Here are 10 trivia facts about The Magnificent Seven from 1960, which originally appeared on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about this movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.
1. This movie was nominated for an Oscar, but not in an acting category.
Hard to believe but true; This high-grossing crowd pleaser didn’t garner any major-category Academy Award nominations, but was tapped for Best Score (Elmer Bernstein). Ultimately, the Oscar went to Ernest Gold for Exodus.
2. The film is equallywell-respected outside the U.S.
It’s difficult to find a movie more respected than The Magnificent Seven–if you live in Russia, that is. To this day, thanks to its release on DVD continuing its awareness, it would not be uncommon to hear people recite lines from the movie, word for word. After the film played in the U.S.S.R. for about a year, it was reported that authorities would not permit anyone under 16 years of age to see it, since the movie made head-shaving very popular among young boys.
The Magnificent Seven shares a much larger cultural heritage in Russia than in the U.S. Why, you ask? Because once it was discovered that Yul Brynner was actually Russian-born, he became a national treasure. Brynner had for years been mysterious about his lineage, claiming to be part Swiss and part Japanese, but son Yul ‘Rock’ Brynner II made details clearer about his dad’s Russian nativity. In his books about his actor-father, “Yul: The Man Who Would Be King” and “Empire and Odyssey,” the younger Brynner said, “Recently, a renowned actor in the Moscow theater spoke to me with tears in his eyes, insisting that ‘only a Russian could have made a great western like The Magnificent Seven.’”
3. Government authorities got involved with the production of this film.
Filming was done in Mexico, and at the time, Mexican censors would not permit any of the peasants seen in the film to wear soiled clothing. Additional problems with censors caused concerns over how local villagers were portrayed. At one point they wanted changes to Walter Newman’s screenplay. When he refused to travel south of the border to discuss the matter. William Roberts was sent to “fix it.” But after revisions were made, Roberts felt his changes were important enough to get his name in the credits, angering Newman to the point of walking off the film and eventually having his screen credit removed completely. Even though it’s true that Roberts’ name is seen on screen as the writer, there is further irony in the fact that the first adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai was provided by Walter Bernstein. However the Bernstein version wasn’t ever used, and the final cut shown in theaters was actually Newman’s…albeit with some of Roberts’ changes.
4. The main star of the film once hosted a TV talk show.
Yul Brynner, famous for his prolific life in theater and films, as well as for his unusual-at-the-time shaved head, is also recognized as co-hosting the very first TV talk show, “Mr. and Mrs.” in 1948 alongside his then-wife, actress Virginia Gilmore.
Brynner can also be credited with suggesting the reworking of Kurosawa’s classic into a Western, when he came to producer Walter Mirisch with his idea. Accordingly, once plans were finalized, Brynner was a major force in casting decisions. One of the actors he wanted was Steve McQueen for the role of Vin Tanner, which as sometimes happens in Tinseltown, turned out to be a bad decision. The two actors did not get along when Brynner suspected McQueen was constantly upstaging him. One example: Brynner–at 5’10″ a fraction taller than the 5′ 9 1/2″ McQueen–looked for ways to appear even taller, going so far as to create off-camera mounds of dirt that he could stand on during filming…but McQueen made it a practice to kick the dirt away before Brynner could apply his stance.
In Eli Wallach‘s autobiographical book, “The Good, The Bad and Me: In My Anecdotage”, he elaborated on the Brynner/McQueen rivalry, explaining that McQueen was always using similar one-upmanship tactics. It got to the point, according to Wallach, that Yul hired an assistant to keep a record of how often McQueen mimicked Brynner’s onscreen gestures.
5. Two of the stars of the movie had less than 30 lines between them.
Both Robert Vaughn and James Coburn only have a few lines of dialogue in the movie, less than 30 combined (under 20 for Vaughn, while Coburn clocks in at fewer than 15). These two actors were good friends off-screen for more than 50 years and often helped each get parts, however in all of that time they only worked together this once. Supposedly, Sterling Hayden was signed for the role of knife-tossing Britt, but when he opted out for reasons unknown, director John Sturges was looking for another “Gary Cooper type” to step in, which is when Vaughn recommended his friend Coburn as the ideal choice for the part. It also helped to cast the film as fast as possible to avoid a then-looming actors’ strike.
6. The writer of the film’s music also wrote the score for its parody years later.
Elmer Bernstein could not have known that 26 years after composing one of filmdom’s best-remembered film scores, he would return to write the music for John Landis’ parody, Three Amigos!, in 1986. Along with Bernstein’s music, the comedy also featured Randy Newman’s song, “Ballad of the Three Amigos,” plus two others.
In his book “John Sturges, Stories of a Filmmaker,” author Emmanuel Laborie says that his interview with Sturges produced the story that the director originally expected composer Dimitri Tiomkin to score the movie. But during an argument about how the opening credits were to be mounted, Tiomkin was replaced with another Hollywood icon, Bernstein.
7. One of the stars of the film was acting in a TV show of the same genre at the time of production.
Oddly enough, it was only by chance that Steve McQueen was able to appear in The Magnificent Seven. His rigorous TV show schedule on Wanted: Dead or Alive (and his iron-clad contract with actor Dick Powell’s Four Star Productions) didn’t allow for the time off to work on a feature film, but McQueen’s auto accident in a rented Cadillac landed him in a neck brace and provided ample recuperation time, which he used to do the movie. Now that so many years have passed since the incident, there are various reports stating it wasn’t an accident at all. Steve, knowing his role in The Magnificent Seven would do much more for his career than his TV show, caused him to take the shot at ramming his car into a brick wall. Is it true or false?
More trivia: Originally considered for the part of Vin Tanner was George Peppard, and Gene Wilder, also very early in his career, auditioned for the role as well.
8. More than 50 people were killed in this film.
The total body count in The Magnificent Seven clocks in at 55 and there are some theatrical oddities surrounding who died and when. Charles Bronson, playing Bernardo O’ Reilly, is the last member of the “seven” to bite the dust, but in the original Japanese film The Seven Samurai, his corresponding screen role was the first to die. In another twist, although actors Robert Vaughn and Eli Wallach both get killed off in the film, they were the only surviving major cast members of the film, as of 2011. Wallach, the movie’s villain was born in 1915 — actually the oldest of the main cast–and he along with Vaughn (born 1932) have outlived the others.
9. This movie is based on another film.
The Magnificent Seven is a faithful re-working of Akira Kurosawa‘s time-honored 1954 Japanese classic, The Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai). Although there are tremendous differences that can be found in specific scenes, the storyline is pretty close to the original, as well as some of the dialogue.
10. This was the first of four films in a series.
The motto in Hollywood seems to be “always stick with a winner,” and it would be hard to find a much better winner than The Magnificent Seven, which garnered three sequels: Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966) brought Yul Brynner back to form a new band of mercenaries; Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), which had George Kennedy in the lead; and The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972), which told the story from Lee Van Cleef’s point of view. These big-screen outings were followed by The Magnificent Seven TV Series in 1998.
And now, get into the excitement of The Magnificent Seven with the theatrical trailer from 1960: