10 Electrifying Facts About Nikola Tesla

Jane Rose and Mental_Floss present 10 Electrifying Facts About Nikola Tesla.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. HE PIONEERED MANY SIGNIFICANT MODERN INVENTIONS BEYOND ALTERNATING CURRENT.
For many, Tesla is associated with the “War of the Currents”—waged with onetime employer and later rival Thomas Edison—over the form of electricity that would become standard. Edison championed direct current, or DC, while Tesla and ally George Westinghouse fought for alternating current, or AC. AC, of course, eventually won out over DC, despite Edison’s attempts to malign Tesla’s invention by pushing the electric chair as a method of execution to show how dangerous AC was. However, Tesla also conducted pioneering work in electric light, electric motors, radio, x-ray, remote control, radar, wireless communications, and robotics, and created his famous transformer, the Tesla coil. Tesla was in many cases not properly recognized for his contributions, with other inventors receiving credit for improving on what he began. He obtained around 300 patents in his lifetime.

3. HE HAD EXTREMELY REGULAR, EVEN OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE, HABITS, AND WAS A GERMAPHOBE.
Throughout his life, Tesla displayed a formidable work ethic, keeping a regimented schedule. Some claim he slept only two hours a night. He often took his dinner at the same table at Delmonico’s in New York, and later at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. He had an all-consuming fear of germs and required a stack of 18 napkins. He was obsessed with the number three, and was prone to carrying out compulsive rituals related to three. When he was young, he would develop a fit at the sight of pearls, and couldn’t bear to touch hair.

8. HE WANTED TO ILLUMINATE THE ENTIRE EARTH, LITERALLY.
Tesla believed that his work had the potential to light the earth’s atmosphere, banishing darkness and bringing in a new era of light. He theorized that gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere were capable of carrying high-frequency electrical currents, and successful transmission of such currents there could create a “terrestrial night light” that would make shipping lanes and airports safer and illuminate whole cities. But like most of Tesla’s loftier aims, this goal was never realized, and its possibility remains unproven.

15 Out-of-this-World Facts About Space Mountain

Stacy Conradt and Mental_Floss present 15 Out-of-this-World Facts About Space Mountain.  Here are three of my favorites…

4. THE DISNEY WORLD AND DISNEYLAND RIDES ARE SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT IN HEIGHT.
Florida’s mountain is more than 180 feet high and 300 feet in diameter. Because Disneyland is built on a much smaller scale than the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland’s Space Mountain would have towered over Main Street and ruined the illusion of scale had it been an exact replica. A precise copy also wouldn’t have fit, as Magic Kingdom is a bigger space. As a result, the California Space Mountain is significantly smaller at 118 feet tall and 200 feet in diameter.

6. THE RIDE COST MORE TO BUILD THAN THE ENTIRE DISNEYLAND PARK.
By the time Disneyland officially opened on July 17, 1955, the final price tag was $17 million. Twenty years later, the construction of the Space Mountain complex cost $18 million, including an arcade and a permanent amphitheater.

12. WANT 10 MORE FEET OF RIDE? PICK THE “ALPHA” TRACK. 

There are two tracks to choose on the Magic Kingdom ride: Alpha and Omega. For a slightly longer ride, opt for the Alpha track, which is 3196 feet long versus Omega’s 3186 feet.

27 Things We Learned from Roger Donaldson’s “No Way Out” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 27 Things We Learned from Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out Commentary.  Here are three of my favorites…

25. The ending of the film was apparently “controversial” at the time as audiences are on the side of Costner’s character throughout only to be stung by the final revelation. He was happy that people kept the secret and wonders if that aided the word of mouth and the film’s success. Can you imagine this movie opening in today’s internet culture?

21. The shot of Susan falling to her death was filmed with her standing upright on a dolly being pushed towards a wall that had been made up like the floor complete with a glass table.

4. The film is based on Kenneth Fearing’s novel, The Big Clock, but Donaldson thought it was an original script all the way through production. “I was at a party and ran into Mel Gibson, and he said ‘Oh I heard you made the remake of The Big Clock.’”

13 Infamous Facts About “Bonnie and Clyde” the Movie

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 13 Infamous Facts About Bonnie and Clyde.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. FAYE DUNAWAY’S STAR-MAKING PERFORMANCE ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN.
Warren Beatty, doing double duty as star and producer, and director Arthur Penn considered many other actresses first, including Tuesday Weld, Jane Fonda, Natalie Wood, Sharon Tate, Leslie Caron, and Ann-Margret. (Back when he was only producing it and not starring in it, Beatty had also considered his sister, Shirley MacLaine, for the role.) Beatty said they were turned down “by about 10 women,” though he would later say Weld was the only one they made a firm offer to. When Beatty met Dunaway, he didn’t think she was right for the part, but he told her to meet with Penn, who he thought would think she was perfect. Beatty was right.

7. THE STUDIO’S LACK OF FAITH MADE WARREN BEATTY VERY, VERY RICH.
Thinking the film wouldn’t make any money, Warner Bros. offered Beatty a ridiculous deal: a $200,000 salary, plus 40 percent of the gross. Yes, 40 percent. Of the gross, not the net. The film made more than $50 million.

5. WHATEVER YOU THINK THE FILM “REALLY” MEANS, YOU’RE PROBABLY WRONG.
Some viewers interpreted Bonnie and Clyde as a commentary on other issues, but Newman and Benton said they didn’t intend it that way. As they wrote in an introduction to a published version of their screenplay, “[People] have told us that Bonnie and Clyde was REALLY about Vietnam, REALLY about police brutality, REALLY about Lee Harvey Oswald, REALLY about Watts. After a while, we took to shrugging and saying, ‘If you think so.'”

16 Super Facts About “Superman – The Movie”

Mathew Jackson and Mental_Floss present 16 Super Facts About Superman.  Here are three of my favorites…

6. EVERY MAJOR STAR OF THE DAY WAS SEEMINGLY CONSIDERED FOR THE TITLE ROLE.
In order to secure the rights to adapt the comic book, the Salkinds had to bow to certain demands from DC Comics, and the publisher ultimately sent along a list of “approved” actors who were allowed to play Superman. The list was far-reaching, and basically included every major star of the time. Among the names on the list: Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Muhammad Ali.

7. RICHARD DONNER WANTED TO CAST AN UNKNOWN AS SUPERMAN.
The Salkinds, hoping to land a major movie star in the title role, offered Superman to Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who both turned it down. The Salkinds also booked a meeting between Donner and Sylvester Stallone, who was hot at the time because of Rocky.

“I tried to be nice and say, ‘This is wrong,’” Donner said.

Believing that a movie star in Superman’s costume wouldn’t be believable, because audiences would only see the movie star and not the character, Donner lobbied hard for an unknown. He eventually found his man in Christopher Reeve, who impressed the director with his theater work.

9. MARGOT KIDDER’S CLUMSINESS WON HER THE LOIS LANE ROLE.
For the role of Lois Lane, several actresses—including Lesley Ann Warren and Anne Archer—were considered, but Margot Kidder ultimately won the role by simply being herself.

“When I met her in the casting office, she tripped coming in and I just fell in love with her,”Donner said. “It was perfect, this clumsy [behavior]. She was one of the few [actresses] we flew to London to test with Chris. Anne Archer [also tested]. But they were magic together.”

To compound Kidder’s clumsy, silly side even further, an eye injury meant that she had to act without contact lenses one day. Donner was so charmed by the way it made Lois bump into things and widen her eyes that he made sure Kidder continued to play the role without her contacts.

“There was a law after that: every morning people had to come to me and make sure she didn’t have her contacts in, and that she would act without her contacts. It just made her wonderful.”

16 Fascinating Facts About Marlon Brando

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 16 Fascinating Facts About Marlon Brando.  Here are three of my favorites…

5. HE BROKE HIS NOSE DURING A PERFORMANCE OF STREETCAR WHEN HE WAS BOXING WITH SOMEONE BACKSTAGE.
To alleviate the boredom of playing Kowalski on stage for, at that time, over one year, Brando started to fight with one of the stagehands, who was an amateur boxer. The stagehand took it easy on Brando until the actor insisted he fight for real. The stagehand then popped him in the nose, and blackened his eyes. Having just been punched in the face, and with his nose bleeding, Brando stepped back on to the stage. His co-star, Jessica Tandy, hid her surprise at his appearance by ad-libbing the line “You bloody fool” and playing it off as if Stanley had just been in a street fight.

After the performance, Brando walked to the nearest hospital to get himself fixed up. Irene Selznick, the show’s producer, told Brando to get his nose reset. She was glad he did not to listen to her. “I honestly think that broken nose made his fortune,” she said. “It gave him sex appeal. He was too beautiful before.”

 

7. BRANDO INITIALLY TURNED DOWN ON THE WATERFRONT, AND DIDN’T CARE FOR HIS PERFORMANCE IN IT.
After Brando returned the unread script—twice—Frank Sinatra was cast as Terry Malloy. While costumes were being fitted for the crooner to star, Brando changed his mind after producer Sam Spiegel convinced the actor to put his politics aside and re-team with his A Streetcar Named Desire director Elia Kazan, who had testified as a witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952.

When Brando first saw the movie, he was “so depressed” by his performance that he left the screening room without saying a word. Brando won his first (of two) Best Actor Oscars for the role.

 

9. BRANDO AND SINATRA FEUDED DURING GUYS AND DOLLS.
Still upset over having the role of Terry Malloy taken away from him, Sinatra held a grudge, and repeatedly referred to Brando as “Mumbles.” Sinatra also declared that he didn’t go for Brando and “that Method crap.”

The two ended up starring in Guys and Dolls (1955) together, with Sinatra as Nathan Detroit and Brando as Sky Masterson. To get back at Sinatra for his adamant dislike of rehearsing, Brando purposely screwed up at the end of scenes to necessitate a retake. In one scene, Brando reportedly messed up nine times in a row because Sinatra had to eat a piece of cheesecake every time. After the ninth mistake, Sinatra threw his plate to the ground, jammed his fork on the table, and screamed at the director, “These ****** New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?”

Twilight Zone: “In His Image” [Season 4, Episode 1] / Z-View

Twilight Zone: “In His Image[Season 4, Episode 1]
Original Air Date: January 1, 1963

Director: Perry Lafferty

Writer: Charles Beaumont

Starring: George Grizzard, Gail Kobe and Katherine Squire.

The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…

Jessica is in love with a man with a mysterious past that gets uncontrollable urges to kill.

10 Hush-Hush Facts About “L.A. Confidential”

Mathew Jackson and Mental Floss present 10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. THE SCRIPTING PROCESS WAS TOUGH.
Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

“He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn’t want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor.”

 

3. JAMES ELLROY DIDN’T THINK THE BOOK COULD BE ADAPTED.
Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”

 

10. ELLROY APPROVED OF THE MOVIE.
To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.

 

“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters’] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I’ve long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

15 Big Facts About “Sanford and Son”

Roger Cormier and Mental Floss present 15 Big Facts About Sanford and Son.  Here are three of my favorites…

5. FOXX WORE MAKEUP TO LOOK OLDER.
Foxx, who was nicknamed “Chicago Red” because of his hair color, was only 49 years old when the series began; Fred Sanford was 65. He complained that a lot of people assumed he was Fred’s age.

8. FOXX BASED THE HEART ATTACKS ON HIS MOTHER.
“Fred Sanford is Mary Sanford, who is my mother, but you can reverse personalities into male or female,” Foxx told Sammy Davis Jr. on Sammy and Company. “My mother would do the same thing … she would have heart attacks when I was a kid, I remember. When she wanted something done she could hardly breathe—she had emphysema, she had cancer, she had lumbago, she had whooping cough.”

9. LAWANDA PAGE WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED IF IT WASN’T FOR FOXX.
LaWanda Page was the only actress Foxx wanted to play Fred’s sister-in-law, Esther. Page was too nervous to give an audition producers liked, but Foxx insisted. “They were going to let me go,” Page told Jet magazine in 1977, “but Redd said, ‘No, you ain’t gonna let her go. That’s LaWanda and I know she can do it! Just give me some time with her.'”

24 Things We Learned from Ben Affleck’s “Gone, Baby, Gone” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 24 Things We Learned from Ben Affleck’s Gone, Baby, Gone Commentary.   Here are three of my favorites…

7. Affleck worried about a shot of Jerry Springer on Helene McCready’s (Amy Ryan) TV thinking it might be too cliched, but “literally one in every two houses that I went into had Springer on while we were scouting in the afternoon.”

8. The extra with the hole in his throat was in the bar when they arrived for shooting so Affleck just asked him to stay. The man moving quickly behind him is actually Affleck who was passing by unaware they were grabbng the shot. Stockard wonders if this is Affleck’s stab at a Hitchcock cameo, but the director denies it.

3. One of the changes they made from the novel was adjusting the private eyes’ ages from being in their 40s to being in their 30s, “but that presented its own challenges,” says Stockard.

Twilight Zone: “The Dummy” [Season 3, Episode 33] / Z-View

Twilight Zone: “The Dummy[Season 3, Episode 33]
Original Air Date: May 4, 1962

Director: Abner Biberman

Writer: Rod Serling based on a story by Lee Polk

Starring: Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and George Murdock.


The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…

Jerry Etherson is a very good ventriloquist.  The only thing holding him back from the big time is his dummy… who is very evil and very alive.

13 Monumental Facts About “North by Northwest”

Eric D. Snider and Mental Floss present 13 Monumental Facts About North by Northwest.  Here are three of my favorites…

3. JAMES STEWART WANTED TO PLAY THE LEAD.
Stewart had been in four Hitchcock movies at this point, and he wanted North by Northwest to be the fifth. But while Hitch loved him, he didn’t think he was right for the glibly debonair Roger Thornhill. He wanted Cary Grant for the part. Not wanting to hurt Stewart’s feelings, Hitchcock waited until Stewart was committed to another film (Bell, Book and Candle) before casting the role.

4. CARY GRANT HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON.
The star found the screenplay baffling, and midway through filming told Hitchcock, “It’s a terrible script. We’ve already done a third of the picture and I still can’t make head or tail of it!” Hitchcock knew this confusion would only help the film—after all, Grant’s character had no idea what was going on, either. Grant thought the film would be a flop right up until its premiere, where it was rapturously received.

5. PART OF IT WAS SHOT SECRETLY.
You wouldn’t expect Hitchcock to have to sneak around, but even the Master of Suspense was no match for the United Nations, which did not allow filming at its New York headquarters, not even in the plaza outside. So to get the shot where Grant walks into the building, Hitchcock hid a camera in a nondescript truck and filmed in secret from across the street.

32 Things We Learned from Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 32 Things We Learned from Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead Commentary.  Here are three of my favorites…

13. Snyder cameos during the opening credits montage as a soldier with a machine gun on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

19. The original’s Tom Savini, Ken Foree, and Scott H. Reiniger all cameo here as a sheriff, a preacher, and a general, respectively.

 

29. Someone after a test screening questioned Snyder as to why/how the zombies pause at the bottom of the stairs at 1:32:25, and it put him on the spot when they asked if the zombies could even do that. He replied, “in real life, no, but in film where you dramatize…”

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