16 Epic Facts About “Spartacus”

Roger Cormier and the Mental_Floss present 16 Epic Facts About Spartacus.  Here are three of my favorites…

1. YUL BRYNNER TRIED TO MAKE HIS OWN SPARTACUS MOVIE FIRST.

A Spartacus film starring Brynner and Anthony Quinn was on the slate for United Artists, with the titles Spartacus and The Gladiators already trademarked. UA even paid for a full-page ad to be published in Variety in February 1958 for The Gladiators. However, Douglas and his film company owned the movie rights to Howard Fast’s novel, Spartacus, and when Universal Pictures backed Douglas—along with Ustinov, Olivier, and Laughton all preferring Trumbo’s script over the script for Brynner’s project—Douglas had won. Brynner’s film was never made.

3. STANLEY KUBRICK WAS NOT THE FIRST DIRECTOR.

David Lean (1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai) turned down an offer to direct, and Laurence Olivier was asked but declined because he thought both acting and directing would be too much. Douglas believed that the original director, Anthony Mann, was scared of the large scope of the movie, and he also didn’t like how close he was to the British actors, so he fired him after two weeks of filming. Douglas turned to Kubrick, his director on Paths of Glory (1957), who agreed for a salary of $150,000.

8. KUBRICK TOLD THE HIRED CINEMATOGRAPHER TO TAKE A SEAT.

Because Kubrick was a cinematographer himself and very exacting in what he wanted, he eventually told Russell Metty, the man hired by Anthony Mann, to do nothing and let Kubrick do all the work for him. Metty would win his first and only Oscar for Best Cinematography for “his” work on Spartacus.

15 Facts About “Silence of the Lambs” That You Didn’t Know

Cory Mahoney and the Hollywood.com present 15 Facts About Silence of the Lambs That You Didn’t Know.  Here are three of my favorites…

3. The moth cocoons Buffalo Bill placed in his victims throats were actually made from a combination of Tootsie Rolls and gummy bears, in case they were swallowed. 

7. Silence of the Lambs the only horror movie ever to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Only two others have even been nominated: The Exorcist and Jaws.

9. Jonathan Demme always had characters speak directly into the camera for conversations with Clarice, yet he always filmed Jodie Foster looking slightly off camera.
The idea was to make audiences directly experience her point-of-view to more easily empathize with her character. We think anyone who has watched those gripping last few moments of the film can confirm the success of this technique.

13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About “Arsenic and Old Lace”

Lou Lumenick and the New York Post present 13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Arsenic and Old Lace.  Here are three of my favorites…

The Broadway version was too good for his own good

The main draw on Broadway was Boris Karloff as the critic’s homicidal brother, who is described as looking “like Boris Karloff’’ because of botched plastic surgery.

Much to Karloff’s chagrin, the producers insisted that he remain on Broadway while Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, as the aunts, and John Alexander, as their brother who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, reprised their roles in the movie.

Grant almost didn’t have the part

Grant wasn’t the first choice for the film, but Bob Hope wasn’t available because of a schedule conflict (Capra needed to shoot the film just before reporting for World War II military duty).

Grant, who donated his entire $100,000 salary to wartime charities, insisted, “Jimmy Stewart would have been much better [than me] in the film.’’ Stewart later starred opposite Josephine Hull in “Harvey’’ — for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

 

An auteur filled Karloff’s shoes

When Karloff left to head up a road company of “Arsenic and Old Lace,’’ he was replaced on Broadway by Erich von Stroheim. Karloff’s rival Bela Lugosi played the part for five weeks onstage in Los Angeles.

9 Festive Facts About A Charlie Brown Christmas

Me-TV presents 9 Festive Facts About A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Here are three of my favorites…

A FORD COMMERCIAL INSPIRED THE SPECIAL.

Charles Schulz was reluctant to turn his Peanuts comic strip into an animation, but ultimately allowed Ford Motors to use the characters in a commercial in 1959. Bill Melendez animated the spot, and Schulz liked the finished product so much he allowed Melendez to direct A Charlie Brown Christmas.

THE NETWORK DIDN’T LIKE IT AT FIRST.

Melendez and Mendelson screened the special for CBS just three weeks before it aired. The network hated it, thinking it was too slow and lacked energy, and the meeting ended with them telling the producers there weren’t going to be more specials in the future.

Image: ABC
THE NETWORK EVENTUALLY LIKED IT.

Maybe it was the fact that 15 million homes tuned into A Charlie Brown Christmas. Maybe it was because the special pulled a 50 share in the Nielson ratings, meaning half of all households with a television watched it. Whatever the case, CBS opened up to the special and aired it on the network until 2000, at which point ABC started airing it.

10 Minor Goofs You Never Noticed in Star Trek

Me-TV presents 10 Minor Goofs You Never Noticed in Star Trek the original series.  Here are three of my favorites…

A WOODEN STARSHIP – “Errand of Mercy”

In the opening, as the Enterprise is attacked by a Klingon vessel, you can see that the floor behind Nimoy has not been painted. The bare wood is exposed on the elevated part of the bridge.

BATTEN DOWN THE BRIDGE! – “The Changeling”

In the prologue, when a green bolt of light slams into the Enterprise — Red alert! Here we get a taste of that classic disaster technique of shaking the camera as the cast flails around on set. However, it must have been a pretty hard blast, as the helm console lifts off the floor.

THEY HAVE A L.A. ON NEURAL, TOO? – “A Private Little War”

The gang is on the primative planet of Neural. In the final act, Nona is being attacked by some tribal toughs, who look a bit like Daniel Boone in pastel pajamas. She tries to use Kirk’s Phaser against her attackers. As they struggle, Los Angeles can be seen off in the distance in the smog.

13 Surprising Facts About “Carlito’s Way”

Roger Cormier and Mental_Floss present 13 Surprising Facts About Carlito’s Way.  Here are three of my favorites…

6. JOHN LEGUIZAMO TURNED DE PALMA DOWN FOUR TIMES.
Leguizamo played the memorable (to most) Bronx native Benny Blanco only after De Palma let him create his own character. He told The A.V. Club that he turned the director down four times because he “just felt that it wasn’t enough of a part. Luckily, [Brian] De Palma and I had worked together on Casualties Of War (1989), so he let me improvise my ass off. I totally went off. I created this character, you know, all the bizarre back story, that he’s a go-getter who can’t wait to meet Pacino. I think that was the first time I really felt like I had found myself in movies. That was a great time… I’ll always love De Palma, because Carlito’s Way was where I found myself in film.”

 

9. PENN AND DE PALMA DID NOT ALWAYS GET ALONG.
“He’s an operatic moviemaker, so the reality level is somewhere off in De Palma-ville, and to get hold of it is impossible,” Penn claimed in 1996. “How to serve him is hard to get a grasp on, so it can become confrontational. And it did, to a degree, on Carlito’s Way.” He also said that working with Pacino was something he loved. “Working with him balanced that whole experience out.”

“I remember when I was shooting Carlito’s Way,” De Palma said, after he was asked if any of his actors took things too far. “There’s this scene where Sean is all coked up, and he’s trying to get [Al Pacino] to go on the boat trip with him. Because of where the sun was, I was shooting Sean over Al’s back for the beginning. I shot ten, fifteen takes, and I thought it looked pretty good. But Sean said, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ I said ‘What?!’ He said, ‘We don’t have it.’ I said, ‘I think we do.’ He said, ‘I need a few more takes.’ He said, ‘Twenty.’ I said, ‘Twenty?? Ok…’ I shot ten more, I think, and then I said, ‘Sean, I have to shoot this two-shot, then I gotta go over and shoot Al. He’s been playing to you all morning.’ But Sean was never happy with the scene. And I came around, and shot a two-shoot, and an over-the-shoulder.”

 

11. A PLANNED WORLD TRADE CENTER SHOOTOUT HAD TO BE CHANGED AT THE LAST MINUTE.

“I had elaborate storyboards of this whole shootout on the escalators that were in the World Trade Center,” De Palma said. “I spent weeks and weeks photographing it … and a couple of days before we were about to shoot, they blew it up.” The epic shootout took place in Grand Central Station instead.

11 Bam! Pow! Things You Might Not Know About Batman

Me-TV presents 11 Bam! Pow! Things You Might Not Know About Batman.  Here are three of my favorites…

LYLE WAGGONER ALMOST LANDED THE ROLE OF BATMAN
Two screen tests were filmed to decide on the casting of Batman and Robin. One, obviously, featured West and Burt Ward. The other starred Lyle Waggoner and Peter R.J. Deyell, as you can see in the image. While Waggoner would ultimately lose the role to West, he would end up as another prominent DC Comics hero, playing Steve Trevor on Wonder Woman.

BRUCE LEE, SANTA CLAUS AND A CARPET MAGNATE WERE JUST SOME OF THE WACKY WINDOW CAMEOS.
In the reoccurring Bat-climb gimmick, a celebrity would pop his or her head out of a window as Batman and Robin were scaling the side of a building in Gotham. Jerry Lewis was the first, proclaiming, “Holy human flies!” After the comedian, there were window cameos from Dick Clark (pictured), the Green Hornet and Kato, Sammy Davis Jr., Bill “Jose Jimenez” Dana, Sergeant Sam Stone from the series Felony Squad, Colonel Klink from Hogan’s Heroes, Lurch from The Addams Family, Don Ho, Santa Claus, Art Linkletter, Edward G. Robinson, Suzy Knickerbocker, and “The Carpet King.” The latter was a carpet salesman named Cyril Lord with a series of TV ads, who traded Dozier some carpet for the cameo.

 

JERRY “BEAVER” MATHERS HAS AN UNCREDITED ROLE IN “THE GREAT ESCAPE.”
“I’m Pop, the stage doorman!” he proclaims. A grown-up Mathers works the back entrance to the Gotham Opera House in this season three episode. “Pop? You ain’t old enough to drink,” the villain Calamity Jan snorts. “Well, I’m 17,” he replies. At the time, the actor was actually 20.

11 Top Secret Facts About “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Me-TV presents 11 Top Secret Facts About The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Here are three of my favorites…

LIKE JAMES BOND, NAPOLEON SOLO AND APRIL DANCER WERE THE BRAINCHILDREN OF IAN FLEMING.

The show’s creator, Norman Felton, enlisted erstwhile Navel Intelligence officer and novelist Fleming to come up with characters and premises for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The Bond author dreamt up Napoleon Solo and April Dancer (The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.). The working title for the series was Ian Fleming’s Solo.

IT IS TECHNICALLY SET IN THE SHERLOCK HOLMES UNIVERSE.

On the show, the U.N.C.L.E. organization’s nemesis, T.H.R.U.S.H., was founded by the Sherlock Holmes villain Col. Sebastian Moran. In the backstory, Moran created the evil organization after his boss, Moriarity, went over the Reichenbach Falls. So, in a way, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a sequel to Sherlock — it is set in the same world. The modern Sherlock Holmes films and the recent Man from U.N.C.L.E. flick were all directed by Guy Ritchie, who has quietly developed his own cinematic shared universe.

IT WAS THREE DRAMATICALLY (AND COMEDICALLY) DIFFERENT SHOWS ROLLED INTO ONE.

The first season was filmed in black & white. Befitting that shadowy look, it took a more serious tone. In 1965, Napoleon Solo, like Dorothy, leapt into a world of bright color. In its four year run, the series had different showrunners each season, and each boss brought a different style to a table. The show went from noir spy thriller to bright and light adventures to outright spoof. By the end, it was emulating the mod, camp vibe of the hugely popular Batman.

 

11 Whopping Facts About “The Wild, Wild West” (TV Series)

Me-TV presents 11 Whopping Facts About The Wild, Wild West.  Here are three of my favorites…

 

CONRAD LOVED DOING HIS OWN STUNTS.

The star was always ready for a fake fight. In the book A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 62 Filmmakers, series stuntman and stunt coordinator Whitey Hughes fondly recalls Conrad’s zeal for fisticuffs: “Bob’s favorite expression was, ‘Get ’em up, Whitey, get ’em up! Put the needle in ’em!’—meaning ‘Get the [stuntmen’s] adrenaline going.”

CONRAD WAS ALMOST THE STAR OF ‘I DREAM OF JEANNINE’ AND ‘THE A-TEAM.’

The Wild Wild West was just one of many leading roles for Conrad, who also headlined series such as Black Sheep Squadron and the aforementioned Hawaiian Eye. However, his resume could have been drastically different. He was one of the finalists up for the role of astronaut Captain Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie (which eventually went to Larry Hagman) and he reportedly turned down the role of Hannibal on The A-Team.

RICHARD PRYOR’S FIRST SCREEN CREDIT IS PLAYING A VENTRILOQUIST ON THE SHOW.

The groundbreaking stand-up comic appears in “The Night of the Eccentrics,” the season two premiere and first episode broadcast in color. Pryor plays Villar, a creepy ventriloquist. However, it was Ross Martin who provided the voice of the dummy, Giulio.

 

12 Lively Facts About Corpse Bride

Mark Mancini and Mental_Floss present 12 Lively Facts About Corpse Bride.  Here are three of my favorites…

4. THE CHARACTER DESIGNS WERE ADAPTED FROM TIM BURTON’S ROUGH SKETCHES.

In 2003, Burton approached Spanish artist Carlos Grangel with a copy of the Corpse Bride script and some illustrations of the main characters that the director himself had drawn. “Here are my sketches,” Burton told Grangel. “I want you to push them and explore every character.” The final designs Grangel came up with did not depart significantly from Burton’s original drawings.

By the way, you might have noticed that Victor—Corpse Bride’s protagonist—looks an awful lot like the actor who voiced him: Johnny Depp. Burton swears this was coincidental. Speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005, the director said that the characters were all designed “long before” any of the voice actors were cast. In Burton’s words, when Depp signed on, “We felt like it was such good karma because [Victor] did resemble Johnny.”

9. THERE’S A NOD TO RAY HARRYHAUSEN.

Arguably the patron saint of stop motion animation, Ray Harryhausen used the art form to breathe life into all manner of movie monsters. From 1959 to 1981, his rampaging dinosaurs, hissing hydras, and sword-fighting skeletons invaded cinemas all over the world. He also inspired an entire generation of artists and filmmakers—including Burton, who credits Harryhausen with kindling his lifelong passion for stop motion. At one point, the world-famous animator paid a visit to the set of Corpse Bride, where he received a hero’s welcome. “The day he came by, production sort of ground to a halt,” Johnson recalled. “Everyone had a chance to talk to him. It was amazing for all the animators.” The crew gave their idol an on-screen shout-out in the film; when Victor plays some light piano music right before he first meets Victoria, you can see Harryhausen’s last name engraved upon the instrument.

10. DANNY ELFMAN WAS ASKED TO PLAY BONEJANGLES AFTER NOBODY POPPED OUT AT THE AUDITIONS.

Without question, the jazziest song in Corpse Bride is an exposition number called “Remains of the Day.” Singing the ballad is Bonejangles, a one-eyed, big-jawed skeleton with a flair for the theatrical. As Elfman was writing the tune, he did so under the assumption that the character would have a rich, raspy voice. “We auditioned 25, 26, [or] 27 people at least,” Elfman said in the promotional video above, “and I recorded three different singers.” In the end, none of them sounded satisfactory to the creative team. Burton therefore gave the role of Bonejangles to Elfman himself. Because the character needed a gravelly voice, this job took a toll on the musician’s vocal cords. “Every time I did Bonejangles, I was hoarse for the rest of the day … it was really brutal,” Elfman recalled.

Some Tidbits Behind Jack Kirby’s Creation of Mr. Miracle

My favorite Jack Kirby creation from his DC days is Mr. Miracle.  Above is Jack Kirby’s original presentation piece for the World’s Greatest Escape Artist.  Sure the colors of his costume are different but the thing that jumped out at me was the gun.

Mark Evanier [whose blog you should be reading daily!] has an explanation for both of the changes and more.  And Mr. Evanier should know.  He had at least a knuckle in Mr. Miracle’s creation.

15 Intriguing Facts About Walt Disney

Stacy Condradt and Mental_Floss present 15 Intriguing Facts About Walt Disney.  Here are three of my favorites…

2. HE WAS A HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT.
Walt was just 16 when he left school to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps, wanting to do his part in World War I—but because he was just shy of the minimum age requirement of 17, he forged a different date on his birth certificate. Disney didn’t see much action, however. He was sent to France in late 1918, not long after the armistice was signed that ended the fighting. He still helped where he could, driving Red Cross officials and performing other tasks, before he was discharged in 1919.

12. HIS HOUSEKEEPER WAS A VERY WEALTHY WOMAN.
Thelma Howard was the Disney family’s live-in housekeeper and cook for three decades. She was hired in 1951 and quickly became part of the family, even making sure the fridge was well-stocked with hot dogs—Walt liked to eat them cold as a snack when he got home from work. As part of her annual Christmas gift, the Disneys gave her stock in the company. She never did anything with them—and by the time she died in 1994, the woman was a multimillionaire because of them. She left nearly $4.5 million to poor and disabled children, and roughly the same amount to her disabled son.

14. ONE OF HIS LAST WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS WAS RATHER MYSTERIOUS—AND INVOLVED KURT RUSSELL.
Shortly before his death, Disney wrote “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper. It was later found on his desk, and, according to Disney historian Dave Smith, the notes were among Disney’s last few written words. At the time of Disney’s death, Russell was a largely unknown child actor working for the studio. No one has any idea what Disney was referring to with his note—including Kurt Russell.

America’s First Theme Park Was All Santa, All the Time

Anyone know where Santa Claus lives?

North Pole, right?  Yeah, that’s a correct answer, but so is Santa Claus, Indiana!

I can vouch that Santa Claus, Indiana exists because I visited it as a kid back in the 1960’s.  Of course then it was called Santa Claus Land (or at least that’s what my grandparents called it when they took me).

When I asked my grandparents about Santa living in our home state and not the North Pole, they explained that Santa did live at the North Pole with the elves and reindeer but sometimes the jolly ole fellow liked to escape the cold.

If you’d like to learn more about Santa Claus, Indiana, Erin Blakemore and Mental_Floss have the full story in America’s First Theme Park Was All Santa, All the Time.

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