The Concession Stand

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hooray For Hollywood: Clark Gable & Rabbit Tooth Decay

The high incidence of pet rabbits getting tooth decay can be traced back to Clark Gable. Wait, what? Yes, it’s true!

In 1934’s classic film - It Happened One Night, Clark Gable is depicted nonchalantly eating a carrot in a pivotal scene. Six years later, Warner Brothers would produce a cartoon featuring its new cartoon character Bugs Bunny. The cartoon had a segment that parodied Clark Gable’s carrot eating scene in It Happened One Night. Of course, Bugs Bunny was shown eating a carrot as well.

The older viewers in the audience would have recognized that this cartoon was mocking Clark Gable in It Happened One Night. The kids, however, just assumed that rabbits must like carrots. As the years went on, Warner Brothers continued to show Bugs Bunny eating carrots, cementing the idea in the minds of children and, as time went on, adults as well.

Despite the fact that rabbits in the wild do not eat carrots, pet rabbits were now getting carrot-rich diets from their owners. The assumption was that Bugs Bunny was depicted eating carrots because that was what rabbits ate; not because of a Clark Gable film. In actuality, carrots were like candy for rabbits. Feeding a rabbit a strict diet of carrots would be like feeding a child nothing but candy. This resulted in fatter pet rabbits with rampant tooth decay. A strange situation caused by a seemingly harmless scene from a long ago film.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Modern Times- Homer’s Secret

In the late 1990’s, Matt Groening was asked about possibly turning his successful cartoon- The Simpsons- into a feature length film. At the time, he suggested that the only way they could make a film would be if the television show went off the air. In 2001 Fox quietly negotiated with the voice actors to make a film and top secret writing sessions began in 2003, though Groening still felt that a film could only be produced after the series ended its television run. By 2005, it was obvious that there was no end in sight for the series, so the top secret production began to ramp up.

On April 1, 2006 Fox made the big announcement that The Simpsons Movie had already begun production and would premiere in July of 2007. Some media observers thought that it was a joke; after all, how could the film get this far in production without anyone knowing about it? Apparently it was possible. The film premiered as scheduled to massive box office success.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Forbidden Planet: Robby the Robot

It was an odd film for MGM to make. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced the best of the best. It considered its B-Movies to be greater than the A Pictures of other studios. Science Fiction films were seen as being beneath the majors at the time. Having forced out its legendary founder a few years before, MGM had seen better days. By 1955, it was willing to try anything to regain its former glory. Forbidden Planet wouldn’t be a run of the mill Sci-Fi cheapie, however. While produced for less than a typical MGM movie, it still had a more lavish budget than other Science Fiction movies. Its centerpiece was the elaborate Robby the Robot costume. MGM spared no expense in its design and construction, spending $125,000.

Both the cost and popularity of Robby the Robot made it inevitable that MGM would use him in another production. 1957’s The Invisible Boy gave Robby the Robot a featured role. Unusual for what was mainly just a glorified prop.

Robby would take on other roles. MGM’s financial problems had it renting out its famed sound stages for television productions, including The Twilight Zone. These shows used Robby the Robot as a sort-of “guest star.” Sadly, the fearsome Robby was no match for corporate raiders. When MGM fell to the likes of Kirk Kirkorian, anything not nailed down was sold off to the highest bidder. Robby was relegated to a Buena Park Tourist Trap a few miles from DISNEYLAND called “Movie World”.

The famed Robbie was laid out in an unflattering exhibit that was frequently vandalized. By the time the exhibit was shuttered, Robbie was in desperate need of some TLC.

Robby received the necessary TLC in time to make a comeback in the hit film Gremlins.

Having retired long ago, Robby the Robot was recently sold to a collector for a staggering $5 Million.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Star is Born! - Right Off The Street!

It was the stuff of legend; a young ingenue nervously sitting at the counter of Schwab’s Pharmacy could go from a nobody to a somebody in the blink of an eye. “Discovered”, she (or he) could be whisked onto a soundstage at MGM and become a star in the blink of an eye. After all, isn’t that what happened to Lana Turner?

Well, not exactly. Aside from the fact that Lana Turner was NOT discovered at Schwab’s Pharmacy, she certainly wasn’t immediately whisked off to the MGM Backlot to get ready for her closeup. The studios usually liked to groom their talent before unleashing them on the public. Most of the time a new “discovery” would spend months taking singing and dancing classes. They would learn how to comport themselves in high society and even get elaborate  makeovers. Along the way, the studio might outfit them in wigs to hide them in plain sight in B Films, which gave the studio chiefs a chance to see how they looked on the big screen without prematurely exposing them to the public. The majority of the prospective stars wouldn’t make it out of this process. 

If they made it to the next phase of their ascension, the up and coming star was supposed to pretend that nothing that happened after they were “discovered” had actually taken place. The studio would then craft an elaborate story about how their latest and greatest star had barely been off the bus for a few minutes before getting the opportunity of a lifetime. Apparently the idea of getting plucked from obscurity and instantly thrust into stardom sold more tickets than showing the reality of a professionally trained actor.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Hooray For Hollywood! - Old Groucho

Most Hollywood legends never lived to see their work become fully appreciated by new generations. Groucho Marx, however, lived to see the resurgence in popularity that he and his brothers’ work had in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Rather than view the adulation from afar, Groucho decided to bask in it, accepting the invitations of any talk show or interviewer who would have him.

“Old Groucho” became a fixture of daytime and night time television, appearing as a rambling, somewhat bitter presence who seemed to really enjoy hearing himself speak. Hilariously, most of his appearances featured him patronizing the audience and explaining away his appearances in lackluster project as being the fault of his brother Chico, whose gambling apparently forced the Marx Brothers to take lesser projects because he needed the money.

He would often patronize the audience by speaking about common things as though he had to explain them. For example, he might describe a soundstage as a building where  films were produced or that a motion picture camera was used to make a film. He basked in the adulation of the audience and their fondness for his more successful projects and badmouthed the lesser ones by insisting that he only made them “because Chico needed the money.” That Chico had been dead for seven years when Groucho made what was arguably the worst film he was ever in- 1968’s Skidoo - either shows Groucho as exaggerating Chico’s plight or that perhaps by then Groucho needed the money.

While Groucho couldn’t fully tarnish his reputation by merely appearing on television in rambling interviews, it is probably for the best that his late in life interviews are mostly forgotten these days. The same goes for his appearance in Skidoo.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Modern Times- Weird Hollywood Week

Everyone knows that Tom Cruise is a little eccentric; possibly very eccentric. His allegiance to his atomic era religion of Scientology has made his eccentricities stand out, even in an eccentric town like Hollywood. It was his bizarre behavior surrounding the production and release of War of the Worlds that brought him extra scrutiny, however.

While the couch jumping and spacey YouTube videos were the more public parts of his meltdown, the cast and crew of War of the Worlds were witness to even more bizarre behavior, which included Tom’s attempts to convert them to Scientology. Not even director Steven Spielberg was immune, though he was able to resist Tom’s attempts to lure him to a Scientology Org. Tom’s contract required the studio to allow Scientology tents on the set that could recruit new members. Apparently, they didn’t get many signups.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Forbidden Planet - Weird Hollywood Week

The Creeping Terror was a grade Z horror flick in which a giant carpet monster terrorizes a rural community by ingesting its victims, often with the help of the victims themselves. 

The film’s titular ‘Terror’ was more of a laughable disgrace. Sadly, a real life Terror would engulf one of the film’s shooting locations- the notorious Spahn Ranch, which harbored the loathsome Manson Family during its reign of terror in 1969.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Star is Born- Weird Hollywood Week

Harrison Ford is a worldwide super star, whose films have grossed billions of dollars. In the mid-1970’s, however, his Hollywood career had stalled. After showing great promise in American Graffiti, he hadn’t been able to book much work for some reason. He had all but abandoned his acting career and had begun taking jobs as a carpenter. When George Lucas was casting for Star Wars, one of his consultants had suggested Harrison Ford for the role of the rebellious Han Solo. George Lucas wanted fresher faces, however, and balked at hiring Harrison for the role. The clever consultant, however, decided on a bit of subterfuge to change George’s mind; he arranged for Harrison to get hired to install a door at George Lucas’ offices on the day that casting was underway on the film.

When someone was needed to read Han Solo’s lines to the various actors and actresses auditioning for the parts of Princess Leia, the casting consultant suggested that Harrison, who was already there, would be the best person to do it. Over the course of the auditions, George Lucas became sold on Harrison Ford and history was made.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hooray For Hollywood! - Weird Hollywood Week

Despite her reputation for being hostile to children as campily depicted in the film Mommie Dearest, millions of children from around the world have her to thank for her role in bringing the classic attraction it’s a small world to life.

How did such a bizarre event come to be? Joan Crawford was married to the Chairman of Pepsi. After her husband passed away, the board of directors expected her to just sit back and collect her dividend checks. Joan had other plans, insisting on taking her husband’s seat on the board. 

Pepsi’s board went into an all out war between those who supported and those who were against Joan Crawford. One casualty of this war was the company’s planned World’s Fair  fundraiser for UNICEF. Neither side was willing to yield to the other until Pepsi’s marketing team stepped in to express their concern that if the already publicized deal with UNICEF fell through it would give the company a black eye. The board reluctantly came together to authorize Joan to approach the one person she was certain could put something together quickly- Walt Disney. it’s a small world was the result.