At Frank Sinatra’s funeral, friends and family members were invited to place items of personal significance into his coffin. Reportedly these included:
- several Tootsie Rolls
- a pack of Black Jack chewing gum
- a roll of wild cherry Life Savers
- a ring engraved with the word Dream
- a mini-bottle of Jack Daniel’s
- a pack of Camel cigarettes and a Zippo lighter
- 10 dimes
Why 10 dimes? “He never wanted to get caught not able to make a phone call,” his daughter Tina told Larry King.
Halle Berry was named after a department store.
“My mother was shopping in Halle Brothers in Cleveland,” she told the New York Daily News. “She saw the bags and thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to name my child.’”
(By the way: “No one ever says it right. It’s Halle, like Sally.”)
- Cain killed a quarter of the world’s population.
- Spencer Tracy’s 1937 Oscar was engraved DICK TRACY.
- 15626 = 1 + 56×2-6
- NINE TEN ELEVEN alternates vowels and consonants.
- “Can you play chess without the queen?” — Wittgenstein
Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors to win Oscars playing the same character. Brando won Best Actor for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather in 1972, and De Niro won Best Supporting Actor for the same role in The Godfather Part II in 1974.
See Too Much Talent.
When Billy Wilder visited Paris in the 1940s, his wife asked him to buy her a bidet.
After a few days he wired back:
UNABLE OBTAIN BIDET. SUGGEST HANDSTAND IN SHOWER.
In 1956, Cardinal Spellman forbade New York Catholics to see Elia Kazan’s film Baby Doll. Asked whether he himself had seen it, Spellman replied, “Must you have a disease to know what it is? If your water supply is poisoned, there’s no reason for you to drink the water.”
The British Board of Film Censors reported that the 1928 French surrealist film The Seashell and the Clergyman was “so cryptic as to be almost meaningless” … but “if there is a meaning, it is doubtless objectionable.”
“Think for yourselves,” wrote Voltaire, “and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”
Americans require a restful quiet in the moving picture theater, and for them talking from the lips of the figures on the screen destroys the illusion. Devices for projecting the film actor’s speech can be perfected, but the idea is not practical. The stage is the place for the spoken word. The reactions of the American public up to now indicate the movies will not supersede it.
– Thomas Edison, quoted in the New York Times, May 21, 1926
After a series of poor performances of her Broadway show The Exciters, Heywood Broun told Tallulah Bankhead:
“Don’t look now, but your show’s slipping.”
- River Phoenix was born River Bottom.
- Every natural number is the sum of four squares.
- What happens if Pinocchio says, “My nose will grow now”?
- Shakespeare has no living descendants.
- “All generalizations are dangerous — even this one.” — Dumas
In 1946, while on location shooting The Yearling, Victor Fleming was barraged with interfering telegrams by producer Sidney Franklin. Finally he wired back:
JUST SAT DOWN AND READ SCRIPT AND YOUR TELEGRAM TO DEER + FEEL HE WILL DO BETTER HEREAFTER.
Hollywood has always abbreviated long titles — Gone With the Wind became known as GWTW, and For Whom the Bell Tolls as FWTBT.
One Jane Russell picture was tentatively titled Tall in the Saddle until an RKO publicist pointed out this trend.
The title was dropped.
On Aug. 10, 2004, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Adam Dunn hit a ball entirely out of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. It landed on Mehring Way, 535 feet from home plate, hopped another 200 feet or so, and came to rest on a piece of driftwood on the edge of the Ohio River.
That part of the river belongs to Kentucky. This makes Dunn the only player in major league history to hit the ball into another state.
In 1929, aspiring actor Charles Loeb had a friend pack him into a box labeled “Statue–Handle With Care” and ship him from Chicago to the Pathé motion picture studios in Culver City, Calif.
He arrived four days later, nearly dead, but told police he was pleased he’d finally made it through the gates of a major studio.
See Special Delivery.
Sam Goldwyn entered show business as Sam Goldfish.
In 1916 he formed a production company with Edgar Selwyn, and the two combined their names to form Gold-Wyn Pictures.
Critics pointed out that the alternative would have been “Selfish Pictures.”
Robert Coates (1772-1848) achieved his dream of becoming a famous actor. Unfortunately, he was famous for being bad — like William McGonagall, Coates was so transcendently, world-bestridingly awful at his chosen craft that he attracted throngs of jeering onlookers.
In one performance of Romeo and Juliet, when he gave his exit line, “O, let us hence; I stand on sudden haste,” his diamond-spangled costume dropped a buckle and he began to hunt for it on hands and knees. “Come off, come off!” hissed the stage manager. “I will as soon as I have found my buckle,” he replied.
And that was a good night. He regularly improvised his lines; he took snuff during Juliet’s speeches and shared it with the audience; he tried to break into the Capulet tomb with a crowbar; he was pelted with carrots and oranges; he dragged Juliet from the tomb “like a sack of potatoes”; and he died on request, several times a night, always first sweeping the stage with his handkerchief. (“You may laugh,” he told one audience, “but I do not intend to soil my nice new velvet dress upon these dirty boards.”)
Once, having been killed in a stage duel, he overheard one woman wonder whether his diamonds were real. He sat up, bowed to her, said, “I can assure you, madam, on my word and honor they are,” and died again.
The Strand Magazine ran an alarming feature in 1910: “If Insects Were Bigger.” The editors inserted photographs of ordinary English insects into contemporary Edwardian street scenes, with pretty terrifying results. “What a terrible calamity, what a stupefying circumstance, if mosquitoes were the size of camels, and a herd of wild slugs the size of elephants invaded our gardens and had to be shot with rifles!”
“Panic Caused by a Mosquito in Piccadilly Circus.”
“Terrible Attack by a Larva of the Puss-Moth at Covent Garden.”
“The Araneus Diadema Spider Descends Upon Trafalgar Square.”
“Fierce Onslaught by an Earwig in St. James’s Street.”
“A Dragon-Fly Captures an Unsuspecting Four-Wheeler in Liverpool.”
“Exploits of a House-Fly at the Bank of England.”
“A Leviathan Grasshopper’s Arrival in Princes Street, Edinburgh.”
“A Lacewing Fly Spreads Consternation in Wellington Street.”
Author J.H. Kerner-Greenwood wrote: “It is true we are still molested by hordes of wild animals of bloodthirsty propensities. These wild animals only lack the single quality–namely, that of size–to render them all-powerful and all-desolating, and this quality they have not been able to attain owing to the lack of favouring conditions.” Mothra turned up 51 years later.
Carl Voss was a born leader — when he left the Army after World War I, he went on to command Maori warriors, Roman footsoldiers, and revolutionary Americans.
Voss was leader of the “Military Picture Players,” a group of up to 2,112 former servicemen who fought one another in Hollywood battle scenes. He drilled his soldiers as infantry, cavalry, and artillerymen and ensured that their appearance was authentic whether they were playing Germans, Hessians, Chinese, Senegalese, Czechs, or Crusaders. And he was good at it: Between The Big Parade (1925) and Four Sons (1940), Voss’s troops clashed in 232 engagements without a serious casualty.
So it was ironic that red tape finally killed them. The Screen Actors Guild ruled that Voss was essentially an extra and could not direct its members — a curious judgment, as by that time he’d become arguably one of the most versatile commanders in screen history.
In September 1955, James Dean met Alec Guinness outside an Italian restaurant in Hollywood. He introduced himself and showed Guinness his brand-new Porsche 550 Spyder. “The sports car looked sinister to me,” Guinness wrote in his autobiography:
Exhausted, hungry, feeling a little ill-tempered in spite of Dean’s kindness, I heard myself saying in a voice I could hardly recognize as my own, ‘Please, never get in it.’ I looked at my watch. ‘It is now ten o’clock, Friday the 23rd of September, 1955. If you get in that car you will be found dead in it by this time next week.’
Dean laughed. One week later he collided head-on with a Ford coupe outside Cholame, Calif. He was pronounced dead 6 days and 20 hours after Guinness’ prediction.
Short film titles, from Patrick Robertson’s Film Facts (2001):
- A (Japanese, 1999)
- E (British, 1993)
- F (Japanese, 1998)
- G (British/German, 1974)
- H (Spanish, 1997)
- I (Swedish, 1966)
- K (Hungarian, 1989)
- M (German, 1931)
- Q (French/Italian/Belgian, 1974)
- W (Filipino, 1985)
- X (Korean, 1982)
- Y (Colombian, 1992)
- Z (French/Italian, 1968)
- $ (U.S., 1972)
Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 film π concerns a mathematician who seeks patterns in strings of numbers.
Its running time is 1:23:45.
“I play John Wayne in every part, regardless of the character, and I’ve been doing okay, haven’t I?” — John Wayne
It took Greer Garson 125 takes to say one line in Desire Me (1947).
The line was “No.”
Robert Mitchum said he stopped taking Hollywood seriously after that.
This is the first screen kiss, shared in 1896 by May Irwin and John C. Rice in a scene from the play The Widow Jones.
Accustomed to stage dramas, many viewers were shocked at the closeup. “Neither participant is physically attractive,” wrote reviewer John Sloan, “and the spectacle of their prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was hard to bear. When only life-size it was pronounced beastly. But that was nothing to the present sight. Magnified to Gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting.”
Only 30 years later, John Barrymore would bestow 127 kisses on Mary Astor and Estelle Taylor in Don Juan.
On being introduced to Margot Asquith, Jean Harlow mispronounced her name Margut.
“My dear, the T is silent,” said Asquith, “as in Harlow.”
Unusual movie titles listed by Patrick Robertson in Film Facts (2001):
- Telephone Girl, Typist Girl or Why I Became a Christian (Indian, 1925)
- In My Time Boys Didn’t Use Hair Cream (Argentine, 1937)
- The Film That Rises to the Surface of Clarified Butter (U.S., 1968)
- How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired (Canadian/French, 1988)
- No Thanks, Coffee Makes Me Nervous (Italian, c. 1981)
- Recharge Grandmothers Exactly! (Czech, 1984)
- Beautiful Lady Without Neck (South Korea, 1966)
- Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title (U.S., 1965)
For “most preposterous movie title ever conceived,” David McGillivray in Films and Filming nominates Betta, Betta in the Wall, Who’s the Fattest Fish of All (U.S., 1969) and She Ee Clit Soak (U.S., 1971).
See Light Reading.