Back in 1928, more than a decade before he became best known as the director of films like “Casablanca,” Michael Curtiz was a largely unknown director outside his birth country of Hungary, and it had been just two years since he moved to the U.S. and caught the attention of American filmmakers thanks to his reputation back home (via Britannica). 1928’s “Noah’s Ark” was one of Curtiz’s first stateside projects, and it was a part-sound film in an era where silent movies were still the norm, juxtaposing the tale of Noah from the Book of Genesis with a romantic storyline set during World War I.
According to the book “The Movie Doctors,” Curtiz’s project was hyped up with the hyperbole so common for films of the era — supposedly, it was the “spectacle of the ages.” As such, he wanted the scene depicting the Great Flood to be as authentic as possible. This, as claimed, entailed using 600,000 gallons of water to simulate the catastrophic biblical event that killed every living creature that wasn’t on Noah’s titular ark. Unfortunately, the scene reportedly resulted in the deaths of three extras, with many others suffering injuries — one extra purportedly had to have their leg amputated. (On an interesting note, John Wayne was among the extras, and it appears he escaped unscathed.)
Per WhatCulture, Curtiz’s desire for a realistic flood scene was such that he repeatedly disregarded requests to use miniatures in lieu of real people and animals. This didn’t sit well with cameraman Hal Mohr, who tried to convince Curtiz that it wouldn’t be a good idea to put all those unsuspecting extras in grave danger. Mohr then quit the production after the director allegedly brushed off his concerns.