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

Deer Prudence

In 1946, while on location shooting The Yearling, Victor Fleming was barraged with interfering telegrams by producer Sidney Franklin. Finally he wired back:


Double Feature

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.

The Adam Bomb

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.

See Pop Fly and Four-Dimensional Basketball.

Post Production

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.

Top Billing

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.”

The Comic Tragedian

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.

Tophats and Mandibles

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.