Monday, July 11, 2011

Direct from the smallest room: shameless trivia filler post

As my contribution to haemorrhoid surgery prevention month, I've stopped keeping Russian novels in the bathroom.
Film trivia books are another matter, though.

In a rummage through the old family homestead a couple of weeks ago, I recently rediscovered a magnificent tome called Movie Clips. It was compiled by Patrick Robertson, chairman of the Ephemera Society according to the author blurb, and published by Guinness, recorders of world records and manufacturers of a dank, death-black liquid that tastes of liquid dust. And I don't mind telling you it went straight in the gap between the cistern and the toilet roll holder and hasn't seen daylight since.

The book is a handy condensation of a bigger tome called The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats, which I used to have, but sold when I was going through a barbarian phase in my early teens.

Here are my 20 favourite facts, as gleaned from its deathless pages. As is often the way with this sort of thing, they may not all be true. But I'd like to think they are.

1. Roscoe Arbuckle was a plumber's mate who got his big break when he turned up to unblock Mack Sennett's pipes.

2. Adolphe Menjou was American, Yves Montand was Italian, and Simone Signoret was German.

3. Joan Crawford turned down the Deborah Kerr role in From Here To Eternity because she hated the costumes.

4. WARNING: OF INTEREST TO BRITISH READERS ONLY: Annette "Muffin the Mule" Mills was the sister of John Mills!

5. Two years before he made an all-time champion ass of himself by hiring a fake Red Indian to turn down his Oscar for The Godfather, Marlon Brando applied to the Academy for a replacement of the one he'd mistakenly won for On The Waterfront, which had been stolen by a film lover who knew the value of scrap metal.

6. James Cagney refused a fee for appearing in The Seven Little Foys as a gesture of respect to Eddie Foy, who had befriended him in his youth.

7. Bebe Daniels was the first female civilian to land in Normandy after D-Day.

8. As well as playing Flash Gordon and being an Olympic gold medalist, Buster Crabbe was the author of The Arthritis Exercise Book.

9. 6ft 3ins Laird Cregar was the shortest of six brothers.

10. Andy Devine was not born with his trademark rasping voice: he acquired it by having a metal curtain rod pushed through the roof of his mouth as a child.

11. Katherine Hepburn used to sniff people's hair to check it was clean.

12. In a period of just 27 months between 1930 and 1933, Joan Blondell appeared in a record 32 films.

13. John Wayne has appeared in more leading roles than any other star, headlining 142 of 153 movies between 1927 and 1976. My favourite is Brannigan (1975), the one with the exploding lavatory.

14. Rudy Vallee described as "a bunch of disgruntled pukes" the neighbours who clubbed together to preventing him renaming the street on which they all lived Rue de Vallee.

15. The set of the ballroom of the Palace of Versailles built for Norma Shearer by MGM was considerably larger than the actual ballroom of the Palace of Versailles.

16. Francis X Bushman kept 300 Great Danes on his California estate.

17. Tim Holt was the only western hero to smoke a pipe.

18. Larry Parks's legs were different lengths.

19. Mary Pickford wrote a book called Why Not Try God?

20. D.W. Griffith invented false eyelashes.

If by any chance anyone is still here reading this, why not leave a comment with your own favourite bit of movie triv?