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The People Behind 4 Iconic Valentine's Day Candies

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It’s that time of year when we can kind of, sort of indulge in some guilt-free chocolate goodness—after all, if your Significant Other has gifted you with some Valentine’s sweetness, you don’t want to hurt their feelings and reach for the celery instead, right? But while you’re sneaking yet another morsel, have you ever wondered about that name on the lid of the box? Is that a real person adding an inch or two to our waistlines?

1. Russell Stover

Russell Stover and Clara Lewis both grew up on hardscrabble farms in Iowa in the late 1800s, and after they married in 1911, they moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to raise wheat and flax on a 580 acre farm of their own. Sadly, a year of bad weather and a flood washed away their livelihood. With the pluck so typical of tenacious farm folk of the time, Russell and his wife moved to Winnipeg, where he got a job working in a candy factory. He spent the next few years learning everything he could about candy making, and eventually, after the couple had moved to Iowa, his wife started experimenting with different recipes in their home kitchen. Stover’s watershed moment came in 1921 when a young soda jerk presented him with an idea for a vanilla ice cream bar encased in a crunchy chocolate coating. The young man’s version melted easily and had other flaws, so Russell went to work fine-tuning the manufacturing process. When Russell introduced the Eskimo Pie a few months later, he sold a quarter million units in 24 hours in Omaha alone. Sadly, despite the popularity of the product, Stover spent the bulk of his profits on defending his patent against a host of imitators. He finally sold the Eskimo Pie business and used the $30,000 to launch a line of hand-dipped chocolates that Clara had been perfecting back at home.

2. Stephen Whitman

Stephen Whitman was just 19 years old when he opened a confectionary “shoppe” on Philadelphia’s Market Street in 1842. Because it was near the shipyards, he had a steady stream of sailors among his customers, and this turned out to be providential; seafarers brought him samples of exotic candies purchased abroad, and once he cracked a particular recipe, they were also able to bring him the necessary ingredients from overseas. Whitman was also something of a marketing genius and was one of the first to advertise his products in newspapers and magazines. He eventually packaged bite-sized pieces of his various chocolates in a “best of”-type box, which he called a Sampler. Walter Sharp, who took over as company president in 1911, came up with the Sampler box design based on a cross-stitch his grandmother had made. Sharp also used his marketing savvy to get the Samplers placed in “better drugstores” around the country, and also instituted a money-back guarantee that is still in place today.

3. Fannie May

Founded in Chicago in 1920, Henry Teller Archibald named his candy company “Fannie May” to give the impression of a kindly old grandmother tirelessly hand-dipping chocolates in her country kitchen. Fannie May soon became a leading retailer of fine chocolates in the Midwest, even though they were forced to close many stores during World War II due to the rationing of necessary ingredients (rather than switch to inferior substitutes). Fannie May has had further financial ups and downs over the years, including a bankruptcy filing, but today the company is owned by the folks at 1-800-FLOWERS and is still selling their Pixies and Buttercreams to dedicated customers. Interestingly enough, Mrs. Archibald—the woman whose family provided the seed money back in 1920 to fund her husband’s company—made headlines in 1930 when she was awarded a then-substantial (it was the Great Depression, after all) $1 million divorce settlement on the grounds of desertion. It seems Ol’ Henry had run off and married another woman in Florida without officially severing his previous marital ties.

4. Laura Secord

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During the War of 1812, a loyalist named Laura Secord, whose husband had been injured at the Battle of Queenston Heights, received some intelligence information and walked 20 miles across the Niagara Peninsula to warn British forces of an impending American attack. Her effort helped the British to stop the U.S. invaders at Beaver Dams, and 47 years later Edward VII rewarded her with £100. What does this have to do with chocolate? Nothing, except that Frank O’Connor decided to capitalize on her fame when he founded his candy company in Toronto in 1913. Six years later, he expanded his operation south of the border, but since the name Laura Secord wasn’t recognizable to American ears, he chose another famous name, Fanny Farmer, after the culinary expert who was famous for her cookbooks.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
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Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
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To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
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During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
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David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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