Sigourney Weaver was born Susan Weaver. She named herself Sigourney at 14, after a character mentioned briefly by Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby:

She came over to me and whispered, ‘I’ve just heard the most surprising thing. Look, please come and see me. I’m staying at my aunt’s … Mrs. Sigourney Howard … phone book …’ She was hurrying away as she spoke, to join her friends who were waiting to drive her home.

“I was so tall,” Weaver told Time in 1986, “and Susan was such a short name. To my ear Sigourney was a stage name — long and curvy, with a musical ring.”

She couldn’t have known it at the time, but it appears that Fitzgerald intended Sigourney to be a man’s name: He had borrowed it from his friend Father Sigourney Fay, to whom This Side of Paradise is also dedicated.

“Jordan, it is clear, is here adopting the formal ‘English’ style of addressing her aunt by her husband’s name(s),” writes John Sutherland in Curiosities of Literature. “This was not just etiquette in the best circles; it was standard procedure in phone books of the 1920s. The husband paid the bills, and his was the name listed.”

Roaring Blazes

For his 1991 film Backdraft, director Ron Howard wanted fire to have a “brain,” like the shark in Jaws. So sound designer Gary Rydstrom added animal growls and howls to the sound of the flames. “You don’t hear them as animal sounds, but subconsciously it gives it an intelligence or a complexity it wouldn’t normally have.”

“For the suck in of air we used coyote howls. It wasn’t just a simple wind — it was more intelligent.”

“A lot of the fireball explosions were sweetened with monkey screams and different animal growls. Cougars make a great fire explosion sweetener. There’s a complexity to natural sounds, especially animal sounds, that is really wonderful.”

(From Vincent LoBrutto, Sound-on-Film, 1994.)

Cutting Remarks

Until her death in 2010, film editor Sally Menke edited all of Quentin Tarantino’s films. He called Menke “hands-down my number one collaborator,” saying, “The best collaborations are the director-editor teams, where they can finish each other’s sentences.”

Because these films were edited in rented houses rather than in studio suites, Menke’s work was largely done alone. To keep her from getting lonely, Tarantino invited his cast and crew to address the camera between takes and say, “Hi, Sally!”

Thirsty Work


As the series developed, readers came to expect an ever more extensive drinks menu. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for example, the eleventh book, Bond downs no less than forty-six drinks, the widest variety in any single book. According to one Bondologist, these include: unspecified quantities of Pouilly-Fuissé white wine, Taittinger champagne, Mouton Rothschild ’53 claret, calvados, Krug champagne, three bourbons with water, four vodka and tonics, two double brandy and ginger ales, two whisky and sodas, three double vodka martinis, two double bourbons on the rocks, at least one glass of neat whisky, a flask of Enzian schnapps, Marsala wine, the better part of a bottle of fiery Algerian wine (served by M), two more Scotch whiskies, half a pint of I.W. Harper bourbon, a Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whisky with water, on the rocks, a bottle of Riquewihr wine, four steins of Franziskaner beer, and a double Steinhäger gin. The same indefatigable researcher has found that although vodka martini has now become Bond’s signature drink, he only drinks nineteen of them in the books, compared to thirty-seven bourbons, twenty-one Scotches and a remarkable thirty-five sakes (entirely the result of his massive consumption of that particular drink in You Only Live Twice).

— Ben MacIntyre, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, 2008


Some geometric legerdemain by Argentine magician Norberto Jansenson. (Thanks, Ron.)

Fundamental Things Apply


In the final scene of Casablanca, the airplane is made of plywood. The film was shot shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and California was bracing for a new attack, so movie studios were severely restricted from shooting on location and forbidden entirely from filming at airports. So the movie was shot on soundstages at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, and Soundstage #1, as it turned out, was too small to accommodate a real airplane.

So prop men built a half-size Lockheed Electra 12A out of plywood and balsa, and little people in jumpsuits were hired to bustle around it. The fog — a rarity in Morocco — helped to sell the effect.

Also: Dooley Wilson was an accomplished singer, but he couldn’t play the piano. “During the filming of Casablanca, a Warners staff musician, Elliott Carpenter, played the piano to the side of the set so that Wilson could get his bearings,” writes Jeff Siegel in The Casablanca Companion. “It’s also Carpenter’s playing that was dubbed into the film. The charade went off so well that when Wilson appeared for a nightclub gig after the movie was released, the club’s manager asked him why he wasn’t going to play the piano in his act.”

The Agony Column

In the summer of 1977, a disconcerting series of personal advertisements began appearing in the London Times:

DR. MOREAU requires lab. assistant. Experience not necessary. Strong stomach.

DR. MOREAU seeks Harley St. offices. Soundproofing essential.

HEART OF BABOON, eye of newt and other spare parts required by Dr. Moreau.

QUESTION for Dr. Moreau: What do you do with the leftovers?

WERE YOU cut out to be a patient of Dr. Moreau?

DON’T MAKE a pig of yourself without consulting Dr. Moreau.

DR. MOREAU will have you in stitches.

DR. MOREAU goes in one ear and out the other.

I’M JUST WILD about Dr. Moreau. He has so much animal magnetism.


OVERWEIGHT? Dr. Moreau will cut you down to size.

ARE YOU A MAN – or a mouse? Get an expert opinion from Dr. Moreau.

DR. MOREAU made a monkey out of me. See what he can do for you.

LEND a hand to Dr. Moreau and you’ll never get it back.

DR. MOREAU does brain transplants while you wait.

UNFORTUNATELY Dr. Moreau’s services are not available on the National Health.

DR. MOREAU is coming soon. Can’t you feel it in your bones?

The last one appeared on Sept. 3. American International Pictures’ production of The Island of Dr. Moreau, starring Burt Lancaster and Michael York, opened later that month.

(From Peter Haining, The H.G. Wells Scrapbook, 1978.)



“It is highly desirable for the spectators at a baseball game to hear what is transpiring on the playing field,” observed inventor James Sellers in 1959, “such as arguments at the bases between opposing players, and discussions between the umpires and players.”

Accordingly he patented an “apparatus for transmitting sound from a baseball field.” Each base is fitted with a hidden microphone, which sends its signal to the announcers’ PA system.

“The sounds on the playing field can thus be transmitted through the control booth to the public address system so that spectators in the grandstand may hear what is taking place on the playing field.”

“By transmitting the sounds from the playing field to the grandstand, the spectators feel that they are taking part in the game. Also, it enables the spectators to judge a play better as they can hear the baseball strike the glove or mitt of a player.”

Brotherly Harmony

In the backing vocals on “Paperback Writer” (1:02 above), John and George are singing “Frère Jacques.”


the man who came to dinner

You never laugh at anything nice. A comedy that ends with a laugh is a comedy that ends not with a solution but with a fresh disaster. At the end of Gogol’s The Government Inspector the real government inspector arrives; the trouble is just beginning. At the end of George F. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s Broadway comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner, the eccentric Sheridan Whiteside, who has wrought havoc in the lives of the Middle American family in whose home he is stranded by a broken ankle, walks out the door to universal relief, slips on the front step, and breaks his ankle again. According to Arthur Koestler, laughter does not truly release tension because it does not solve the problem; it fritters away energy in purposeless physical reflexes that make action impossible. Laughter is not a solution, it is a sign of the problem. As a number of writers have observed, there is a built-in contradiction between comedy’s two purposes, laughter and the happy ending. In its normal operation [the reaching of a happy ending] the function of comedy is to make the audience stop laughing.

— Alexander Leggatt, English Stage Comedy 1490-1990, 2002