David Bruce: Movies Anecdotes

• Best-selling novelist Jackie Collins got kicked out of her school at age 15, so her parents asked her, “Hollywood or reform school?” Joan, her sister, was making movies in Hollywood, so Jackie chose Hollywood. Joan gave her a lot of freedom, meeting her at the airport and saying before disappearing, “OK, learn to drive, I can’t look after you, I’ve got to go off on location, goodbye, here’s the keys to the car, here’s the list of people who can help you if you get into any trouble.” Jackie says, “And I appreciated that, because […] I was a street-smart kid, and I wanted to be by myself.” For a while, Jackie appeared in movies—“always playing the Italian girl”—and she was able to take care of herself. When she went out for a part in a movie, guys would tell her, “Well, honey, let’s have dinner and discuss the part.” Jackie says, “And I would always say, ‘Take your part for yourself,’ and I would leave. So I was always that street-smart kid, you know?”

• In 2008, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull appeared in movie theaters, and suddenly the media began to interview Smithsonian anthropologist Dr. Jane MacLaren Walsh, a lesbian who is a crystal-skull expert. Unfortunately, her research has shown that crystal skulls are not real archaeological artifacts; in fact, no documented archaeological site has ever excavated a crystal skull. Interestingly, in the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, a golden figure sets off the impressive opening sequence. Dr. MacLaren says, “That golden figure is an image of a goddess that’s based on a supposed pre-Columbian Aztec piece. The piece is in the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington, and I’ve studied it at length. It’s a nineteenth-century fake. That’s a theme of these films: Indy goes after a lot of fakes.

• Being an actor can be an insecure experience, as actors frequently worry about whether they will ever find another acting job. Alan Arkin tells a story about the great actor George C. Scott. One month after Mr. Scott had won an Oscar for Best Actor for his title role in Patton, a good friend of his visited him and heard him yelling. He was yelling for joy, screaming, “I got a job! I got a job!” Mr. Arkin makes the important point, “So most [actors] never get over that sense of never working again. It’s a precarious life.” Of course, Mr. Arkin tries to get quality jobs, although compromise can be a necessity: “I just want good material. But part of taking a role is your bank account. If you haven’t worked in six months and the cupboard is bare, then your sights get lowered a bit out of necessity.”

• Werner Herzog, the director of FitzcarraldoThe Enigma of Caspar Hauser, and Aguirre, the Wrath of God, has advice on how to become a successful filmmaker: “Work as a bouncer in a sex club, work as a taxi driver, work as a butcher—earn the money and make your own film.” Perhaps his most important advice is to make a film instead of making excuses for why you can’t make a film. He says, “Today, with these little digital cameras, there is no excuse any more.” Mr. Herzog himself stole his first camera and used it to make 11 films. He says about the camera, “It fulfilled its real destiny.”

• Great art is frequently earthy. One of the most famous scenes in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexandershows the character Uncle Carl amusing children with his virtuoso farting; his talents include being able to blow out a candle with his wind. Was the actor who played Uncle Carl really farting? Unfortunately, no. Bertil Guve, who played the boy Alexander, explains, “They had a person sitting right next to the candle with a tube.” Watch the scene carefully. When the candle is blown out, the wind does not come from Uncle Carl’s backside.

• Science-fiction author Harlan Ellison once briefly worked as a writer at Disney. Why briefly? On his first day of work, while taking a break in the cafeteria, he told his fellow workers about his ideas for an X-rated Disney cartoon, even going so far as to act out the scenes. His fellow employees were amused, but the bosses watching him from a distance were not amused. When he returned to his desk, he found a pink slip waiting for him. Journalist Andrew Osmond identifies the moral of this story: “Don’t mess with the Mouse.”

• Jack Lemmon’s first big movie was It Should Happen to You, starring Judy Holliday and directed by George Cukor. Jack was an enthusiastic actor, and Mr. Cukor kept telling him to act less. Eventually, Jack became upset and yelled, “If I do it any less, I won’t be acting!” Mr. Cukor replied, “Exactly.”

• Pistol Pete Maravich was a high scorer throughout his career. As a kid, he was always found with a basketball. He even used to dribble while riding his bike, and when he went to the movies, he carried a basketball with him so he could he watch the movie while dribbling the basketball in the aisle.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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