11 Fun Facts About “My Three Sons”

Kara Kovalchik and Mental_Floss present 11 Fun Facts About My Three Sons.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. THE STAR MANAGED TO NEGOTIATE A SWEET SET OF WORKING HOURS FOR HIS SCHEDULE.
Fred MacMurray was a well-established film star when he was approached by executive producer Don Fedderson about starring in a TV series. MacMurray agreed with two conditions: one, that he would own a percentage of the show, and two, that he only would be required to work three months of each year. In reality, MacMurray was a dedicated family man, and after years of being away on movie sets had planned to retire early and spend the majority of his time at home with his wife and four-year-old twin daughters. But the money Fedderson offered him was too tempting to pass up—and would secure his children’s future—so he signed on to play the widowed patriarch on My Three Sons.

MacMurray’s “three month” stipulation meant that the writers had to have each season’s scripts ready in advance so that MacMurray could film all of his scenes in one fell swoop and have them edited into the various episodes of the series after the fact. Years later, several other actors caught on to this concept and agreed to star in a project only if it was filmed in “the MacMurray Method.”

4. BILL FRAWLEY CARRIED A GRUDGE … TO GREAT LENGTHS.
That there was no love lost between former I Love Lucy co-stars William Frawley and Vivian Vance was certainly no secret in Hollywood, but Frawley had been willing to set aside any personal differences when Desilu proposed a spin-off series starring Fred and Ethel Mertz. Vivian Vance absolutely refused, however, and Frawley never forgave her for denying him a steady paycheck.

“On the third season of our show, lo and behold, Lucy decided to do The Lucy Show and they were on the next stage over from ours,” Stanley Livingston recalled. “She probably picked that stage knowing Bill and Vivian would have to pass each other. When Bill saw Vivian, he’d yell some sort of obscenity at her. He got me to participate in a couple of his pranks. When she was doing a scene, he’d get us kids on the show to sneak in and knock over a stack of empty film cans or throw them like a Frisbee to make a big racket and ruin her scene so she’d have to do it again.”

8. THE SERIES CHANGED NETWORKS MIDWAY THROUGH ITS 12-YEAR RUN.
My Three Sons was effectively cancelled by ABC in 1964 because the network was bowing to pressure from rival networks and slowly converting their black-and-white prime time shows to color. All things considered, in their opinion the added expense of filming My Three Sons in color was not worth it, so they axed the show from their schedule. CBS, however, thought the series still had some legs so they picked it up for the fall 1965 season (and continued running it through 1972).

15 Chest-Bursting Facts About “Alien”

Kristen Hunt and Mental_Floss presents 15 Chest-Bursting Facts About Alien.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED STAR BEAST.
When Dan O’Bannon was drafting the screenplay that would become Alien, he had a more unusual title: Star Beast. He didn’t like it, but struggled to find a better replacement until one late-night writing session. As he was typing dialogue in which the crew members discussed the alien, that word jumped out at him. He promptly ditched Star Beast for the more simplistic title, which he loved because it was a noun and an adjective.

5. RIPLEY WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE A WOMAN.
O’Bannon and Shusett wrote the entire cast as men, but they left a note in the screenplay that “the crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women.” Shusett admits they never dreamed of the lead being a woman, though. The producers made that call, believing a female Ripley would be more unique but also more palatable to their bankrollers. As Brandywine producer David Giler remembered, “Looking it over, [producer Walter Hill] and I thought, ‘Here’s this one character who’s not too interesting.’ And this studio—I hate to say this, but for very cynical reasons—this studio [20th Century Fox] is making Julia and Turning Point and they really believe in the return of the woman’s movie. [We’d] probably get a lot of points if we turn this character into a woman.”

12. THE ACTORS WERE GENUINELY SHOCKED BY THE CHESTBURSTER SCENE.
For the iconic scene where a chestburster shoots out of John Hurt’s torso, Scott wanted the best possible reaction from his cast. So he deliberately kept details hidden from all the actors, aside from Hurt. They knew a creature would emerge, they had seen the puppet, and they were more than a little suspicious of the raincoats they’d been given. But they had no idea what kind of gore was in store. Their reaction to the bloody burst is completely genuine. According to The Guardian, Yaphet Kotto (Parker) shut himself in his room right after the scene and wouldn’t talk to anyone.

14 Breathless Facts About Marilyn Monroe

Stacy Conradt and Mental_Floss present 14 Breathless Facts About Marilyn Monroe.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. SHE OFTEN REFERRED TO “MARILYN MONROE” IN THE THIRD PERSON.
Actor Eli Wallach once recalled that Monroe seemed to flip an inner switch and turn “Marilyn” on and off. He had been walking on Broadway with her one evening, totally incognito, and the next minute, she was swarmed with attention. “‘I just felt like being Marilyn for a minute,’” Wallach remembers her saying. Photographer Sam Shaw often heard her critiquing “Marilyn’s” performances in movies or at photo shoots, making comments like, “She wouldn’t do this. Marilyn would say that.”

5. SHE HAD A THING FOR INTELLECTUAL MEN.
Her marriage to writer Arthur Miller probably tells you that, but there’s more evidence. Monroe was once roommates with actress Shelley Winters, who said they made a list of men they wanted to sleep with, just for fun. “There was no one under 50 on hers,” Winters later reported. “I never got to ask her before she died how much of her list she had achieved, but on her list was Albert Einstein, and after her death, I noticed that there was a silver-framed photograph of him on her white piano.”

9. SHE HELPED ELLA FITZGERALD BOOK THE MOCAMBO CLUB.
The rumor has long circulated that Ella Fitzgerald was originally denied due to her race, but according to one biographer, race wasn’t the deterrent for nightclub owner Charlie Morrison; Eartha Kitt and Dorothy Dandridge had already played there. The problem was that Morrison didn’t believe Fitzgerald was glamorous enough for his patrons. A huge Fitzgerald fan, Monroe promised to be in the front row every night if Morrison would book her, guaranteeing massive amounts of press for the club. He agreed, and Monroe was true to her word. “After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again,” Fitzgerald said. “She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

10 Things You May Not Know About The Monkees

MeTV presents 10 Things You May Not Know About The Monkees.  Here are three of my favorites…

ONLY PETER TORK AND MICKY DOLENZ APPEAR IN EVERY EPISODE OF THE TV SHOW.
Don’t worry, the other two had good excuses. Davy Jones had to be written out of an episode so he could attend his sister’s wedding. Michael Nesmith missed three shoots due to a tonsillectomy, the birth of his son Jonathan and a family trip to Texas.

PAUL WILLIAMS AND STEPHEN STILLS AUDITIONED TO BE MONKEES.
More than 400 young actors and musicians auditioned for the four roles. Stephen Stills and Paul Williams were among those who did not make the cut, as were Danny Hutton (of Three Dog Night) and Harry Nilsson. The original idea was to cast an existing act, specifically the Lovin’ Spoonful. Both Stills and Spoonful frontman John Sebastian bristled at the idea of turning over their song publishing rights to the studio. Contrary to urban legend, Charles Manson did not audition.

MICKY DOLENZ AND MICHAEL NESMITH BOTH AUDITIONED TO PLAY THE FONZ ON ‘HAPPY DAYS.’
Hey, hey, we’re the Fonzies / People say we Fonzie around… There is no bigger “What If?” surrounding Happy Days than the potential casting of Arthur Fonzarelli. The creators were keen on Dolenz, and even Henry Winkler thought his chances were slim when he spotted this adorable pop star at an audition. But it came down to inches. Six of them. Dolenz was deemed to be too tall, towering over his costars. Nesmith also auditioned and was considered too tall. The 5′ 6″ Winkler fit the frame perfectly. Aaaaaayyyyy!

12 Facts About “The Outsiders” That Will Stay Gold

Jake Rose and Mental_Floss present 12 Facts About The Outsiders That Will Stay Gold.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. THE BOOK WAS WRITTEN BY A TEENAGER.
S.E. Hinton was Susan Eloise Hinton, a 15-year-old high school student in Tulsa who had grown bored with the trite plots of books targeted to her demographic. “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero … didn’t ring true to my life,” Hinton told The New Yorkerin 2014. So she decided to write a more authentic look at teenage struggles. When she finished, she handed the manuscript to a friend’s mother, who had contacts at a book agent in New York. Editors suggested she go by “S.E.” so readers could infer a male author was responsible for the testosterone-heavy characters. It has sold more than 14 million copies.

4. COPPOLA KEPT THE “GREASERS” AWAY FROM THE “SOCS.”
In The Outsiders, the Curtis boys are part of a clique of “Greasers,” lower-income Tulsa residents in perpetual conflict with the socials, or “Socs,” the sweater-sporting affluent kids. To perpetuate that rift, Coppola divided the actors in Tulsa according to their fictional social status: the Socs got better rooms, more spending money, free room service, and leather-bound scripts.

8. HINTON HAS A CAMEO.
Although Coppola’s production company, Zoetrope, was so low on funds at the time of optioning The Outsiders that they could pay Hinton only $500 of her $5000 rights fee, the author was friendly with the director and agreed to shoot a cameo. Hinton appears in the scene where Dallas (Matt Dillon) is being looked after by a nurse. Hinton also had cameos in other adaptations of her work, including 1983’s Rumble Fish (which Coppola also directed) and 1982’s Tex.

13 Fast Facts About “Smokey and the Bandit”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 13 Fast Facts About Smokey and the Bandit.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS BASED ON A REAL COORS BANQUET BEER PROBLEM.
While Needham was in Georgia working as Reynolds’ stunt double in Gator (1976), the driver captain on the set brought some Coors beer from California and brought a couple of cases to Needham’s hotel room. After he noticed that the maid kept stealing the beers from the fridge, he remembered a TIME magazine article from 1974 about how Coors was unavailable east of the Mississippi River, because the beer was not pasteurized and needed constant refrigeration, and couldn’t legally be sold outside of 11 western and southwestern U.S. states. Which made him realize that, “bootlegging Coors would make a good plotline for a movie.”

10. GLEASON ENJOYED “HAMBURGERS” ON SET.
Gleason would often ask his assistant Mal for a “hamburger,” which was code for a glass of bourbon.|

13. ALFRED HITCHCOCK WAS A BIG FAN OF THE FILM.
His daughter Patricia revealed that every Wednesday her father would screen films on the lot in his office. The last one he ever screened was Smokey and the Bandit, his favorite film of his last few years.

13 behind-the-Scenes Facts About Shark Tank

Jake Rossen and Mental_Floss present 13 behind-the-Scenes Facts About Shark Tank.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. CONTESTANTS CAN SPEND OVER AN HOUR IN FRONT OF THE SHARKS.
While product pitches are typically aired in 10-minute segments, business owners are often hashing out details with the Sharks for an hour or more. “The first time, I was in there 45 minutes,” says Aaron Marino, who appeared in a season four episode with his Alpha M image consultation business and will appear a second time in this season’s finale on May 20. “The second time was an hour, hour-and-a-half. When you get into the minutiae of business numbers, they cut a lot of that stuff out.”

8. EVERYONE HAS TO SEE A PSYCHIATRIST.
Once entrepreneurs are done filming, they’re immediately whisked off-set and into a meeting with a show-appointed psychiatrist for an off-air evaluation. “They just want to work through how you’re feeling,” says Bandholz. “I’ve heard from other contestants that they can be devastated by their performance, or by what the appearance might mean for their business. It’s a very intense emotional roller coaster.”

9. MOST OF THE ON-AIR DEALS DON’T GO THROUGH.
While contestants who accept an offer from one or more of the Sharks seem to have it made, it’s little more than a handshake deal. Owing to the due diligence process, Hale estimates that more than two-thirds of deals that are agreed upon in the show fall through. “It’s more like a first date,” he says. “You go back and find things you don’t like. Sometimes the deal terms change.”

16 Things You Might Not Know About Rambo

Sean Hutchinson and Mental_Floss present 16 Things You Might Not Know About Rambo.  Here are three of my favorites…

 4. RAMBO DOESN’T ACTUALLY KILL ANYONE IN THE FIRST MOVIE.
Despite his notorious reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, Rambo doesn’t actually do anyone in in First Blood—he only severely wounds the people trying to hunt and harm him. This was a conscious effort on Stallone’s part in his script to change the character into an underdog from the character in the book who, due to his PTSD, goes on a wild killing rampage, which Stallone felt would alienate the audience.

The one character who does die is Deputy Galt, who tracks Rambo through the mountains in a helicopter. Galt, who attempts to shoot Rambo with a rifle, loses his balance and falls from the helicopter after Rambo merely throws a rock toward it to defend himself.

Like the book, Rambo himself was to die at the end of the movie at the hands of Colonel Trautman. The scene where Rambo is killed was filmed, but was scrapped after test audiences hated the fact that it seemed to imply the only way for veterans returning home to cope was by dying.

5. KIRK DOUGLAS WAS SUPPOSED TO PLAY COLONEL TRAUTMAN.
The veteran movie star actually made it to set and appeared in early advertisements for First Blood, but left the production when he demanded the right to rewrite the script. Douglas favored the ending of the book, and felt that Rambo should die in the end. The actor gave the filmmakers an ultimatum: if the production didn’t let him do what he wanted with the script he’d quit. Kotcheff and Stallone wanted to leave the door open for the possibility for Rambo to live or die at the end of the movie, so they let Douglas quit.

Actor Richard Crenna was then cast with a single day’s notice to fill Douglas’ shoes as Rambo’s mentor and father figure, Colonel Trautman. Crenna would reprise his role in two more Rambo movies before he passed away in 2003. He is the only actor besides Stallone to appear in multiple Rambo movies.

The unused alternate ending of First Blood, in which Trautman shoots and kills Rambo, can be seen briefly in the dream sequence in the fourth film, Rambo.

2. HE’S BASED ON A REAL-LIFE WAR HERO.
Morrell first thought of writing a book about a decorated war hero struggling to assimilate back to civilian life when he read about the real-life exploits of World War II soldier Audie Murphy. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier in World War II, earning every possible U.S. military decoration for valor as well as five separate decorations from foreign countries including France and Belgium.

Following the war, Murphy starred as himself in the film adaptation of his own autobiography,To Hell and Back, and would go on to have a film career, appearing in 44 feature films. Murphy—who later suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which also inspired Morrell’s characterization of Rambo—tragically died in a plane crash in 1971. The Canadian-born Morrell decided to update his novel to the post-Vietnam era due to the political and cultural climate he saw as a grad student at Penn State in the late 1960s.

Morrell would go on to write the novelizations of the second and third Rambo movies. Since he had Rambo die at the end of the first book he had to retroactively change that to have his hero alive and well in the subsequent books.

Source: David Morrell.

15 Facts About “Twister”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 15 Facts About Twister.  Here are three of my favorites…

5. BOTH HELEN HUNT AND JAN DE BONT WALKED AWAY FROM OTHER MOVIES TO WORK ON THIS ONE.
Helen Hunt (Dr. Jo Harding) passed up working with John Travolta in John Woo’s Broken Arrow (1996). After more than six months of pre-production, de Bont left his Godzilla (1998 version) directing gig because of studio feuds over the budget and immediately agreed to direct Twister instead.

9. THE TORNADO SOUNDS ARE MADE UP OF VARIOUS ANIMAL NOISES.
According to Variety, an altered recording of a camel’s moan helped create the storm sounds. It was reported elsewhere that a lion’s growl and a tiger’s snarl were remixed as tornado audio.

14. BILL PAXTON THINKS THEY MADE THE “PEPSI LITE” VERSION OF THE MOVIE.
“I’d love to direct a sequel to that movie,” Paxton said. “I’ve always felt like there was a Jaws version of that movie. I always felt like we did the Pepsi Lite version of that movie.”

11 Terrifying Facts About “The Hills Have Eyes”

Matthew Jackson and Mental_Floss present 11 Terrifying Facts About The Hills Have Eyes.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS BASED ON A TRUE STORY.
According to writer/director Wes Craven, The Hills Have Eyes was inspired by the story of Sawney Bean, the head of wild Scottish clan who murdered and cannibalized numerous people during the Middle Ages. Craven heard the story of the Bean clan, and noted that the road near where they lived was believed to be haunted because people kept disappearing while traveling on it. He adapted the story to instead be about a group of wild people in the American West, and The Hills Have Eyes was born.

8. MICHAEL BERRYMAN CONSTANTLY FACED HEATSTROKE.1-
Berryman, who became a horror icon thanks to this film, was apparently game for just about anything Craven and company wanted him to do, though he personally told the producers he was born with “26 birth defects.” Among those birth defects was a lack of sweat glands, which meant that the intense desert heat was particularly hazardous to his health. He soldiered on, though, even in intense action sequences.

“We always had to cover him up as soon as we finished these scenes,” Craven recalled.

11. IT STARTED AN INTERESTING CHAIN OF HORROR HOMAGES.
The Hills Have Eyes is admired by fellow horror filmmakers, so much so that one of them—Evil Dead director Sam Raimi—chose to pay homage to it in a strange way. In the scene in which Brenda is quivering in bed after having been brutalized by Pluto and Mars, a ripped poster for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is visible above her head. Raimi saw it as a message.

“I took it to mean that Wes Craven … was saying ‘Jaws was just pop horror. What I have here isreal horror.’”

As a joking response to the scene, Raimi put a ripped poster for The Hills Have Eyes in his now-classic film The Evil Dead (1981). Not to be outdone, Craven responded by including a clip from The Evil Dead in his classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

30 Things We Learned from the “Planet Terror” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 30 Things We Learned from the Planet Terror Commentary.  Here are three of my favorites…

7. Bruce Willis enjoyed his time on Sin City so much that he told Rodriguez “any time, any where, I’ll come make anything with you.” The director called his bluff and convinced him to play the bad guy here knowing it would only be two days work. Tarantino visited the set — both to say hi and because he shot some 2nd unit for the film — and was surprised to Willis in costume.

17. Michael Biehn, who plays Sheriff Hague, approached Rodriguez at one point to say he had fired six shots from his revolver and his character would need to reload before firing more. “Don’t worry about it,” replied the director, “it’s not that kind of movie.”
23. The “missing reel” gag was inspired by the time Tarantino screened an Oliver Reed film at an Alamo Drafthouse that was in fact missing a reel. The idea of not knowing what scenes you’re missing appealed to Rodriguez and used it here both as a gag and because his script was already growing too long.

14 Epic Facts About “Gangs of New York”

Eric D. Snider and Mental_Floss present 14 Epic Facts About Gangs of New York.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. IT WAS 32 YEARS IN THE MAKING.
Martin Scorsese read Herbert Asbury’s 1928 nonfiction book The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld in 1970 and immediately thought it would make a good movie. He didn’t have any money or clout yet though, so he had to wait. He bought the movie rights to the book in 1979, and even got a screenplay written around that time, then spent the next 20 years trying to get the project off the ground before finding a willing financial partner in Harvey Weinstein at Miramax Films.

7. SEVERAL CHARACTERS WERE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE.
Bill the Butcher was real, though Scorsese changed his surname from Poole to Cutting for the movie to reflect a creative liberty he’d taken, i.e., having the character live to see the Civil War (he was actually murdered in 1855). William “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent) was a real politician who controlled the Tammany Hall political machine, as you may recall from your high school U.S. history class. So were the Schermerhorns, the rich people seen taking a tour of the misery and vice of Five Points. (Interesting footnote: Scorsese’s fifth wife, whom he married in 1999, is one Helen Schermerhorn Morris, a descendant of early New York elites.) Perhaps most surprisingly, Hell-Cat Maggie (Cara Seymour)—the vicious female fighter who bites off victims’ ears—was fact-based, being a composite of the real Hell-Cat Maggie (her real name is unknown) and a few other historical lady criminals.

13. THERE WERE LONGER CUTS OF THE MOVIE, BUT YOU WON’T SEE THEM.
The first cut, the throw-in-everything-and-see-what-works version, was three hours and 38 minutes, almost an hour longer than the final cut. Scorsese and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, tinkered with it relentlessly, ultimately producing 18 different versions that were screened for various audiences. Weinstein, rightfully nicknamed Harvey Scissorhands for his ruthless trimming of the movies he releases, no doubt urged Scorsese toward a shorter runtime, but Scorsese said he’s happy with the one everybody saw, which is two hours and 47 minutes.

“There’s not one version that I would say, ‘That’s my original version,’” Scorsese said on the DVD commentary. They were more like drafts: “This was all a series of changes and rewrites and restructuring, until finally it comes down to the movie you see in the theater.”

10 Towering Facts About “The Iron Giant”

Michele Debczak and Mental_Floss present 10 Towering Facts About The Iron Giant.  Here are three of my favorites…

5. THE TITLE CHARACTER WAS COMPUTER GENERATED.
Despite being considered one of America’s last great traditionally animated films, The Iron Giant’s title character was created entirely with a computer. The creators took careful steps to make sure the Giant blended in seamlessly with the hand-drawn world. They even went so far as to develop a computer program to make the character’s lines wobble slightly, producing a crude, hand-drawn effect. 

6. IT FEATURES A PRE-FAST AND FURIOUS VIN DIESEL.
Before making a name for himself as an action star, Vin Diesel provided his voice to the towering robot in The Iron Giant. Not counting groans and grunts, the Giant utters a grand total of 53 words in the entire film. When Diesel returned to feature voice acting 15 years later for Guardians of the Galaxy, he played Groot, a character whose vocabulary is even more severely limited. 

7. THE DESIGN WAS INSPIRED BY THE ART OF NORMAN ROCKWELL.
The Iron Giant takes place in an idyllic Maine town in the 1950s—a perfect contrast to the themes of McCarthy-era paranoia the film explores. To give the setting more of a wholesome, Americana look, the creators drew inspiration from the art of Edward Hopper, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell. Even the fictional town’s name—Rockwell—is a nod to the iconic American artist. 

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