CLOSE
Original image

The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XVI

Original image

Every Monday, mental_floss wanders into the archives of The New York Times "“ and wanders out with first mentions worth mentioning. In this episode, we take a look at the first time The Times discussed Woody Allen, the Titanic, and many more. If you have a suggestion for next time, leave us a comment.

Woody Allen

March 19, 1962

Young Men's Hebrew Association Presents 2nd Jazz Concert
woodyallen.jpeg On the bill were two well-established jazz groups...and a relatively unknown comedian, Woody Allen. It was the comedian who walked off with the honors for the evening.

Mr. Allen, who describes himself as "short and unloved," looks like a somewhat unkempt Wally Cox. A monologuist in the Mort Sahl style who ranges over almost every area except politics...he wandered off into what he apparently found to be more diverting topics...[for example] the problem of getting a divorce in New York ("The Ten Commandments say 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' but New York State says you have to").

Mr. Allen's quiet, underplayed style enabled him to get laughs with what might otherwise have been little more than casual remarks.

Barbara Walters

September 13, 1964

No More Girls
barbarawalters.jpg Al Morgan, producer of Today, said he would not engage another woman to succeed Maureen O'Sullivan. The actress had succeeded a long line of so-called Today girls, although the tag had not been attached to her. The era of Today girls apparently is ended. Mr. Morgan said he would make more use of women already familiar to Today viewers "“ Aline Saarinen for discussion on art and architecture, Judith Christ for motion-picture reviews and Barbara Walters for news reporting.

Keep reading for BoingBoing, The Lincoln Tunnel, Titanic, The Beastie Boys, 'A Tale of Two Cities' and Dog Biscuits.

BoingBoing

August 8, 1993

Seriously Wired
boingboing-logo.gifCan cyberpunk still be cool if it's on the Billboard charts? In fact, a minor hullabaloo did erupt when Billy Idol logged onto the Well, a computer bulletin board based in Sausalito, Calif., where people exchange information. He posted a computer address so that anyone could send him electronic mail. But apparently a bunch of cyberpunks felt that a pop star didn't belong in their rebel universe and started sending him nasty messages. One particularly self-righteous computer geek even takes pleasure in stuffing Mr. Idol's Well file with junk mail.

Mr. Idol has responded by saying they're elitist. Mark Frauenfelder, the former editor in chief of Boing Boing, a cyberpunk-oriented publication that calls itself "the world's greatest neurozine!" takes Mr. Idol's side. "It's stupid, because the whole cyberpunk thing is that information is supposed to be free," says Mr. Frauenfelder, who is now an editor at Wired, another computer magazine. "There are all these 16- and 17-year-old cyberpunks who are afraid that everybody's going to learn their secret handshake or something."

Titanic

March 7, 1909

Giant Ships That Promise 'The Last Word'
titanic.jpg These two vessels, the Olympic and the Titanic, are by far the greatest of any that have yet been considered, and as there is no near prospect of any future expansion of piers, these two giantesses will doubtless represent for many years to come the last word in marine architecture, particular that kind of architecture which runs to a tremendous bulk.
* * * * *
The new liners will be as complete in their safety devices as in their cabin accommodations....The bridge is thus instantly notified of any suspicion of danger, even in the most remote parts of the ship. The bridge will be like a great keyboard, ready at the officer's hands, by which he may control the vast complicated machinery of every part of the ship.

The Beastie Boys

December 29, 1986

The Beastie Boys, Rap-Metal Group
licensetoill.jpg On stage Friday at the Ritz, the Beastie Boys did their best to live up to ''Licensed to Ill.'' As they shouted rhymes, danced the ''Jerry Lewis'' and shambled around the stage, the Boys - wearing red, white and blue T-shirts - poured beer on one another's heads and spewed it into the audience. Meanwhile, two disk jockeys, Hurricane and Mr. Bill, played backup tracks (including a bit of the ''Mister Ed'' theme), a woman named Eloise danced in a cage, and unnamed bouncers repulsed the audience members who repeatedly climbed onstage.
* * * * *
The Beastie Boys aren't exactly original - they rap in the cadences of Run-D. M. C. - and compared to such calmly amoral rappers as Schooly D, they're virtually a comedy act. Yet for the moment, the Beastie Boys' crafty backup tracks and personal bravado promise to put sheer obnoxiousness back in the rock-and-roll spotlight.

Lincoln Tunnel

April 17, 1937

39th Street Tube Gets Name Of Lincoln
lincoln tunnel.jpg The new vehicular tunnel under the Hudson River between West Thirty-ninth Street, Manhattan, and Weehawken, N.J., will hereafter be known as the Lincoln Tunnel, the Port Authority announced yesterday.

The tunnel, now under construction, has thus far been called the Midtown Hudson Tunnel....Use of the name Midtown Hudson Tunnel, the Port Authority explained, has now become inadvisable because of confusion arising from the fact that work is now under way on a Queens-Midtown tunnel and plans are being pushed for a Midtown Manhattan Crosstown tube.

A Tale of Two Cities

March 9, 1859

dickens.jpgEnglish Literature and Art Gossip
The first number of Dickens' All the Year Round will be published about May 1. The title of his new story is A Tale of Two Cities and is considered felicitous. Since Little Dorrit, (which was a disappointment,) we have had only occasional interludes from Dickens' pen, and the curiosity evinced by the public in regard to the new story is an evidence that the popularity of the great novelist is at its height.

Dog Biscuits

June 3, 1883

Feeding Dogs
bailey_couch.jpg A dog should be fed twice a day. I purposely italicize the word "twice," for, although the breakfast should be but a light one, it is a necessity of healthful existence. If it be not given the bowels become confined; the bile is ejected into the stomach; the dog seeks grass, and relieves himself in a natural way of what nature designed as an aperient. A bit of dry dog-biscuit, or a drop of milk or a basin of sheep's-head broth, is all my own dogs ever have for breakfast. A dog should have his principal meal "“ with a run to follow "“ at 4 P.M. in the Winter and 5 in Summer. Variety and change from day to day are most essential. Dog-biscuits, dry or steeped, and mixed with the liquor that fresh meat or fish has been boiled in, with now and then oat-meal porridge, make a good staple of diet.

Our Archives

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, iPod
"¢ Volume II: Hillary Clinton, Starbucks, Donald Trump
"¢ Volume III: JFK, Microwave Oven, the Internet
"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
"¢ Volume VI: Times Square, Marijuana, Googling
"¢ Volume VII: Lance Armstrong, Aerosmith, Gatorade
"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
"¢ Volume IX: Hedge Fund, White Collar Crime, John Updike
"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg
"¢ Volume XII: Jerry Seinfeld, Lee Harvey Oswald, Don Mattingly
"¢ Volume XIII: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taxicab, Hippies
"¢ Volume XIV: Digital Watch, Prozac, David Hasselhoff
"¢ Volume XV: George Clooney, Golden Gate Bridge, Toyota Prius
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

T.jpgYou need not rely on us to find The First Time News Was Fit To Print. Get complete access to the The New York Times archives when you become an NYT subscriber.

Original image
Gramercy Pictures
arrow
entertainment
20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
Original image
Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers’s movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that featured a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination). 

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. "The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen Brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen Brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
arrow
Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios