TV and film’s biggest myths…

Are Disney films full of subtle references? Is Michael Grade responsible for cancelling Doctor Who? And did Wile E Coyote ever catch the Road Runner? investigates...

MYTH: A stuntman died during the filming of Ben Hur’s chariot race scene


TRUTH: A popular myth from 1959 historical epic Ben Hur is that a stuntman was killed filming the iconic chariot race sequence. The scene was certainly known for being a tough shoot, but the story that the double for Stephen Boyd (who was playing villain Mesalla) was fatally injured is bogus. However, Charlton Heston’s stuntman Joe Canutt did cause a stir on set when he was hurled from his chariot, with everyone on set, (including his father, Yakima Canutt, who was stunt co-director on the scene) thinking he had died. Thankfully, the only on-set injury really sustained was a slight knock to the chin.

MYTH: Captain Pugwash was full of smutty names

TRUTH: Perhaps one of the most famous misconceptions in TV history is that Captain Pugwash, the seemingly innocent pirate cartoon broadcast first broadcast on the BBC in the late 50s, was full of refernces to sex; with Captain Pugwash apparently having a dubiously named crew, ranging from the saucy moniker of Roger the Cabin Boy, to the slightly less subtle Master Bates. Alas, wherever these shady rumours came from, the reality is completely innocent: Master Bates is actually Master Mate, and the cabin boy was simply called Tom. As for the additional murmurs that there was a character called Seaman Staines, well, he was entirely made up. Cartoonist John Ryan sued two newspapers for people suggesting otherwise. 

MYTH: Michael Grade cancelled Doctor Who 


TRUTH: It’s no secret that 1984-86 BBC controller Michael Grade disliked Doctor Who, having called it “rubbish” and suspending Colin Baker’s series in 1986, but he is not the one who finally pulled the trigger three years later. For it was actually controller Jonathan Powell who cancelled Doctor Who in 1989; by then Michael Grade was controller of Channel Four.