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?


Laura said...

Here's one that blows my mind from IMDb: "In a bonding of two generations of Frankenstein's monsters, Lee and his wife were good friends with Boris Karloff and his wife. This friendship wasn't as a result of them working together (they made two films together, Corridors of Blood (1958) and Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)) but by the coincidence that they lived next door to each other in England."

This is an especially eerie find because I just recently watched the 1932 and 1959 Mummy movies Karloff and Lee respectively starred in, too. Synchronicity, say what?

whistlingypsy said...

I’m fascinated by the obscure reference to Bebe Daniels, who began her film career in The Wizard Of Oz (1909) at the age of nine. She moved to England in the mid-1930s with her actor husband, Ben Lyon. I’d like to think feisty little Bebe was one of the first female civilians to land at Normandy; she spent a night in jail in the 1920s for driving her “auto” too fast. She did have a radio show along with her husband while living in London, and the couple continued to broadcast during the Blitz (no connection).

Hannah said...

I need this book, I cannot think of any trivia off the top of my head. I am still recovering from D.W Griffith and fake eyelashes. Thanks so much for sharing! x

Jorgé said...

Thanks for posting these fun, interesting trivia bits, Matthew!

I'm rather pleased with myself for having already known about #6... (though, admittedly, I had forgotten about it til the memory being jogged just now. That part saddens me.)

Well, I'm not sure how interesting, or movie trivia worthy these are, but...

1. Virginia Cherrill, who played the blind flower girl in Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" was also the first wife of Cary Grant.

2. James Cagney never once said "You Dirty Rat" in any of his films.

3. Stan Laurel had very light blue eyes, thus they did not photograph in the days of pre-panchromatic film. Obviously, this wasn't very good for him at all. But luckily the film technology advanced just in time before putting a huge dent in his comedic career.

Millie said...

I was willing to believe ALL of these until number 10.

LIES! LIES! Andy Devine was clearly born with that voice.

I'm not sure how well I can trust the rest of this trivia now...;-D

VKMfan said...

Great stuff, Matthew!

I was looking thru the 'Snopes' website - where they 'research' urban legends...most of the stuff they have there regarding movies is unfounded, but one they did 'verify' was a bit interesting: Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest...and lost.

And, of course, I should be bringing a 'GingerTrivia', but honestly, the only thing I can think of as of this morning is she is a direct descendant of George Washington...

thanks, Matthew!

Matthew Coniam said...

The Bebe one is definitely true. We kind of adopted her in the forties and she and Ben became prominent forces entertainers with their radio show "Hi Gang". In the fifties they did a cute sitcom over here, "Life With The Lyons" that ran forever on BBC TV.
Inspired by Millie's disbelief I looked further into the Andy Devine curtain rod story, and found this on Wikipedia:

"Although it was first thought that his peculiar voice would prevent him from moving to the talkies, it became his trademark. Devine told people that his speech resulted from a childhood accident. (He said that he had been running with a curtain rod in his mouth at the Beale Hotel in Kingman, and when he fell, it pierced the roof of his mouth. When he was able to speak, he had a wheezing, duo-tone voice.) However, a biographer explains that this wasn't true, but was one of several stories about his voice fabricated by Devine. Devine's son Tad told an Encore Westerns Channel interviewer (Jim Beaver, reporting from 2007 Newport Beach Film Festival) that the accident had indeed happened, but that Devine was uncertain whether it was the cause of his unique voice. When asked if he had strange nodes on his vocal cords, Devine replied, "I've got the same nodes as Bing Crosby, but his are in tune."

More trivia! I demand more trivia!!!

George said...

Before he was famous Robert Mitchum wrote an oratorio, about the plight of Jewish refugees from Nazism, which Orson Welles staged at the Hollywood Bowl.

He also proposed to his wife with the words, 'Marry me and you'll be farting through silk.'

Stacia said...

This is the best thread ever. I only wish I had my own trivia to submit, but I can't think of a thing.

Matthew Coniam said...

Interesting, that, about the Mitchum oratorio. I seem to remember him making a few off-the-cuff remarks supportive of holocaust revisionism later in life.

Thanks, Stacia!

Mykal said...

That one about Kate Hepburn sniffing hair makes perfect sense. She always impressed me as a snotty, blue-blooded snob with a touch of freak.

Harold LLoyd kept a christmas tree lit year round in his home (that was always my mother's favorite bit of star trivia).

whistlingypsy said...

Trivia, you want more trivia? Are you sure you can handle more trivia? The following is completely unrelated to the events and individuals you mentioned above, but when I was scrolling through the comments I noticed the image of Louise Brooks. I had the brilliant idea to mention a few silent film actresses who began as Ziegfled Follies girls. Louise Brooks spent a brief period with the Follies, and she was a dancer with the Denishawn Dance Troupe (Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn co-founders). Dolores Costello, Billie Dove, Gilda Gray, Jacqueline Logan, Ann Pennington and even Barbara Stanwyck appeared with the Follies. Dolores Costello appeared in several films with her husband, John Barrymore, Billie Dove appeared with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. in The Black Pirate (1926), Gilda Gray appeared in Aloma of the South Seas (1926) with William Powell, Jacqueline Logan appeared in King of Kings (1927) as Mary Magdalene and Ann Pennington’s career was (primarily) limited to sound pictures. There is some debate as to who was the true "Queen of Shimmy," Gilda Gray or Ann Pennington for popularizing the dance of the same name. However, the title should (probably) go to Bessie Smith for originating the dance.

Matthew Coniam said...

Love it!

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