This is the twelfth 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 movie urban legends.
MOVIE LEGEND: Universal Studios used to offer an incentive tied in with a joke from National Lampoon’s Animal House.
STATUS: Basically True
National Lampoon’s Animal House was director John Landis’ big break as a director, as it was his first film for a major studio, specifically, Universal Studios.
The film was a very big hit (especially considering it was a very low budget film).
At the end of the film, there is a bit of a “where are they now” for each of the main characters.
One of the “villains” in the film is the scheming sorority girl, Babs (played by Martha Smith, who is awesome), who hates the guys at Animal House and tries to worm her way into becoming the girlfriend of the rival fraternity, Omega House.
In any event, at the end of the film, she gets her comeuppance.
And for HER “Where are they now” bit, it is said that she’s now a tour guide at Universal Studios.
Well, after the closing credits finish, there is the Universal Studios logo and an old-fashioned ad saying “When in Hollywood, Visit Universal Studios.” Then, a second or so later, the parenthetical (Ask for Babs) appears on the screen.
Landis would go on to use this end joke after the closing credits on all of his films for Universal.
Including his next big hit (also with Animal House star John Belushi), the Blues Brothers…
Now, at the time, if you did, in fact, “Ask for Babs,” you were rewarded with some sort of an incentive. History has been very vague as to exactly what kind of incentive you received (a discount? a free entry?), but we know that SOME sort of incentive was attached to the phrase, because in 1989, Universal Studios announced that they would specifically no longer give out any incentive for the phrase.
My thinking is that it was never a clear-cut “you get X” for the phrase, but rather an informal type of situation, determined by whoever the manager was that day. And as time went by, it was likely decided that this was probably not something they wanted to encourage or make official, as if they made it official, clearly EVERYone would just use it.
What I wish someone could tell me, if they ever experienced it, is what exactly WAS the incentive? We know that there WAS one, I just can’t tell for sure what it was, and I’d appreciate anyone’s help who actually “asked for Babs.”
Landis came back to Universal to do the Blues Brothers sequel in 1998, and he brought the in-joke back with him!
As a final tie-in to the joke, in an anniversary edition of Animal House, they showed the actors and actresses in their aforementioned future roles, and Martha Smith is shown leading a tour guide at Universal Studios. Classic!
MOVIE LEGEND: Ava Gardner made extremely disparaging comments about filming in Melbourne, Australia.
Ava Gardner (1922-1990) is one of the most famous film actresses in Hollywood history, perhaps known just as much for her famed beauty and celebrated romances with famous icons like Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes than for her acting roles.
In 1959, later in her career, Gardner starred opposite Gregory Peck in Stanley Kramer’s adaptation of Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, On the Beach, which tells the tale of a United States Navy submarine that is traveling the world following a nuclear war, looking for any vestiges of humanity.
They come across the last remaining human settlement in Australia, but the sad fact remains that the nuclear fallout is headed there, as well, so unless they can find somewhere else safe on the planet, humanity as a whole might be doomed.
The movie filmed where the story was set, Melbourne, Australia.
Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia, with about 4,000,000 people living in the city today. While always a beautiful looking city, back in 1959 it was not exactly much of a modern metropolis, so when it was reported that Gardner said of the city during the filming that it was:
the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.
Everyone pretty much believed that she said (and meant) it, and in fact, that quote was the basis for a lot of hurt feelings for decades (you could look through a number of books about Australian history which reference the quote), as it seemed like a perfect expression of Western countries looking down on Australia.
Well, fairly recently (in the late 90s), the author of the piece in the Sydney Morning Herald that contained the quote, Neil Jillett, admitted that the quote was fabricated. He was writing a tongue-in-cheek piece about the filming at the time, and attributed the quote to Gardner, but did it in a sort of “a friend of a friend of a friend said that Ava Gardner said this” joking manner, and then his editor changed it to a direct quote from Gardner.
So fear not, Melbourne citizens, Ava Gardner did not hate your city!
MOVIE LEGEND: An actress took on the name of the character she was playing in a film.
Wouldn’t it be odd if Daniel Radcliffe were to announce that, from this point forth, he would be known as Harry Potter?
And yet, that’s exactly what happened with the star of 1934′s Anne of Green Gables.
Anne of Green Gables was a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, about a young girl named Anne Shirley who is accidentally adopted by a pair of middle-aged siblings (they were expecting an adolescent boy to help them on their farm) to live on their farm, called Green Gables.
It was a very popular book and spawned a series of novels about Anne and her small town of Avonlea.
It was so popular that it received a film adaptation in 1934.
The film adaptation starred a young sixteen-year-old actress named Dawn O’Day, which, of course, was itself a stage name for Dawn Paris.
Well, when Dawn took on the role, she also decided to take on the name of her character, Anne Shirley, as her stage name.
And for the rest of her film career (which lasted about a decade after the film, which became a big hit for RKO), that was what she was known by.
Shirley had a modestly successful career as a supporting actress, including receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for 1937′s Stella Dallas.
I bet that’s one more nomination than either Pippi Longstocking or Caddie Woodlawn will ever receive!
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