David Bruce: The Funniest People in Movies — Problem-Solving


• In 1948, a year when a scandal could ruin an actor’s career, Robert Mitchum was arrested for possession of marijuana. When he was asked what his career was, he replied, “Former actor.” Newspaper articles about the arrest included the joke, and instead of having his career ruined, Mr. Mitchum found it enhanced. It also helped when articles included his answer to reporters who asked what life on a prison farm was like after spending 60 days there: “Just like Palm Springs — without the riffraff, of course.” (Mr. Mitchum continued to gain such publicity throughout his career. At Cannes, a young lady he was with took off the top of her bikini in front of photographers. Being a perfect gentleman, Mr. Mitchum preserved her modesty by covering her breasts — with his hands.)

• When move producer Darryl F. Zanuck purchased the film rights of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, some people felt that he was buying the rights to prevent a movie ever being made of the book, which criticized banks and big farm interests. However, Mr. Zanuck did make a movie based on the book — the movie, starring Henry Fonda, is a classic. Because so many powerful people opposed the making of a movie based on The Grapes of Wrath, the making of the movie was kept secret. Whenever anyone asked which movie they were filming, they gave the title of another movie. In addition, Mr. Zanuck hired extra stagehands — that is, bodyguards — for the making of this particular film.

• Anyone who has ever seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail knows that in the movie King Arthur and his knights do not ride horses; instead, they are followed by people using coconuts to make horse-riding noises. During the making of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the budget was quite low and filming had to be completed in only five and a half weeks. In fact, the comedy troupe couldn’t afford to use horses, which would have lengthened the time it took to make the movie. However, they managed to turn a weakness into a strength by substituting the use of coconuts for the horses.

• In the film The Seven Samurai, some samurai are given a test. They are invited into a building where a man is hiding with a stick. The first samurai crosses the threshold, and the man hidden inside hits him with the stick. This samurai fails the test. Later, the second samurai crosses the threshold, dodges the blow, and hits the man who has the stick. This samurai also fails the test. Still later, the third samurai pauses at the threshold, studies the footprints in the dirt, and realizes that a man is hiding inside. This samurai passes the test.

• Jack Palence excellently played a bad guy in the 1953 movie classic Shane. However, he was a bad horseman. After several tries, he made a perfect dismount, so director George Stevens used that shot in the movie every time Mr. Palence dismounted — and, by running the film backward, every time Mr. Palence mounted. In addition, in one scene Mr. Palence was supposed to gallop into town. But Mr. Palence was such a poor horseman, he finally was told to walk the horse into town. (This scene works very well in the movie.)

• Mike Nichols directed the controversial film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Of course, the people behind the film worried that it would be censored by the Catholic Church’s League of Decency, but Mr. Nichols came up with a plan to have the League approve it. He arranged for Jackie Kennedy to watch the movie while sitting beside the monsignor who headed the League and for Jackie to turn to the monsignor after the film ended and say, “How Jack would have loved it!” The plan worked; the League approved the film.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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