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Miracle it was even made at all


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There are several films that come to mind.

 

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*SARATOGA (1937)*. This would be Jean Harlow's last film. She collapsed on the set and died before her scenes could be completed. A double had to be used to finish the picture. Though studio chief Louis B. Mayer was reluctant to release it, the picture went over big. It was such a smash hit that Harlow's penultimate film, PERSONAL PROPERTY, was re-released.

 

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Check out the production history for *HOTEL IMPERIAL (1939)*. It was originally to be called I LOVED A SOLDIER with Marlene Dietrich, but she fought so much with Henry Hathaway the director, that the project was ultimately shelved. Then, Margaret Sullavan took over, but she broke her arm. So Isa Miranda was finally cast. Then, the leading man Ray Milland fell off a horse during filming and landed on some broken masonry and was unconscious for 24 hours. It's lucky he survived. Eventually the film was finished, but the executives at Paramount endured a lot of headaches in the process!

 

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*DESIRE ME (1947)*. This has been discussed in the Greer Garson Star of the Month thread. Robert Montgomery clashed with director George Cukor who clashed with Louis Mayer. Montgomery walked off, and Cukor lobbied to have his name withdrawn from the project. Greer soldiered on and nearly drowned during a location sequence. When the film tested with preview audiences, it bombed, so Mayer ordered extensive retakes. But by this point, costar Robert Mitchum was over at Warners filming PURSUED, so they had to reduce his part and shoot around him. The retakes did not help. The film still performed miserably at the box office.

 

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*BRAINSTORM (1983).* Natalie Wood's mysterious and tragic drowning temporarily suspended production of this motion picture. Like the Harlow film, this one had to be completed with a double and a reconstructed script. It lost money at the box office. Not even Wood's death and endless tabloid articles about her last days could make the public curious enough to see it. More interestingly, it ended the director's career on feature film projects. MGM wanted to dump the picture (and probably under-promoted it when it was released), but Douglas Trumbull's contract gave him the last word, and he wanted to finish BRAINSTORM and dedicate it to the lead actress' memory.

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Good examples. Another couple of examples would be:

 

*The Dark Knight* ; Young HEATH LEDGER'S untimely death didn't thwart the effort to release it, I imagine because enough primary footage was in the bag. And his performance was outstanding. I'm not one of those in the school of thought that thinks he only got the Oscar because he was dead. He EARNED it.

 

*A Guy Named Joe* ; Kudos to the cast members that insisted production be held up until VAN JOHNSON could get healthy enough to return to the set! Although I don't exactly recall why he was off the production.

 

Sepiatone

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Van Johnson's first big break came with his role in "A Guy Named Joe" with Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne. During production Johnson was involved in a serious car crash. So serious that a metal plate had to be placed in his skull and serious facial scars. If you look closely you can see the scenes before and after the crash. Spencer Tracy convinced L.B. Meyer to delay production until Johnson could return to work. The film made a major star out of Johnson....

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Annie Get Your Gun (1950) - Frank Morgan (best known as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz) was cast as Wild West legend Buffalo Bill Cody in the screen version of this Broadway musical. Just days into filming, Morgan died and was replaced by Louis Calhern. But in the scene where Buffalo Bill first rides into town, when the audience sees Cody from a distance, the actor on horseback is Morgan. The actor in the close-up - and from then on - is Calhern.

 

And how can we forget...

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) - Often called the worst film ever made, but Director Ed Wood was able to hire horror movie icon Bela Lugosi because the actor was 73, past his prime, addicted to morphine, and up for anything that paid. Wood cast Lugosi as "the Ghoul Man." After compiling just a few minutes of footage (with no dialogue because Wood hadn't actually written the script yet), Lugosi died of a heart attack. Not wanting to lose out on the publicity from having a recently departed screen legend in his film, Wood shot the rest of Plan 9 with Tom Mason, a Los Angeles chiropractor, standing in for Lugosi. To account for the two men looking nothing alike, in all of his scenes, Mason held a black cape over his face.

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