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Seven Places To Stay In Dubai (If You Stay In Dubai Seven Times)

The city of Dubai is poised to become the millionaire playground of the 2010s, with its economy crafted to accommodate businesses and other tourism-specific developments. But Dubai could have all the ritziest clubs and hottest attractions the world over, and still no one would visit if its hotels were not the most decadent, over-the-top establishments imaginable. Luckily, Dubai has risen to the challenge.

Ski Dubai

If one has enough money to vacation in Dubai, it would only be natural to assume that said person can afford to jet off to the Alps for the weekend when the urge to ski comes up. But just in case this is too much of a trek, Ski Dubai has brought the mountains to the desert in the form of 3 football fields of indoor ski trails. Five different ski runs of varying difficulty provide options for everyone, along with tobogganing hills and a bobsled ride. If you get sick of riding the magic carpet shaped chairlifts, you can always head over to the Snow Park, which contains 32,000 feet of snow just for making snowmen or staging snowball fights. Ski Dubai is not a place to stay and so not quite right for this list, but the idea of skiing down to a window and looking out on blazing hot sand is too surreal to resist.

Madinat Jumeirah

Dubai2.jpgThe Madinat Jumeirah hotel is modeled after an ancient Arabic town, right down to the very last detail. The shopping center looks like the bazaar the title hero runs through in Aladdin, and quaint stone bridges crisscross from building to building over the resort's 2.3 miles of fake rivers that come complete with Arabian water taxis to chauffeur guests from their hotel rooms to whichever of the 45 restaurants and bars they choose. And for anyone concerned about office access all the way out there in the desert, fear not: you can bring your fellow desk warriors with you! The Madinat Conference Hall has a maximum capacity of 1,832 persons and has capabilities that would put those efficiency suites on the highway to shame.

BurjDubai.jpgBurj Dubai

One of several Dubai projects in the running for a record in the Guiness Book, the Burj Dubai aims to become the tallest skyscraper in the world. Its projected height is being kept a secret, but numbers being thrown around range anywhere from 2,297 to 2,684 feet tall "“ reaching more than 700 to 1,000 feet highest than the world's current tallest high-rise building, Taiwan's Taipei 101. The first 37 floors of this behemoth will become the Giorgio Armani Hotel, decorated by its namesake, and 56 of the world's fastest elevators will transport residents and guests to any of the four pools, the 15,000 square foot fitness complex, a cigar club, a library, and the world's highest publicly accessible observation deck. Sadly, if you're only just hearing about this now, you won't be able to become the proud owner of one of the 700 apartment suites being built "“ they sold out within 8 hours of becoming available. However, you could always throw down $15 million for your own private island in the shape of your favorite country"¦

The World

Dubai4.jpgRight off the coast of Dubai, 300 artificial islands are being constructed, clustered together to create the shapes of each of the seven continents. The islands, known as "The World," can only be accessed by boat or helicopter, and they range in price from $15 million to as much as $45. The islands are not only for personal use, however "“ the Ireland island is being transformed into an Irish themed resort, complete with a gym, Irish-style pub, spa, and a replica of the Giant's Causeway. If you do decide to snap up a little piece of Africa or Asia, you'll be rubbing elbows with the likes of Tommy Lee, proud owner of Greece, and Angelina Jolie, alleged proprietor of Ethiopia. As their website states, "The World can really revolve around you."

The Hydropolis

Hydropolis.jpgThe Hydropolis is under construction 60 feet below the surface of the Persian Gulf waters off the coast of Dubai, and it holds every imaginable amenity anyone could ever need. Estimates for how much it costs are anywhere between $500 and $600 million dollars, which probably does not include the rumored missile defense system budget. Two clear domes encompass a ballroom and a concert hall, but leaving your suite is not necessary to gaze out on the ocean floor, as all the rooms have clear glass surrounding the bedroom area. Underwater construction is a tall order, but the Hydropolis will not be outdone by other Dubai properties when it comes to amenities; I can't think of any other reason why one would include a cosmetic surgery clinic in plans for an underwater kingdom if the ultimate goal is not to be the most fabulous glitterati getaway in the world.

Burj Al Arab

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burjalarab2.jpgPerhaps the Burj Al Arab has been overshadowed recently by the enormous projects popping up all over Dubai, but we can't leave out a hotel whose 1,000 foot high helipad can be converted into a tennis court, recently used for a friendly match between Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. Every gold-colored surface in the iconic sail-shaped building is 24 karat, and there are a lot of them. A grand will get you the cheapest room for a night, complete with Hermes toiletries, pillow and bath menus, butler service, 24-hour private dining, a complete office setup, and a huge plasma television. And these are not your average ultra-elite suites "“ every guest room in the hotel extends over two floors, so those who want to party can carry on at the bar area downstairs while the children sleep. But if this doesn't seem quite up to par, there's always the Royal Suite, which goes for $28,000 a night and contains an elevator, a rotating four-poster bed, and a private cinema.

Dubailand

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But don't book your plane tickets just yet "“ the gem of Dubai, Dubailand, is still very much under construction, and although it will open in 2010, the resort won't be completely finished until 2018. The $20 billion dollar project will contain Dubai's second indoor ski resort, a water park, an observatory wheel larger than the London Eye, and several theme parks. Two spa resorts, a sport complex with four stadiums, a planetarium, and a Tiger Woods golf resort are under construction, as well as the Falcon City of Wonders, which will include replicas of various landmark structures from around the world, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. Each of the 31 hotels under construction will have a different theme, like Camelot or Wild West, and the number of hotel rooms will amount to a grand total of 30,000. Dubailand will also contain the Mall of Arabia, on track to become the world's largest mall at 10 million square feet. And by the time construction is completed Dubailand will stretch for 107 square miles, twice the size of all the Disney parks put together. Follow the progress through this photo gallery.

So, have any of you ever been to Dubai? Where'd you stay? What'd you think?

Cassandra Galante is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com.

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25 Wonderful Facts About It’s a Wonderful Life
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Mary Owen wasn’t welcomed into the world until more than a decade after Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life made its premiere in 1946. But she grew up cherishing the film and getting the inside scoop on its making from its star, Donna Reed—who just so happens to be her mom. Though Reed passed away in 1986, Owen has stood as one of the film’s most dedicated historians, regularly introducing screenings of the ultimate holiday classic, including during its annual run at New York City’s IFC Center. She shared some of her mom’s memories with us to help reveal 25 things you might not have known about It’s a Wonderful Life.

1. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A CHRISTMAS CARD.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to shop his short story, The Greatest Gift, to publishers, Philip Van Doren Stern decided to give the gift of words to his closest friends for the holidays when he printed up 200 copies of the story and sent them out as a 21-page Christmas card. David Hempstead, a producer at RKO Pictures, ended up getting a hold of it, and purchased the movie rights for $10,000.

2. CARY GRANT WAS SET TO STAR IN THE ADAPTATION.

When RKO purchased the rights, they did so with the plan of having Cary Grant in the lead. But, as happens so often in Hollywood, the project went through some ups and downs in the development process. In 1945, after a number of rewrites, RKO sold the movie rights to Frank Capra, who quickly recruited Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey.

3. DOROTHY PARKER WORKED ON THE SCRIPT.


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By the time It’s a Wonderful Life made it into theaters, the story was much different from Stern’s original tale. That’s because more than a half-dozen people contributed to the screenplay, including some of the most acclaimed writers of the time—Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo, Marc Connelly, and Clifford Odets among them.

4. SCREENWRITERS FRANCES GOODRICH AND ALBERT HACKETT WALKED OUT.

Though they’re credited as the film’s screenwriters with Capra, the husband and wife writing duo were not pleased with the treatment they received from Capra. “Frank Capra could be condescending,” Hackett said in an interview, “and you just didn't address Frances as ‘my dear woman.’ When we were pretty far along in the script but not done, our agent called and said, ‘Capra wants to know how soon you'll be finished.’ Frances said, ‘We're finished right now.’ We put our pens down and never went back to it.”

5. CAPRA DIDN’T DO THE BEST JOB OF SELLING THE FILM TO STEWART.

After laying out the plot line of the film for Stewart in a meeting, Capra realized that, “This really doesn’t sound so good, does it?” Stewart recalled in an interview. Stewart’s reply? “Frank: If you want me to be in a picture about a guy that wants to kill himself and an angel comes down named Clarence who can’t swim and I save him, when do we start?”

6. IT WAS DONNA REED’S FIRST STARRING ROLE.


Getty Images

Though Donna Reed was hardly a newcomer when It’s a Wonderful Life rolled around, having appeared in nearly 20 projects previously, the film did mark her first starring role. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role today, but Reed had some serious competition from Jean Arthur. “[Frank Capra] had seen mom in They Were Expendable and liked her,” Mary Owen told Mental Floss. “When Capra met my mother at MGM, he knew she'd be just right for Mary Bailey.”

7. MARY OWEN IS NOT NAMED AFTER MARY BAILEY.

Before you ask whether Owen was named after her mom’s much beloved It’s a Wonderful Life character, “The answer is no,” says Owen. “I was named after my great grandmother, Mary Mullenger.”

8. BEULAH BONDI WAS A PRO AT PLAYING STEWART’S MOM.

Beulah Bondi, who plays Mrs. Bailey, didn’t need a lot of rehearsal to play Jimmy Stewart’s mom. She had done it three times previously—in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, and Vivacious Lady—and once later on The Jimmy Stewart Show: The Identity Crisis.

9. CAPRA, REED, AND STEWART HAVE ALL CALLED IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE THEIR FAVORITE MOVIE.


Liberty Films

Though their collective filmographies consist of a couple hundred movies, Capra, Reed, and Stewart have all cited It’s a Wonderful Life as their favorite movie. In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, Capra took that praise even one step further, writing: “I thought it was the greatest film I ever made. Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made.”

10. THE MOVIE BOMBED AT THE BOX OFFICE.

Though it has become a quintessential American classic, It’s a Wonderful Life was not an immediate hit with audiences. In fact, it put Capra $525,000 in the hole, which left him scrambling to finance his production company’s next picture, State of the Union.

11. A COPYRIGHT LAPSE AIDED THE FILM’S POPULARITY.

Though it didn’t make much of a dent at the box office, It’s a Wonderful Life found a whole new life on television—particularly when its copyright lapsed in 1974, making it available royalty-free to anyone who wanted to show it for the next 20 years. (Which would explain why it was on television all the time during the holiday season.) The free-for-all ended in 1994.

12. THE ROCK THAT BROKE THE WINDOW OF THE GRANVILLE HOUSE WAS ALL REAL.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Though Capra had a stuntman at the ready in order to shoot out the window of the Granville House in a scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock through it, it was all a waste of money. “Mom threw the rock herself that broke the window in the Granville House,” Owen says. “On the first try.”

13. IT TOOK TWO MONTHS TO BUILD BEDFORD FALLS.

Shot on a budget of $3.7 million (which was a lot by mid-1940s standards), Bedford Falls—which covered a full four acres of RKO’s Encino Ranch—was one of the most elaborate movie sets ever built up to that time, with 75 stores and buildings, 20 fully-grown oak trees, factories, residential areas, and a 300-yard-long Main Street.

14. SENECA FALLS, NEW YORK IS “THE REAL BEDFORD FALLS.”

Though Bedford Falls is a fictitious place, the town of Seneca Falls, New York swears that it's the real-life inspiration for George Bailey’s charming hometown. And each year they program a full lineup of holiday-themed events to put locals (and yuletide visitors) into the holiday spirit.

15. THE GYM FLOOR-TURNED-SWIMMING POOL WAS REAL.

Though the bulk of the film was filmed on pre-built sets, the dance at the gym was filmed on location at Beverly Hills High School. And the retractable floor was no set piece. Better known as the Swim Gym, the school is currently in the process of restoring the landmark filming location.

16. ALFALFA IS THE TEENAGER BEHIND THAT SWIMMING POOL PRANK.

Though he’s uncredited in the part, if Freddie Othello—the little prankster who pushes the button that opens the pool that swallows George and Mary up—looks familiar, that’s because he is played by Carl Switzer, a.k.a. Alfalfa of The Little Rascals.

17. DONNA REED WON $50 FROM LIONEL BARRYMORE ... FOR MILKING A COW.

Though she was a Hollywood icon, Donna Reed—born Donnabelle Mullenger—was a farm girl at heart who came to Los Angeles by way of Denison, Iowa. Lionel Barrymore (a.k.a. Mr. Potter) didn’t believe it. “So he bet $50 that she couldn't milk a cow,” recalls Owen. “She said it was the easiest $50 she ever made.”

18. THE FILM WAS SHOT DURING A HEAT WAVE.

It may be an iconic Christmas movie, but It’s a Wonderful Life was actually shot in the summer of 1946—in the midst of a heat wave, no less. At one point, Capra had to shut filming down for a day because of the sky-high temperatures—which also explains why Stewart is clearly sweating in key moments of the film.

19. CAPRA ENGINEERED A NEW KIND OF MOVIE SNOW.

Capra—who trained as an engineer—and special effects supervisor Russell Shearman engineered a new type of artificial snow for the film. At the time, painted cornflakes were the most common form of fake snow, but they posed a bit of an audio problem for Capra. So he and Shearman opted to mix foamite (the stuff you find in fire extinguishers) with sugar and water to create a less noisy option.

20. THE MOVIE WASN’T REQUIRED VIEWING IN REED’S HOUSEHOLD.

Though It’s a Wonderful Life is a staple of many family holiday movie marathons, that wasn’t the case in Reed’s home. In fact, Owen herself didn’t see the film until three decades after its release. “I saw it in the late 1970s at the Nuart Theatre in L.A. and loved it,” she says.

21. ZUZU DIDN’T SEE THE FILM UNTIL 1980.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the film, didn’t see the film until 1980. “I never took the time to see the movie,” she told Detroit’s WWJ in 2013. “I never just sat down and watched the film.”

22. THE FBI SAW THE FILM. THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT.

In 1947, the FBI issued a memo noting the film as a potential “Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry,” citing its “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.”

23. THE MOVIE’S BERT AND ERNIE HAVE NO RELATION TO SESAME STREET.

Yes, the cop and cab driver in It’s a Wonderful Life are named Bert and Ernie, respectively. But Jim Henson’s longtime writing partner, Jerry Juhl, insists that it’s by coincidence only that they share their names with Sesame Street’s stripe-shirted buds. “I was the head writer for the Muppets for 36 years and one of the original writers on Sesame Street,” Juhl told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “The rumor about It's a Wonderful Life has persisted over the years. I was not present at the naming, but I was always positive [the rumor] was incorrect. Despite his many talents, Jim had no memory for details like this. He knew the movie, of course, but would not have remembered the cop and the cab driver. I was not able to confirm this with Jim before he died, but shortly thereafter I spoke to Jon Stone, Sesame Street's first producer and head writer and a man largely responsible for the show's format … He assured me that Ernie and Bert were named one day when he and Jim were studying the prototype puppets. They decided that one of them looked like an Ernie, and the other one looked like a Bert. The movie character names are purely coincidental.”

24. SOME PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS FOR A SEQUEL.

Well, two people: Producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth, who announced in 2013 that they would be continuing the story with a sequel, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story, which they planned for a 2015 release. It didn’t take long for Paramount, which owns the copyright, to step in and assure furious fans of the original film that “No project relating to It’s a Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”

25. THE FILM’S ENDURING LEGACY WAS SURPRISING TO CAPRA.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen," Capra said of the film’s classic status. "The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

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Listen to What Darth Vader Sounded Like On the Star Wars Set
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The voice of Darth Vader, provided by James Earl Jones, is one of the most iconic aspects of the original Star Wars movies. But James Earl Jones wasn't the actor wearing that outfit—it was British actor David Prowse, who was cast in part because he was huge (reportedly 6'5" and a former body-building champion).

George Lucas always intended to replace Prowse's voice, but it's still a bit of a shock to hear a muffled British voice coming out of Darth Vader's helmet. Here's video showing what Darth Vader sounded like on the set before James Earl Jones re-recorded the dialogue.

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