David Bruce: Mishaps Anecdotes

• While filming a scene in the movie Awakenings, Robin Williams’ character was required to restrain Robert De Niro’s character. Mr. Williams heard a loud pop, knew that he had accidentally broken Mr. De Niro’s nose, and started going, “Oh, no! Oh, God! Oh, Jesus!” Director Penny Marshall thought at first that he was overacting, but as soon as she saw the blood streaming down Mr. De Niro’s face, she realized what had happened. Mr. De Niro insisted on filming the scene nine more times, because his doctor wasn’t available yet, and he knew that his face was going to swell up and he wouldn’t be able to film for a week. Of course, Mr. De Niro was annoyed by the accident, but his nose had previously been broken, and Mr. Williams broke his nose in such a way that it was pushed back to where it belonged. The accident actually improved Mr. De Niro’s appearance.

• While performing Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in the Vichy Opera House, Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence was determined to mount a live horse — something she had previously done to great effect at the Metropolitan Opera. However, the Vichy Opera House did not have its own stable, so an army horse with close-cropped tail and mane would have to play Grane. Because Grane must have a long, flowing tail and mane, an artificial tail and mane was used. At the performance, all seemed to be well. Grane swished its long, flowing tail around, and the scene seemed to be set for a magnificent departure from the stage. However, Ms. Lawrence heard laughter as she rode off — Grane had lost its artificial tail.

• Early in her career, dancer Ann Miller performed live on vaudeville bills featuring the Three Stooges. Once, the stage manager forgot to put down a rubber mat that protected the stage when the Three Stooges engaged in a pie-throwing sketch. When Ms. Miller came on the stage to dance, she slipped and fell into the orchestra pit. The Three Stooges thought this was funny, but Ms. Miller was upset and left the stage briefly before returning to dance. Afterward, the Three Stooges sent her flowers and congratulated her for acting so professionally by performing after the mishap.

• One of stand-up comedian Greg Dean’s students made the mistake of rehearsing her act silently instead of out loud, with the result that, as Mr. Dean had predicted, she forgot her act when she got up in front of a nightclub audience. Fortunately, she maintained a playful attitude and got a few laughs ad-libbing a few jokes about forgetting her act. When Mr. Dean yelled out a few words to remind her of the topic of one of her funniest bits, she got a laugh by saying to him, “Thanks, Greg, now I have to stay up here and actually do my show.”

• Pat Hutchins wrote a children’s book titled The Mona Lisa Mystery, in which someone smuggles the famous painting from the museum by wrapping it around a leg then wrapping a bandage over the painting. After the book was published, a child wrote her to say that the painting could not be smuggled out of the museum in that way — the Mona Lisais painted on wood. Ms. Hutchins did some extra research and discovered that the child was right.

• While Emma Albani was singing at a benefit night for herself at Covent Garden, an admirer threw a bouquet of flowers and a jewel case to her. Unfortunately, the jewel case struck her squarely on the forehead (greatly upsetting the gentleman who had thrown it), and Ms. Albani was forced to leave the stage. However, when she opened the jewel case and discovered that it contained a beautiful jewelled diadem, she was not angry with the gift giver.

• While filming Follow the Fleetin 1936, Fred Astaire suffered a mishap while dancing with Ginger Rogers. She was wearing a beaded gown, and the right sleeve hit Mr. Astaire’s head, dazing him. However, he continued dancing. Although they made 30 takes of the dance, the best take was the one in which Mr. Astaire carried on despite being dazed. (In the movie, you can see Mr. Astaire looking somewhat dazed, but you can’t see the sleeve hit him.)

• Coloratura soprano Lily Pons was a perfectionist. Before singing in an auditorium, she noticed that red velvet curtains hung at the back of the stage. Concerned that the curtains would absorb too much of the sound of her voice, she insisted that they be taken down. They were taken down, but unfortunately this revealed a large sign that was clearly visible as Ms. Pons sang during her concert: “RESTROOMS — THIS WAY.”

• Baseball manager Casey Stengel’s team was behind when an umpire wanted to call the game on account of darkness. Casey protested vigorously, saying, “Look, I’m sixty years old, and I can still see the ball!” To prove his point, he threw the baseball high into the air and attempted to catch it. The baseball smashed Casey’s nose, and the umpire ruled that it was too dark to play baseball.

• Mstislav Rostropovitch owns a Stradivari cello with a long scratch on a lower bout. Why hasn’t he had the scratch repaired? Because the scratch was made by a very important person. Napoleon Bonaparte had asked a previous owner for permission to play the cello, and as he was sitting down, one of his spurs made the scratch.

• Conductor Sir Georg Solti once accidentally stabbed his hand with his baton and had to leave a performance because he was bleeding so much. Fortunately, the orchestra and singers performed well as the opera continued without him.

• Wiring was a major problem in the old Metropolitan Opera, as wires ran this way and that. The wiring was also dangerous. Frederick Williams once laid down his flute on the stage apron. Suddenly there was a flash, and in its wake, a melted flute.

• In the midst of a ballet, a wigpiece worn by ballerina Karen Kain flew off and landed on stage. Because the wigpiece was small and grey, it looked like a mouse, causing the members of the corps de ballet great perturbation.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Voltaire’s CANDIDE: Chapter 12. The Adventures of the Old Woman Continued

Astonished and delighted to hear my native language, and no less surprised at the young man’s words, I told him that there were far greater misfortunes in the world than what he complained of. And to convince him of it, I gave him a short history of the horrible disasters that had befallen me; and as soon as I had finished, fell into a swoon again.

“He carried me in his arms to a neighboring cottage, where he had me put to bed, procured me something to eat, waited on me with the greatest attention, comforted me, caressed me, told me that he had never seen anything so perfectly beautiful as myself, and that he had never so much regretted the loss of what no one could restore to him.

“‘I was born at Naples,’ said he, ‘where they make eunuchs of thousands of children every year; some die of the operation; some acquire voices far beyond the most tuneful of your ladies; and others are sent to govern states and empires. I underwent this operation very successfully, and was one of the singers in the Princess of Palestrina’s chapel.’

“‘How,’ cried I, ‘in my mother’s chapel!’

“‘The Princess of Palestrina, your mother!’ cried he, bursting into a flood of tears. ‘Is it possible you should be the beautiful young princess whom I had the care of bringing up till she was six years old, and who at that tender age promised to be as fair as I now behold you?’

“‘I am the same,’ I replied. ‘My mother lies about a hundred yards from here cut in pieces and buried under a heap of dead bodies.’

“I then related to him all that had befallen me, and he in return acquainted me with all his adventures, and how he had been sent to the court of the King of Morocco by a Christian prince to conclude a treaty with that monarch; in consequence of which he was to be furnished with military stores, and ships to destroy the commerce of other Christian governments.

“‘I have executed my commission,’ said the eunuch; ‘I am going to take ship at Ceuta, and I’ll take you along with me to Italy. Ma che sciagura d’essere senza coglioni!’ [“But what a misfortune to be without testicles!”]

“I thanked him with tears of joy, but, not withstanding, instead of taking me with him to Italy, he carried me to Algiers, and sold me to the Dey of that province. I had not been long a slave when the plague, which had made the tour of Africa, Asia, and Europe, broke out at Algiers with redoubled fury. You have seen an earthquake; but tell me, miss, have you ever had the plague?”

“Never,” answered the young Baroness.

“If you had ever had it,” continued the old woman, “you would own an earthquake was a trifle to it. It is very common in Africa; I was seized with it. Figure to yourself the distressed condition of the daughter of a Pope, only fifteen years old, and who in less than three months had felt the miseries of poverty and slavery; had been debauched almost every day; had beheld her mother cut into four quarters; had experienced the scourges of famine and war; and was now dying of the plague at Algiers. I did not, however, die of it; but my eunuch, and the Dey, and almost the whole seraglio of Algiers, were swept off.

“As soon as the first fury of this dreadful pestilence was over, a sale was made of the Dey’s slaves. I was purchased by a merchant who carried me to Tunis. This man sold me to another merchant, who sold me again to another at Tripoli; from Tripoli I was sold to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Smyrna, and from Smyrna to Constantinople. After many changes, I at length became the property of an Aga of the Janissaries, who, soon after I came into his possession, was ordered away to the defense of Azoff, then besieged by the Russians.

“The Aga, being very fond of women, took his whole seraglio with him, and lodged us in a small fort, with two black eunuchs and twenty soldiers for our guard. Our army made a great slaughter among the Russians; but they soon returned us the compliment. Azoff was taken by storm, and the enemy spared neither age, sex, nor condition, but put all to the sword, and laid the city in ashes. Our little fort alone held out; they resolved to reduce us by famine. The twenty janissaries, who were left to defend it, had bound themselves by an oath never to surrender the place. Being reduced to the extremity of famine, they found themselves obliged to kill our two eunuchs, and eat them rather than violate their oath. But this horrible repast soon failing them, they next determined to devour the women.

“We had a very pious and humane man, who gave them a most excellent sermon on this occasion, exhorting them not to kill us all at once. ‘Cut off only one of the buttocks of each of those ladies,’ said he, ‘and you will fare extremely well; if you are under the necessity of having recourse to the same expedient again, you will find the like supply a few days hence. Heaven will approve of so charitable an action, and work your deliverance.’

“By the force of this eloquence he easily persuaded them, and all of us underwent the operation. The man applied the same balsam as they do to children after circumcision. We were all ready to give up the ghost.

“The Janissaries had scarcely time to finish the repast with which we had supplied them, when the Russians attacked the place by means of flat-bottomed boats, and not a single janissary escaped. The Russians paid no regard to the condition we were in; but there are French surgeons in all parts of the world, and one of them took us under his care, and cured us. I shall never forget, while I live, that as soon as my wounds were perfectly healed he made me certain proposals. In general, he desired us all to be of a good cheer, assuring us that the like had happened in many sieges; and that it was perfectly agreeable to the laws of war.

“As soon as my companions were in a condition to walk, they were sent to Moscow. As for me, I fell to the lot of a Boyard, who put me to work in his garden, and gave me twenty lashes a day. But this nobleman having about two years afterwards been broken alive upon the wheel, with about thirty others, for some court intrigues, I took advantage of the event, and made my escape. I traveled over a great part of Russia. I was a long time an innkeeper’s servant at Riga, then at RostockWismarLeipsicCasselUtrechtLeydenThe Hague, and Rotterdam. I have grown old in misery and disgrace, living with only one buttock, and having in perpetual remembrance that I am a Pope’s daughter. I have been a hundred times upon the point of killing myself, but still I was fond of life. This ridiculous weakness is, perhaps, one of the dangerous principles implanted in our nature. For what can be more absurd than to persist in carrying a burden of which we wish to be eased? to detest, and yet to strive to preserve our existence? In a word, to caress the serpent that devours us, and hug him close to our bosoms till he has gnawed into our hearts?

“In the different countries which it has been my fate to traverse, and at the many inns where I have been a servant, I have observed a prodigious number of people who held their existence in abhorrence, and yet I never knew more than twelve who voluntarily put an end to their misery; namely, three Negroes, four Englishmen, as many Genevese, and a German professor named Robek. My last place was with the Jew, Don Issachar, who placed me near your person, my fair lady; to whose fortunes I have attached myself, and have been more concerned with your adventures than with my own. I should never have even mentioned the latter to you, had you not a little piqued me on the head of sufferings; and if it were not customary to tell stories on board a ship in order to pass away the time.

“In short, my dear miss, I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in the world, therefore take my advice: divert yourself, and prevail upon each passenger to tell his story, and if there is one of them all that has not cursed his existence many times, and said to himself over and over again that he was the most wretched of mortals, I give you leave to throw me headfirst into the sea.”


Source: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Candide