The Screwball Case of ZAZ Parodies With Moxie

Today we have a very special guest! She hosts the awesome podcast, Your Brain on Facts. Please welcome Moxie LaBouche! 

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We want to thank Moxie for coming up with today’s topic, screwball comedy parodies (specifically of the Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker variety.)

What makes a screwball comedy? Well, to get technical, screwball comedies began as a sub-genre of romantic comedy in the 1930’s. They were known as satire of the traditional love story and included classics like, “It Happened One Night” and “Bringing Up Baby.” The term has become a little more broad over time, and movies that we consider to be screwball comedies today might not focus specifically on a love story, but have elements that still turn the classic romance on its head. 

[Bonus fact: “It Happened One Night” shaped the character of Bugs Bunny.  Bugs’ mannerisms were partially inspired by a scene where Clark Gable’s fast-talking character snacks on carrots while leaning on a fence.  Tangent bonus: Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, hated carrots, but had to bite into and chew them during recordings.  He spat them out the instant he could.]

The movies we will talk about today are a great mix of screwball, parody, and satire. We picked a few films from the 80’s and 90’s, a time when parody film was at its peak. Two of them star Leslie Neilsen, a man that became synonymous with farce. But before we begin, let’s talk a little about the history of film parody and where these movies might’ve pulled their influence!The Case of the Film Parody 

HISTORY OF FILM PARODY

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

  • Parody (or spoof) film is a genre of comedy that comically imitates another genre of film or specific films. 
    • The first known film that we now refer to as a spoof was the 1905 12 minute short film called The Little Train Robbery. 
      • It parodied the 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, a Thomas Edison production and a groundbreaking early film.
      • The music for the Little Train Robbery is more jovial, to give it an obvious cue that it was a spoof and not serious.
        • It was directed by Edwin Porter at Edison Studios and contained an all child cast. The short was meant to be a funny little take on outlaws robbing a locomotive.

The Little Train Robbery (1905) One of the first known spoofs.

  • Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator
    • For the next few decades, parody films were a common part of the comedy genre with entries like: The Mystery of the Leaping Fish(1916.) This was a Sherlock Holmes parody that focused on the detective’s drug addiction.
    • Charlie Chaplin’s first talkie, The Great Dictator, was a funny yet powerful critique of the Nazi regime. This film showed that parody films could cross the threshold into talking pictures, and it made audiences and critics take notice of how the genre could be used for social commentary
  • The Three Stooges
    • Although the Three Stooges are known mostly for slapstick, they used their shorts for parody as well. They actually spoofed Hitler before Charlie Chaplin! 
    • Both Chaplin and the Three Stooges’ spoofs showed the social impact that these movies can have.
    • The Stooges have had influences in many comedic films since, including the Naked Gun which we will talk about today! Their shorts also featured classic bits, puns, and visual gags similar to ones in Airplane, The Naked Gun, and Hot Shots!
  • [Bonus fact: Curly Howard was an avid dog-lover and regularly rescued dogs in the middle of filming days, bringing them onto the set with him–dogs he just met five minutes ago.]
    • The Marx Brothers
      • The Marx Brothers were known for humor that was intelligent and character driven, but they were also no strangers to visual gags!
      • In 1946 they spoofed wartime dramas with “A Night in Casablanca,” and of course their masterpiece “Duck Soup” was also an influential entry to the satire and parody genres [I have soooo many facts about the Marx Brothers.]
    • Carry On series 
      • One of the longest running and most successful series of parody films is the Carry On series from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.
      • This set of 31 British films were low-budget and often used common comedy tropes and slapstick humor.
      • They hold an important place in the history of parody because at their peak in the 1960s, they proved that the general public had an appetite for parody filmmaking. 
      • These films made fun of everything from the James Bond series, to the Elizabeth Taylor epic film Cleopatra. 
      • They had a low budget and never starred big names in acting, though there was a general troupe of actors that resurfaced in the movies. 
        • This is a common practice with comedy films in general! Think about Monty Python and National Lampoon, and the fact that so many spoof movies had Leslie Neilsen! 
    • In the 1970’s, audiences took even more notice of parody with the arrival of filmmaker Mel Brooks. Movies like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles showed that audiences would flock to see expertly acted films with clever screenplays, no matter how ridiculous the subject matter. These movies were silly–sure–but they were also respectable and sometimes lampooned taboo topics like racism and sexism. 
    • But in 1980, a disaster parody took flight and soared into the hearts of moviegoers everywhere. It launched the comedic career of Leslie Neilsen and is considered to be one of the most quotable movies of all time. “Airplane!” performed an incredible feat–it transcended a subgenre of comedy and is considered by all counts a classic film in general. 

Comparison between Zero Hour! and Airplane!

AIRPLANE! (1980) (TURNED 40 THIS YEAR!)

  • Summary
    • When the passengers and crew board an airplane, they are incapacitated due to food poisoning. A former fighter pilot with a fear of flying and a drinking problem must land the plane with the help of a stewardess who also happens to be his ex. 
  • Although Airplane is a parody of the disaster movie genre as a whole, it’s specifically a parody of Zero Hour! (1957)
    • The team: Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker had worked together on “Kentucky Fried Movie” in 1977, which had several sketches parodying disaster and kung fu movies. It was based on a live show called, “Kentucky Fried Theater.” 
      • The story goes: while they were researching material for their show, they stumbled upon Zero Hour! and found it to be unintentionally hilarious
    • As audiences would soon realize, Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker had a special kind of style. Instead of actors constantly doing and saying funny things, their films had actors performing mundane tasks while the world fell apart around them. 
  • Although assured that it would be legally ok to parody the film, ZAZ (Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker) wanted to make sure. In order to completely avoid a lawsuit they bought the remake rights for just $2500.
    • A lot of the basic plot dialogue is the same between the two movies.
    • One major difference, however, is that in Zero Hour he was chasing his son and estranged wife. In Airplane he follows his girlfriend.  
  • Airplane is what really skyrocketed Leslie Nielsen into comedic roles and sent him into The Naked Gun Series and more.
    • By the time he acted in Airplane, Nielsen had about 25 years of acting under his belt. But, this was indeed the first time he was cast in a comedy! 
    • Nielsen had been acting since the 1950’s and even appeared in the type of movies that Airplane! poked fun at. He appeared as a Captain in The Poseidon Adventure, a notable disaster movie, and he was known to play dramatic parts. So in a sense, he parodied himself! 
    • He continued to play both dramatic and comedic roles until the end of the 1980’s when he made the full switch to comedy. He was known for his expert timing and dry delivery.
    • In a tribute to Nielsen, David Zucker said “Offscreen, he wasn’t so much of a joke or storyteller but a chronic prankster. The stories are legend about the fart machine, which he kept hidden and sprang on any hapless stranger who approached him. He used it on set, on talk shows, anywhere he could find a victim. One time, at a press junket in Charlotte, I remember watching Leslie let loose with the device on a crowded elevator, the other occupants squirming up against the walls in an effort to distance themselves. And just like the scenes we put him in, he never broke character, never let on that he knew he was being funny.”
  • This movie had such a cultural significance that in 2010 it was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. 
  • The movie starred: 
    • Leslie Nielsen/ Dr. Rumack
    • Julie Hagerty/ Elaine Dickinson
    • Robert Hays/ Ted Striker
    • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/ Roger Murdock
    • Lloyd Bridges/ Steve McCroskey
    • Peter Graves/ Captain Clarence Oveur 
    • Robert Stack/ Captain Rex Kramer

THE NAKED GUN (1988)

  • Based on Police Squad, a short-lived TV series in 1982 which was done by the ZAZ Team.
    • The series only lasted 6 episodes and then was cancelled. Even though it was short lived it was nominated for 2 Emmy Awards. The year of the show is referenced in the movie when Drebin takes a jar of mayonnaise out of the fridge and it has an expiration date of June 1982.
    • The Naked Gun movie was a way to continue the series in a way. Leslie Nielsen comes back as the detective Frank Drebin.
      • Although originally they wanted to call the movie Police Squad, it was determined that the name too closely resembled another popular funny cop movie named Police Academy. Naked Gun was chosen out of about 20 names because they said it “promised so much more than it could possibly deliver.”
    • Summary
      • After the attempted murder of his fellow officer, Lietenant Frank Drebin must find out who was behind this attrocity. While trying to uncover who the attackers are he becomes suspicious of a well known businessman Vincent Ludwig. Ludwig, who is revealed to be a criminal mastermind, is planning to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II while she is set to visit Los Angeles, California. 
        • This makes it particularly amusing that in 2005 Leslie Nielsen performed in front of 13,000 people at the Saskatchewan Centennial Gala in Canada with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance. 
    • The movie, while written by the ZAZ team, was only directed by David Zuckerman. When asked about Nielsen’s acting he said that “There was no improvising on set. He (Nielsen) knew where the joke was and knew better than to mess with the style, try to wink or be funny. He absolutely trusted me and never tried to gild the lily. We purposely used straight actors in all roles and the humour came from behind the camera.”
    • This was the only film in the series where the current President of the time was not impersonated.
    • Spoilers, but this was one of three movies from 1988 that featured a steam roller running over the villain. The others were Who Framed Roger Rabbit and A Fish Called Wanda.
    • When Nielsen passed away in 2010 at 84 the Naked Gun theme song was played at his funeral where he was laid to rest in Fort Lauderdale.
    • [His headstone reads “Let ‘er rip!”  And yes, it’s a fart joke.  Other famous funny people who got the last word in include Jack Lemmon, whose marker merely says “Jack Lemmon in,” Rodney Dangerfield – “There goes the neighborhood,” and Irish comedian Spike Milligan – “I told you I was ill.”]
    • Starring
      • Leslie Nielsen/ Frank Drebin
      • Priscilla Presley/ Jane Spencer
      • OJ Simpson/ Nordberg
        • Susan Beaubian, who played his wife in this movie, would go on to star in the first installment of FX’s series American Crime Story from 2016 entitled The People v. O.J. Simpson. 
      • George Kennedy/ Captain Ed Hocken
      • Ricardo Montalbán/ Vincent Ludwig 
        • He was chosen for this role specifically because of how well he did as the villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan from 1982.
      • Nancy March/ The Mayor
      • Jeannette Charles/ Queen Elizabeth II
        • She had been an impersonator of the Queen since 1971.
      • Weird Al Yankovic as himself
        • When the ZAZ team found out that Weird Al was obsessed with Police Squad they wrote a special scene just for him. While the movie was in theaters Al would bring dates with him to see it without revealing that he was in it. They would promptly freak out.
        • [Yankovic appeared in all three of the Naked Gun Films as himself in the first and third and as “police station thug” in the second movie.  Weird Al also sang the title song for Spy Hard which starred Leslie Nielsen.]

A SPECIAL MENTION

  • Before we get into our last movie, we want to quickly mention one more production by the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker team. Although their style of comedy is considered ground-breaking, the team did not continue making movies long after Airplane!
    • Top Secret! 
      • Top Secret! was written and directed by the same ZAZ team behind Airplane! But the trio went their separate ways after this movie.
      • It was a spoof of WWII spy movies and the Elvis films of the 1950’s and 60’s. 
        • Elvis movies were referenced in the animated film Coco and spoofed by the 1960’s musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.” 
      • The film stars Val Kilmer as Nick Rivers, a rockstar that falls in love with a woman while performing in Germany and unwittingly becomes part of the French Resistance.
      • [The songs that Val Kilmer sings in the film are actually performed by Kilmer himself and were featured on the film’s soundtrack released in 1984 under Kilmer’s character’s name Nick Rivers.]
      • Although it made over 20 million dollars (twice it’s budget) the film was considered a flop and is a much lesser-known film in comparison to Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Roger Ebert said that the movie was vastly underrated. 
      • [In the restaurant scene, when Hillary places an order with the waiter in apparent German, she’s actually speaking in Yiddish for, roughly, “Go bash your head in.”  The waiter’s line translates to  the Yiddish curse “go take a s**t in the ocean”.]

HOT SHOTS (1991)

  • Hot Shots was the first solo director role for Jim Abrahams. It was co-written by Pat Proft who also penned the screenplay for Police Academy (and apparently the Star Wars Christmas special.) 
  • Hot Shots was able to take advantage of the now well established genre of the movie parody, and according to Den of Geek, the Hot Shots movies were the last great spoofs.
  • Summary
    • The story follows Topper Harley, a former pilot who left the air force because he couldn’t handle the pressure of living in his father’s shadow. But, the US brings him back for one last mission: to destroy Iraqi nuclear facilities. Among these challenges he must also face a rival pilot played by Carey Elwes. 
    • The movie was filmed during the gulf war, which reportedly made the cast and crew a little uneasy. Charlie Sheen reportedly said it was strange to be wearing a wardrobe that resembled what he was seeing on the covers of newspapers.
  • When taking a look at the cover it is overt that this movie is a parody of Top Gun.
    • While movies like Top Gun are allowed to use actual ships for filming, Hot Shots had to be inventive in order to make it look like  they were on a ship. An example of this is that they used a parking lot on a piece of land over a body of low water located in an old marine park in Palos Verdes, California. 
      • The cinematographer shot the boat at an angle to make it appear as if it were sitting on the water.
      • Another example of this is that there were many aircraft scenes taken and used from the 1991 movie Flight of the Intruder.
  • The character of Admiral Benson was originally offered to the one and only Leslie Nielsen but he reportedly told Abrahams that “I think I’ve done enough spoof movies with you.” The role was then given to Lloyd Bridges who had starred alongside Nielsen in Airplane! 
    • You remember, he was the man who picked the wrong week to quit smoking!
  • The film also parodies Dances With Wolves, which Abrahams saw while they were shooting. He came back to set and scrapped another prologue scene for one with Sheen living with Native Americans under the name, “Fluffy Bunny Feet” 
  • In the credits the laughs continue as Abrahams includes an unfinished brownie recipe and also suggestions on what to do after the movie. The suggestions are a nod to when the ZAZ team wrote for The Kentucky Fried Movie which also had suggestions on what to do after the movie.
  • Starring
    • Valeria Golino as Scarlett O’Hara, Lois Lane, and Ramada Thompson
    • Charlie Sheen as Superman, Rhett Butler, Lt. Sean Topper Harley
    • Lloyd Bridges as Admiral Thomas ‘Tug’ Benson
    • Cary Elwes as Lt. Kent Gregory
    • John Cryer as Jim ‘Wash Out’ Pfaffenbach
    • Ryan Stiles as ‘Mailman’ Farnham
    • Pat Proft as Lawrence Lipps and he also helped write the screenplay as well
  • Charlie Sheen, John Cryer, and Ryan Stiles would all be a part of the CBS show Two and a Half Men in 2003.
  • A reviewer named Widgett Walls said “Well, it’s not Airplane! but precious little is.”
  • On the set of Hot Shots! Jim Abrahams told Entertainment Weekly about his former collaborators: “I’m genuinely proud that we managed to go 20 years together and there were never any blowouts or drug rehabilitations. I count them among my best friends.” 
  • The writers, director, and cast all returned for Hot Shots Part Deux. While researching the movies it became very clear that many people prefer the second film! Maybe we should include it if we ever do a sequel to our sequels episode 😉 

WHAT HAS BECOME OR WILL BECOME OF THIS GENRE?

  • Spy Hard (1996) which also starred Leslie Nielsen was written in part by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Since then they have done more parody movies. Do you remember them or like them? Probably not, because while most at least made their money back they pretty much are forgotten with only about 1 star reviews on IMDB.
    • Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Disaster Movie, and Vampires Suck.
  • The Wayans Movies
    • The Wayans family is a comedy dynasty. Ever since Keenan Wayans created In Living Color, which starred other members of the family, the Wayans have made a lasting mark on the parody genre. 
    • Two of their most successful spoofs are: Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.
      • These films lampooned a series of Black coming-of-age films that take place in “the hood,” such as: Boyz n the Hood, South Central, and Menace to Society.
    • The Scary Movie Franchise is possibly their most prominent collection of movies in the mainstream. However, the Wayans family has also produced films like Dance Flick, A Haunted House, Fifty Shades of Black, and Blankman
  • Who is today’s equivalent to Leslie Neilson? 
    • Will Ferrell
      • Blades of Glory
      • Eurovision
    • Mike Meyers
      • Austin Powers
      • The Love Guru 

Judd Apatow is largely credited with giving new life to the R-rated comedy genre in the 21st century thanks to critical and commercial hits “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” But even though Apatow has found mainstream success with his films, he’s still very aware of just how far the comedy genre has fallen in Hollywood.  He believes the major studios are no longer “smart enough and funny enough” to make the kind of comedies that were once guaranteed blockbusters, such as Paramount Pictures’ “Airplane!”  Apatow explains:

“After the last writers’ strike, it felt like the studios decided not to develop movies. They used to buy a lot of scripts, and they had big teams of people giving notes, and they worked for years with people in collaboration on those scripts. I feel like the studios don’t buy as many scripts now. It used to be you’d open up Variety, and you’d see a movie studio had just bought a big high-concept comedy. Now it seems like they’d rather things come in packaged: a script, a cast, a director. As a result, a lot of great comedy writers are going to television instead of sitting at home and trying to write a script for a film, write the way I was.”

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THANK YOU AGAIN TO OUR WONDERFUL GUEST MOXIE LABOUCHE!!

YOU CAN FIND HER BOOK HERE…YOUR BRAIN ON FACTS

AND HER PODCAST YOUR BRAIN ON FACTS CAN BE FOUND ANYWHERE YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS!

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Shaun of the Case

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Love them or hate them, zombie movies have their place in cinematic history. These films featuring the living dead have been around as early as the 1930’s. Not long after that, however, a new genre appeared: The Zombie Comedy. Zombies themselves are often thought of as political commentary, which makes them a perfect vehicle for satire. 

In 2004, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg utilized the zombie concept and created Shaun of the Dead: a modern Zom-Rom-Com about an uninspired man leading an uneventful life until he’s faced with a zombie apocalypse. Shaun of the Dead became an instant classic, developing its own zombie-like following that has stayed strong for the last 16 years! It introduced American audiences to Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright and they have managed to stay fairly prominent ever since. 

So this week come join us at the Winchester where we will have a nice cold pint and discuss how Shaun of the Dead will never blow over. 

History

  • Directed by Edgar Wright
    • Now considered one of the most original filmmakers of the 21st century, this movie made Edgar Wright a household name. Later on he directed classics like “Scott Pilgrim VS The World,” “Baby Driver,” and the other two films in the Cornetto trilogy: “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End” 
    • Before Shaun of the Dead, he directed “Spaced,” a UK comedy that also featured Simon Pegg and Nick Frost 
  • Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
    • They met while working on the British TV series Asylum.  They soon bonded over their love for films such as Dawn of the Dead, An American Werewolf in London(1981), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1978.)  These would later be used as inspiration for Shaun of the Dead.
    • They said that the hardest scenes to write were the relationship scenes between Shaun and Liz. This was because they had to keep Liz as a strong character that was responsible but not seem like she was nagging or annoying.  They thought Kate Ashfield did an awesome job with keeping a balance.

Summary

  • Shaun is a salesman at an electronic supply store. He lives somewhat of a boring life, has commitment issues, and enjoys the occasional pint with his best mate at The Winchester (a local pub). 
  • Shaun isn’t very invested in everyone around him. So, he manages to not immediately notice when the world suddenly plunges into a zombie apocalypse. Terrified for his life and family, Shaun devises a full-proof plan to get him, his girlfriend, his friends, and his mum through the end of the world. 

Starring

  • Simon Pegg/ Shaun
    • Cornetto Trilogy
    • Star Trek as Scotty in the 2009 Reboot
    • Ready Player 1
  • Kate Ashfield/ Liz
    • In the 2019 Sanditon 
  • Nick Frost/ Ed
    • Cornetto Trilogy
    • Into the Badlands
    • Fighting With my Family 
    • Tintin (2011)
    • Pirate Radio
  • Lucy Davis/ Dianne
    • Wonder Woman
    • The Office (The British one)
  • Dylan Moran/ David
    • Black Books
  • Peter Serafinowicz/ Pete
    • The Tick
    • Rick and Morty
  • Bill Nighy/ Phillip
    • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    • Love Actually 
    • Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Penelope Wilton/ Mum-Barbara
    • Dr. Who as Harriet Jones MP for Flydale North
    • Downton Abbey

Making of

  • After Pegg and Wright pitched the movie to Film4 Productions, the company cut back on its budget which left the movie without a production company. Wright believed in the film and wanted it to get made, so he didn’t take other directing jobs while he focused on getting financing. He had to borrow money from friends, including Simon Pegg. 
  • The movie borrows the film style from George Romero’s Dead movies (Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead.) 
    • Because of this, Pegg and Wright reached out to the legendary director for his blessing, which he gave! He even had Pegg and Wright in one of his movies in 2005! 
  • The ambiance of the film was not meant to be the nighttime scary horror movie.  They were going for more of a hungover Sunday morning vibe.
    • But they did have all the zombies in muted colors and no primary colors.
    • Simon Pegg however was to wear the same uniform the entire movie and said that he pretty much quote, “Ended up having one shirt that was held together by Febreze.” This was of course for continuity.
    • Fun fact is that the Cornetto ice cream was included because Edgar Wright in college had used Cornetto ice cream as a hangover cure and so he thought it would be funny for Ed to use it as such after their drunken escapade the night before getting over Liz.
  • Some of the scenes such as in The Winchester, were shot in Ealing Studios where things like the 1930’s Birds of Prey and a lot of Doctor Who was shot as well.
  • In the scene when Shaun walks in and you just see feet and his shadow it is a small nod to the end credits of Day of the Dead.
  • Simple callbacks such as Pete in the bathroom mirror before/after being a zombie is what makes this movie so great.
  • The first scene at Shaun’s there is an ash-tray on the coffee table that they ended up deciding was a bit racist and not PC so it is only in that scene.  It was a black baby with a sombrero on it’s back. Supposedly when it was released in America it may have been CGI’d out according to Pegg and Wright. 
  • After Shaun and Liz split up Ed consoles him at the bar by saying, “We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing, have a bite at the King’s Head, couple at the Little Princess, stagger back here. Bang! Back at the bar for shots.”  This parallels what happens the rest of the movie. Bloody Mary ends up being the shop worker Mary who is a zombie the next morning, bite at the King’s head is going to kill Phillip, picking up Liz and the others, stagger as zombies back to the bar, and then “shots” refer to the gunshots at the bar at the end.
  • The shop scene where Phillip comes in to talk to Shaun was one of the few scenes done in one take and so they had to time the army trucks going by perfectly which was difficult but they achieved it!
  • In the scene with the zombie Mary, and who Pegg and Wright refer to as “The Hulk,”  some of the records that were “thrown” at the zombies were CG and some were rubber.
  • In the scene where Phillip transforms in the car and they are surrounded by zombies Simon Pegg actually punches Nick Frost in the shoulder and legit hurts him.
  • Actual tears were shed on set for the death of one character.  Barbara’s death caused Pegg and Frost to tear up as if it was their own mom’s death.  When this scene was shot over half the movie had been done and so everyone was already tired and emotional which brought an even bigger charge to the scene.
  • When Liz, Ed, and Shaun are trapped in the cellar it is meant to be dark and depressing in order to make it seem that this is the ending.

Received/ Impact/ Thoughts

  • The film has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, 7.9 on IMDB, and 76% on Metacritic. 
  • “Instead of focusing on the Undead and trying to get the laughs there, it treats the living characters as sitcom regulars whose conflicts and arguments keep getting interrupted by annoying flesh-eaters.” – Roger Ebert
  • The movie has an opening of 1.6 million pounds in the UK. It made 3.3 million USD opening weekend and over 30 million worldwide during its run. 

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Sources

The Case of the Princess Bride

 

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Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.  Doesn’t sound too bad right?

Today we’re talking about the greatest love story ever told. It tells of a love so pure it can be simplified to three words: As You Wish. “The Princess Bride” galloped, soared, and lept into theatres in the fall of 1987 and has left a lasting mark on American culture ever since. So gather close and get ready for some adventure–and don’t worry–this isn’t a kissing movie. 

History

The Book

  • Yes believe it or not the movie is based on William Goldman’s book of the same name. He luckily also supplied us with the screenplay for the film as well.
  • Goldman was a master story-teller. His range varied from dramas, westerns, war, fantasy, horror, and much more. 
  • Movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969) and  All the President’s Men(1976) won him best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay.
    • Surprisingly his first try at writing screenplays was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid.  It was bought by Twentieth Century Fox for (at the time) a record breaking $400,000.
    • In an NPR article he reportedly told the New York Times back in 1979 that “I’m not a screenwriter, I’m a novelist who writes screenplays.”  This of course was after he had already written and adapted a whopping 10 screenplays including The Stepford Wives(1975) and Marathon Man(1976).  He would later go on to adapt Stephen King’s novel Misery in 1990 and co-wrote Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr. in 1992.
    • When writing his book about the Hollywood industry titled Adventures in the Screen Trade it came with a quote in the beginning that simply said “Nobody knows anything.” Now isn’t that the truth? 

In his original forward to the book he discusses how his father read S. Morgenstern’s book when he was sick in bed from Pneumonia. He describes himself as a boy that loved sports and not books, so when his father wanted to read him the Princess Bride he naturally asked if it had any good sports in it.  His father replied; “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad Men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.”

Goldman was able to fool a lot of people into thinking that this was actually an abridgment of a book by S. Morgenstern (who does not exist.) He had so many people fooled that there is a scene that he does not include in the book that tens of thousands of people wrote to him asking him for it.  He had a reply that he would send saying that Morgenstern’s lawyers would not allow it. The scene was the reunion between Buttercup and Westley.

The letter to readers can be found here…..  https://www.hmhco.com/~/media/sites/princessbride/goldman-princess-bride-response-letter.pdf?la=en

Goldman had such a way that he was able to blend making fun of stories such as these while also reveling in the story.

He didn’t know how to rescue Westley when he was writing the book.  When Goldman realized he could not save Westley and wrote the words that he lay dead next to the machine Goldman cried and couldn’t believe what he had done.  This book is very special to him.

Making of

Rob Reiner after doing the Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing realized that people make movies from books and so he thought about ones that he enjoyed and called Goldman hoping to make his and found out that Goldman had been trying for years to make this movie a reality.  Goldman had thought it would never be made into a movie.

When at the first table read which was when Mandy and Andre met and were going over their lines for the scene when Inigo is being nursed back to health Andre was saying his lines really slow. Mandy would tell “Fezzik” faster! But each time he would say it at the same slow pace.  Finally Mandy shouted “faster Fezzik!”and slapped Andre. It worked because Andre got better at his lines and was able to concentrate more.

The entire movie was really shot in England with their base being Sheffield. The one shot that was filmed in LA was the close-up of the grandfather played by Peter Faulk saying “As you wish” at the end.

  • Scenes:

    • The Shrieking Eels
      •  This scene was done in a tank where they used forced perspective to create the illusion of the boat that was gaining on them.
    • Cliffs of Insanity
      • These were done using a combination of a matte painting, a sound stage for close-ups when they climb, and the actual Cliffs of Moore in Ireland.
    • The Duel Sequence
      •  Not only is this an awesome scene to watch because you have Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black fighting but also because in all the sword fighting shots it is the actual actors of Carey Elwes and Mandy Patinkin. The only instances it is stunt doubles is when they do their flips or jumps.  Anytime there was down-time on set these two would practice.
    • Battle of Wits
      • “You’ve fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this; never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line!” Is a small jab at the Vietnam war.
    • Fire Swamp- 
      • The swamp was the most expensive.  When her dress caught fire, even though he knew it was going to happen, William Goldman screamed her dress was on Fire!
      • Always a discussion about how much blood there should be. You need it to be good for adults and kids. There was a lot of talk before shooting the swamp scenes about this.
      • The voices of the ROUS’s were done by Rob Reiner with added technical changes.
      • One of the guys in the rat suit had been pulled over and booked and so they had to go and get him out to shoot the scene. (Took inspiration from Douglas Fairbanks movies)
      • After the fire swamp Chris Guest actually does hit Elwes on the head so they had to stop shooting and take him to the hospital
    • Mawwiage Scene
      • Mawiaage is what bwings us togever twoday. It came from a very famous Chicago Rabbi that Goldman could not remember the name of. He was at a wedding when he was a boy and got the giggles because the Rabbi said “A Dweam within a Dweam.”
    • Inigo Montoya Famous line
      • Mandy Patinkin did not think that this line would be as big as it is today.  The line at the time did strike a chord with Mandy Patinkin because he lost his father to cancer. So in that scene it was like he killed the cancer that got his dad.
    • The Ending Credits 
      • Reiner thought that with the kind of movie that it was the best kind of credits to go along with the movie are what is called Curtain Call Credits where they clip from the movie with the actor and then a close-up with their name credit and character name.

Starring

  • Cary Elwes/ Westley and the Man in Black
    • His idea to have the little mustache
  • Robin Wright/ Buttercup
  • Mandy Patinkin/ Inigo Montoya you killed my father….sorry habit lol
  • Wallace Shawn/ Vizzini
    • The Iocane Powder Scene was the first one shot with Wally Shawn.  He was convinced after that first day that they were going to fire him but Reiner loved his performance.
  • Andre the Giant/ Fezzik
    • He didn’t really read so Rob Reiner recorded his lines on a tape so that Andre could memorize them that way.
    • Andre’s back was not in good condition which made scenes like where he fights the man in black and catching the pretty lady difficult.  They had to have doubles, boards, and rigs to help with the weight.
  • Billy Crystal/ Miracle Max
  • Carol Kane/Valerie
  • Chris Sarandon/ Prince Humperdinck
  • Christopher Guest/ Count Rugen
  • Fred Savage/ The Grandson
  • Peter Falk/ The Grandfather

How it was received/ Impact it had on us and others

  • Money
    • The estimated budget for the film was 16 million.
    • They weren’t sure how to sell it because it includes so many genres so…
      • The opening weekend was only about $206,000 and the gross in the USA was almost 31 million dollars.  So overall the film did OK in sales.
    • It really hit it’s stride when it came onto home video and took off like a rocket.

Sources

Todd and Pitts

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I’ve heard it my whole life, from people I know and those I don’t. It’s a short phrase, one that ignites a fire in me every time I hear it: Women aren’t funny. 

Every once in a while, a movie will come out that “proves” the hilarity of women. Bridesmaids, Mean Girls, Girls Trip, and Booksmart all made it to the top of the list in terms of groundbreaking female-led comedies. These movies did not only showcase women in comedic roles, they were written by women as well (although Girls Trip was co-written by a man). 

But, women have been making audiences laugh for a long time, even if it doesn’t seem that way. In the silent film era, female comedians like Mabel Normand wrote and directed comedic films and starred alongside Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. Some of the comedic women from this era made a successful transition to talkies, such as the innovative and hilarious duo Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd. 

Today we are going to discuss how this duo came to be, the lives of the individual women, and their lasting impact.  

https://www.amazon.com/Roach-Comedy-Shorts-Thelma-Pitts/dp/1476672555

History

  • Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd were the first major female comedy team, with shorts produced by Hal Roach Studios.
    • Hal Roach Studios was a Television and Motion Picture studio
      • It was the greatest comedy studio of the 1930s, though people tended to look down on comedy shorts as not real cinema.
      • Patsy Kelly, who worked for Hal Roach, said that he was the best boss she had ever had.
    • It was known for teaming up Laurel and Hardy, as well as the group of children that would become known as The Little Rascals. 
    • Ever since Hal Roach struck gold with Laurel and Hardy, he wanted to create a female counterpart. He had had success with female comedians in the past, and it seemed like a no-brainer that audiences would embrace two funny leading ladies.
      • The issue with the male-led comedies was that women weren’t finding their slapstick antics very funny. In the 1930s, the majority of women felt that  their job was to keep order in households and in daily lives.
      • Film critic Leonard Maltin pointed out, “Comediennes cannot use the same material as comedians and get the same results.” Whether or not you agree with this sentiment, it seems to be a prevailing belief in the film industry, especially since the time of Pitts and Todd.
    • Pitts and Todd weren’t the first women that Roach teamed up, but they were the first ones that got the attention of the masses. 
    • Together they made 17 two-reel comedies before Pitts left the studio and was replaced by Patsy Kelly.

Before we talk about the shorts themselves, let’s take a look at their lives

  • Zasu Pitts
    • Zazu Pitts’ name was Eliza Susan Pitts. Her nickname came from the last syllable of her first name and the first syllable of her middle name. I’ve heard it many different ways, but she insisted that it was pronounced (Say-Soo) and that is how Thelma pronounces it in the shorts.
    • Zasu was a shy child, but she was encouraged to join the theatre to overcome her shyness. She learned quickly that her nervous facial expressions and mannerisms would be great for comedy!
    • At age 21, she went to Hollywood and made a name for herself in comedy and drama. Her forlorn expression was especially helpful in dramatic productions, though her drama career did not last. 
      • Some, even Zasu herself, thought that her shy demeanor and “unglamorous” looks were negative qualities. Zasu took those parts of herself and used them to advance her career in comedy.
    • By the mid 1920’s, Zasu was a well-established  actress. In 1924, she appeared in 10 films alone. One of them was “Greed” an epic drama. The director of that film believed she was the greatest dramatic actress at the time and claimed it was a tragedy every time she was cast in a comedy. 
    • But, when movies made the transition to sound, Pitts couldn’t seem to continue as a dramatic actress. She was even replaced in “All Quiet on the Western Front” when she unintentionally made the audience laugh.
    • Pitts leaned in to comedy, and made the best of a bad situation. She appeared in shorts and comedic features until 1931 when she got paired with the bombshell comedian Thelma Todd.
  • Thelma Todd
    • After the death of her brother when she was just four-years-old, Thelma Alice Todd wanted to be one of the boys to replace the son her parents lost. She was naturally funny and wanted to become a teacher, but after she won Miss Massachusetts in 1925, she was discovered by a talent scout and invited to study acting at The Paramount School in New York.
    • After appearing in an Ed Wynn comedy in 1927, she made her first Hollywood film. 
    • Her career was jeopardized when she was propositioned at a Hollywood party, and fired from a movie because she said no. (#metoo?) 
    • Just as silent films became talkies, the freelancing Todd found her way to Hal Roach Studio where she was cast in the first Laurel and Hardy talkie “Unaccustomed As We Are.” 
    • Over the next few years, Todd found success alongside other comedians like Charley Chase and Harry Langdon until Zasu Pitts found her way to Hal Roach in 1931.
  • Pitts & Todd
    • Hal Roach believed that Thelma’s brash, confident demeanor would play well off the shy Zasu. When the actresses met, they immediately became friends and filming was easy-going on the sets. By the time these women worked together, Pitts was a screen veteran and Todd an established comedian. Both knew what their skills were, both knew their characters as well as themselves. 
    • Thelma played the wise girl, often finding a way to get them out of trouble. Zasu was the less intelligent, innocent woman who often got them into trouble. 
    • Both women wanted the freedom to be in other projects, and Hal Roach granted that for them.
    • In an era of The Three Stooges and Marx Brothers, these two women broke new ground in comedy. Audiences saw these women in a new way. Remember when we said that women of the 1930s didn’t appreciate slapstick? Well, these two presented physical comedy in service of the female narrative. Although the shorts were still written by men, it was really the female leads that made them successful. 
    • The storylines may seem dated today, but by and large they are still relatable. Thelma and Zasu are two “modern” women just trying to survive in the big city. They have jobs, troubles with men, and almost never troubles with each other. They support each other, and they aren’t overly sexual or ditzy. These are women that could be living today. 
    • So, let’s talk about three of our favorite shorts from these two: Let’s Do Things (1931) On The Loose (1931) and Bargain of the Century (1933)
      • Let’s Do Things
        • Directed by Hal Roach himself, this was their first short.
        • This is a great example of how the women were there for each other. Thelma urges Zasu to find out what her boyfriend intends for her. She ultimately stands up for Zasu after being treated horribly by men.
      • On the Loose
        • Also directed by Hal Roach, this short had a cameo appearance from Laurel and Hardy!
        • This is an example of the women as a team, collectively agreeing that they are both tired of Coney Island. This short has great lines that poke fun at the attention that Todd gets over Pitts for her looks. The women both fulfill the wise woman role, getting the best of the men that take them to Coney Island. They are in this together, Pitts didn’t get them into trouble this time. 
      • Bargain of the Century 
        • Directed by Charley Chase, in this short the girls get a cop fired and spend the rest of the short trying to get him re-hired so he will stop living with them. 

After 17 shorts together, Zasu left Hal Roach studio. She was soon replaced with Patsy Kelly who in her own right was very funny alongside Thelma Todd. They continued to make shorts until 1935. 

Thelma Todd’s Death

  • In 1935, Thelma Todd was incredibly successful as an actress. She had a cafe, and was still starring in shorts alongside Patsy Kelly. 
  • She had recently been divorced from Pat DiCicco, a movie producer and alleged mobster connected to Lucky Luciano. 
    • Luciano was a notorious 1930’s mobster. 
  • On December 16th, 1935, she was found dead by her employee Mae Whitehead. She was only 29 years old. 
  • “Because Miss Todd within the past few months had been the recipient of several extortion notes threatening her with death unless she paid $10,000, and because no apparent reason existed for her taking her own life, investigating officers desperately sought an answer to the mystery of her death. Coagulated blood marred the screen comedienne’s features and stained her mauve and silver evening gown and her expensive mink coat when she was found. Her blonde locks pathetically awry, in the front seat of her automobile in the garage of Roland West, film producer and director, in front of West’s residence at 17531 Pasetano Road, less than 500 yards from Miss Todd’s cafe on the Roosevelt Highway.”
  • Suspects
    • Pat DiCicco
    • Roland West
    • Stalker
    • West’s estranged wife 
  • Over her career she appeared in 120 features until her death.

 

Today we have Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and Broad City’s Abby and Ilanna. Before that, there was Laverne and Shirley, and of course Lucy and Ethel. But, none of that might have been possible without Pitts and Todd. 

Zasu Pitts

 

Watch their shorts here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GLUliI0e8k&list=PLIrWJQzxB8BseeC3FeutO5nG4HdME7HWX

 

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/11/thelma-todd-zasu-pitts-female-comedy-team-old-hollywood

 

Avatar The Last Airbender

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Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, well, 15 years ago, Nickelodeon premiered a TV show that is still considered to be one of the best animated shows of all time: Avatar the Last Airbender. In the era of Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents, and Drake and Josh, this show stood out for its animation style, intense storyline, and unique characters. 

Although it aired on a children’s network and is widely considered to be a children’s show, Avatar appeals to many different audiences and age groups. It’s a series of breathtaking animation and detail, funny quips, and heart-felt moments. 

 

How it came to be

  • In the early 2000s, Nickelodeon was shifting its focus to include shows that explored more mythical and legendary storylines. Eric Coleman, the Vice President of Animation Development approached Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and asked them for a show pitch. The men returned one month later with the early concepts that would become Avatar: The Last Airbender. 
  • The original Aang was a bald kid with no arrow, though he was drawn with a robot cyclops and and polar bear that both had arrows. The robot monkey was the first inspiration for Momo, while the polar bear became Appa. 
  • Inspired by documentaries about antarctic exploration, the team developed a show concept about nations of people, based on the four elements. One of the key pieces of the puzzle was how to create an action show without too much violence. So, they created the idea of bending elements instead of weaponry. They pitched the story to Eric Coleman two weeks later, and the team started working on a pilot. Bryan went to Korea for a few months to work with artists there on the initial eleven minute episode. 
  • The characters were complex, and animators would sometimes spend as much as 15 hours in the studio, trying to complete the pilot in time. Once the pilot tested well, the show was greenlit for 13 episodes!
  • The tricky part about the show being picked up meant that they now had more work to do with pretty much the same deadline. Bryan and Mike put together a large team of writers, animators, and musicians to get the job done. 

 

The Making of Avatar

  • The martial arts
    • The team was dedicated to learning traditional Chinese martial arts styles, so they sought out Sifu Kisu, a martial arts teacher who helped them develop the individual fighting styles of the four nations.
    • Another martial arts teacher, Sifu Manny, came in to help develop a different style for Toph. Because Toph is a blind character, her fighting style would be different than other characters in the show. Sifu Manny’s method was rumored to have been created by blind warriors on a remote island. 
      • The style worked for Toph because it could be achieved without having to look at an opponent. 
    • Brian and the director would take the script for each episode and choreograph the fight scenes with live actors as reference for the animators.
  • The Animation
    • The creators wanted an expansive view of the universe, with wide shots of beautiful landscapes.
    • The variety of imagery made the show much more dynamic than many other animated children’s shows at the time; with wide, medium, tight, and detail compositions that gave the viewer a strong sense of the universe
      • They wanted it to be cinematic.
  • The Music
    • Jeremy Zuckerman and Ben Wynn were the track team that created the music for the show.
  • The story
    • In a world of elemental magic, there are four elemental nations: The Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. The Avatar, the one person who can control all elements, upholds the balance of the nations. The Avatar is reincarnated into a young boy named Aang, who is reawakened after being frozen in ice for 100 years, to embark on a dangerous journey to fulfill his destiny. With the help of friends he meets along the way, he will have to fight to bring peace to the world.
    • The success of the show came from how well it was made, but what truly connected with fans was the story and characters.
    • The story was meant from the beginning to have a finite ending, with three seasons and 61 episodes.
      • No matter how upset it made creators and fans, Bryan and Mike were consistently clear that the show would end, and building toward that ending was what made the story so solid.
    • Aang
      • Played by Zach Tyler, Aang is a young monk from 100 years in the past.
        • Michael and Bryan initially imagined Aang to be from 1000 years before the events of the show, from a more advanced civilization. In early drawings, he had a futuristic staff and robot sidekick.
        • The air nation, which Aang is from, was inspired by Buddhist and Tibetan societies. 
        • Aang is a cute, fun-loving 12-year-old kid that was thrust into an impossible situation with immense responsibility. He is a skilled martial artist, and as the Avatar he is the most powerful bender in the world. But, because of his nature and upbringing, he is hesitant to use that power to hurt others.
        • Aang goes through a lot of change in the series, though he never abandons his beliefs, even when everyone tells him he should.
    • Appa
      • Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, Appa is Aang’s best friend and flying bison. The artists were inspired by manatees and bison to draw Appa. His six legs were a direct reference to the Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro from Hayao Miyazaki.
      • Originally there were going to be 20 bison, which was broken down to just a small family of two adult bison and their calves. Eventually they settled on only one.
    • Momo
      • As we said before, Momo was originally a robot! But, his name was Momo-3. The show slowly became less sci-fi and the creators transformed a talking robot to a cross between a ring-tailed lemur and spotted bat.
      • Momo was almost dropped from the story, but instead Aang finds him at the deserted air temple as a symbol of hope for the future.
      • Momo was also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.
    • Katara
      • Voiced by Mae Whitman, the creators considered Katara to be the heart of the show. In a parody episode called “The Ember Island Players,” the show jokes about Katara’s infatuation with hope. But, this was a big part of her character.
      • To the creators, it was important that there would be a strong female lead to appeal to young girls watching the show. The show itself was targeted to boys, but Bryan and Mike always knew that young girls would also be interested in an action-adventure epic as well.
      • Katara’s original name was Kya, but there was a video game character named Kya and it had to be changed. Her second name was Kanna before they settled on Katara. Kya is Katara’s mother’s name and Kanna is her Gran Gran.
    • Sokka
      • Played by Jack De Sena from the All That reboot, Sokka was very clearly the comic relief of the show. He was created with Katara to have a sibling rivalry, and was meant to appeal to the audience as an everyman.
      • Sokka has one of the best character arcs in the show, as he transforms from a brash kid that hides his insecurities with humor, to a confident leader of Team Avatar.
    • Toph
      • Voiced by Jessie Flower, Toph is the toughest character and one of the most powerful benders on the show. Toph comes from a rich, pampered background where she was forced to be someone she wasn’t. Although she was born blind, she learned earthbending from blind badger moles. 
      • Toph was originally a male character, until one of the head writers, Aaron Ehaz of Dragon Prince fame, suggested they make her female. Aaron argued for a long time until finally he won over the creators. The idea of taking such a huge, brash personality and placing it in a cute young girl really worked with the character.
      • Jessie Flower originally voiced a character in one episode of season one, and the creators liked her so much that they asked her back to play Toph.
      • Even though they thought including another female lead would connect to girls, the most comments about Toph came from young men who cited her as their favorite character.
        • Seugn Hyun Oh, a supervising director was quoted in saying, “She is blind, but I don’t know how to express in English, she just won.
    • Zuko
      • Voiced by Dante Bosco (Hook) Zuko is a fan favorite. He undergoes possibly the most change of any character in the show, and introduces the audience to the concept of a villain you can root for. Zuko has a complicated past that the show reveals over time, and acts with a sense of purpose. The show begins with him knowing exactly who he is, and we watch him become more and more unsure over time.
      • Originally, the show only had one villain: the Firelord. Zuko came about when Eric Coleman asked about a character that actively pursued the avatar and Zuko was born.
    • Uncle Iroh
      • Another fan favorite, Uncle Iroh was voiced by Mako and later Greg Baldwin. 
      • The creators initially thought Iroh would just be a teacher, but then they decided it would be more interesting if he were related. Aaron Ehaz described him as a man trying to enjoy his retirement but was forced to watch his nephew instead. It was Mako though, the original voice actor, who gave uncle the level of wisdom and personality that made fans fall in love with Iroh. 

 Also Starring

  • Jennie Kwan as Suki
  • Grey Griffin as Azula
    • Azula is one of the most complicated and layered characters in the show. She is a villain audiences loved to hate, and she shoots blue fire to stand out against Zuko’s orange fire. 
  • James Garrett as Avatar Roku
  • Mark Hamill as Fire Lord Ozai

The finale is a rare accomplishment, ennobling the characters and bringing a satisfying conclusion to both its world and Aang’s spiritual struggle between his beliefs and the violence the world wants from him as the Avatar.

Awards

  • Primetime-Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animation in 2007
  • Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Cartoon in 2008
  • Peabody Award in 2009

Drink of the week:  The Jasmine Dragon

Here’s a link to the documentary:

Sources:

The Case of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Picture it: You’re in second grade, coming off a rigorous school week. You open your eyes to a quiet house on a Saturday morning, and sneak downstairs. No one else is awake, and the TV is all yours. You have a seat with a bowl of cereal and turn on your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon…

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If you grew up in the 1960s, maybe you watched Magilla Gorilla, the Flintstones, or Johnny Quest. If you were a 90s kid, maybe you watched Captain Planet, Recess, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No matter the programming, Saturday Morning Cartoons was a tradition that spanned nearly 6 decades. It’s a shared experience had by children of multiple generations, which makes it pretty special. Today, we will discuss the history of the Saturday Morning Cartoon, and highlight some of our favorites from our childhood. We will not be able to cover many shows from other decades, but maybe we will do another episode down the line!

What do we mean by Saturday Morning Cartoon? Pretty self explanatory. Cartoons that aired on Saturday mornings, usually during time slot of 8am to 12pm. This tradition would flourish from the late 1950’s to the late 1990’s. There are still a few remaining cartoon shows on the major networks on Saturday mornings, but not many.

 

History:

  • The first cartoon produced for television aired in 1950 and was called Crusader Rabbit. It consisted of 5 minute long episodes and ran for three seasons. Created by Alexander Anderson and Jay Ward, its main characters were Crusader Rabbit and his sidekick Ragland T. Tiger, or “Rags”
    • In the late 1940’s, a producer named Jerry Fairbanks sold NBC on a new concept: a TV show meant solely for TV. Networks were looking for kid-friendly content to show on Saturday mornings, but no cartoons had been created specifically for this purpose
    • Since the days of radio broadcasts, the peak time for children to tune in, was between 10am and noon on Saturdays.
    • Even though Crusader Rabbit was moderately successful, many networks stuck with kid-friendly live-action programs instead.

  • The success of Crusader Rabbit inspired many more television cartoon character packages. And Jay Ward would even go on to produce The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
  • Until the late 1960s, a number of Saturday-morning cartoons were reruns of animated series originally made for prime time. The first true “Saturday morning cartoon” was Mighty Mouse Playhouse. We all know who Mighty Mouse is, a cartoon version of Super Man (was even originally called Super Mouse)
    • Mighty Mouse was a gamble for CBS back when they brought it to their Saturday Morning line-up in 1955, but it was the incredible success of this show that ushered in a new era of made-for-TV cartoons.
  • The character first appeared in 1942 in many theatrical films, however,  what really brought the character into the mainstream was television. Mighty Mouse Playhouse ran on CBS for 12 very successful seasons.

In order to cut costs, animators made sure to use cost-cutting techniques that would also save a lot of time. Hanna-Barbara was well-known for these techniques. They would often use similar character models for shows.  They designed characters with wide collars so they could easily animate them turning their heads, would only move characters’ mouths when they were talking and nothing else in the frame, and so on. The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and Johnny Quest all come to mind when we think about these techniques. 

Where animation might have been lacking, the shows would make up for with wit! The shows were well-written with some adult humor to appeal to the whole family. 

The Shows:

  • Pepper Ann (ABC, 1997-2001)
    • Created by Sue Rose and aired on Disney’s One Saturday Morning on ABC. New episodes ran until 2000 and reruns ran for another year after.
    • Pepper Ann was the very first animated television series for Disney to be created by a woman and would be until 2015!!
    • Tom Warburton served as lead character designer for the series. He would later go one to create Codename: Kids Next Door.
    • The show is a comedy about a 12-year-old Pepper Ann who manages to put other kids off by her slightly-nerdy behavior, constant bad timing, and insistence on trying to be cool. And to make matters worse, she’s just started middle school. Which we all know is a nightmare!
      • Pepper Ann voiced by Kathleen Wilhoite.
        • Twin Peaks
        • Family Guy
        • 24
        • Gilmore Girls
  • Recess (ABC, 1997-2001)
    • The show was created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere.
    • Recess premiered in 1997 on ABC, as part of the One Saturday Morning block, and ran for 6 seasons. The show was successful enough to be syndicated to other channels including Toon Disney (now Disney XD) and the Disney Channel.
    • Recess follows the lives of six fourth graders, Theodore Jasper “T.J.” Detweiler, Vince LaSalle, Ashley Spinelli, Mikey Blumberg, Gretchen Grundler, and Gus Griswald, as they go about their days at Third Street Elementary School.
      • TJ voiced by Andrew Lawrence
      • Vince voiced by Rickey D’Shon Collins         
      • Spinelli voiced by Pamela Adlon
      • Mikey voiced by Jason Davis
      • Gretchen voiced by Ashley Johnson
      • Gus voiced by Courtland Mead
    • A major point of the show is that the students at school represent a microcosm of our society complete with its own government, class system, and even a monarchy. They are ruled by a sixth grader named King Bob, and the society has a long list of rigid values and social norms.
  • Animaniacs (Fox, 1993-1995; The WB, 1995-1999)
    • Animaniacs was created by Tom Ruegger. It is the second animated series produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Animation, after Tiny Toon Adventures.
    • The show first aired on Fox as part of its Fox Kids before moving to The WB. It initially ran a total of 99 episodes and one movie.
    • Most episodes were composed of three short mini-episodes, each starring a different set of characters. (Think Saturday Night Live style).
    • Hallmarks of the series included its music, memorable catchphrases, celebrity caricatures, and humor directed at an adult audience.
    • A reboot of the series was announced by Hulu in January 2018, with two seasons to be produced and are expected to air starting in 2020.
      • Yakko voiced by Rob Paulsen
      • Wakko voiced by Jess Harnell
      • Dot voiced by  Tress MacNeille
  • The Bugs Bunny Show (CBS, 1978-1985) AKA Looney Tunes
    • This went by many names over the years
      • The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour
      • The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show
      • The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour
      • The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show
    • The show was originally broadcast as a primetime half-hour on ABC in 1960, featuring theatrical Looney Tunes cartoons with new linking sequences hosted by Bugs Bunny, produced by Warner Bros.
    • After two seasons, The Bugs Bunny Show moved to Saturday mornings, where it remained for nearly forty years.
    • In 2000, the series at the time (The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show) was canceled after the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies television rights became exclusive to Cartoon Network.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (syndication, 1987-1990; CBS, 1987-1996)
    • The initial motivation behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series came from wanting to make toys based on the characters. However, because the comic-book characters only had a small following, the company Playmates Toys was uneasy about moving forward. They requested that a television deal be acquired first, and after the initial five-episode series debuted, the toy company released their first series of Ninja Turtles action figures 1988.
    • The show was in Saturday morning syndication from 1988 to 1989 and became an instant hit. The show was expanded to five days a week and aired weekday afternoons until 1991. Starting in 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its secondary run on CBS’s Saturday morning lineup. The full series ran until 1996, when it aired its final episode.
    • The show helped skyrocket the characters into the mainstream and became one of the most popular animated series in television history. By 1990, the cartoon series was being shown daily on more than 125 television stations, and the comic books sold 125,000 copies a month.
  • Captain Planet (TBS 1990)
    • Captain Planet and the Planeteers is an animated television program created by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle that focuses on friendship and environmentalism. 
    • The show aired on TBS in 1990 and ran for two years, then came back under the title, “The New Adventures of Captain Planet”. This version aired from 1993 to 1996. 
    • Pyle cites that the inspiration for the five Planeteers came from real people that she met during the show’s pre-production. 
    • The show’s intro theme was composed by Tom Worrall. “Captain Planet, he’s our hero, gonna take pollution down to zero!”
    • The show may have only lasted 6 years, but the impact it had on society has lasted much longer. The Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) was founded in 1991, when series producer Barbara Pyle negotiated a percentage of the show’s merchandising revenue to empower young people.
      • Captain Planet voiced by David Coburn
      • Kwame voiced by LeVar Burton (earth)
      • Wheeler voiced by Joey Dedio (fire)
      • Linka voiced by Kath Soucie (wind)
      • Gi voiced by Janice Kawaye
      • Ma-Ti voiced by Scott Menville

Honorable Mentions:

Proud Family

Little Bear

Babar

Berenstain Bears- Michael Cera voiced Brother bear

Voltron

Sources:

IMDB

History of Saturday Morning Cartoons

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/30/saturday-morning-cartoons-are-no-more/

https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/the-greatest-saturday-morning-cartoons/

How the Grinch(es) Stole the Case

Hey Cassettes and welcome back to the Christmas Case Diaries! This month we’re focusing on Christmas TV specials, but this episode is EXTRA special because we will be talking about movies as well. The 1960’s was a decade that brought us a lot of classic Christmas specials. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman (1969), and tonight’s topic: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)!

 

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The Origin of Grinch

  • Theodor Suess Geisel, AKA the beloved Dr Suess, first used the word Grinch to describe a bird in his 1953 book Scrambled Eggs Super! The bird was called a Beagle-Beaked-Bald-Headed Grinch.  
  • In 1955 he published a short 32 line illustrated poem in Redbook, which was a woman’s magazine at the time.  The poem was entitled “The Hoobub and the Grinch.” Although this poem does not contain the same Grinch we know and love it, brings about the same issue of commercialism. In the poem the Grinch is able to sell the Hoobub a simple green string by making it sound like it is needed and thus goes on to say that the Grinch is able to sell the Hoobub similar items every day.
  • Finally Suess used Grinch in his hit Christmas book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” which was released in 1957.

Many believe that the Grinch was Dr Suess’s alter ego, even Suess himself.  There were many reasons for this. In a 1957 interview with Redbook he stated “I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

  • To add to this Suess was 53 when the book was released, the same age as the Grinch and he was also quirky and disliked large crowds.
  • And finally to show favor to the character he even had a Grinch vanity license plate!

Making of

The director of this special was Chuck Jones. You may know Jones because he is a famous  animator, filmmaker, cartoonist, author, artist, and screenwriter.  Most well known for his work in Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and Tom and Jerry.  He and Suess knew each other due to working together during WWII on the animated propaganda called  Private Snafu. Suess was a writer and Jones an animator. Jones was the one to convince Suess into making an animated short for his How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

Story drawing by Irv Spector.

*During production however, Phil Roman (one of the animators) said that Suess was only there 3 or 4 times but that he had been there for the storyboard beforehand.

  • In the original book, there are only three colors: black, white, and pink/red. So, where did the iconic green Grinch color come from? Apparently Chuck Jones was inspired to use it after renting cars that were that color. 
  • Dr. Suess felt like the main character more closely resembled a Chuck Jones character than the original Grinch drawings.

Time magazine in 2013 named it one of the top 10 greatest Christmas specials from your childhood, along with a movie we just discussed last episode called A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965. While both of these masterpieces took a lot of money to make, Charlie Brown pales in comparison. It took a little less than $100,000 to create Charlie Brown but Grinch was finally able to garner  $300,000 from an organization called The Foundation for Commercial Banks after pitching to companies such as Kellogg’s and Nestle.  

Not only did Grinch receive funding to make the 30 minute special happen, but CBS paid $315,000 for the right to air it twice on their network; once in 1966 and once in 1967.

The music for the special was done by Albert Hague.

  • Dr. Suess wrote the lyrics to all the songs, including “Fahoo Foraze” which was meant to sound like classical Latin. Apparently it tricked some viewers, and people called to find out the translation. It turns out it was just classic Suessical Gibberish 
  • When Hague later recalled his audition for being able to compose for the special he said, “Afterward, Seuss looked up and said, ‘Anyone who slides an octave on the word Grinch gets the job.’ The whole thing took three minutes,”

Voice Actors

  • Boris Karloff as the Narrator and the Grinch
    • Dr. Suess was concerned that casting Boris Karloff would make the character too scary. But, Chuck Jones chose him after hearing him narrate other works. 
    • Originally, there was no difference between the narration and the speaking voices in the special, so sound editors removed the higher pitches from his voice in post. That is why when The Grinch speaks, he sounds different from the narrator. 
  • June Foray (uncredited) as Cindy Lou Who
  • Dal McKennon (uncredited) as Max
  • Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited) as the singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
    • AKA Tony the Tiger!
    • He was also the voice of Kirby in the Brave Little Toaster!
    • Dr. Suess attempted to fix the fact that he was uncredited by sending letters to every major columnist in America! Well, we know now. 

Grinch (2000)

  • The original special aired on December 15th, 1966! So, why did it take so long for it to get remade? Dr. Suess himself was reluctant to bring his works to the big screen. But after his death, the rights to his stories went to his widow. 
  • This was the first time a Dr. Suess story was turned into a full length feature film
  • Before she signed off on Jim Carrey playing the role of The Grinch, she had to visit him on the set of another movie to see if he was right for the part. 
    • The movie was “Man on the Moon” and Jim Carey was so deep into character that he had to do an impression of himself playing the Grinch
  • Directed by Ron Howard, he not only wanted it to be an adaptation of the book, but an adaptation of the original special as well. This is why he kept The Grinch’s green color, even though the character is white in the book. 
  • The movie did not receive a lot of critical acclaim, some believed the story and themes were too adult for a movie marketed to kids.
    • Jim Carey himself seemed to regret the amount of adult jokes in the script and wished that he had done more to stop them.
    • He maintains that all of his jokes were age-appropriate, and Ron Howard even removed some even raunchier jokes from the script.
  • What the critics did like was Jim Carey’s performance as The Grinch as well as the beautiful film score by the late James Horner.

Starring

This movie included many stars but here are just a few…

  • Jim Carrey as the Grinch
    • His costume was incredibly uncomfortable, including the yellow contacts that he was forced to wear. Apparently he even spoke with a former CIA agent about coping mechanisms for torture, as the suit was THAT uncomfortable and took an hour to take off.
    • He improvised a lot of lines in the movie, “Dinner with me, I can’t cancel that again!” 
  • Josh Ryan Evans as the young Grinch
  • Christine Baranski as Martha May
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Mayor Augustus Maywho
  • Molly Shannon as the mother Betty Lou Who
  • Bill Irwin as father Lou Lou Who
  • Taylor Momsen as the little girl Cindy Lou Who
  • With Anthony Hopkins as the Narrator

Grinch (2018)

Where the 2000 Grinch was too adult for children, the 2018 film fixed that issue. This movie is meant to appeal to children, with some older jokes and references. 

Voices of

  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Grinch
  • Cameron Seely as Cindy Lou Who
  • Rashida Jones as Donna Who
  • Tristan O’Hare as Groopert
  • Keenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum
  • Sam Lavagnino as Ozzy
  • Ramone Hamilton as Axl
  • Angela Lansbury as Mayor McGerkle
  • Scarlett Estevez as Izzy
  • With Pharrell Williams as the Narrator

Sources:

IMDB

https://magazine.uc.edu/famousalumni/tv/grinch.html

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/12/24/ccm-grad-wrote-iconic-music-grinch/2287627002/

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/12/12/10-greatest-christmas-tv-specials-from-your-childhood/

This one has great pre-production and production artwork

https://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/grinch-stole-christmas-50-years-old-today-still-great-146646.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvujUS8xfDk

https://seussblog.wordpress.com/tag/grinch-and-the-hoobub/

https://groovyhistory.com/story-behind-grinch-stole-christmas

The Case of Summer Movies

It’s officially summer! It’s the season of cook-outs, family reunions, patriotic holidays, and childhood nostalgia. This week, we each chose a movie we watch every summer and talked about why it’s a quintessential summer movie.

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Adam started off the episode with the 1980 classic Caddyshack!

Synopsis

  • Although the main plot seems to slip as the film goes on, Caddyshack initially follows Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a teen caddy at the high-end Bushwood Country Club. Eager for money to pay for college, Noonan attempts to gain votes for a college scholarship reserved for caddies by volunteering to caddy for a prominent club member Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). As the stressful Caddy Day golf tournament approaches, Noonan seeks advice from wealthy golf guru Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). Meanwhile, Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) arrives and starts to flaunt his money and causes big trouble for the club owner.

Fun Facts

  • This was Harold Ramis’ directorial debut and is considered to be an accidental hit by those who made it
  • Referred to as “Animal House on a Golf Course,” Caddyshack is an over the top comedy about the Bushwood Country Club
  • The movie was originally going to be more about Michael O’Keefe’s character Danny Noonan and his fellow caddies. However, throughout a ridiculously difficult shoot it turned into an adult comedy with no significant plot.
    • Gopher was added last minute to create some kind of plot that would tie scenes together.
  • According to actors and crew there were parties almost every night that would rival those of rock stars. The cast of Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray didn’t make things any easier either. They were constantly goofing around and ended up ad-libbing a large amount of the movie.
    • Examples of this include:
      • Cinderella story
      • Party scene
      • Ugliest hat
    • Dangerfield thought he was doing terribly during scenes, as no one was breaking character to laugh. Being a stand up comedian, he was used to laughs

Favorite Moments

  • “Doodie” Pool scene with Jaws theme
  • Destroying the yacht
  • Carl Spackler the grounds keeper, blowing up the course and winning the game for Al.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Marci brought us back to camp with Heavy Weights (1995)

Synopsis 

  • Gerry Garner comes home from the last day of school (The True beginning to summer!) He is surprised to find that his parents have decided to send him to camp named Camp Hope. Not just any camp though- in Gerry’s words a “Fat Camp”. When he arrives all the campers soon find out that this year will not be the same as years past.  The owners have gone bankrupt and sold the camp to Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller) who is a fitness junkie.
  • Screenplay written and produced by Judd Apatow
    • Known now for Superbad, Anchorman, and Knocked Up

Thoughts

  • Marci believes the former Chipmunks kid was a real entrepreneur. He takes away the kids candy by snitching on them but then proceeds to charge them to sneak candy into a tree trunk in the woods.
  • Who would not want to jump on an awesome air filled bag named “The Blob” into the water?
  • The dance scene was perfect- just as it seemed to be everywhere- girls on one side, guys on the other.
  • One of the funniest lines is when Tony tells Josh (Shaun Weiss from Mighty Ducks) to promptly get off the scale when he is weighed on camera during the second weigh in.
  • Even though this movie has mixed reviews because it seems to have mixed messages we have loved it for many reasons.  One of the main messages Marci takes is that you should take control of your own lives.

Fun Facts

  • The original camp owners were played by Ben Stiller’s parents: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
  • The boy that played Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) ended up breaking his arm during the food fight scene and had to be taken to the hospital.  In order to continue shooting the crew covered his stand-in’s face with chocolate syrup.
  • This was basically the beginning of Ben Stiller’s Dodgeball character
    • Since Heavyweights did not fare well at the box office he thought nobody had seen it and borrowed mannerisms and things from the Tony Perkis character.  He then uses them for his character White Goodman in Dodgeball.
  • Ben Stiller did not hang out with the kids during filming which may have helped to contribute to his villainous nature in the movie.
  • 20 Mile Hike
    • The story that Tony tells the boys during this hike is actually a mixture of the myths of Icarus and Sisyphus. Sisyphus was a Greek king who tricked the gods. When he died the gods created a hell for him where he was forced to push a boulder up a hill forever.  Every time just before he reaches the top of the hill the boulder rolls back down and he has to start over. Icarus was a young man who attempted to escape an island with his father, Daedalus.  They made wings out of feathers and wax. Even though his father warned him not to, Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wings melted and he perished upon the fall down.

Quotes

  • “Don’t put Twinkies on your pizza”- Roy (Kenan Thompson) telling Pat Finley what they learned after the big party

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Robin finished up the episode with Field of Dreams (1989)

  • Robin started hers off with an excerpt from the poem, “Green Fields of the Mind” by A Bartlett Giamatti
    • “[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
  • She also quoted an article about poetry in baseball
    • In a Thought.Co article by Bob Holdman and Margery Synder, they say, “Baseball is the most literary of sports, bursting with metaphor, image, and rhythm.” Baseball is considered to be America’s official pastime, though its popularity has dwindled in recent years. This sport has a rich history filled with nostalgia, an activity played in backyards and on small town fields among family and friends for at least 150 years
  • Shoe-less Joe
    • It’s not a surprise, then that Field of Dreams was a success. Initially the film was to be named the same as the book by W.P. Kinsella, “Shoeless Joe,” but the producers were afraid that audiences would be confused as to what it was about. Kinsella was fine with the change because his original title for the book was “The Dream Field”
  • Synopsis

    • Ray, a farmer in Iowa hears a voice one night as he tends to his fields of corn. “If you build it, he will come.” When Ray is confused, the voice seems to give him a vision of a baseball field. Taunted by fellow farmers and other townspeople, Ray mows down his corn and builds a baseball field. He believes that the ghost of his father’s hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, will appear. Sure enough, Jackson does appear. Soon, the rest of the 1919 White Sox appear in Ray’s field, only visible to him and his family.
    • Ray believes he built the field so that others could fulfill their baseball dreams, but he finds there’s something there for him too.
  • The Black Sox Scandal 

    • Now, to understand why these particular players appear on the field, you should know a little about The Black Sox Scandal of 1919
        • Back in 1919, baseball players were not paid as well as they are today. Many of them found it difficult to sustain a living off of being a player. The Chicago White Sox first baseman conspired with some gamblers and agreed to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000.00. After the Sox lost the first few games, gamblers weren’t paying out the amounts promised and so they called off the fix and decided to win the series once and for all. However, the gamblers threatened their families and the White Sox lost the World Series to the Reds.
        • When authorities started investigating the series, the players (including Shoeless Joe) confessed to taking the money
          • Shoeless Joe had only taken 5k from his teammates
        • Because of the suspicious disappearance of evidence, the players walked away free from the court. But, the commissioner of baseball did not let them off so easily. All eight players were banned from baseball for the rest of their lives, including Buck Weaver who dropped out of the fix before it started and Shoeless Joe who batted just as well during the series as he had all season. Shoeless Joe also claimed he was an unwilling participant and tried to tip off the owner of the fix.
        • Shoeless Joe was a hero to many children and the scandal brought about the famous cry, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
  • Fun Facts

    • In Field of Dreams, Ray visits a reclusive author named Terence Mann. In the novel, the author was JD Salinger. Kinsella purposely used the name Kinsella for the title character because Salinger had also written pieces with characters of that name. The purpose was for it to seem that one of his own characters had come to knock on his door and take him to a baseball game.
      • James Earl Jones took the part of Mann after his wife was mesmerized by the famous “people will come, Ray” speech
      • No one outside of the cast and crew knows for certain who’s voice is used as THE voice, though the common belief is that it was Ray Liotta who played Shoeless Joe
    •  Moonlight Graham, a player that Ray travels to Minnesota in order to find, was an actual person. Graham did in fact only play one game before moving to Minnesota and becoming a doctor. Kinsella, the author, found his stats in a book and decided to use them for the story
      • The movie is the final film for Burt Lancaster, the actor who played Graham
    • Field of Dreams was never number one at the box office, it competed with: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Batman; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Dead Poet’s Society; and Weekend at Bernie’s
    • Roger Ebert gave it four stars: “The ghost of Shoeless Joe does not come back to save the world. He simply wants to answer that wounded cry that has become a baseball legend: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” And the answer is, it ain’t.”

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Another Nice Case

Well Cassettes, here’s another nice case we’ve gotten ourselves into! This week, we had our very first guest stop by the studio and tell us about his favorite comedy team (well, one of his favorites).

Special thanks to Mr. Bob Hecker (Robin’s Dad) for coming over to teach us kids a thing or two about Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Laurel & Hardy

Films Mentioned

  • The Lucky Dog (1921):  The very first movie that Stan and Ollie worked together in.  In this silent film Stan plays a poor dog lover and Ollie plays a criminal who wants to rob him and his new love.
  • Their First Mistake (1932): Laurel convinces Hardy that in order to save his marriage he must get a baby.  Line quoted in this episode “I’m not as dumb as you look.”
  • Way Out West (1937): Considered by many to be one of their best feature-length films, this movie was produced by Stan Laurel himself so he was allowed total creative freedom
  • Putting Pants on Philip (1927): This is the first short where they were put together as a duo, though they do not play the characters of Laurel and Hardy
  • The Music Box (1932): This short won an Oscar for best short subject. Not bad for two guys that were almost never critical darlings.
  • Towed in a Hole (1932): In this short, Stan convinces Ollie that they would make more money as fishmongers if they caught the fish themselves. So, they set out to fix up a boat for fishing.
  • A Chump at Oxford (1940): In this full-length film, Stan and Ollie are given a scholarship to Oxford for catching a bank robber. While there, they have a difficult time fitting in with the other students
  • Thicker Than Water (1935): Laurel convinces Hardy to use his savings to pay for furniture. Instead, the boys squander the money at an auction.
  • Men ‘O War
  • Flying Deuces (1939): When Hardy falls in love with a married woman, he joins the foreign legion with Laurel to forget her.
    • This is the film in which the men die in a plane crash and are reincarnated; Laurel as himself and Hardy as a horse
  • Atoll K / Utopia (1951):
    • This was the duo’s last film together. Laurel was sick for much of the filming and the men weren’t given the creative freedom they thought they would have.
  • Unaccustomed As We Are (1929): When Ollie invites Stan over for dinner, Hardy’s frustrated wife leaves him to cook the dinner on his own. When the woman from across the hall offers to help, the evening develops into a big misunderstanding between the men and the neighbor’s husband
    • This was the first sound short filmed without a corresponding silent version.
  • They Go Boom (1929): Laurel and Hardy attempt to get a good night’s sleep despite Hardy’s terrible cold
    • This short was released as both silent and with sound

People Mentioned

  • Stan Laurel
    • Born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in 1890
    • He was known for many of the creative ideas behind the comedy due Laurel and Hardy
    • He played the lovable air-head Laurel who looked up to his friend Hardy
    • He appeared in numerous shorts and films throughout the 20s, 30s, and 40s
    • After the death of his comic partner in 1957, he no longer appeared on-screen
  • Oliver Hardy
    • Born Norvell Hardy in 1892, he later added Oliver to his name to honor his father
    • Originally from Georgia, his southern background was a large part of his character
    • He was known for playing the out-spoken, bossy counterpart to the childlike Stan Laurel for about twenty years
    • After the duo’s final film (Utopia/Atoll K,) the men went on a final tour together
  • Hal Roach
    • Writer, producer, and director who won three Academy Awards and was chief of Hal Roach Studios for 40 years.  One of the awards was for “The Music Box” from 1931 in which Laurel and Hardy spend the entire short lugging a piano up a staircase.  Mostly known for his work with comedies he not only presented Laurel and Hardy to the world he also created “Our Gang” a series of short films about the escapades of young poor neighborhood kids.
  • Billy Gilbert
    • Well known for his comical sneezing routine.  He most notably appears in “The Music Box” as Prof. von Schwarzenhoffen who is upset with the Laurel and Hardy for delivering a piano he does not want.  Other credits to him include episodes of The Three Stooges, the movie His Girl Friday, and the model/voice of Sneezy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • Edgar Kennedy
    • A man of many talents, Edgar Kennedy was a member of the Keystone Cops before landing roles in Charlie Chaplin films
    • As a freelance comedy actor, he often played a policeman in Laurel and Hardy shorts and became famous for his “slow burn” routine
  • James Finlayson
    • Roles in 33 Laurel and Hardy Films with the majority as him portraying the villain.  He is also who Dan Castellaneta took inspiration from for Homer Simpson’s famous catchphrase, “D’oh!”.
  • Mae Busch: After having a rough start in Hollywood she finally was able to appear in a movie with Stan and Ollie.   She then appeared several times afterward as Hardy’s nagging wife in shorts like “Their First Mistake”.
  • Anita Garvin: At the age of 12 Anita was already 5’6″ allowing her to begin early in a bathing beauty stage show.  After working her way up with her beauty and hard work she began comedy work thus landing a leading lady role opposite Stan.  Stan impressed with her commitment convinced Hal Roach a year later to bring her aboard for roles within the Hal Roach Studios. In Laurel and Hardy she often portrayed Laurel’s shrewish wife.
  • Thelma Todd: A successful actress despite her short career, Thelma Todd made a name for herself in comedy and other genres as well. She appeared in Marx Brothers films before being cast alongside Zasu Pitts and Patsy Kelly in shorts as the female counterparts to Laurel and Hardy. She died at the age of 29. Although the death was officially ruled a suicide, it is still considered highly suspicious.
  • ZaSu Pitts: Along with Thelma, a female counterpart to Laurel and Hardy. We mention their film On the Loose (1931)
  • Patsy Kelly:  Discovered by Hal Roach she was paired many times with Thelma Todd and known as the Queen of Wise-cracks

Audie & Baudie

When our guest Mr. Bob Hecker listed some comedians that were influenced by Laurel and Hardy, he quickly threw in the names “Audie & Baudie.” These two might not be a famous comedy duo, but they are real! Archibald Audie and Ichabod Baudie are a clown duo featuring Mr. Hecker and his cousin Steve.