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Stephen Schochet

 

 

 

Violent Movie Scenes

by Stephen Schochet

 

Making a violent film scene look realistic is often a painful endeavor. Early in the careers of the Three Stooges, Moe Howard witnessed his brother Shemp poke Larry Fine in the eyes with two fingers, after accusing him of cheating at cards. Moe decided that hitting each other would be the main feature of their act. He became expert at harmlessly slapping his partners with an open palm. But he couldn't always spare them hurt. One time Shemp Howard became impatient working with a young woman on a Three Stooges short. She was supposed to slap him hard but was just too ladylike to do it. "Honey, you can really hit me once, or keep landing these powderpuff blows and we'll be here all day." Fearing she would be fired, in the next take she walloped him, almost knocking him out.

Shemp's suffering was nothing compared to his younger brother Jerry, also known as Curly, who became the main target for Moe's on screen attacks. A fun loving and gregarious man, Curly often found it difficult to go out in public. Kids would run up and give him a painful kick in the shins. The worst thing was that sometimes their smiling parents seemed to encourage them.

An actor can think they are mentally prepared to do a violent scene until they actually have to do it. In the film Straw Dogs (1971) Susan George signed on to be the leading lady even though she knew Director Sam Peckinpah wanted her character to be violently raped. Right before they were scheduled to shoot, she went to the Director's office and told him she couldn't do it, she'd have to walk off the picture. Infuriated, Peckinpah told her she'd be sued. Almost desperately she said," Sam let's just show everything through my eyes. You don't have to be explicit." Peckinpah agreed to try it her way, but if it didn't work she'd have to submit to his more brutal version. They filmed the rape sequence on a Friday and George spent a nervous weekend with no acknowledgement from the Director if she had nailed it. On Monday she arrived back on the set and when she saw Sam's stony expression she almost ran away. He walked up to her and said," You got it kid!" and held her hand, in appreciation of a great performance.

Sometimes an inexperienced actor needs a jolt to get going. Andre Rene Roussimoff, also known as Andre the Giant (1946-1993) was a wonderful, generous man. He used to go out to dinner regularly with Arnold Schwarzenegger and would always insist on paying. On one of their outings Arnold snuck into the kitchen to give them his credit card, only to be picked up from behind by the wrestler and carried back to his table. "I pay." But during the making of The Princess Bride (1987) Andre was saying his lines too slow. His co-star Mandy Patinkin startled the whole Company by suddenly slapping the seven foot five, 550 pound Frenchman hard in the face. There was a tense pause, then the giant sped up his delivery.

Professional actors usually have no desire to hurt their fellow thespians. Sean Connery was very unhappy working on his third James Bond film, Goldfinger (1964). He had signed a long term contract and felt he deserved a share of the profits. One scene called for him to be karate chopped by the villainous Oddjob, played by Harold Sakata. After the first take Connery yelled in pain. Sakata, a former wrestler and Olympic silver medalist in weightlifting, said," Hey Sean, are you ok? I swear I didn't touch him." The Scottish actor's back was out and he was unable to work for several days. He recovered quickly when producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman offered Sean Connery a five percent ownership share of the film.

A violent act on screen can become a movie star's signature moment. A scene in the classic gangster film The Public Enemy (1931) called for the (at that time) little known James Cagney to get rough with actress Mae Clark. "Take it easy on me Jimmy. I have a cold." Cagney, who was normally a gentleman, agreed. But the director William Wellman overheard the conversation and called him over. "Listen Jimmy, this scene could make or break you. The audience has to believe you mean it." When the cameras rolled Cagney startled Clark by picking up a grapefruit and shoving it hard into her face. "You son of a- -". A short time later she chose to quit the movie business. But James Cagney became a big star. The only irritating thing was from then on he couldn't go to a restaurant without the waiter bringing him a complimentary grapefruit.

 

 

Stephen Schochet is the author of the upcoming book

Hollywood Stories: Short Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies. He is also the author of two acclaimed audiobooks

Tales of Hollywood: Hear the Origins of Hollywood!

and

Fascinating Walt Disney: Hear How Walt Disney's Dreams Came True!

These entertaining gift items are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, 1-800-431-1579 or wherever books are sold.

View samples at www.hollywoodstories.com

 

 

 

 

 

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