incarnations of Ledgers character, adding an even more surrealistic element to the movie.
In the annals of bad cinema, Ed WoodsPlan 9 from Outer Space(1959) features a legendarily bad double of the iconic Lugosi. TheDraculaactor died after only a couple of days of improvisatory filming (Wood hadnt even come up with a concept for the movie yet). The elderly Hungarian was eventuallyreplaced by a chiropractor, who was taller and looked almost nothing like him. To compensate, Wood had the stand-in hold a cape over his face.
11 Times Fake Shemps Replaced Real Actors
Everyone has a favorite Pixar movie, and now you can see if your top pick matches up with your states in this map from cable service . The map was created by analyzingGoogle Trendsdata for every Pixar feature film beforeThe Incredibles 2, which just came out in June.
For the rest of the characters, casting director Ben Piazza put outa callfor photographs and on-camera tests for various sideshow performers, and apparently spent nearly a month traveling the country to scout out various acts. This exhaustive search paid off, leading to the casting of memorable performers like the Half Boy Johnny Eck, the Living Torso Prince Randian, Angelo Rossitto (who continued to work in films for more than five decades afterFreaks), and Schlitzie (spelled Schlitze in the film), who in many ways became the performer most identified with the film.
Roscoe Ates, Daisy Hilton, and Violet Hilton inFreaks(1932)Warner Home Video
Harry Earles and Olga Baclanova inFreaks(1932)Warner Home Video
The uncut version ofFreaksstill played at the films world premiere at San Diegos Fox Theatre on January 28, and ironically it ended up finding success there. The film set a house record during its run for the theater, which capitalized by advertising itself as the only place where audiences could ever see the uncensored version ofFreaks.
Browning directed just four more films (two of them uncredited), with his final directing credit coming on the MGM mysteryMiracles for Salein 1939. He retired with enough savings from his directorial successes to live comfortably in a pair of homes in Beverly Hills and Malibu, and died in 1962.
The most popular movie in the country is a sequel, which isnt that surprising given that Pixar sequels are usually a million times better than your average second outing. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the champion:Finding NemosequelFinding Dory, which nabbed the top spot in 17 states.
The Oscar-winning actress wasnt available for reshoots forThor: The Dark World(ostensibly because she was working on another project, but possibly out of embarrassment for being in yet another Thor movie).Star Chris Hemsworths wife, Elsa Pataky, stepped into the breach, and appeared as Portmans double for a kissing scene.
The story ofFreaksas a film project apparently dates back to at least 1925, and the MGM silent dramaThe Unholy Three, which was directed by Browning and starred Man of a Thousand Faces Lon Chaney. The film was based on a short story by Tod Robbins, and co-starred eventualFreaksstar Harry Earles as a dwarf criminal who pulled scams by posing as a baby. The story goes that Earles, eager to find more film roles, brought Robbinss short story Spursthe tale of a pair of circus performers (part of a bareback riding act in the story) who take advantage of a wealthy dwarfto Browning.
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BeforeFreaks, Browning was one of the most successful directors in Hollywood, and his success had earned him enough clout to get the ambitious and gutsy film made afterDraculahit big at Universal. AfterFreaks, he never quiterecovered. According to Skal, this was not just due to that films failure, but due to Brownings continued discomfort with the change in the filmmaking process that came from the rise of talkies. That discomfort, coupled with an increasing inability to get more personal projects approved by the studios in the wake ofFreaks, led to his decline in the 1930s.
Who doesnt love George McFly? Martys adorably dorky dad in 1985sBack to the Futurewas played impeccably at two ages by Glover.But when it came time to negotiate his role in the two sequels, something went awry, and Glover refused to return (he either demanded a preposterous amount of money or was offered insultingly too little, depending on which side you believe). Director Robert Zemekis therefore cast Jeffrey Weissman in the role. Weissman was disguised with prosthetic makeup and sunglasses, turned upside down, and intercut with footage of Glover from the first film. Glover ultimately sued over the use of his likeness; the Screen Actors Guild barred such moves in future films.
The longest-serving Doctor Who had been gone from the show for only two years when producersdecided to make a team-up episodecalled The Five Doctors, featuring all the actors who had played the Gallifreyan up to that point. Unfortunately the very first Doctor, William Hartnell, had been dead for eight years, so the role was recast. (One semi-Fake Shemp already!) But Baker refused to take part, saying he couldnt return after such a short time away. His appearance in the 1983 episode was thus taken from old footage, shot for an abandoned episode. And when he refused to even show up for a publicity photo, producers put in a call to Madame Tussauds andused their wax dummyinstead.
Brownings insistence on casting real sideshow performers inFreakspaid off visually, resulting in an unforgettable film experience that also managed to humanize the various real people behind the story. When those casting decisions were applied to the practical process of shooting a film, though, things were sometimes less rewarding. Though many of them were seasoned performers, the freaks were not necessarily trained actors, and some of them required special care and patience due to impairments. The stress of working with them took a toll on Browning, which led to some unusual dreams during the making of the film.
When the actor hurt his back while filming 1984sIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,director Steven Spielberg didnt miss a beat. He rearranged the schedule and kept filming, using Fords stunt double. The amazing part? Fords double, Vic Armstrong, looked so much like him that its difficult to tell what scenes hes in. Spielberg evenconfused the twoon set. According to Ford, We could go home to the wrong wives and they wouldnt notice!
But back to the quality of Pixar sequels: the data shows that every Pixar sequel is at least as popular as the first movie in its franchise. The sequels in theToy StoryandMonsters, Inc.franchises all placed first in at least one state.