Misc

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Image: Wikimedia Commons
  • ZZ Top’s first album is called ZZ Top’s First Album.
  • Supreme Court justice Byron White was the NFL’s top rusher in 1940.
  • LOVE ME TENDER is an anagram of DENVER OMELET.
  • Every palindromic number with an even number of digits is divisible by 11.
  • “In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” — Cassius

From English antiquary John Aubrey’s 1696 Miscellanies: “Anno 1670, not far from Cyrencester, was an Apparition; Being demanded, whether a good Spirit or a bad? Returned no answer, but departed with a curious Perfume and a most melodious Twang.”

Misc

  • Consecutive U.S. presidents Grant, Hayes, and Garfield were all born in Ohio and served as Civil War generals.
  • Travel due south from Buffalo and you’ll reach the Pacific Ocean.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. shook hands with both John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy.
  • This false statement is not self-referential.
  • “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.” — Cicero

In the 2004 film Shark Tale, the shark Lenny coughs up several items onto a table. Among them is a Louisiana license plate, number 007 0 981. The same plate is retrieved from sharks in both Jaws and Deep Blue Sea.

Okay Then

Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 feature The Great Train Robbery was distributed with a special segment that the projectionist could insert at the beginning or end of the film. In it, actor George Barnes fires his pistol directly at the audience.

The shot was labeled “REALISM.”

Parenthood

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On Mother’s Day, May 14, 1939, Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller took his mother to Comiskey Park to see him pitch against the Chicago White Sox. Lena Feller, who had traveled 250 miles from Van Meter, Iowa, with her husband and daughter, sat in the grandstand between home and first base and watch her son amass a 6-0 lead in the first three innings.

Then, in the bottom of the third, Chicago third baseman Marvin Owen hit a line drive into her face.

Feller was following through with his pitching motion and saw it happen. “I felt sick,” he wrote later, “but I saw that Mother was conscious. … I saw the police and ushers leading her out and I had to put down the impulse to run to the stands. Instead, I kept on pitching. I felt giddy and I became wild and couldn’t seem to find the plate. I know the Sox scored three runs, but I’m not sure how.”

The injury was painful but not serious. Feller managed to win the game (9-4) and then hurried to the hospital. In his 1947 autobiography, Strikeout Story, he wrote, “Mother looked up from the hospital bed, her face bruised and both eyes blacked, and she was still able to smile reassuringly. ‘My head aches, Robert,’ she said, ‘but I’m all right. Now don’t go blaming yourself … it wasn’t your fault.'”

Progress

The world’s oldest operating roller coaster, Leap-the-Dips, in Altoona, Pa., was built in 1902. It’s 41 feet high and has an average speed of 10 mph.

New Jersey’s Kingda Ka, below, opened a century later. It’s 456 feet high and accelerates to 128 mph in 3.5 seconds.

What’s next?

Practice

Charlie Chaplin demanded 342 takes for one three-minute scene in City Lights. Actress Virginia Cherrill played a blind flower girl who mistakes Chaplin for a wealthy man. Her only line was “Flower, sir?”

Chaplin later called Cherrill an “amateur”; he’d hired her as the love interest without even talking to her. Asked why so many takes were necessary, he said, “She’d be doing something which wasn’t right. Lines. A line. A contour hurts me if it’s not right. … I’d know in a minute when she wasn’t there, when she’d be searching, or looking up just too much or too soon … Or she waited a second. I’d know in a minute.”

But it’s also true that Chaplin often worked out a scene on the set, rather than relying on a finished script. “Chaplin rehearsed on film — he’d try out an idea and do it over and over again,” film historian Hooman Mehran, who narrates the segment above, told CNN. “And since he was the director, he couldn’t see his performance, so he had to record it.”

A House Afire

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If box-office receipts are adjusted for inflation, Gone With the Wind is still the highest-grossing film of all time, with earnings of $3.4 billion in 2014 dollars.

After the film’s 1939 premiere in Atlanta, playwright Moss Hart wired producer David O. Selznick:

OH, ALL RIGHT, GO AHEAD AND HAVE A VULGAR COMMERCIAL SUCCESS!

Long Takes

Robert Altman’s 1992 film The Player opens with a continuous shot that’s eight minutes long. Altman told one interviewer, “I wanted to make that ridiculously long opening shot because so many people talk about these long opening shots as if they are some achievement in themselves.”

At 1:17, Fred Ward refers to Orson Welles’ 1958 film Touch of Evil, which opens with a three-minute tracking shot of its own (below). Several takes were ruined when the customs man at the end forgot his line, which ruined the entire take. Charlton Heston remembered Welles telling the man, “Look, I don’t care what you say, just move your lips, we can dub it in later. Don’t just put your face in your hands and say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m sorry.'”

Moving Violation

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A revealing anecdote from Mank, Richard Meryman’s 1978 biography of Herman J. Mankiewicz, co-writer of Citizen Kane:

Herman was a mischievous child. One day after some misdemeanor, Herman was confined to the house by his mother. To keep him there during her absence, she hid the long stockings he needed for his knickers. Herman went to his mother’s room, put on a pair of her stockings, got on his bike, and rode off to the Wilkes-Barre public library, where he loved to browse among the shelves and to read for hours. When he came out, the precious bike was gone — stolen. Herman’s punishment was permanent. His father never bought him another bike. His mother answered Herman’s pleas by telling him it was all his own fault.

Meryman concludes, “Rosebud, the symbol of Herman’s damaging childhood, was not a sled. It was a bicycle.”

A Second Career

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In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), just after Charlie buys a chocolate bar, he discovers a commotion at a newsstand: The finder of the fifth ticket, a “gambler from Paraguay,” has been declared a fraud.

“Can you imagine the nerve of that guy, trying to fool the whole world?” says one man.

“Boy, he really was a crook,” says another.

The man pictured in the newspaper is Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler’s private secretary.