Mistakes in Movies

Goofs, errors, call them what you will. Some people just won’t rest until disbelief has been thoroughly unsuspended…

Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

When Zhivago returns home from not-quite meeting Lara on a tram in Lean’s epic, as he opens the door of his house, a slightly ghostly reflection appears in the glass window of the vestibule.

The reflection is often thought to be David Lean himself. A blown-up, lightened image (right) suggests that the figure may have a beard, though that could just be a result of the image processing.

It does look a little like David Lean, but it’s by no means definitely him; it could be anybody. The position also looks a little posed, raising the possibility that it’s the reflection of a portrait hanging on the wall as set dressing.

The Third Man

The Third Man (1949)

Although The Third Man is (famously) set in Vienna, and makes use of numerous locations around that city, much of the studio work and other shots were filmed in London.

This would apparently include at least some of the back projection footage made for the driving scenes. During the drives to and from the hospital near the end of the film, several London buses are visible on the road. (These wouldn’t be the famous Routemasters, though, as those weren’t introduced until the 1950s. They’re more likely to be an earlier model, known as the Regent.)

These kinds of things are often easier to make out in moving footage, but above you can clearly see the outline of a bus behind the brim of Martens’ hat, and on the right of the picture below, even the bus route is tantalisingly close to being legible.

The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple (1967)

Here’s an onscreen mistake that makes the misplaced apostrophe in The Last Man on Earth look like a huge, movie-wrecking blunder.

During the opening titles in The Odd Couple, somewhere between Felix Ungar’s failed suicide attempt and his trip to the strip bar, the titles show the copyright year as MCMXLVII – that’s 1947 – as opposed to the correct MCMLXVII (1967).

The transposed L and X, blown up in the image above, must be about as small a goof as is possible to find in a movie, at least until the successor to Blu-Ray starts showing up non-native species of aphid.


Harvey (1950)

In Henry Koster’s 1950 comedy Harvey, James Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, a good-natured sort who’s befriended Harvey, a giant invisible rabbit. At least, he seems to be a giant rabbit, by the way that Stewart spends the film looking up at him.

However, Harvey was meant to be 6’3.5″ and Jimmy Stewart himself was 6’3.5″, so he should be looking directly across at him.

In 1990, Stewart recorded an introduction to the film, in which he says that he’d decided that Harvey is actually 6’8″. This wasn’t actually reflected in the script, which is quite firm about Harvey being 6’3.5″, but then again, who’s going to argue with Elwood P. Dowd?

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The Last Man on Earth features a lengthy flashback sequence, during which we find out a little more about the origins of the disease that has all but wiped out the human race. An immensely unconvincing newspaper is produced, on which the headline reads: PLAGUE CLAIMS HUNDREDS: is Europes’ disease carried on the wind?

Maybe the typesetters were already starting to feel the effects of the disease. Then again, it may be the end of the world, but that’s no excuse for sloppy punctuation.

Come to think of it, I’m not too sure about the capitalisation here either. But I’d best stop now, before people start muttering about stones and glass houses…