David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Mothers, Music, Names


• Hollywood director Jim Cruze bought his mother a fig farm, then hired men to buy her figs at outrageous prices. Once, someone offered to buy the fig farm from her. Mr. Cruze advised, “I wouldn’t sell it — not when you get so much for your figs.”

• The child of actress Margaret Rutherford was a transsexual who went from being a man to being a woman. A wonderful mother, Margaret said about her child, “We loved him as a man, and now we’ll love her as a woman.”


• After Grace Moore became a movie star with One Night of Love, audiences at her music concerts began requesting song after song from the movie, including “Ciribiribin.” While she was preparing a concert with conductor Willem Mengelberg, they looked at requests for songs for the upcoming concert. Over and over again, “Ciribiribin” was requested. This surprised Mr. Mengelberg, and he asked her what “Ciribiribin” was. She explained that it was an Italian folk song that was much too inconsequential to be sung with an orchestra and it was being requested because she had sung it in One Night of Love. Therefore, the two agreed to have her sing the song with only a piano providing accompaniment. However, at the concert the applause she received for this little song was so great that Mr. Mengelberg motioned for her to sing it again, and as she sang it various instruments from the orchestra joined in. After the concert, Mr. Mengelberg told her, “Regardless of who wrote that little song, where it came from, or whatever qualities it may have as a musical composition, if you in singing it can make an audience so happy, sing it until you die.”

• The movie Star Wars is 110 minutes long, and music plays for 90 of those minutes. Filmmaker George Lucas decided to have a musical theme for each of the major characters — the music for Darth Vader is very easily recognizable — and the character’s theme plays when that character is on the screen. Mr. Lucas got the idea from the musical composition Peter and the Wolf, which has themes for each of its major characters.


• Hungarian producer Alexander Korda was the man who produced the film The Third Man, but after producer David O. Selznick bought the film for distribution in America, he put his name on it. One year later, Mr. Korda met Mr. Selznick and told him, “You know, David, I just hope I don’t die before you.” Mr. Selznick asked why, and Mr. Korda replied, “Because I hate to think of you going to my gravestone, scratching off my name, and putting yours on instead.”

• Jane Withers was a child actress who became famous because in the movie Bright Eyes, the character she played was mean to America’s darling, Shirley Temple. Even before Jane was born, her mother wanted her to be a star. She decided to name her daughter “Jane” because she thought that “Withers” was a long name for a movie marquee, so a short first name was needed so the entire name would fit on the marquee.

• When Luciano Pavarotti decided to make a movie, he met with the movie’s producer to discuss the name his character should have. The meeting was held in Giorgio Fini’s restaurant, and the food that day was cooked especially well — so well, in fact, that Mr. Pavarotti decided to name his character — with Mr. Fini’s permission — Giorgio Fini. The movie was titled Yes, Giorgio.

• Opera singer Helen Traubel knew a movie star who was very fond of talking about his famous friends. Once, a less famous actor walked by, and he said, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Ms. Traubel’s husband, Bill, murmured to her, “He’s a name dropper.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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