• Comedian George Burns recognized Jack Haley’s talent—Mr. Haley played the Tin Woodsman in The Wizard of Oz—and kept introducing him to a producer who ignored him. After Mr. Haley made it big in show business, the producer came up to Mr. Burns and said, “Why didn’t you tell me you knew such a talented guy? I could have put him on contract years ago!”
• Benny Hill’s relationship with the beautiful women who appeared on his show was professional, although he did form friendships with some of the women—and their husbands. He also listened to their complaints when they had any. For example, one day the actresses on his TV show complained about a costume design that had only a couple of inches of material across the crotch. Colleague Bob Todd told Mr. Hill of the complaints about the costumes, and Mr. Hill—without even looking at the costumes—ordered the wardrobe mistress to change them. According to Mr. Todd, “He was like a Dutch uncle to those girls.”
• Famous vaudeville comedian Bobby Clark was seldom recognized unless he was wearing his trademark spectacles—which weren’t real spectacles, but were merely drawn onto his face. Even his barber, who had been cutting his hair for years, didn’t recognize him. One day, his barber told him that he had seen a comedian with the same name as Mr. Clark on a vaudeville stage and he wondered where the comedian had thought up the crazy things he did. Mr. Clark replied that he had often wondered the same thing.
• In Hollywood, a costumer brought Terry-Thomas his articles of clothing for a scene, dumped them on the floor and said, “These should fit you. I’ve seen you on TV.” Terry-Thomas, known for dressing immaculately, was shocked. “Oh,” he said, “so this the way you measure, by looking at people on the TV.” He pointed to the shoes. “I told you I needed a size 11. Without trying those on, I can tell you they’re a size 8.” The costumer replied, “Don’t worry. I’ll give them a shine.”
• Harpo Marx had a very poor education, but the geniuses of the Algonquin Round Table liked him because he was good at games such as croquet. However, he was not so good at the murder game that was sometimes played at critic Alexander Woollcott’s house. In the game, a “murderer” would approach the “victim” and give him or her a written message saying that he or she was dead. The victim was supposed to lie down until discovered, and then Woollcott’s guests would use their detective skills to discover the murderer. Once, Harpo was the murderer, but the guests realized that immediately because Harpo’s written message to his victim was, “You are ded.”
• Buster Keaton’s movie masterpiece Steamboat Bill Jr., contains a memorable gag. A hurricane blows the front of a house over on top of Buster, and he escapes unharmed only because he is standing in the exact spot where he will be safe—the spot where the house has an open window. The gag was carefully planned: Buster had exactly three inches of clearance over his head and beside each shoulder. The front of the house weighed two tons (it had to be built that heavy so that it wouldn’t twist in the wind created for the movie), and if it had actually hit Buster, it would have killed him instantly.
• While serving as a soldier in World War II, Spike Mulligan knew an eccentric soldier who occasionally went AWOL for a few weeks, then turned himself in. The eccentric soldier was sent to see a military psychiatrist, to whom he complained about being made to wear a uniform. The psychiatrist asked why he didn’t like the uniform, and the eccentric soldier explained, “It’s dangerous. Germans shoot at it on sight.” The psychiatrist’s report stated, “There is nothing wrong with this man. He has a wholesome fear of being shot by Germans.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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