• Throughout his movie career, Mario Lanza gained and (usually) lost weight very quickly. In some of his movies, he seems to gain and lose weight between scenes. Sometimes, a thin Mario will walk into a building, but inside the building a fat Mario is acting. For one movie, the movie studio had Mario’s costumes made in three different sizes: normal, big, and obese. Of course, the movie studio tried to keep his weight under control, but he outfoxed them by doing such things as ordering from room service three different meals using three different names so he could eat as much as he wanted.
• It’s not a good idea to ignore the Marx Brothers. On one occasion, after producer Irving Thalberg had excused himself for a minute from a story conference with the Marx Brothers and then did not return, the Marx Brothers shoved file cabinets against Mr. Thalberg’s door so that he couldn’t enter his office. Another time, Mr. Thalberg left a meeting with the Marx Brothers in order to talk to someone else. When he returned, the Marx Brothers were sitting naked in his office, roasting potatoes in his fireplace. Mr. Thalberg laughed, then ordered butter to be brought to his office for the potatoes.
• Food can be hard to come by early in a career, even when someone becomes a major success later. Working as a model in Chicago, Halle Berry shared a one-bedroom apartment with many roommates. Most of whatever money they had went to pay the rent, leaving little for food. The women made do by going to bars that served free appetizers such as barbequed chicken wings. And when Ms. Berry moved to New York City to become an actress, she spent some nights sleeping in a homeless shelter.
• Comedian Joe E. Brown was born and grew up near Toledo, Ohio. While growing up, he was poor and sometimes hungry. His father was a honest house painter, which apparently was not a good thing to be in the winter. Mr. Brown remembers one winter when meat for the family’s supper depended on his father coming home each day with a rabbit he had hunted. The family used to eat lard sandwiches — lard spread on bread and sprinkled with salt.
• Movie stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon lived very close to each other as they grew up in Boston. Matt’s mother taught him how to cook — a fact that was not lost on other mothers. In fact, Ben’s mother tried to convince him to help out more around the house by telling him that Matt cooked twice a week for his family. Ben jokes, “I first knew him as a guy who was setting a really bad precedent in the neighborhood.”
• Thelma Todd was an attractive platinum-blonde comedian who appeared in 1930s movies with ZaSu Pitts and the Marx Brothers. Her boss, Hal Roach, wanted her to stay attractive, so her contract included a clause stating that she had to keep her weight to within five pounds of what it was when she signed her contract — otherwise, she would be fired. This was known as the “potato clause.”
• Laurel and Hardy created the most massive pie fight in history in their movie short Battle of the Century. To make the short, they bought one day’s production of the Los Angeles Pie Company — a total of 4,000 pies. The short used every pie. (Comedians need special skills. Silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle was ambidextrous, and using either hand, he could hit a target 10 feet away with a pie.)
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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