10 Things You May Not Know About Harry Houdini

14 Things You Don’t Know About Gordon Ramsay

15 Campy Facts About “Batman”

Jake Rossen and Mental_Floss present 15 Campy Facts About Batman.  Here are three of my favorites

1. A QUARTERBACK FOR THE L.A. RAMS ALMOST PLAYED BATMAN.
The kitschy approach of Adam West was not on producer Ed Graham’s mind when he optioned Batman for a television series from DC Comics (then National Periodical Publications) in 1962. Figuring he could capitalize on a Saturday morning kids’ series similar in tone to the George Reeves-starring Adventures of Superman from the 1950s, Graham struck a deal with CBS and enlisted former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Mike Henry for the title role. With CBS dragging their feet, Henry decided to opt out and play Tarzan instead; ABC was more ambitious about the idea, securing the license from National and moving ahead with producer William Dozier and writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., who agreed the show would work best if it didn’t take itself seriously. (Just seriously enough not to cast a football player.)

6. IT HAD THE LOWEST TEST SCORE OF ANY TV PILOT IN HISTORY.
Before its January 12, 1966 premiere, ABC screened the pilot for a test audience. Using knobs that could express their approval (or disapproval), the group verified the equipment was working when they gave the “control” footage, a Mr. Magoo cartoon, a favorable rating. When Batman ended, it scored in the upper forties, a disastrous number. (Most pilots of the day scored in the mid-sixties.) The national audience, prepared with weeks of advertising to help contextualize the humor, found it funnier: the show was an immediate success.

10. BRUCE LEE SCARED THE TIGHTS OFF OF BURT WARD.
Ward, who fancied himself something of a martial arts expert, once boasted to West that he had sparred with Bruce Lee. When Lee made an appearance on the show as part of a crossover with Dozier’s other series, The Green Hornet, he and Robin were scheduled to have a fight. According to West’s autobiography, Lee showed up to the set wearing a dour expression and looked ready to kill Ward, who put his hands up in a defensive reflex. Lee cracked a smile and called out, “Robin’s a chicken!” Everyone but Ward found this funny.

A Conversation with “Streets of Fire” Co-Writer Larry Gross

Streets of Fire is a movie that I truly enjoy.  Streets of Fire didn’t receive great reviews and box office when first released, but over the years I’ve met more people who liked it than not.

Recently /Film posted A Conversation with Streets of Fire Co-Writer Larry Gross which presents an oral history of sorts.  The article is definitely a read for Streets of Fire or movie fans.

How Streets of Fire came together to create an alternate universe – comic book movie not based on any comic book – rock and roll fable – musical is interesting. I particularly enjoyed reading who they wanted and just missed signing for the leads [Tom Cruise and Darryl Hannah].  Can you imagine Tom Cruise as Tom Cody or some of the others who auditioned for the part [Eric Roberts, Patrick Swayze, Willem Dafoe]?  Although the movie tested well, the release fell flat and that makes for interesting behind-the-scenes reading as well.

So what are you waiting for?  Click over and enjoy A Conversation with Streets of Fire Co-Writer Larry Gross

11 Magical Facts About “Willow”

Andrew LaSane and Mental_Floss present 11 Magical Facts About Willow.  Here are three of my favorites

3. IT WAS CRITICIZED FOR BEING A COPY OF STAR WARS.
Having thought of the two worlds simultaneously, George Lucas may have cribbed some of his own work and other well-known stories a little too much for Willow, and some critics noticed.“Without anything like [Star Wars’] eager, enthusiastic tone, and indeed with an understandable weariness, Willow recapitulates images from Snow White, The Wizard of Oz,Gulliver’s Travels, Mad Max, Peter Pan, Star Wars itself, the Hobbit saga, Japanese monster films of the 1950s, the Bible and a million fairy tales,” wrote Janet Maslin of The New York Times. “One tiny figure combines the best attributes of Tinkerbell, the Good Witch Glinda and the White Rock Girl.”

Later in her review, Maslin continued to point of the similarities between the two films: “When the sorcerer tells Willow to follow his heart, he becomes the Obi-Wan Kenobi of a film that also has its Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3P0 and Princess Leia stand-ins. Much energy has gone into the creation of their names, some of which (General Kael) have recognizable sources and others (Burglekutt, Cherlindrea, Airk) have only tongue-twisting in mind. Not even the names have anything like Star Wars-level staying power.”

6. THE DEATH DOGS WERE REAL DOGS IN COSTUME.
The big bad in the film, Bavmorda, has demon dogs that terrorize Willow’s village. The dogs are more boar-like than canine, but they were portrayed by Rottweilers. The prop team outfitted the dogs with rubber masks and used animatronic heads for close-up scenes.

 

10. JOHN CUSACK AUDITIONED FOR THE PART OF MADMARTIGAN.
Val Kilmer famously played the role of the reluctant hero two years after played Iceman in Top Gun (1986), but he was not the only big name to audition for the role. Davis revealed in a commentary track that he once read with John Cusack, who in 1987 had already starred inSixteen Candles (1984), Stand by Me (1986), and Hot Pursuit (1987).

20 Truths About the “X-Files”

Jennifer M. Wood and Mental_Floss present 20 Truths About the X-Files.  Here are three of my favorites

1. THE IDEA FOR THE SHOW ORIGINATED WITH A PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY.
Chris Carter’s interest in the paranormal was piqued when he read Pulitzer Prize-winning writer/psychiatrist/Harvard Medical School professor John E. Mack’s analysis of a 1991 Roper Poll survey, which stated that at least 3.7 million Americans may have been abducted by aliens. “Everybody wants to hear that story,” Carter told Entertainment Weekly. “[Abduction] is tantamount to a religious experience.”

6. IN REAL LIFE, SCULLY IS THE BELIEVER.
In a 1994 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gillian Anderson admitted that Duchovny was a skeptic and she was the believer. “Psychokinesis appeals to me,” she said. “ESP, telling the future, I love that stuff.”

10. CARTER DIDN’T THINK OF THE SHOW AS SCIENCE FICTION.
“I actually resisted the ‘science fiction’ label in the beginning, because the show is actually based in science,” Carter told WIRED. “If it weren’t for Scully, I think the show could be just kind of loopy. So the science and the accuracy of the science is all-important to the success of the storytelling. I think Steven Spielberg called Close Encounters of the Third Kind ‘speculative science’ and I would say The X-Files, for me, has always fit more into that category.”

15 Uncensored Facts About “Midnight Cowboy”

Garin Pirnia and Mental_Floss present 15 Uncensored Facts About Midnight Cowboy.  Here are three of my favorites

4. VOIGHT WORKED FOR SCALE.
Voight was so desperate to play Joe Buck that he worked for scale: “‘Tell them I’ll do this part for nothing,’” Voight recalled to The Telegraph. “They took me at my word, and they gave me minimum for Midnight Cowboy.” At the end of the shoot, they sent him a $14.73 bill for meals on the last day of filming.

7. VOIGHT AND HOFFMAN WERE COMPETITIVE WITH EACH OTHER.
What made the chemistry between Hoffman and Voight work so well is they were constantly competing with one another. Hoffman became a movie star before Voight did, and that brought some jealousy to the set. “We were like Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, two fighters going at it,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew the movie depended on the bond between us. All through shooting, we’d say to each other, out of the side of our mouths, like a fighter in a clinch, ‘Buddy, is that the best you can do?’”

8. HOFFMAN PLACED PEBBLES IN HIS SHOE TO ACQUIRE RATSO’S LIMP.
“Why pebbles? It’s not like you’re playing a role on Broadway for six months where you’re so used to it, limping becomes second nature,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “The stone makes you limp, and you don’t have to think about it.”

19 Shadowy Facts About “Batman”

Matthew Jackson and Mental_Floss present 19 Shadowy Facts About Batman.  Here are three of my favorites

5. MANY STARS OF THE TIME WERE CONSIDERED FOR BATMAN.
The casting process for Batman was a long one, and involved a number of major stars of the day. Among the contenders for the title role were Mel Gibson, Bill Murray (yes, really), Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, Tom Selleck, Harrison Ford, Charlie Sheen, Ray Liotta, and Pierce Brosnan, who later regretted turning down the role.

7. JACK NICHOLSON WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE JOKER, BUT HE WASN’T THE ONLY CHOICE.
From the beginning, Uslan concluded that Jack Nicholson was the perfect choice to play The Joker, and was “walking on air” when the production finally cast him. He certainly wasn’t the only actor considered, though. Among Burton’s considerations were Willem Dafoe, James Woods, Brad Dourif, David Bowie, and Robin Williams (who really wanted the part).

9. EDDIE MURPHY WAS ONCE CONSIDERED TO PLAY ROBIN.
Though the character of Robin was ultimately scrapped because it simply didn’t feel like there was room for him in the film, he did appear in early drafts of the script, and at one point producers considered casting Eddie Murphy—who, you must remember, was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s—for the role.

10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers

Mark Mancini and Mental_Floss present 10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers.  Here are three of my favorites

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.
In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.
Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simplypaint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.
Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBCoffered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho whointroduced him.

18 Catchy Facts About “Footloose”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 18 Catchy Facts About Footloose.  Here are three of my favorites

1. IT WAS BASED ON ELMORE CITY, OKLAHOMA.
Elmore City had forbidden public dancing by law since its founding. In January of 1979, the local high schoolers asked that the rules be changed so that they could have a prom, to the anger of the reverend from the United Pentecostal Church. The kids won and got to dance on prom night. Dean Pitchford (lyricist for Fame songs “Red Light”, “Fame”, and “I Sing The Body Electric”) read about all of it and visited the town. Pitchford had his screenplay after 22 drafts.

2. TOM CRUISE ALMOST PLAYED REN.
The producers wanted Tom Cruise, but he had a scheduling conflict with All the Right Moves(1983). Rob Lowe auditioned and blew out his ACL. “I have post-traumatic stress with anything having to do with Footloose,” Lowe said later, while recalling a party where Kenny Loggins asked him to do a karaoke duet of the theme song. “I was like, ‘I won’t do anything with that damn movie, but I’ll do Danger Zone from Top Gun.’”

4. MADONNA AUDITIONED FOR ARIEL.
Had she gotten the part, it would have been her first feature film role. That didn’t come until 1985, in A Certain Sacrifice. Lori Singer got to play Ariel Moore instead.

10 Things You May Not Know About Richard Nixon

Cristopher Klein and History.com present 10 Things You May Not Know About Richard Nixon.  Here are three of my favorites

1. Lee Harvey Oswald may have plotted to assassinate Nixon.
In the early morning of November 22, 1963, Richard Nixon rode through Dallas to the airport to fly home after attending a Pepsi-Cola board meeting. Nixon saw the preparations for the motorcade that hours later would carry John F. Kennedy, the man who defeated him for the presidency three years prior, on the streets of the city’s downtown. After Nixon landed in New York, he learned that Kennedy had been gunned down in that motorcade. In a further coincidence, the wife of Lee Harvey Oswald testified to the Warren Commission that in April 1963 the alleged assassin read a local newspaper report, tucked a pistol in his belt, and told her, “Nixon is coming. I want to go and have a look.” After locking him in a bathroom, Oswald’s wife convinced him to turn over his gun. The account was puzzling, since Nixon was not in Dallas in April 1963 and no newspaper mentioned any visit.

3. Community theater brought Richard and Pat Nixon together.
Nixon first encountered his future first lady as a leading lady in 1938 when both auditioned for the Whittier Community Players production of “The Dark Tower.” The amateur theater production led to a romance between Nixon and Thelma Catherine Ryan, nicknamed “Pat” by her father because she was born on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Foreshadowing their later lives, the couple wed in the presidential suite of the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, on June 21, 1940.  [Richard Nixon as an actor?  Or interested in acting?  I would have never guessed. – Craig]

6. Nixon was an avid bowler.
One of Nixon’s favorite pastimes in the White House was bowling. He’d even bowl a few frames dressed in his suit. In addition to using the alley in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building, Nixon had another one-lane alley built in the basement beneath the North Portico entrance to the White House.

11 Strange Habits of Geniuses

Mental_Floss presents 11 Strange Habits of Geniuses.  Here are three of my favorites

7. EDGAR ALLAN POE WROTE ON SCROLLS.
Edgar Allan Poe often wrote on thin strips of paper, which he glued together and rolled into scrolls for easier storage. He felt the medium better contributed to a work’s flow than a regular old manuscript (and, presumably, looked spookier).

8. DA VINCI AND TESLA SHUNNED EIGHT-HOUR SLEEP SCHEDULES.
Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla adhered to alternative sleep schedules. Leonardo was said to have followed the polyphasic cycle, which means he took multiple short naps every 24 hours. Meanwhile, Tesla only rested two hours a day.

10. BEN FRANKLIN TOOK “AIR BATHS.”
Before he began the day’s work, Benjamin Franklin would spend up to an hour taking naked “air baths” at his open window.

11 Well-Drawn Facts About The Etch A Sketch

Kristen Fawcett and Mental_Floss present 11 Well-Drawn Facts About The Etch A Sketch.  Here are three of my favorites

4. TOY MANUFACTURERS ORIGINALLY REJECTED THE ETCH A SKETCH.
The Etch A Sketch was showcased at the 1959 Nuremberg Toy Fair, but toy companies didn’t want to pay a steep fee for the rights. Eventually, Ohio Art—who is said to have also passed on the Etch A Sketch—reconsidered and acquired the invention.

7. IT FOUND A MARKET VIA TELEVISION.
Production of the Etch A Sketch began on July 12, 1960. America soon caught wind of the toy thanks to a televised marketed campaign featuring a little girl named Pernella who hides underneath a basket with her Etch A Sketch because everyone wants to play with it. She eventually emerges and announces that her favorite toy “is magic!” The ads were such a hit that, come holiday season, Ohio Art was hard-pressed to fill orders.

8. IT’S A BEST-SELLER.
In 1998, the Etch A Sketch was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, cementing its place in history alongside inventions like the Slinky, the skateboard, and Silly Putty. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association ranked it as one of the 20th century’s hundred best toys. According to CNBC, more than 100 million Etch A Sketches have been sold since its introduction in 1960.

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