David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Actors, Ad-Libs


• In 1982, Morgan Freeman auditioned for a small part in the movie Harry and Son, starring Paul Newman. Mr. Freeman did not get the role, but when Mr. Newman discovered that such a talented actor had not gotten a role in two years, he made sure that Mr. Freeman received another role in the movie.

• While attending Yale University, movie actress Jodie Foster got a role in an off-campus student play — her first role on the stage. On opening night, she warned reporters that they had better write about more than just her — because if they wrote about just her, the other actors “will kill me.”

• Olsen and Johnson were a comedy team who made their best movies in the early 1940s. Harold Ogden (Chic) Johnson knew immediately that he wanted John Sigvard (Ole) Olsen as a partner because Ole was “the first man I ever heard imitate a busy signal on the telephone.”

• One of Marilyn Monroe’s early roles consisted of walking across the stage in the Marx Brothers film Love Happy. When she met comedian Groucho Marx, he asked, “Can you walk?” She replied, “I learned to walk when I was a baby, and I haven’t had a lesson since.”

• Lucille Ball was very happy when she learned that a part was available for a “Lucille Ball type.” She let the movie studio know that she would be available in a week, but the studio decided that she wasn’t the type they needed for the role.

• Bert Lahr played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, but after that he didn’t work much in films. He once explained why: “After The Wizard of Oz I was typecast as a lion, and there aren’t all that many parts for lions.”

• In her old age, Katherine Hepburn suffered from a tremor in her voice and her face. Film critic Gene Siskel asked her why she continued to act with such a tremor. She replied, “What choice do I have?”


• Texas actor Marco Perella appeared in the TV movie Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald. He played a Texas Lothario, while English Shakespearean actress Helena Bonham-Carter played Mrs. Oswald, who was a Russian immigrant with (of course) a Russian accent. Ms. Bonham-Carter is very small and very light, and Mr. Perella ad-libbed during a scene with her. He picked her up and danced with her, then raised her in his arms and dipped and twirled her and even put a piece of celery in his mouth and tickled her neck with it. All this time, Ms. Bonham-Carter was shrieking and giggling and whooping, and Mr. Perella was congratulating himself on doing something to make a renowned Shakespearean actress lose control — when suddenly he noticed that all the shrieks and all the giggles and all the whoops were being delivered by Ms. Bonham-Carter with an impeccable Russian accent. After the scene was shot, Ms. Bonham-Carter told him (with, of course, an impeccable English accent), “I say, dearie, that bit with the celery was perfectly ripping.”

• Both Mike Nichols and Elaine May could be hostile, and both were masters of the put-down. Ms. May, a beautiful woman, was once followed by two men who blew kisses at her. Never one to take BS, she turned around to face the men and asked them, “What’s the matter? Tired of each other?” When one man replied, “F**k you,” she replied, “With what?” While Mr. Nichols was directing The Odd Couple, he gave actor Walter Matthau a direction that the actor thought was emasculating, so he asked Mr. Nichols, “Mike, can I have my c**k back now?” Mr. Nichols yelled, “Props!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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