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5 Things You Didn't Know About Orson Welles

You know Orson Welles was one of the most revered actors and directors of the 20th century, but how much do you know about his sketchy big break or his deft efforts to make rabbits disappear? Let’s take a look at five surprising things about Welles.

1. He Knew How to Fib

Welles got his first acting gig before he turned 10; he received $25 a day to dress up as Peter Rabbit and stand in the window at Chicago’s Marshall Field’s department store. His real breakthrough came when he was traveling through Europe when he was 16. While in Dublin, Welles showed up at the Gate Theatre one night and proudly proclaimed that he was a big Theatre Guild star from New York.

Welles wasn’t a real star of the stage, but he was convincing enough as an actor to get the theater to fall for his lie. Thanks to his fabricated resume he landed a lead role right off the bat and spent the entire season acting in Dublin’s biggest theaters. By the time he left Ireland, he had real acting experience.

2. William Randolph Hearst Wasn’t a Fan

It’s no secret that Welles’ signature film, Citizen Kane, was loosely based on newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, and the portrayal isn’t what anyone would call flattering.

Hearst allegedly trying to block showings of the film, and Hearst newspapers refused to advertise, review, or otherwise mention Citizen Kane.

The Hearts papers were under similar orders not to speak of Welles, but a 1941 New Yorker piece explained there were exceptions to that rule. “[T]he Hearst press is under strict orders to ignore Welles, except for a series of articles pointing out that he is a menace to American motherhood, freedom of speech and assembly, and the pursuit of happiness; otherwise, no mention of that hated name, even in listings of radio programs or dramatic news from New York.”

Hearst and company supposedly offered RKO Pictures, the studio that released the film, a payment that would cover all of the production costs plus a modest profit if the studio would cancel the release and destroy all prints of the film. RKO refused the deal, a decision that paved the way for Citizen Kane to be considered one of the best films of all time.

3. He Could Saw Movie Stars in Half

When his flat feet rendered him unfit for service in World War II, he decided to chip in by cheering the troops up. With magic. He traveled around the European front performing shows in which he sawed movie star Marlene Dietrich in half.

Welles later took his show home to Los Angeles, where his movie-star wife, Rita Hayworth, took Dietrich’s place in the box. He continued performing magic throughout his life, and some confidantes said that the actor actually loved magic more than acting or directing.

YouTube contains a treasure trove of clips involving Welles and magic, but it’s hard to beat this one:

4. He Could Really Do a Voiceover

When Welles’ weight ballooned as he aged, his rotund physique began to limit the sort of roles he could play. He still had his inimitable voice even after he let his waistline go, though, so Welles found all sorts of interesting voiceover parts. He provided the off-screen voice for Robin Masters, Tom Selleck’s never-seen host in the first few seasons of Magnum, P.I. He voiced Unicron in the 1986 animated film Transformers: The Movie, leading to this unbelievable quote:

“I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I’m destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen.”

Best of all, he narrated the trailer for Revenge of the Nerds. Have a listen to Charles Foster Kane’s voice describing the downfalls of being a nerd:

Welles also took a slew of commercial endorsement work. He once referred to these appearances as “the most innocent form of whoring I know,” and he took that philosophy to ads for everything from Shredded Wheat to Perrier to Jim Beam. Fans of Lost in Translation will particularly enjoy this whiskey commercial Welles shot for the Japanese market:

5. He Left Behind a Lot of Unfinished Projects

When Welles died in 1985, he had a slew of tantalizing unfinished projects still kicking around. He had periodically worked on a film adaptation of Don Quixote for 15 years during the 1950s and 60s, but funding shortfalls plagued the project. Although Welles apparently finished shooting the film, the final draft never saw the light of day.

That wasn’t Welles’ only big loss. In 1969 and 1970 he had directed a film version of The Merchant of Venice featuring himself as Shylock. Although that film was completed, someone stole several reels of the final negative from his office in Rome. The world never got to see this version of Welles as Shylock, but years later the actor, dressed in a trench coat and standing in an empty field, recorded a version of the money lender’s famous monologue.

If there's someone you'd like to see profiled in a future edition of '5 Things You Didn't Know About...' leave us a comment!

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5 Things You Should Know About Robert Todd Lincoln
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Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln's oldest son and the only Lincoln child to survive into adulthood. While he didn't make quite the mark on history that his father did, Robert Lincoln had a pretty interesting life himself. Let's take a look at five things you might not know about him:

1. He Was on Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Staff

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's mystique lies in his humble roots as a self-made man who found education where he could. His eldest son didn't have to go through quite as many trials and tribulations to do some learning, though. Robert left Springfield, Illinois, to attend boarding school at New Hampshire's elite Phillips Exeter Academy when he was a young man, and he later graduated from Harvard during his father's presidency.

After completing his undergrad degree, Robert stuck around Cambridge to go to Harvard Law School, but that arrangement didn't last very long. After studying law for just a few months, Lincoln received a commission as a captain in the army. Lincoln's assignment put him on Ulysses S. Grant's personal staff, so he didn't see much fighting. He did get a nice view of history, though; Lincoln was present as part of Grant's junior staff at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

After the war ended, Lincoln moved to Chicago with his mother and brother and wrapped up his legal studies.

2. The Booth Family Did Him a Favor

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In 1863 or 1864, young Robert Lincoln was traveling by train from New York to Washington during a break from his studies at Harvard. He hopped off the train during a stop at Jersey City, only to find himself on an extremely crowded platform. To be polite, Lincoln stepped back to wait his turn to walk across the platform, his back pressed to one of the train's cars.

This situation probably seemed harmless enough until the train started moving, which whipped Lincoln around and dropped him into the space between the platform and train, an incredibly dangerous place to be.

Lincoln probably would have been dead meat if a stranger hadn't yanked him out of the hole by his collar. That stranger? None other than Edwin Booth, one of the most celebrated actors of the 19th century and brother of eventual Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln immediately recognized the famous thespian "“ this was sort of like if George Clooney pulled you from a burning car today "“ and thanked him effusively. The actor had no idea whose life he had saved until he received a letter commending him for his bravery in saving the President's son a few months later.

3. He Had a Strange Knack for Being Near Assassinations

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Lee's surrender wasn't the only history Lincoln ended up witnessing, although things got a bit grislier for him after Appomattox. As he arrived back in Washington in April 1865 Lincoln's parents invited him to go see Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater with them. The young officer was so exhausted after his journey that he begged off so he could get a good night's sleep. That night, of course, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln's father, and Robert Todd was with the celebrated president when he passed away the next morning.

By 1881, Lincoln's political lineage and prominence as a lawyer qualified him for a national office, and he became Secretary of War under the newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. That July, Lincoln was scheduled to travel to Elberon, New Jersey, by train with the President, but the trip never took off. Before Lincoln and Garfield's train could leave the station, Charles Guiteau shot the Garfield, who died of complications from the wound two months later.

Oddly, that wasn't all for Lincoln, though. Two decades passed without a presidential assassination, but Lincoln's strange luck reared its head again in 1901. Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan-American Exposition. Although he arrived a bit late to the even, Lincoln was on his way to meet McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.

Following these three bits of bad luck Lincoln refused to attend any presidential functions. He dryly noted that there was "a certain fatality about the presidential function when I am present."

4. He Realized His Mom Was a Little Nutty

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Mary Todd Lincoln is fairly widely renowned today for being mentally ill, but it wasn't quite such an open secret when she was still alive. Robert, however, realized that his mother needed psychiatric help so she didn't become a danger to herself or an embarrassment to her family, so he had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in 1875 following a hearing that declared her insane.

Mary Todd was none too pleased about this plan. She not only snuck letters to her lawyer to help her escape from the institution, she also wrote newspaper editors in an effort to convince the public of her sanity. Mary Todd's ploy worked; at a second sanity hearing in 1876 she was declared sane and released from the Batavia, Illinois, sanatorium to which she'd been confined. However, by this point she'd been publicly humiliated and never really patched up her relationship with Robert before her death in 1882.

5. He Made Some Serious Dough on the Railroads

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Once he got his legal practice up and running, Lincoln found a particularly lucrative clientele in the booming railroad industry. He spent most of his career working as a corporate lawyer for various railroads and train-related companies; the only breaks were his four-year stint as Secretary of War under Garfield and successor Chester A. Arthur and a four-year hitch as a minister to Britain under President Benjamin Harrison.

One of Lincoln's major clients was the Pullman Palace Car Company, for which he served as general counsel. When founder George Pullman died in 1897, Lincoln became president of the company, and in 1911 he became chairman of the Pullman Company's board. His lofty position in one of the country's most lucrative companies made him a millionaire and enabled Lincoln to build a sprawling estate, Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont.

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plinko.net
16 404 Pages That Are Worth the Error
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plinko.net

The poem above is old, but the sentiment is universal. I first saw the verse at Plinko's error page, but the original author is nowhere to be found, although the verse owes a lot to Edgar Allan Poe. Looking for something on the internet that leads to an error page is frustrating, but there's an art to alleviating the reader's pain. Only this, and nothing more. Some websites make their 404 page entertaining in itself, and a few make it a real treat. You might even be distracted from what you were trying to find in the first place!

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is all about movies, so it makes sense that their error page gives you a well-known quote about your situation. There are about a dozen quotes that rotate, with some exact quotes, and some that are altered for the occasion.

BedMap is a hotel finder. They also found a great movie quote to adapt for their error page.

The Association for Computing Machinery's error page talks to you in text. The message goes on way after what you see here, until you feel much sorrier for the poor web server than you feel for yourself.

The error page at the game Brain Chef does the same thing as ACM, but instead of becoming melancholy, it flirts with you! And it keeps on, trying to keep you from navigating elsewhere.

The 404 page at Everlasting Blort acknowledges that the server is just as confused as you are. The page contains a flashing .gif that may trigger reactions if you suffer from photosensitive epilepsy. Those who visit Blort often already know that disorientation is what you go there for in the first place.

NPR's error page looks pretty normal for National Public Radio, but it cleverly contains a list of other things besides your missing destination link that cannot be found. After Amelia Earhart and the erased Watergate tape, they list Jimmy Hoffa, your luggage, Atlantis, and Waldo. Each item links to an article about the subject.

Homestar Runner blames you for the error. Which is just as well- I blame them for not adding anything new for years. Still, if you haven't seen all the cartoons, they are there for your enjoyment. But the other error messages they've used over the years were memorable as well.

Lesson learned: don't ever cram a Swiss cake roll into your disc drive.

This Russian business site 404 page is liable to make you forget what you were looking for, even if you don't understand a word of Russian (or Romanian -thanks, !). Let's all dance! This animation is found at more than one Russian site, so it's probably a feature of the hosting service. Warning: the song might be in your head all day.

Blue Fountain Media would like to develop websites and apps for you, but if you reach their error page instead, they offer on online version of Pac-Man for you to play. That makes everything all better, doesn't it?

Titlest golf equipment knows when you've lost a link, and they'll pitch in to help you look for it. In the rough. They've found a lot of golf balls there, after all.

Joel Veitch composed a song and video for Rathergood's 404 page. As you might guess, it's sung by a kitten.

Oh dear, you've got a 404
This isn't what you came here for
Oh dear, you've got a 404, there's nothing here to see
Oh dear, you've got a 404
This isn't what you came here for
Now that you're here, let's have a 404 party!

It's just as silly as anything you could possibly be looking for in his archives.

Woodland Farmers Market sells fresh produce in Washington state. They are also Star Wars fans and punsters.

Mashable did not find the page you're looking for. But they found your socks, so that's a plus, huh? Hey wait, who's wearing my socks? Oh, that's okay, they've got a hole in them anyway.

Bluegg is a company that designs websites. They also designed a sweet 404 page that says,

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! This page doesn't exist
Not to worry. You can either head back to our homepage, or sit there and listen to a goat scream like a human.

I listened to that goat scream quite a few times while preparing this item.

The Rolling Stones website gives you a video on their error page. A very appropriate video.

To be honest, these error pages came from a list that I've been keeping for seven years now. I just added to the list as I found great 404 pages, but I hadn't stopped to check how long the list was until recently. Over the years, many great error pages were lost because the website went out of business. Others just don't seem that creative anymore. Some error pages were changed or gutted due to copyright violations. To save time, I had kept a few posts that were lists of great error pages. Now I find that those posts no longer exist, and the links redirect to boring, everyday error pages. If you know of a wonderful error page everyone should see, please tell us about it!

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