David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Advertising, Agents, AIDS, Alcohol


• Bill Thomas was given the job of publicizing It Ain’t No Sin, starring Mae West. He bought 100 parrots, trained them to say, “It ain’t no sin,” and was getting ready to send the parrots to newspaper editors and to the owners of movie theaters when he received upsetting news — the title of the movie had been changed.

• Monty Python member John Cleese once asked a publicist, “What is the hardest kind of movie to publicize?” The publicist replied, “Anything original.”


• Quentin Tarantino wanted actor James Woods to star in his first movie, the hit Reservoir Dogs, so he made several cash offers to Mr. Woods’ agent. Unfortunately, the agent never told Mr. Woods about the offers. Later, after Mr. Tarantino was famous, he met Mr. Woods and mentioned the offers to him. Mr. Woods was first surprised, then angry. He fired his agent.

• Actor Montgomery Cliff wanted to make an important cameo in Stanley Kramer’s 1961 movie Judgment at Nuremberg, but his agent nearly botched things by asking a very high fee for Mr. Cliff’s services. Therefore, Mr. Cliff did the cameo for free, then sent his agent the agent’s commission — in an empty paper sack.


• Anthony Perkins, the actor who played Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, died of AIDS in 1992. After he discovered that he was HIV-positive, he and his wife started to volunteer for Project Angel Food. This Los Angeles organization delivers food to men, women, and children who have AIDS. Mr. Perkins said, “There are many who believe that this disease is God’s vengeance, but I believe it was sent to teach people how to love and understand and have compassion for each other.”

• Geoffrey Bowers worked as an attorney for a New York law firm, but when he contracted AIDS, the law firm fired him. He sued on the basis of discrimination, although he was worried that the lawsuit would upset his mother. However, his brother told him that “she didn’t raise any of us to sit in the back of the bus.” Later, the movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks, was based in part on Mr. Bowers’ experience.


• Cliff Robertson once played an airplane pilot in a movie that required him to run through an airport. After Mr. Robertson had run five times through some corridors in the Los Angeles International Airport, the director called for a break. Being hot, tired, and thirsty, Mr. Robertson went into a bar at the airport, where he ordered a martini. After a few minutes, however, an official with the airline whose uniform Mr. Robertson was wearing asked him if he would please leave because he was upsetting the other customers — who thought he was a real pilot.

• Howard Hughes was interested in Ingrid Bergman. After learning that she would be flying to Los Angeles on a certain date, Mr. Hughes immediately bought all the tickets to Los Angeles for that day, making it impossible for her to get a ticket, then he offered to fly her there in his private plane. He even arranged the flight schedule so he could give her an aerial tour of the Grand Canyon at dawn. Nevertheless, Ms. Bergman remained romantically uninterested in him.


• Cartoonists Tex Avery and Michael Maltese once played a practical joke on an unsuspecting colleague by spiking a bottle of Coke in a vending machine. They removed the bottle cap, siphoned out some of the Coke, replaced it with a double shot of bourbon, and then put the bottle cap back on. The man who got the spiked Coke was a teetotaler, so he didn’t recognize the taste of bourbon and he didn’t enjoy drinking it. Instead, he spit it out and exclaimed, “I’ve been poisoned!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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