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7 Movies With Backstage Antics That Inspired Other Films

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1. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957) / Ed Wood (1994)

By any standard, Edward Wood, Jr. was not a particularly good filmmaker. His films had highly noticeable continuity errors, backgrounds that wouldn't stay still, and flying saucers that were clearly made of cardboard. He would have died in obscurity had it not been for the irony that his movies achieved cult status thanks to their sheer awfulness. Film critic siblings Harry and Michael Medved pronounced Plan 9 from Outer Space the worst film of all time, and David Letterman got laughs from his audiences simply by running clips from the film during the early days of his show.

Made with the last remaining footage of his late friend Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood's dogged pursuit to make Plan 9 From Outer Space is the subject of Tim Burton's 1994 movie Ed Wood. Johnny Depp plays the title character and Martin Landau plays Lugosi (he received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role). Burton paints Wood as not just a sympathetic figure but as the embodiment of a true auteur. Wood's complete obliviousness to his lack of talent, and his unwavering optimism in the face of it, is seen as his biggest strength; it's what wins the hearts of those around him and the audience. In fact, the film never allows Ed Wood to learn the reaction to his film: As Wood is walking out of the premiere of his film, he asks his girlfriend to elope with him instead of sticking around to hear critical opinion (which likely would have been negative). Both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp count Ed Wood among their greatest films.

2. Nosferatu (1922) / Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, one of the landmark films of the silent era, is the first of a great many films to be based on Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula. Without Nosferatu demonstrating the popularity of the vampire genre, we wouldn't have Twilight, True Blood, or The Vampire Diaries. The film almost got shut down, however, because Stoker's widow sued the studio over the unauthorized use of her husband's novel (written in 1897). Murnau persisted with different names for his characters.

The most chilling aspect of the film is Max Schreck's portrayal of the Dracula stand-in (dubbed "Count Orlock"). Because audiences in 1922 were so new to the horror genre, Schreck's striking facial features made quite an impression on audiences, and rumors fueled among audiences at the time that Schreck was an actual vampire. It also helped that Schreck didn't do a lot of acting afterwards (although a closer look at his filmography shows he did do a number of less notable films).

In the 2000 film Shadow of a Vampire, director E. Elias Merhige and writer Steven Katz do a backstage film about Nosterafu with a twist: In this fictionalized account, director F.W. Murnau's (John Malkovich) film is such a success because he finds an actual vampire to play the role of the Count.

3. African Queen (1951) / White Hunter Black Heart (1990)

Many of acclaimed director John Huston's films were adventure stories that were shot on location, which was something few studios allowed directors to do at that time. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was shot in Mexico, Beat the Devil was shot in East Africa, and The Man Who Would Be King was shot in Morocco—but his most extreme location shoot was for the African Queen. The film, about a missionary (Katharine Hepburn) and a disheveled riverboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) travelling down Africa's Zambezi River in World War I, was shot in a previously unmapped location in the Belgian Congo.

Pretty much the entire cast and crew got sick from dysentery, malaria, and snake bites. It didn't help that Huston was a stubborn and strong-willed man who had a penchant for indulging in adventures. "He had a habit of losing interest in a project halfway through, and he indulged his passions for horses, drink, gambling and women as if he had the divine right to be supplied endlessly with same," wrote Roger Ebert. In this particular case, Huston's adventure of choice was shooting an elephant. When Huston first arrived in the Congo, he delayed production so he could go on a safari. When he failed to shoot an elephant on that outing, he refused to continue production until he succeeded in shooting one. Hepburn wrote in her autobiography that Huston convinced her to go hunting and inadvertently led her to a herd of wild animals from which the two were lucky to escape alive. She was among a number of people who theorized that Huston signed on to the movie just so he could go on safari.

Among those who got sick was screenwriter James Agee. A German-born screenwriter named Peter Viertel was sent to Africa as Agee's replacement. Upon witnessing first-hand Huston's mad quest to shoot an elephant, Viertel was inspired to write a semi-biographical novel about Huston centered around that experience. The novel was made into a movie by Clint Eastwood, who directed and starred as stubborn director John Wilson. Despite the name changes, the film sticks pretty close to the novel.

4. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2000) / Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Director Terry Gilliam (originally of Monty Python fame) is no doubt an artistic visionary, but is also known throughout the industry to be pig-headed and immature. Among his more famous battles against studio overlords were refusing to continue production on The Brothers Grimm for two weeks because of disagreements over casting, and taking out a full-page ad attacking Universal Studios after they made unauthorized edits on Brazil. (The resulting director's cut resulted in his only Oscar nomination, so he might have been onto something.)

When Gilliam shot his 1995 film 12 Monkeys in Philadelphia, Temple University film students Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe were given permission to shadow the director. And when he decided to make his next film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Fulton and Pepe set out to shoot a behind-the-scenes observational documentary.

Then disaster struck: Star Jean Rochefort got sick, the crew let production fall behind schedule, and flash floods destroyed the sets. Within the first week, production was seriously in jeopardy, and the movie was eventually canceled. Meanwhile, Pepe and Fulton started to feel that it might be exploitative to continue filming such a doomed situation. Gilliam insisted they continue shooting the film, however.

As Fulton said in an interview with Moviemaker Magazine: "At this point, we called Terry and told him that we were uncomfortable shooting; that it seemed unethical to continue making a documentary about his misery. He replied, 'Screw ethics! Someone's got to get a film out of all this mess, and it doesn't look like it's going to be me. So it had better be you. Keep shooting!' That was pretty much the blessing we needed."

The end-result is an insightful look at the harsh realities of filmmaking.

5. & 6. Psycho (1960) / Hitchcock (2012) and The Birds (1963) / The Girl (2012)

Those wishing to see both the good and the ugly sides of famed director Alfred Hitchcock are in luck this year—two films have just been released that tell drastically different stories about the man.

Hitchcock tells the story of the director's (Anthony Hopkins) struggle to maintain the career high he had just set for himself with North by Northwest with a risky adaptation of Psycho.

The film is based on Stephen Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which argues that Hitchcock's wife of 53 years, Alma Reville (played by Helen Mirren in the film), played a major creative role in his films, and the story centers largely around how the two sustained a loving marriage through their collaboration.

In contrast, the HBO film The Girl showcases Hitchcock's (this time played by Toby Jones) dark side: specifically, the way he became obssessed with his leading ladies. The Girl tells the story of disenfranchised Swedish actress Tippi Hedren (played by Siena Miller), whose experience filming The Birds served as the most extreme example of this abuse.

According to multiple sources, Hitchcock propositioned Hedren and, when she refused his advances, threatened to blackball her from show business. A headstrong woman, Hedren still refused, and Hitchcock responded by making her time on set miserable: He ordered his staff to follow her around at all times, and instead of using mechanical birds during the attack scene, as he told her he would, he hurled live birds at the actress, subjecting her to a barrage of claw marks and bird feces for five days. Even worse, Hitchcock succeeded in ruining Hedren's career by holding her to an ironclad contract that wouldn't let her act in any films not directed by him. When she was finally released from her contract, demand died down to the point where she couldn't recover.

As for the inseparable love between Hitch and his wife? According to Hedren (who attended the premiere of The Girl and gave interviews), Alma knew about Hitchcock's obsession with her the whole time and wouldn't intervene.

7. A Trip to the Moon (1903) / Hugo (2011)

When he was 27, George Méliès sold his share in the family shoe business and used the money to buy a theater where he could put on shows. He created 30 new dramatic illusions for his act—and when he saw the first screening of the legendary first films shot by the Lumiere brothers in Paris in 1895, he became immediately enchanted and decided to use the moving image as a way to enhance his magic. In his attempts to create cinematic illusions, he inadvertently became the first filmmaker to master multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, and dissolves. Because of this, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the "cinemagician."

Méliès' landmark film A Trip to the Moon is considered cinema's first foray into science fiction. Based on two different sources—From the Earth to the Moon and The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells—the film was only 14 minutes long but took four months to make and cost 10,000 francs. Despite being 110 years old, the film holds up surprisingly well today.

When acclaimed director Martin Scorsese isn't making movies, he's busy indulging in his passion for film history, whether serving as a contributor to Turner Classic Movies, aiding in film restoration, or making documentaries on subjects as wide-ranging as director Elia Kazan to film critic Roger Ebert. This made him the perfect candidate to make Hugo.

Scorsese's film (based on Brian_Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is set in 1920s Paris, and revolves around the friendship that forms between the orphaned 11-year-old boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in a train station's clock tower and a jaded George Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley), who is resigned to managing a toy store after his film career declined during the Great War. The idea of Méliès working at a toy store in obscurity was true to life. During World War I, many of his films were burnt for ammunition or lost, and he was discovered working in a toy store, which prompted a film society to give him a retrospective and rent-free apartment.

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14 Not-So-Dirty Facts About Dirty Dancing
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Released on August 21, 1987, no one—not even stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey—could have predicted the phenomenon that Dirty Dancing would turn into. Today, 30 years later, we’re still talking about the dance-musical-romance’s sensual choreography, its oldies soundtrack, and not putting Baby in a corner. Here are some not-so-dirty facts about the iconic movie, which grossed nearly $215 million worldwide.

1. PATRICK SWAYZE BELIEVED DIRTY DANCING ENDURED BECAUSE OF ITS HEART.

In an interview with AFI, Swayze explained why he thought Dirty Dancing has stuck around for so long. “It’s got so much heart, to me,” he said. “It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves—this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because [of] what she’s got in her heart.”

2. THE FILM GAVE NEWMAN HIS FIRST BIG MOVIE ROLE.

Before starring as Stan, the resort’s social director, Wayne Knight had small roles in a few TV movies, including an uncredited role in the nuclear holocaust drama The Day After. Dirty Dancing showcased his talents, which in 1992 led him to be cast as Newman on Seinfeld.

3. BILL MEDLEY THOUGHT HE WAS BEING HIRED TO RECORD A SONG FOR A “BAD PORNO.”

Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sang the vocals to the Oscar-winning song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Medley told Songfacts that Dirty Dancing music supervisor Jimmy Ienner called him and mentioned he was gathering music for the movie. “It sounds like a bad porno movie,” Medley said. Medley’s wife was expecting a baby, so he turned the song down. A few months later Ienner convinced him to do the song, even though Medley didn’t think the movie would be popular.

“We just went in to work together, to sing together, and little did we know it was going to be the biggest movie of the year. Just unbelievable,” Medley said. The song ended up selling more than 500,000 copies, and Medley ended up titling his own memoir The Time of My Life. (Note: The film was actually the 11th highest grossing film of the year; Three Men and a Baby took the top spot for 1987.)

4. PAUL FEIG STARRED IN A DIRTY DANCING TV SHOW SPINOFF.

Dirty Dancing the TV series lasted for only 11 episodes beginning in the fall of 1988, but it gave us then-unknown actors Paul Feig (creator of Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids) and Melora Hardin (Jan Levinson of The Office). Hardin played Baby but her last name on the show was Kellerman because her dad was Max Kellerman, not Dr. Houseman. CBS even used “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for the show’s opening credits.

5. A DIRTY DANCING REALITY SHOW AIRED OVERSEAS.

For two seasons between 2007 and 2008, the UK’s Living network aired a reality show called Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life, in which groups of dancers competed for a year-long contract with Bloc, a Los Angeles-based dance agency. The series took place at Virginia’s Mountain Lake Lodge, where much of the original movie was filmed. Couples danced in front of three judges, including Miranda Garrison, who played Vivian Pressman in the movie and was also an assistant choreographer on the film.

6. MOUNTAIN LAKE LODGE REGULARLY HOSTS DIRTY DANCING WEEKENDS.

The Pembroke, Virginia resort where many of the Kellerman’s scenes were filmed hosts regular Dirty Dancing­-themed weekends a year. Dinners, a sock hop, a screening of the movie, a watermelon toss, group dance lessons, and a Dirty Dancing scavenger hunt are just some of the many activities on the agenda.

7. ELEANOR BERGSTEIN WROTE ANOTHER DANCE MOVIE AFTER DIRTY DANCING.

Bergstein wrote the script to Dirty Dancing, and in 1995 she had the opportunity to direct as well. She wrote and directed Let It Be Me, starring Jennifer Beals and Campbell Scott. To this day, she hasn’t written or directed any other movies, but she did adapt Dirty Dancing into a successful stage show.

8. ACCORDING TO BERGSTEIN, EASTERN EUROPE WATCHES A LOT OF DIRTY DANCING.

In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Bergstein talked about the movie’s popularity with people in the former Eastern Bloc. “And in Russia, it’s policy in the battered women’s shelters, when a woman comes in for help. First, they wash and dress her wounds, then they give her soup. Then they sit her down and show her Dirty Dancing. When the Berlin Wall came down, there were all these pictures of kids wearing Dirty Dancing T-shirts; they were saying, ‘We want to have what they have in the West! We want Dirty Dancing!'”

9. PENNY BRIEFLY TRANSFORMED INTO A POP STAR IN THE LATE 1980s.

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Cynthia Rhodes made a name for herself as dancer Tina Tech in 1983’s Flashdance and starred as John Travolta’s dance partner/love interest in Staying Alive that same year. But it was her role as Johnny Castle’s dancing partner, Penny, that garnered her the most notice. A couple of years after Dirty Dancing, she married singer Richard Marx (they’ve since divorced), and she briefly filled in as the lead singer of L.A. pop group Animotion, known for their hits “Room to Move” and “Obsession.”

10. JENNIFER GREY PLAYED A VERSION OF HERSELF ON THE SITCOM IT’S LIKE, YOU KNOW...

The short-lived ABC sitcom (1999-2000) featured Grey as a member of a Seinfeld-like gang, except the show swapped out New York City for Los Angeles. She allowed herself to be self-deprecating, even poking fun at her nose job and her Dirty Dancing celebrity. Arthur (Chris Eigeman) meets “Jennifer Grey” and goes, “Oh, like the actress. Dirty Dancing. You spell it the same way as her?” “I am Jennifer Grey,” she responds, then she does a dance to prove it. “You look different,” he says. “Nose job!” She blurts. “Just one?” he retorts. (She had two of them.)

11. GREY WAS SHOCKED TO BE A PART OF THE MOVIE CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.

During a scene in the 2012 rom-com Crazy, Stupid, Love., Ryan Gosling uses the famous Dirty Dancing lift to woo Emma Stone into bed with him. As she watched the movie, Grey got an unexpected surprise. “I’m such a fan of Ryan Gosling and all of a sudden he’s saying my name [in the movie],” she told Yahoo!. “I’m just in the theater with my husband and I look at him like, ‘Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What’s going on?’ I was so scared. I was like, ‘Oh, no. What are they about to do?’ All of a sudden there I was, part of their movie.”

12. BORSCHT BELT RESORTS LIKE KELLERMAN’S ARE DISAPPEARING.

The area in the Catskills and upstate New York where many resorts like Kellerman’s were located is referred to as the Borscht Belt, because of the area’s popularity with Jewish-American families from the 1920s to the 1980s, with the height of their popularity being in the 1950s and ’60s. Comedians such as Joan Rivers and Jerry Seinfeld got their starts at these resorts. Since the 1990s, hundreds of these resorts have shuttered.

13. TWO FILMMAKERS PRODUCED A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE RESORT THAT SUPPOSEDLY INSPIRED KELLERMAN’S.  

For over 100 years, the Monticello, New York-based Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club welcomed Jewish-American families every summer. Wilt Chamberlain worked there as a bellhop, and according to Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg, the husband-and-wife filmmakers behind Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort, it’s also part of the inspiration behind Dirty Dancing.

“Perhaps Hollywood had taken sort of what was true for the Catskills and was using it for their own purposes, but ... [Hollywood] was just copying what was already here,” Rosenberg told ABC News. One of the last bastions of the Catskills’ Borscht Belt, Kutsher’s closed in 2013 and was sold to a billionaire who plans on replacing the resort with a $250 million yoga and wellness center. At least the doc acts as a relic to the halcyon days of dancing and escapism.

14. A DIRTY DANCING REMAKE WAS RELEASED EARLIER THIS YEAR.

Talk of a Dirty Dancing remake had been floating around Hollywood for a few years, and earlier this year it finally came to fruition. The film, which starred Abigail Breslin as Baby, was not met with great reviews. "Somehow, this earnest, anodyne remake has managed to surgically extract the magic—leaving the story and signature lines intact while suctioning out all the subtlety, charm, and lead chemistry that defined the iconic 1987 original," wrote Entertainment Weekly of the remake.

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10 Witty Facts About The Marx Brothers
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Talented as individuals and magnificent as a team, the Marx Brothers conquered every medium from the vaudeville stage to the silver screen. Today, we’re tipping our hats (and tooting our horns) to Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo—on the 50th anniversary of Groucho's passing.

1. A RUNAWAY MULE INSPIRED THEM TO TAKE A STAB AT COMEDY.

Julius, Milton, and Arthur Marx originally aspired to be professional singers. In 1907, the boys joined a group called “The Three Nightingales.” Managed by their mother, Minnie, the ensemble performed covers of popular songs in theaters all over the country. As Nightingales, the brothers enjoyed some moderate success, but they might never have found their true calling if it weren’t for an unruly equid. During a 1907 gig at the Nacogdoches Opera House in East Texas, someone interrupted the performance by barging in and shouting “Mule’s loose!” Immediately, the crowd raced out to watch the newly-liberated animal. Back inside, Julius seethed. Furious at having lost the spotlight, he skewered his audience upon their return. “The jackass is the finest flower of Tex-ass!” he shouted, among many other ad-libbed jabs. Rather than boo, the patrons roared with laughter. Word of his wit soon spread and demand for these Marx brothers grew.

2. THEY RECEIVED THEIR STAGE NAMES DURING A POKER GAME.

In May of 1914, the five Marxes were playing cards with standup comedian Art Fisher. Inspired by a popular comic strip character known as “Sherlocko the Monk,” he decided that the boys could use some new nicknames. Leonard’s was a no-brainer. Given his girl-crazy, “chick-chasing” lifestyle, Fisher dubbed him “Chicko” (later, this was shortened to “Chico”). Arthur loved playing the harp and thus became “Harpo.” An affinity for soft gumshoes earned Milton the alias “Gummo.” Finally, Julius was both cynical and often seen wearing a “grouch bag”—wherein he’d store small objects like marbles and candy—around his neck. Thus, “Groucho” was born. For the record, nobody knows how Herbert Marx came to be known as “Zeppo.”

3. GROUCHO WORE HIS TRADEMARK GREASEPAINT MUSTACHE BECAUSE HE HATED MORE REALISTIC MODELS.

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Phony, glue-on facial hair can be a pain to remove and reapply, so Groucho would simply paint a ‘stache and some exaggerated eyebrows onto his face. However, the mustache he later rocked as the host of his famous quiz show You Bet Your Life was 100 percent real.

4. HARPO WAS A SELF-TAUGHT HARPIST.

Without any formal training (or the ability to read sheet music), the second-oldest Marx brother developed a unique style that he never stopped improving upon. “Dad really loved playing the harp, and he did it constantly,” his son, Bill Marx, wrote. “Maybe the first multi-tasker ever, he even had a harp in the bathroom so he could play when he sat on the toilet!”

5. THE VERY FIRST MARX BROTHERS MOVIE WAS NEVER RELEASED.

Financed by Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and a handful of other investors, Humor Risk was filmed in 1921. Accounts differ, but most scholars agree that the silent picture—which would have served as the family’s cinematic debut—never saw completion. Despite this, an early screening of the work-in-progress was reportedly held in the Bronx. When Humor Risk failed to impress there, production halted. By Marx Brothers standards, it would’ve been an unusual flick, with Harpo playing a heroic detective opposite a villainous Groucho character.

6. GUMMO AND ZEPPO BECAME TALENT AGENTS.

World War I forced Gummo to quit the stage. Following his return, the veteran decided that performing was no longer for him and instead started a raincoat business. Zeppo—the youngest brother—then assumed Gummo’s role as the troupe’s straight-talking foil. A brilliant businessman, Zeppo eventually broke away to found the talent agency Zeppo Marx Inc., which grew into Hollywood’s third-largest, representing superstars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, and—of course—the other three Marx Brothers. Gummo, who joined the company in 1935, was charged with handling Groucho, Harpo, and Chico’s needs.

7. CHICO ONCE LAUNCHED A BIG BAND GROUP.

Chico took advantage of an extended break between Marx brothers movies to realize a lifelong dream. A few months before The Big Store hit cinemas in 1941, he co-founded the Chico Marx Orchestra: a swinging jazz band that lasted until July of 1943. Short-lived as the group was, however, it still managed to recruit some amazing talent—including singer/composer Mel Tormé, who would go on to help write “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” in 1945.

8. THEY TESTED OUT NEW MATERIAL FOR A NIGHT AT THE OPERA IN FRONT OF LIVE AUDIENCES.

With the script still being drafted, MGM made the inspired choice to let the brothers perform key scenes in such places as Seattle, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Once a given joke was made, the Marxes meticulously timed the ensuing laughter, which let them know exactly how much silence to leave after repeating the gag on film. According to Harpo, this had the added benefit of shortening A Night at the Opera’s production period. “We didn’t have to rehearse,” he explained. “[We just] got onto the set and let the cameras roll.”

9. GROUCHO TEMPORARILY HOSTED THE TONIGHT SHOW.

Jack Paar bid the job farewell on March 29, 1962. Months before their star’s departure, NBC offered Paar’s Tonight Show seat to Groucho, who had established himself as a razor-sharp, well-liked host during You Bet Your Life’s 14-year run. Though Marx turned the network down, he later served as a guest host for two weeks while Johnny Carson prepared to take over the gig. When Carson finally made his Tonight Show debut on October 1, it was Groucho who introduced him.

10. SPY MAGAZINE USED A MARX BROTHERS MOVIE TO PRANK U.S. CONGRESSMEN.

Duck Soup takes place in Freedonia, a fictional country over which the eccentric Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) presides. In 1993, 60 years after the movie’s release, this imaginary nation made headlines by embarrassing some real-life politicians. Staffers from Spy got in touch with around 20 freshmen in the House of Representatives, asking some variation on the question “Do you approve of what we’re doing to stop ethnic cleansing in Freedonia?” A few lawmakers took the bait. Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) professed to approve of America’s presence in Freedonia, saying, “I think all of those situations are very, very sad, and I just think we need to take action to assist the people.” Across the aisle, Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) concurred. “Yeah,” he said, “it’s a different situation than the Middle East.”

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