Mental Floss

13 Surprising Facts About Old Hollywood

Ellen Gutoskey
May McAvoy (right) and fellow cast members on the set of 1927's Irish Hearts.
May McAvoy (right) and fellow cast members on the set of 1927's Irish Hearts. / Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before Shirley Temple made a name for herself in films like Baby Take a Bow (1934) and The Little Colonel (1935), she was one of many pint-sized stars in 1931’s Baby Burlesks—a series of shorts in which young children parodied roles originally performed by the likes of Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. If a child misbehaved on set, they’d be sent to “the black box,” a frigid little sound booth kept cool with a block of ice (which was also the only place to sit).

In short, Old Hollywood wasn’t a great place for kids … or for adults. The sleep-inducing snow that blanketed Dorothy and friends in The Wizard of Oz (1939), for example, was actually asbestos. At the time, the deleterious mineral was the faux snow of choice on many a studio set.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is uncovering some of the most surprising, scandalous, and entertaining anecdotes from early 20th-century Hollywood—from Joan Crawford and Bette Davis’s infamous feud to the outrageous way filmmakers got 8-year-old Skippy star Jackie Cooper to cry on cue.

Press play below to learn more, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with future video releases.