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Paramount Home Video

13 Devilish Facts About Rosemary’s Baby

Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

In the late 1960s, a B-movie producer, a filmmaker untested in America, and a TV star untested on the big screen got together to make a horror movie. They produced a classic.

Rosemary’s Baby is a kind of godmother to all of the Satan-themed horror films that followed it, from The Exorcist to The Omen to The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It’s scary yet elegant, eerie yet oddly romantic, horrifying yet beautiful in its design. It’s the product of a meticulous director who went over his shooting schedule, a young star who persevered even in the midst of a divorce, and a cast and crew who may have ultimately suffered a curse for their part in it.

As the film nears its 50th anniversary, here are 13 facts about Rosemary’s Baby.

1. WILLIAM CASTLE ORIGINALLY WANTED TO DIRECT IT.

Even before Ira Levin’s novel hit bookstores, Rosemary’s Baby became a hot property in Hollywood. The galleys of the novel caught the eye of director/producer William Castle, best known for B-movie horror films like The Tingler and House On Haunted Hill. Castle, eager to make a prestigious film, snapped up the rights to the book, and sought a deal with Paramount Pictures to get the film made. Producer Robert Evans also saw potential in the novel and agreed to adapt it for the screen, but insisted that Castle only work on the film as a producer. Castle, who’d hoped to direct the film himself, reluctantly agreed.

“It was too good for Bill Castle,” Evans later said

Evans ultimately decided on Roman Polanski, who made his American debut with the film, to direct Rosemary’s Baby.

2. ROMAN POLANSKI MADE ONE VERY SIGNIFICANT STORYTELLING DECISION.

Roman Polanski and Sharon State attend the premiere of 'Rosemary's Baby.'
William Milsom/Evening Standard/Getty Images

When Evans offered him the film, Polanski was immediately engaged by Levin’s novel, and decided to write the screenplay himself. He had little difficultly, but as an agnostic, there was one particular aspect he wanted to remain intact onscreen: ambiguity. He set out to tell a story where, in theory, you could perceive everything that happened to Rosemary as something she was imagining.

“Being an agnostic, however, I no more believed in Satan as evil incarnate than I believed in a personal god; the whole idea conflicted with my rational view of the world,” Polanski later said. “For credibility's sake, I decided that there would have to be a loophole: the possibility that Rosemary's supernatural experiences were figments of her imagination. The entire story, as seen through her eyes, could have been a chain of only superficially sinister coincidences, a product of her feverish fancies ... That is why a thread of deliberate ambiguity runs throughout the film.”

3. IRA LEVIN MADE DRAWINGS OF THE BRAMFORD APARTMENTS.

Prior to shooting Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski gathered the cast for rehearsals on soundstages, complete with taped-off layouts of each apartment (the interiors were all shot on constructed sets) to give the actors an idea of how their movements would work within the eventual sets. Helping that process along was Levin himself, who provided detailed layouts of the apartments.

4. POLANSKI MADE SKETCHES TO CHOOSE THE SUPPORTING CAST.

Ruth Gordon in 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Paramount Home Video

When it came time to choose the supporting cast, Polanski did something a little unorthodox: He drew them. Feeling that each resident of the Bramford needed a very particular look, he felt that it would actually be easier if he simply showed those looks to the Paramount casting director. So, he made sketches of each Bramford resident and turned them over to the studios. That’s how actors like Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer made their way into the film.

5. ROBERT REDFORD WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR GUY WOODHOUSE. 

In casting Rosemary’s Baby, Evans and Polanski didn’t always agree from the start, so several different incarnations of the cast were possible. They did, however, agree that Robert Redford would be perfect for the role of Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary’s ambitious actor husband. Unfortunately, Paramount and Redford were locked in a contractual dispute at the time, so he wasn’t available. So the studio went searching, and other choices included Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain, James Fox, Laurence Harvey, and Jack Nicholson (who actually tested for the role). Ultimately, Polanski decided on John Cassavetes, a talented filmmaker he was already familiar with.

6. MIA FARROW WAS NOT POLANSKI’S FIRST CHOICE FOR ROSEMARY.

Mia Farrow on the set of 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For the role of Rosemary Woodhouse, Polanski set out to find an “All-American” actress. His choice was Tuesday Weld, then known for her work in films like The Cincinnati Kid. Evans and Castle had a different idea: Mia Farrow, then best-known for the TV series Peyton Place. After auditioning a few actresses, Polanski ended up agreeing that Farrow was right for the role.

“Mia was a little left-of-center. That’s the reason we wanted her,” Evans said. “She wasn’t just another pretty face.

“She had another dimension. And what she didn’t have, Roman got out of her.”

7. POLANSKI CLASHED WITH THE STUDIO DURING PRODUCTION.

Rosemary’s Baby was Polanski’s first American film, and his attention to detail ultimately created some problems with Paramount. According to Evans, the director fell behind his shooting schedule very quickly, to the point that Castle was calling and warning him that problems were ahead. Evans and Castle, according to Polanski, stood by their director, and it also didn’t hurt that the footage coming back from the film was impressive. In Polanski’s recollection, it took a fellow director—the great Otto Preminger (Laura, Anatomy of a Murder)—to convince him he had nothing to worry about. In a chance meeting on the Paramount lot, Polanski explained his schedule problems to the legend. Preminger asked him about the “rushes,” the raw footage screened for studio executives. When Polanski explained that Paramount seemed to love his footage, Preminger put him at ease.

“‘So what do you care?’ he says,” Polanski recalled. “‘They never fired anyone because of schedule, because of lagging behind, but if they don’t like the rushes, you’re out very soon.’ So, that was the case. They really liked the material very much.”

8. POLANSKI AND JOHN CASSAVETES CLASHED DURING PRODUCTION, TOO. 

John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow in 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images

John Cassavetes is still remembered as a titan of independent film, known for his freewheeling, improvisational productions like A Woman Under the Influence. Polanski is a different kind of director, known for his precision. Though Cassavetes was only working as an actor on Rosemary’s Baby, their respective filmmaking styles still clashed. According to Farrow, Cassavetes longed to improvise and let the moment carry him through the scene, while Polanski would be annoyed if an actor lifted a glass mere inches from where he imagined it to be. Though Polanski and Cassavetes knew each other, and apparently liked each other, prior to filming, their working relationship became a bit strained.

“John Cassavetes was not my best experience, I must say,” Polanski recalled.

9. FARROW REALLY WALKED OUT INTO NEW YORK TRAFFIC.

According to Farrow, Polanski’s directing style often involved him acting out the scenes himself to show the actors what he wanted, and this apparently had the effect of convincing Farrow to do a few outrageous things. For example, she ate raw liver on camera through several takes, even though she was a strict vegetarian. The most extreme instance of this, though, came during the sequence when Rosemary is attempting to flee the Bramford and walks out into traffic in an effort to quickly cross the street. This was not a carefully orchestrated sequence in which streets were blocked off and stunt drivers were employed. According to Farrow, she really did just simply walk out into a New York street and hoped the oncoming cars would stop. This was Polanski’s idea, and he assured Farrow that “Nobody will hit a pregnant woman.” He was right, and the scene was shot several times, with one caveat: Polanski himself had to operate the camera, because no one else dared to.

10. FRANK SINATRA FILED FOR DIVORCE FROM FARROW DURING PRODUCTION.

The wedding of Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow.
Keystone/Getty Images

At the time of Rosemary’s Baby’s production, Farrow was famous for two things: starring in Peyton Place and being married to legendary singer Frank Sinatra. When Farrow got the script for Rosemary’s Baby, she asked Sinatra to read it, and after he finished he turned to her and said “I can’t see you in it.” Farrow agreed to do the film anyway, but as Polanski’s shooting schedule stretched out it began to conflict with a planned role in Sinatra’s own film, The Detective. Farrow hoped she could make the schedules work and do both films, flying coast-to-coast in the process, but ultimately Rosemary won out, and Sinatra issued a demand that she choose between the movie or her husband. When she decided to finish Rosemary’s Baby, he sent his lawyer to the set to deliver divorce papers. Farrow signed them in “a blur of tears,” then continued shooting.

The incident created such tension that Sinatra and Evans didn’t speak for several years, to the point that Evans would call restaurants and ask if Sinatra was dining there before he decided to go. According to Farrow, she and Sinatra remained friends until his death in 1998.

11. WILLIAM CASTLE THOUGHT THE FILM WAS CURSED.

According to Farrow, actor Sidney Blackmer (who played coven leader Roman Castevet) once said on set “No good will come of all this ‘Hail Satan’ business,” and apparently he wasn’t the only one who thought so. William Castle later became convinced the film was cursed. Shortly after production he suffered gallstones to such a severe extent that he required surgery. As he recovered from that illness, Rosemary’s Baby composer Krzysztof Komeda suffered an accidental fall that led to a coma and, eventually, his death. Then, in the summer of 1969, actress Sharon Tate—Polanski’s wife—was infamously murdered by the Manson Family. For Castle, it all added up.

"The story of Rosemary's Baby was happening in real life. Witches, all of them, were casting their spell, and I was becoming one of the principal players,” he later recalled.

12. CASTLE MADE A CAMEO.

Castle initially wanted to direct Rosemary’s Baby himself, and had to settle for a producer’s role instead. He did also get to act a little in the film. When Rosemary goes to the phone booth to call Dr. Hill’s office, a man with a cigar comes up and waits outside. Because the paranoia level in the film is so intense at this point, the viewer initially wonders if the man is part of the conspiracy against Rosemary. Ultimately, he’s a man just waiting to use the phone. The man is Castle.

13. THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT SEQUELS.

Rosemary’s Baby was an instant hit, and the Satanism woven into its plot ultimately started a craze that led to other hits like The Omen and The Exorcist. So, naturally, a sequel was in the cards. In 1976 a made-for-TV movie titled Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby aired on ABC during the Halloween season. It stars Patty Duke as Rosemary, was directed by Rosemary’s Baby co-editor Sam O’Steen, and even features the return of Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet.

In 1997, Levin himself produced a sequel, a novel titled Son of Rosemary. The film was also remade as an NBC miniseries in 2014, starring Zoe Saldana as Rosemary.

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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iStock
The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
iStock
iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare

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