Right of Way


In the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Australian rower Bobby Pearce was leading in the quarter-final when he looked ahead and saw a family of ducks crossing his lane.

He leaned immediately on his oars and let them pass. This let Frenchman Victor Saurin catch up and then pull away to a five-length lead.

But Pearce rocketed after him and won by 20 lengths — setting a new course record and making him a favorite with Dutch schoolchildren.


One of Robert Benchley’s movie shorts required that he be suspended above a street in a tangle of telephone wires.

While waiting for the camera, he said to his wife, “Remember how good at Latin I was in school?”


“Well, look where it got me.”

The Tomahawk Story


When Alec Guinness was filming The Swan in North Carolina in 1955, someone gave him a tomahawk purchased at a local fairground. Guinness thought it too heavy to take with him, so as he was departing he paid a porter to slip it into Grace Kelly’s bed.

Years later, while performing in London, he found the tomahawk in his own bed.

This meant war. Guinness bided his time until the princess visited America on a poetry tour, then he contacted the English actor with whom she was traveling and persuaded him to leave the tomahawk in her bed. (“Do you know Alec Guinness?” she asked him the next day. “No, I’ve never met him,” he said.)

Guinness thought no more about it until 1980, when he visited Hollywood to accept an honorary Oscar and found the tomahawk in his hotel bed. He waited until Kelly’s next tour of England and arranged to have it left in her suitcase.

She died in 1982, so that was the last laugh. There was no one to share it with — in 25 years, neither of them had ever acknowledged that this was happening.

Why Can’t I Find Amanda Hugginkiss?

Imaginary patrons of Jersey City’s Tube Bar paged by owner Louis “Red” Deutsch at the request of telephone pranksters John Elmo and Jim Davidson in the mid-1970s:

  • Al Coholic
  • Al Kaseltzer
  • Al Kykyoras
  • Ben Dover
  • Butchie Pantsdown
  • Frank Enstein
  • Holden McGroin
  • Imov Irgin
  • Jim Nasium
  • Joe Mama
  • Mike Ocksmall
  • Moe Ronn
  • Oliver Closeoff
  • Rufus Leakin

Elmo and Davidson recorded Deutsch’s earnest pages and the wild, vituperative threats that followed when he realized he’d been had. In the 1980s the tapes began to circulate among professional sports leagues and eventually found their way to animator Matt Groening … who turned them into a running gag on The Simpsons.


‘Well, it was a quite shocking, I must say — there was blood everywhere!’ Alfred Hitchcock began suddenly from the rear of the elevator. We were in the New York St. Regis Hotel, heading down to the lobby. There was as light flush to his cheeks from the several frozen dauquiris he had just drunk in his suite. The elevator had just stopped and three people dressed for the evening had joined us, and immediately Mr. Hitchcock had started to speak, sounding as though he were in midsentence and projecting in that careful and familiar TV tone of his.

He went on, ‘There was as stream of blood coming from his ear and another from his mouth.’ The people had recognized him immediately, but now they seemed purposely to avoid looking at him. He went right on, gazing beatifically ahead of him as the elevator stopped again and another well-dressed couple came aboard: ‘Of course, there was a huge pool of blood on the floor and his clothes were spattered with it — Oh, it was a horrible mess.’

No one on the elevator, it seemed, was breathing. ‘Blood all around! Well, I looked at the poor man and and I said, “Good God, what happened to you?”‘ At that point the elevator doors opened onto the lobby, and Hitchcock said, ‘Do you know what he told me?’ and then paused. After a moment, and quite reluctantly, the other passengers moved out of the elevator and then looked back at the director as we walked away.

After several foggy moments, I asked, ‘Well, what did he say?’ and Hitchcock smiled benevolently, taking my arm, and said, ‘Oh, nothing — that’s just my elevator story.’

— Peter Bogdonavich, Who the Devil Made It, 1997

Sighs and Whispers


Frustrated with the intertitles in silent films, Charles Pidgin invented a better solution in 1917: The performers would inflate balloons on which their dialogue was printed. “The blowing or inflation of the devices by the various characters of a photo-play will add to the realism of the picture by the words appearing to come from the mouth of the players,” Pidgin wrote. Even better, “the size of the speech may be increased with the increase of various emotions depicted on the screen.”

It’s not too late to implement this.

Cat Snap


Harry Whittier Frees did a booming business in novelty postcards in the early 20th century, posing animals in human situations, including props and sets.

“I take occasion to give my personal assurance that all pictures appearing in this book are photographed from life,” he wrote in 1915’s The Little Folks of Animal Land. “The difficulties encountered in posing kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have been overcome only by the exercise of great patience and invariable kindness.”

The Happiest Place on Earth


Yes, it’s The Rescuers, and yes, that’s a topless woman in the window.

Disney discovered her in two frames of the film’s 1999 home video release, but apparently she’d been there since the film’s premiere in 1977.

The studio recalled 3.4 million videotapes and released a cleaned-up version two months later. If they know who did it, they’re not saying.