Big Love

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.

Short Subjects

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.

An Arm and a Leg

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Body parts insured by Lloyd’s of London:

  • Betty Grable’s legs ($250,000)
  • Jimmy Durante’s nose ($140,000)
  • Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes ($1 million)
  • Fred Astaire’s feet ($650,000)
  • Bruce Springsteen’s voice ($7 million)
  • Keith Richards’ hand (£1 million)
  • Michael Flatley’s legs (£25 million)

Silent-film comedian Ben Turpin, above, even insured his eyes against uncrossing.

Bent Lines

Slips of the tongue are often made on the stage, even by the most prominent actors and actresses. Mrs. Langtry at one performance said to her stage lover, ‘Let us retire and seek a nosey cook.’

An actor at the Queen’s Theatre, Manchester, turned ‘Stand back, my lord, and let the coffin pass’ into, ‘Stand back, my lord, and let the parson cough.’ …

A well-known actor who has often been applauded by New York theater-goers, in one of his speeches intended to say, ‘Royal bold Caesar,’ but forgot himself in his excitement and said, ‘Boiled rolled Caesar, I present thee with my sword.’

— John De Morgan, In Lighter Vein, 1907

Backdoor Immortality

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Irving Sindler was never an actor, but he found another way to star in the movies. As a property master at Sam Goldwyn’s studio, Sindler resolved to get his name onto the screen with every film he worked on. He started in 1925 by painting it on a warehouse in Little Annie Roony, and in further projects he began slipping it artfully onto bottle labels, handbills, store signs, and factory facades. He even convinced his Chinese laundryman to translate it for Marco Polo.

Above, he invented the Sindler & Son Transfer Co. to decorate a truck in The Restless Age — and for Wuthering Heights he wrote his own epitaph.

King Hunt

Late in 1912, a 26-year-old German named Edward Lasker made his first trip to London. Still a bit seasick from a rough channel crossing, he made his way to the local chess club, as was his custom whenever he visited a new country. He spoke no English, but one of the members invited him to a game. Lasker took white, and they started innocently enough:

1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. e4 fxe4 7. Nxe4 b6 8. Ne5 O-O 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. Qh5 Qe7

lasker-thomas, position before combination

But here the young German saw a remarkable opportunity, an eight-move combination that produced one of the most striking endings in chess history:

11. Qxh7+! Kxh7 12. Nxf6+ Kh6 13. Neg4+ Kg5 14. h4+ Kf4 15. g3+ Kf3 16. Be2+ Kg2 17. Rh2+ Kg1 18. Kd2#

lasker-thomas, final position

Or 18. O-O-O#! “This was very nice,” said his opponent, who turned out to be Sir George Thomas, president of the club and later British champion. In after years Lasker would remember his effort modestly as “the most beautiful game I ever succeeded in winning,” but Mikhail Botvinnik was more forthcoming: “If Edward Lasker had played only one game in his entire life,” he wrote, “this would have been enough to preserve his name in the annals of time.”

The Family Business

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

On her Broadway debut in 1940, Diana Barrymore wired her father, John:

DEAREST DADDY, THANK YOU FOR THE APPLE FLOWERS AND WIRES … SO DADDY DARLING I AM DOING MY BEST TO CARRY ON THIS STINKING TRADITION.

Herbert Blythe had adopted the name Maurice Barrymore in 1872 to spare his father the “shame” of having a son in such a “dissolute” vocation as acting.

His great-granddaughter, Drew Barrymore, has earned more than $1 billion in box-office grosses at age 35.

A Grave Summons

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Humphrey Bogart was buried, creepily, with a whistle.

He had given it to Lauren Bacall after their first film together, To Have and Have Not, and she deposited it with his remains at Forest Lawn.

It’s inscribed “If you want anything, just whistle.”