Here’s Looking At …

In 1982, writer Chuck Ross transcribed the screenplay of Casablanca. He changed the title to Everybody Comes to Rick’s, and he changed the piano player’s name to Dooley Wilson. Then he submitted it to 217 Hollywood agencies.

Only 85 read it. Of those, 38 rejected it outright, 33 recognized it (but only eight specifically as Casablanca), and only three declared it commercially viable.

One suggested turning it into a novel.

See also The Steps Experiment.

A Dark and Stormy Night

If you hear the words “castle thunder,” you probably think of a particular sound effect. That’s not surprising — recorded originally for the 1931 version of Frankenstein, that sound been reused in numerous Disney and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Scooby-Doo, Gilligan’s Island, and countless movies, including Citizen Kane, Cleopatra, The Hindenburg, Ghostbusters, Airplane!, Murder by Death, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Clue, Back to the Future, Big Trouble in Little China, Trading Places, Short Circuit, Star Wars, The Monster Squad, Death Becomes Her, and Young Frankenstein. You can even hear it in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

See Wilhelm Scream for another famous effect.

Curse of the Colonel

American baseball teams famously blame their losing streaks on curses — for instance, the Red Sox’ long drought after selling Babe Ruth.

But the most colorful such curse is not even American. During a victory celebration in 1985, fans of Japan’s Hanshin Tigers threw a statue of Colonel Sanders into a canal in Osaka. That act started an 18-year losing streak.

The Colonel apparently relented in 2003, when the Tigers finally won a tournament. To prevent a relapse, the local KFC bolted down its statue.

The Rich Are Different

The 10 richest fictional characters, as judged by Forbes magazine in 2006:

  1. Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks
  2. Charles Montgomery Burns
  3. Scrooge McDuck
  4. Richie Rich
  5. Jed Clampett
  6. Rich Uncle Pennybags (the Monopoly mascot)
  7. Bruce Wayne
  8. Anthony Stark (Marvel Comics’ Iron Man)
  9. Prince Abakaliki
  10. Thurston Howell III

Abakaliki, new to the Forbes list, is the fictional Nigerian “entrepreneur” mentioned in millions of fraudulent spam messages.

Substitute Players

You can’t always rely on baseball’s record books — they’re haunted by “phantom” players. According to one box score, a player named Lou Proctor walked as a pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns against the Boston Red Sox on May 13, 1912. It turns out that Lou Proctor was really a Cleveland telegraph operator who had inserted his own name in place of Pete Compton’s. More than two dozen such errors have been uncovered; this one wasn’t found until the mid-1980s.

Perfect Casting

In the 1970s, Anthony Hopkins won a role in the film The Girl From Petrovka. The story was based on a novel by George Feifer, and Hopkins sought it out in several bookstores, without success. He was waiting at the Leicester Square underground station when he noticed a discarded book on a bench nearby. It was The Girl from Petrovka, with notes written in the margins.

Two years later, while shooting the project in Vienna, Hopkins met Feifer, and during their conversation he learned that the novelist had no copy of the book. He had lent his to a friend, who had lost it somewhere in London.

Incredulous, Hopkins handed him the book he had found two years earlier. “Is this the one?” he asked. “With the notes scribbled in the margins?” It was Feifer’s book.

Elmer McCurdy

In December 1976, the television program The Six Million Dollar Man was shooting an episode at California’s Long Beach Pike amusement park when a crew member discovered a wax dummy hanging in a funhouse gallows. When he tried to move it, its arm broke off — it wasn’t a dummy, but in fact a mummified human body. Stranger still, its mouth contained a 1924 penny and a ticket from the Museum of Crime in Los Angeles.

After much investigation, it turned out to be the body of Elmer McCurdy, an inept outlaw who had been killed in an Oklahoma gunfight in 1911. When no one claimed his body, an unscrupulous undertaker had embalmed it and charged a nickel to see “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up,” and for 60 years thereafter McCurdy’s corpse was traded among wax museums, carnivals, and haunted houses.

Elmer was finally buried, fittingly, in the Boot Hill section of Oklahoma’s Summit View Cemetery under two cubic yards of concrete. Ironically, his last words had been “You’ll never take me alive!”