This is the twenty-fifth 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: A typo led to the title of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
STATUS: True (but Slightly Overblown)
1997′s Tomorrow Never Dies, the second film to star Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, was the first James Bond film whose title had no connection to Bond creator Ian Fleming (the first 16 films were based on Fleming novels starring Bond and the 17th film, GoldenEye, was named after the estate where Fleming wrote the novels).
Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein was tasked with coming up with a name for the film, and he was stuck until he was listening to the Beatles’ classic album, Revolver, which includes the song “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
In the film, Jonathan Pryce plays a villainous media mogul who runs a newspaper called Tomorrow.
Their slogan, like the New York Times’ slogan of “All the news that’s fit to print,” was to be “Tomorrow never lies,” and Feirstein was going to use that as the title of the movie. “Tomorrow never lies” is a common enough phrase, so it would have made sense as a title.
Here’s where there is a little confusion, though. Right from the get-go, there was debate among the producers of the film over the title, with the argument being what is a better title – “Tomorrow Never Lies,” which makes sense but is perhaps not as dynamic of a title and “Tomorrow Never Dies,” which doesn’t really make sense but is more dynamic, due to the fact that it has the word “dies” in it, which movies (particularly movies like James Bond films) tend to like in their title.
Eventually, though, the more sensical title was chosen and it was faxed to MGM (the studio who was making the film).
However, there was a typo by an assistant, and instead of sending Tomorrow Never Lies as the title, they accidentally sent Tomorrow Never Dies, and MGM went ahead with that as the title.
So yes, a typo DID lead to the film being called Tomorrow Never Dies rather than Tomorrow Never Lies, but in most of the tellings of the story, it makes it out like it was a matter of someone seeing the typo and saying, “Oh! That’s a MUCH better name!” and going with it, while the alternate name was always something that was considered.
Thanks to Bruce Feirstein for explaining the story in a column he did for Vanity Fair (check it out here).
MOVIE LEGEND: Theodor Geisel won two Academy Awards for Documentaries.
During World War II, a number of famous creative folks were involved in doing films for the United States military.
Legendary director John Ford was probably the most famous, but plenty of notable directors did work for the military, like William Wyler and Frank Capra.
Another man who got involved in doing propaganda for the military was Theodor Geisel, known better as Dr. Seuss.
By the beginning of World War II, Geisel had already began to make a name for himself as a popular children’s author, with his first book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street…
He quickly did a series of other books, including the class Horton Hatches an Egg, introducing the Horton character.
In any event, when the United States entered the war, Geisel began doing political cartoons, as well.
In 1943, he joined the Army and was placed in charge of the Army’s animation department, and he created many propaganda films for the Army and the Air Force.
Now here’s the slight twist. As these films were all created for the United States Military, they were, obviously, the intellectual property of the U.S. Military.
And the Military had an interesting approach when it came to the use of their intellectual property. Basically, anyone could use their footage so long as they did not use the Army’s original soundtrack.
So people often credit Geisel for winning two Academy Awards for Best Documentary for his work with the Military, but in fact, one of his films, Your Job in Germany, was later re-cut by director Don Siegel and writer Saul Elkins into the documentary Hitler Lives, which DID win the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 1946.
Geisel DID end up winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, but that was because his earlier film, Our Job in Japan, was re-made after the war as the film Design for Death. Only in this instance, the producers of the new film brought Geisel in to re-cut his own material, so when the film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1947, it “counted” for him (do note that technically, he did not get an actual Oscar for the film, as it went to the producers of the film).
MOVIE LEGEND: The University of Oregon agreed to let Animal House film at their college because their Dean of Students had earlier turned down The Graduate.
STATUS: Oddly Enough, Basically True
When the producers of National Lampoon’s Animal House began production on the film, they had a major problem – they could not get a university willing to let them film the movie on their campus!
Most universities tend to shy from anything that leads to colleges being viewed as “party schools.” I went to a college that was ranked the #1 party school for at least one of the four years I was there (and I think it went #1 afterward, as well) and they were quite displeased, and certainly did not advertise the ranking.
So a movie starring a bunch of drunk fraternity guys?
Not something most colleges want to associate with, and in fact, the University of Missouri, who had originally said yes, backed out at the last minute.
Due to the budget of the film, it was imperative that the film actually film on a campus (as they could not afford to build a college set).
After twelve colleges in six different states said no, they finally received a yes from the University of Oregon and its President William Boyd.
But WHY Boyd said yes was pretty interesting.
You see, earlier in his career, Boyd was an administrator of a university in California when he was approached by the producers of The Graduate to see if they could film there.
After reading the script, Boyd felt that the movie was not that good, so he turned them down.
Well, naturally, the film was a critical and commercial success (it ended up filming at UC Berkeley and UCLA), so Boyd figured that perhaps he just did not “get” film scripts.
So when they came to him with the script for Animal House, again, he felt the script was not that good, but his previous experience led him to allow them to film (provided that they not use the name of the college in the film, which they did not).
While the school was okay with it, interestingly enough, Sigma Nu, the fraternity where they filmed all the frat scenes in the movie, hid their involvement from their regional (and national) heads of the fraternity. And, as it turns out, they were right to do so, because a regional spokesperson for Sigma Nu announced at the time that the film was “detrimental to the fraternity system.”
Now, thirty years later, the film is seen as a badge of honor, of sorts, to the University of Oregon, which is likely not what people would ever have thought at the time!
Thanks to Karen McCowan for her article on the anniversary of the film!
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