This is the sixth in a series of examinations of legends from movies and the people who make them and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the previous five.
Click here to view an archive of the previous movie urban legends.
MOVIE LEGEND: W.C. Fields has an epitaph on his gravestone referring to Philadelphia.
W.C. Fields was born William Claude Dukenfield in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1880.
Fields was one of the most famous comedians of his generation, which included a string of major motion pictures successes, including It’s a Gift, the Bank Dick and My Little Chickadee, which he starred in alongside Mae West…
Fields grew up very poor in Philadelphia, and as a grown man, he would often work jokes about his hometown into his comedy act.
Stuff like, “Last week, I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed.”
He often made fun of the staid, Quaker-ish conservative nature of Philadelphia (and much of Pennsylvania) as the sort of “straight man” for his routines.
So it’s long been a great story that on his tombstone, Fields has written some variation of the joke:
“On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”
“All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”
“Better here than in Philadelphia.”
The actual line in question is:
“Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.”
However, that is not Fields’ ACTUAL epitaph, as many people believe, but a joke he made over two decades before he actually passed away. In a 1925 article in Vanity Fair, Fields made a joke about what he would like his epitaph to be, and that’s what he came up with, once again a joke about Philadelphia.
Field’s ACTUAL epitaph is the quite simple “W. C. Fields 1880 – 1946″
In fact, courtesy of Find-A-Grave, here is his actual grave…
It is actually almost surprising that Fields lived until 1946, as he had a severe drinking problem for most of his adult life.
MOVIE LEGEND: The film Snakes on a Plane had new scenes filmed after the film was otherwise completed to incorporate, among other things, a line from an internet spoof of the film.
Snakes on a Plane is a 2006 action/horror/comedy film starring Samuel L. Jackson as a federal agent who is escorting a federal witness to testify in a trial of a gangster. The gangster arranges for deadly snakes to be released in the plane, with the hope that they will hopefully somehow stop the plane from making its way to its destination (by killing the pilot, by killing the witness, by causing such a panic that the PANIC causes the plane to crash, I dunno).
When word got about that a fairly major movie studio (New Line Cinema, the same studio that did the Lord of the Rings trilogy) was releasing a film starring a major movie star, Samuel L. Jackson, in a film called Snakes on a Plane, well, that got the internet buzzing a bit.
Some with people mocking the idea, but a lot of it with people looking forward to a film that was so straightforward in its cheesiness that it would actually call itself “Snakes on a Plane.”
The film’s name was changed at one point to a fairly bland Pacific Air Flight 121, but the studio says that was only strictly a generic name they were using for the film while casting. The film’s star, Samuel L. Jackson, claimed that the title was the only reason he agreed to do the film (although seeing as how he only said that AFTER the film’s title became such a big deal on the internet, I do wonder about the accuracy of that statement).
The most amazing part about the pre-release hype happened when two friends produced a mock audio trailer for the film. Chris Rohan and Nathaniel Perry worked together at a Maryland company called Graphic Audio, a company that did post-production for audio books and also produced audio trailers for said audio books.
The two friends used their equipment to make a mock audio trailer for the film, extrapolating on what they figured that the plot for the film was. One part of their satire was to play up the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is well known for playing characters prone to using profanity, most notably in the film Pulp Fiction. So Perry (playing Jackson in the trailer) mocks that reputation of Jackson’s by shouting “I have had it with these motherf-ng snakes on this motherf-ing plane!”
The trailer was a big hit online, and became part of the hype surrounding the film.
In 2006, New Line decided to go back and do re-shoots on the film (which had finished filming in September 2005), not to fix any problems with the film, but to add more graphic scenes to take the film from a PG-13 rating to an R rating (the filmmakers claim that they BARELY got a PG-13, so they figured it made more sense to do a full-out R film rather than an “almost” R film).
And, most notably, they made a point of adding to the film a line by Samuel L. Jackson saying, “Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf-ing snakes on this motherf-ing plane!”
Here it is from the film…
That’s just amazing.
For all the hype behind the film, critics were surprised that it only did about $15 million its opening weekend. However, when all was said in done, the film grossed over $60 million in the U.S., more than doubling its $30 million budget, so the hype certainly appeared to help the film, all said and done.
Thanks to keeper813 for the clip!
MOVIE LEGEND: An early film adaptation of Anna Karenina contained two versions of the ending, one happy and one sad.
The 1927 silent film, Love, is a great example as to how little regard Hollywood often has for its source material.
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert starred together in the 1926 silent film blockbuster, Flesh and the Devil, where Gilbert plays a man driven practically to madness with his desire for Garbo. At the time, Garbo and Gilbert began a real-life, very public romance.
In 1927, Garbo went through various machinations to get Gilbert on to her next film, which was an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina (Garbo was “sick” for months until the studio both gave her a raise and replaced her initial co-star for the film with Gilbert). The sad melodrama of the ill-fated lovers of Anna Karenina (Anna and Vronsky, who are torn apart by the fact that they fell in love while Anna was married to the heartless Senator Karenine) perfectly fit the melodrama of Flesh and the Devil.
The working title for the film was Heat, but it was changed to Love.
While it was never said explicitly that this was the reason behind the change, it does seem likely that the tagline “John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in Heat” probably was at least a partial reason for making the change from that title, while on the other hand, “John Gilbert and Greta Garbo in Love” is an absolutely brilliant tagline, given their very notorious romance.
What’s also notorious about the film is what they did to Tolstoy’s novel.
They film makers actually produced TWO separate versions of the film.
In Europe, the ending to the film was the same as in the novel (SPOILER WARNING, I suppose) – Anna’s confusion over the sad state of her life (she has lost the right to visit her son by the Senator and she has given up her relationship with her love, Vronksy, to save his reputation) drives her to commit suicide by throwing herself in front of a train.
However, for the United States, the film makers produced a special version of the film with a happy ending! Vronsky spends years searching for Anna, and in the time, the Senator dies and Anna is reunited with her son, who she visits daily. Vronksy discovers a notice in the paper about her son, and he finds her and the two lovers are reunited and they live, presumably, happily ever after.
U.S. theaters were actually given the option of using either ending, and they almost always went with the happy one.
And really, while the film is a horror for those who appreciate the sanctity of great fiction, the film still DOES deliver on the legendary Gilbert/Garbo chemistry. So it’s definitely worth looking into if you ever see it playing on Turner Classic Movies (they air both endings).
In 1935, Garbo did a talking picture version of Anna Karenina…
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org