Cineview: Hollywood’s Sinister Past

The Film Industry’s Troubling History Of Unethical Practices


Nowadays the worst crime Hollywood consistently commits is pumping out low-quality reboots of beloved films. In its younger days, when regulations were more lax and people were generally unaware of what occurred on movie sets, it was easier to get away with legitimate crimes, such as child exploitation.

One of the most infamous examples is The Wizard Of Oz. Buddy Ebsen, the original Tin Man, suffered damage to his lungs from the aluminum dust used to create his costume. MGM, the studio producing the film, denied any responsibility and replaced him with Jack Haley.

The actress playing Dorothy, Judy Garland, suffered harsh treatment from MGM. In order to keep her thin any food she came by would often be taken,  and she smoked multiple packs of cigarettes to suppress her diet. Amphetamines provided by MGM kept her active despite being forced to work up to 18 hours a day, six days a week.

Shirley Temple was the most famous child actress from 1935 to 1938, receiving the modern equivalent of 914, 000 dollars per film by age seven. On the surface she had a great life. Digging deeper, however, reveals a childhood filled with abuse.  

Her roles often had the young girl wearing revealing clothing for a target audience of older men. On a series of short films she starred in, Baby Burlesks, the children were punished by being sent to a windowless sound booth where they were forced to sit on a block of ice.

Shirley signed with MGM at twelve. Producer Arthur Freed exposed himself to her during a private meeting. According to her autobiography he said “I have something made just for you” while doing so. Five years later another producer, David Selznick, attempted to sexually assault her.

There are many more examples of studios forcing drugs on children and sexual assault horror stories, but these cases were chose to highlight and serve as representations of those issues. Since Hollywood’s infancy legislation has been passed prohibiting child exploitation and more awareness has been brought to the issue of sexual assault during filming.