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20 Songs You Might Not Know Were Covers

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When a song becomes popular, sometimes people forget (or are unaware) that the new hit actually originated with another artist. The popular cover might be ahead of its time or re-arranged with a fresher, more modern take, but somehow it managed to find a bigger audience than the original. 

1. “Torn” — Natalie Imbruglia (1997) // Ednaswap (1995)

The Cover

The Original

In 1997, pop star Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” was a No. 1 hit throughout Europe, the United States, and her native Australia. But the song was first performed and recorded by Los Angeles-based alternative band Ednaswap for their 1995 self-titled debut.

A number of recording artists throughout the years have covered the song, but Imbruglia’s version is the most successful and popular iteration of the hit single, and it earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

2. “Don’t Turn Around” — Ace of Base (1994) // Tina Turner (1986)

The Cover

The Original

Swedish pop group Ace of Base released a hit single titled “Don’t Turn Around” in 1994. The song reached the #4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the pop group’s third hit song after “All That She Wants” and “The Sign.” Songwriters Diane Warren and Albert Hammond (of “It Never Rains in Southern California” fame) originally wrote “Don’t Turn Around” for Tina Turner and were disappointed when the record label relegated it to the B-side of the single “Typical Man” in 1986.

Neil Diamond also covered the song in 1992, but Ace of Base’s version is the most popular.

3. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” — Cyndi Lauper (1983) // Robert Hazard (1979)

The Cover

The Original

Cyndi Lauper’s first hit single as a solo artist, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983. Lauper was nominated for two Grammys for the song, including Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Performance. Self-proclaimed Country-Western fan Robert Hazard originally wrote and recorded “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” as a demo for his band Robert Hazard and the Heroes in 1979. (Hazard never released his version, though.)

4. “Tainted Love" — Soft Cell (1981) // Gloria Jones (1965)

The Cover

The Original

In 1965, American singer Gloria Jones recorded the original version of “Tainted Love” as the B-side to the single “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.” The song was a commercial failure, but gained a small cult following in underground British nightclubs in the late '70s. English synth-pop duo Soft Cell recorded a modern version of “Tainted Love” in 1981. Soft Cell’s version was a No. 1 hit in eight countries, while it reached the No. 8 spot in the United States in 1982.

5. “Respect” — Aretha Franklin (1967) // Otis Redding (1965)

The Cover

The Original

In 1965, Otis Redding wrote and recorded the song “Respect." Two years later, R&B singer Aretha Franklin popularized it, and the song became her signature. Both versions have the similar lyrics (though Franklin's added the "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" chorus to the song), but Franklin’s invokes female empowerment while Redding’s is a euphemism for sex. 

6. “I Love Rock 'n' Roll” — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1981) // Arrows (1975)

The Cover

The Original

Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker—the frontmen of the British rock band Arrows—wrote and recorded the anthem “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1975. The song got the band a TV appearance on the show 45, which eventually led to the band getting its own TV show based on their performance of the song. In 1976, while she was on tour in England with her band The Runaways, Joan Jett watched Arrows perform the song on their show.

Then, in 1981, Joan Jett recorded a version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” with her new band The Blackhearts. It became a No. 1 hit single in the United States for seven weeks and was certified platinum when it sold over one million units.

7. “Nothing Compares 2 U" — Sinead O’Connor (1990) // The Family (1985)

The Cover

The Original

Music icon Prince wrote and originally recorded the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” for his side project The Family in 1985. While the song received little recognition, Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor popularized it in 1990. O'Connor won three Moonmen Awards at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year, Best Female Video, and Best Post-Modern Video.

8. “Hey Joe” — The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966) // The Leaves (1965)

The Cover

The Original

While the authorship of the song “Hey Joe” is ambiguous and unclear, the earliest recording of the song dates to 1965, by the California-based garage band The Leaves.

“Hey Joe” was a modest hit for The Leaves, but it was The Jimi Hendrix Experience's first hit single overseas in 1966. It peaked at No. 6 on the U.K. Singles Chart in 1967, but it failed to gain any recognition in the United States. Over the years, the song became iconic; Rolling Stone placed it at #201 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

9. “It’s Oh So Quiet”— Björk (1995) // Betty Hutton (1951)

The Cover The Original

In 1995, Icelandic solo artist Björk released a cover song titled “It’s Oh So Quiet,” which American actress/singer Betty Hutton first recorded in 1951. The song was a B-side to Hutton’s single “Murder, He Says.”

“It’s Oh So Quiet” remains Björk’s biggest hit, peaking at the No. 4 spot in the United Kingdom. The song’s popularity was partly due to director Spike Jonze’s infectious music video that included large dance numbers and sweeping camera movements.

10. “Manic Monday” — The Bangles (1986) // Apollonia 6 (1984)

The Cover

The Original

Prince wrote “Manic Monday” for his female trio band Apollonia 6 for their self-titled debut in 1984. Ultimately, he pulled the song from the album and later offered it to the band The Bangles under the pseudonym “Christopher,” a character he played in the 1986 film Under the Cherry Moon. “Manic Monday” was a huge hit for The Bangles, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list—just behind Prince and the Revolution’s “Kiss.”

11. “Hound Dog” — Elvis Presley (1956) // Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (1953)

The Cover

The Original

Songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote “Hound Dog” for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1953. While Thornton’s original version was a No. 1 hit on the R&B charts for seven weeks, Elvis Presley’s iteration immediately became the most popular after its 1956 release. Presley’s version was a crossover success that spent 11 weeks on the top of country, pop, and R&B charts simultaneously. “Hound Dog” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

12. “Cum On Feel The Noize" — Quiet Riot (1983) // Slade (1973)

The Cover

The Original

In 1973, British glam rock band Slade released “Cum On Feel The Noize," which went straight to the top of the charts in the United Kingdom and Ireland and was a top 10 single throughout parts of Europe. Ten years later, American heavy metal band Quiet Riot recorded and popularized song in the United States. The single reached the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

13. “I Want Candy" — Bow Wow Wow (1982) // The Strangeloves (1965)

The Cover

The Original

American music producers Bert Berns, Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer recorded a bubblegum pop tune titled “I Want Candy” in 1965. Donning shaggy wigs and zebra-print vests, Feldman, Goldstein, and Gottehrer took it upon themselves to perform the song as the faux Australian pop trio The Strangeloves. In 1982, British New Wave band Bow Wow Wow released “I Want Candy,” with its music video receiving heavy airplay and rotation during the early days of MTV. Although Bow Wow Wow would have many admirers throughout the years, including Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt, this was the band’s only hit song in the U.S.

14. “I Think We’re Alone Now" — Tiffany (1987) // Tommy James and the Shondells (1967)

The Cover

The Original

In 1967, American songwriter Ritchie Cordell wrote the single “I Think We’re Alone Now” for the rock band Tommy James and the Shondells. The song was a hit, reaching the No. 4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty year later, “I Think We’re Alone Now” was popularized by teen recording artist Tiffany, whose version reached the top spot on Billboard’s list for two weeks. Its music video launched the then-16-year-old into pop music stardom. Interestingly, Tiffany's song was replaced at No. 1 by Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony,” another cover of a Tommy James and the Shondells single.

15. “When The Levee Breaks" — Led Zeppelin (1971) // Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie (1929)

The Cover

The Original

In 1971, British rock band Led Zeppelin re-arranged and popularized the song “When the Levee Breaks” for their fourth album, which is referred to as Led Zeppelin IV. Husband and wife singer-songwriters Kansas Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie originally recorded “When the Levee Breaks” as a blues song in 1929 about the Great Mississippi Flood that took place a few years earlier. But Led Zeppelin’s arena rock anthem became an iconic piece of music from the '70s, and the song would go on to be highly influential among rock bands and hip-hop artists since its release.

16. “Hard To Handle” — The Black Crowes (1990) // Otis Redding (1968)

The Cover

The Original

Posthumously released on the aptly titled “The Immortal Otis Redding” in 1968, “Hard To Handle” was a fitting single for a legendary musician. While the single only reached No. 38 on the R&B charts, a cover by the Georgia-based band The Black Crowes was their breakthrough single—it reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks in 1990.

17. “I Swear” — All-4-One (April 1994) // John Michael Montgomery (1993)

The Cover

The Original

American songwriters Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers wrote the love ballad “I Swear” for country music recording artist John Michael Montgomery, who released it in December 1993. The single reached the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart, and crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, hitting No. 42.

A few months later in April 1994, the R&B quartet All-4-One released their rendition of “I Swear,” which became a bigger hit than the original. Their version reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 and was certified Platinum by the end of 1994.

18. “Don’t Cha” — The Pussycat Dolls (April 2005) // Tori Alamaze (March 2005)

The Cover

The Original

In March 2005, recording artist Tori Alamaze released “Don’t Cha” as her debut single. When the song failed to gain mainstream attention, Universal Records dropped Alamaze from their label and the song’s producer CeeLo Green gave the song to the girl group The Pussycat Dolls.

Just one month later, The Pussycat Dolls released “Don’t Cha” as their debut single, and the song received positive reviews and reached No. 2 on Billboard. The Pussycat Dolls’ version went on to sell more than 6 million copies worldwide, while Alamaze was all but forgotten.

19. “The Tide Is High” — Blondie (1980) // The Paragons (1967)

The Cover

The Original

The Paragons were a Jamaican ska/rockstead band whose vocal harmonies were influenced by American soul and R&B groups. In 1967, they released a single called “The Tide is High,” written by band member John Holt. Thirteen years later, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein discovered the track on a reggae compilation album he’d bought in England. Blondie recorded it for their Autoamerican album, adding strings and a horn section (borrowed from Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show band). “The Tide is High” went on to become Blondie’s second No. 1 single.

20. “Black and White” — Three Dog Night (1972) // Greyhound (1971)

The Cover

The Original

“Black and White” was written in 1954 by David Arkin and Earl Robinson in response to the Brown vs The Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation in U.S. public schools. Several artists recorded the tune—Pete Seeger and Sammy Davis Jr. among them—but a British reggae group called Greyhound took it to the U.K. Top 10 in 1971. A year later, American band Three Dog Night recorded the song and topped both the Billboard pop and easy listening charts.

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25 Wonderful Facts About It’s a Wonderful Life
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Mary Owen wasn’t welcomed into the world until more than a decade after Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life made its premiere in 1946. But she grew up cherishing the film and getting the inside scoop on its making from its star, Donna Reed—who just so happens to be her mom. Though Reed passed away in 1986, Owen has stood as one of the film’s most dedicated historians, regularly introducing screenings of the ultimate holiday classic, including during its annual run at New York City’s IFC Center. She shared some of her mom’s memories with us to help reveal 25 things you might not have known about It’s a Wonderful Life.

1. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A CHRISTMAS CARD.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to shop his short story, The Greatest Gift, to publishers, Philip Van Doren Stern decided to give the gift of words to his closest friends for the holidays when he printed up 200 copies of the story and sent them out as a 21-page Christmas card. David Hempstead, a producer at RKO Pictures, ended up getting a hold of it, and purchased the movie rights for $10,000.

2. CARY GRANT WAS SET TO STAR IN THE ADAPTATION.

When RKO purchased the rights, they did so with the plan of having Cary Grant in the lead. But, as happens so often in Hollywood, the project went through some ups and downs in the development process. In 1945, after a number of rewrites, RKO sold the movie rights to Frank Capra, who quickly recruited Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey.

3. DOROTHY PARKER WORKED ON THE SCRIPT.


Getty Images

By the time It’s a Wonderful Life made it into theaters, the story was much different from Stern’s original tale. That’s because more than a half-dozen people contributed to the screenplay, including some of the most acclaimed writers of the time—Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo, Marc Connelly, and Clifford Odets among them.

4. SCREENWRITERS FRANCES GOODRICH AND ALBERT HACKETT WALKED OUT.

Though they’re credited as the film’s screenwriters with Capra, the husband and wife writing duo were not pleased with the treatment they received from Capra. “Frank Capra could be condescending,” Hackett said in an interview, “and you just didn't address Frances as ‘my dear woman.’ When we were pretty far along in the script but not done, our agent called and said, ‘Capra wants to know how soon you'll be finished.’ Frances said, ‘We're finished right now.’ We put our pens down and never went back to it.”

5. CAPRA DIDN’T DO THE BEST JOB OF SELLING THE FILM TO STEWART.

After laying out the plot line of the film for Stewart in a meeting, Capra realized that, “This really doesn’t sound so good, does it?” Stewart recalled in an interview. Stewart’s reply? “Frank: If you want me to be in a picture about a guy that wants to kill himself and an angel comes down named Clarence who can’t swim and I save him, when do we start?”

6. IT WAS DONNA REED’S FIRST STARRING ROLE.


Getty Images

Though Donna Reed was hardly a newcomer when It’s a Wonderful Life rolled around, having appeared in nearly 20 projects previously, the film did mark her first starring role. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role today, but Reed had some serious competition from Jean Arthur. “[Frank Capra] had seen mom in They Were Expendable and liked her,” Mary Owen told Mental Floss. “When Capra met my mother at MGM, he knew she'd be just right for Mary Bailey.”

7. MARY OWEN IS NOT NAMED AFTER MARY BAILEY.

Before you ask whether Owen was named after her mom’s much beloved It’s a Wonderful Life character, “The answer is no,” says Owen. “I was named after my great grandmother, Mary Mullenger.”

8. BEULAH BONDI WAS A PRO AT PLAYING STEWART’S MOM.

Beulah Bondi, who plays Mrs. Bailey, didn’t need a lot of rehearsal to play Jimmy Stewart’s mom. She had done it three times previously—in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, and Vivacious Lady—and once later on The Jimmy Stewart Show: The Identity Crisis.

9. CAPRA, REED, AND STEWART HAVE ALL CALLED IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE THEIR FAVORITE MOVIE.


Liberty Films

Though their collective filmographies consist of a couple hundred movies, Capra, Reed, and Stewart have all cited It’s a Wonderful Life as their favorite movie. In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, Capra took that praise even one step further, writing: “I thought it was the greatest film I ever made. Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made.”

10. THE MOVIE BOMBED AT THE BOX OFFICE.

Though it has become a quintessential American classic, It’s a Wonderful Life was not an immediate hit with audiences. In fact, it put Capra $525,000 in the hole, which left him scrambling to finance his production company’s next picture, State of the Union.

11. A COPYRIGHT LAPSE AIDED THE FILM’S POPULARITY.

Though it didn’t make much of a dent at the box office, It’s a Wonderful Life found a whole new life on television—particularly when its copyright lapsed in 1974, making it available royalty-free to anyone who wanted to show it for the next 20 years. (Which would explain why it was on television all the time during the holiday season.) The free-for-all ended in 1994.

12. THE ROCK THAT BROKE THE WINDOW OF THE GRANVILLE HOUSE WAS ALL REAL.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Though Capra had a stuntman at the ready in order to shoot out the window of the Granville House in a scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock through it, it was all a waste of money. “Mom threw the rock herself that broke the window in the Granville House,” Owen says. “On the first try.”

13. IT TOOK TWO MONTHS TO BUILD BEDFORD FALLS.

Shot on a budget of $3.7 million (which was a lot by mid-1940s standards), Bedford Falls—which covered a full four acres of RKO’s Encino Ranch—was one of the most elaborate movie sets ever built up to that time, with 75 stores and buildings, 20 fully-grown oak trees, factories, residential areas, and a 300-yard-long Main Street.

14. SENECA FALLS, NEW YORK IS “THE REAL BEDFORD FALLS.”

Though Bedford Falls is a fictitious place, the town of Seneca Falls, New York swears that it's the real-life inspiration for George Bailey’s charming hometown. And each year they program a full lineup of holiday-themed events to put locals (and yuletide visitors) into the holiday spirit.

15. THE GYM FLOOR-TURNED-SWIMMING POOL WAS REAL.

Though the bulk of the film was filmed on pre-built sets, the dance at the gym was filmed on location at Beverly Hills High School. And the retractable floor was no set piece. Better known as the Swim Gym, the school is currently in the process of restoring the landmark filming location.

16. ALFALFA IS THE TEENAGER BEHIND THAT SWIMMING POOL PRANK.

Though he’s uncredited in the part, if Freddie Othello—the little prankster who pushes the button that opens the pool that swallows George and Mary up—looks familiar, that’s because he is played by Carl Switzer, a.k.a. Alfalfa of The Little Rascals.

17. DONNA REED WON $50 FROM LIONEL BARRYMORE ... FOR MILKING A COW.

Though she was a Hollywood icon, Donna Reed—born Donnabelle Mullenger—was a farm girl at heart who came to Los Angeles by way of Denison, Iowa. Lionel Barrymore (a.k.a. Mr. Potter) didn’t believe it. “So he bet $50 that she couldn't milk a cow,” recalls Owen. “She said it was the easiest $50 she ever made.”

18. THE FILM WAS SHOT DURING A HEAT WAVE.

It may be an iconic Christmas movie, but It’s a Wonderful Life was actually shot in the summer of 1946—in the midst of a heat wave, no less. At one point, Capra had to shut filming down for a day because of the sky-high temperatures—which also explains why Stewart is clearly sweating in key moments of the film.

19. CAPRA ENGINEERED A NEW KIND OF MOVIE SNOW.

Capra—who trained as an engineer—and special effects supervisor Russell Shearman engineered a new type of artificial snow for the film. At the time, painted cornflakes were the most common form of fake snow, but they posed a bit of an audio problem for Capra. So he and Shearman opted to mix foamite (the stuff you find in fire extinguishers) with sugar and water to create a less noisy option.

20. THE MOVIE WASN’T REQUIRED VIEWING IN REED’S HOUSEHOLD.

Though It’s a Wonderful Life is a staple of many family holiday movie marathons, that wasn’t the case in Reed’s home. In fact, Owen herself didn’t see the film until three decades after its release. “I saw it in the late 1970s at the Nuart Theatre in L.A. and loved it,” she says.

21. ZUZU DIDN’T SEE THE FILM UNTIL 1980.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the film, didn’t see the film until 1980. “I never took the time to see the movie,” she told Detroit’s WWJ in 2013. “I never just sat down and watched the film.”

22. THE FBI SAW THE FILM. THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT.

In 1947, the FBI issued a memo noting the film as a potential “Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry,” citing its “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.”

23. THE MOVIE’S BERT AND ERNIE HAVE NO RELATION TO SESAME STREET.

Yes, the cop and cab driver in It’s a Wonderful Life are named Bert and Ernie, respectively. But Jim Henson’s longtime writing partner, Jerry Juhl, insists that it’s by coincidence only that they share their names with Sesame Street’s stripe-shirted buds. “I was the head writer for the Muppets for 36 years and one of the original writers on Sesame Street,” Juhl told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “The rumor about It's a Wonderful Life has persisted over the years. I was not present at the naming, but I was always positive [the rumor] was incorrect. Despite his many talents, Jim had no memory for details like this. He knew the movie, of course, but would not have remembered the cop and the cab driver. I was not able to confirm this with Jim before he died, but shortly thereafter I spoke to Jon Stone, Sesame Street's first producer and head writer and a man largely responsible for the show's format … He assured me that Ernie and Bert were named one day when he and Jim were studying the prototype puppets. They decided that one of them looked like an Ernie, and the other one looked like a Bert. The movie character names are purely coincidental.”

24. SOME PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS FOR A SEQUEL.

Well, two people: Producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth, who announced in 2013 that they would be continuing the story with a sequel, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story, which they planned for a 2015 release. It didn’t take long for Paramount, which owns the copyright, to step in and assure furious fans of the original film that “No project relating to It’s a Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”

25. THE FILM’S ENDURING LEGACY WAS SURPRISING TO CAPRA.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen," Capra said of the film’s classic status. "The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

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13 Enchanting Facts About Moonstruck
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Cher’s career made her more famous for singing than acting, but 30 years ago—on December 16, 1987—Moonstruck arrived in theaters and transformed her into a full-fledged movie star. (She even won the Best Actress Oscar for her spellbinding performance a few months later.) Cher plays Loretta Castorini, a widow living with her Sicilian family in Brooklyn. Despite being superstitious about love, she agrees to marry Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), that is until she meets his jaded brother (Nic Cage), goes to see La bohème with him, and realizes “I love him awful.”

Director Norman Jewison referred to the movie as “an operatic multi-generational romantic comedy,” which is one reason the movie grossed an impressive $91,640,528 and won three Oscars, including ones for Olympia Dukakis and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley. Here are 13 moony facts about the movie.

1. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS THE BRIDE AND THE WOLF.

An earlier draft of Shanley’s script had it named The Bride and the Wolf, but the title perplexed Jewison. “I said, ‘The Bride and the Wolf? It sounds like a horror film,’” he revealed to the DGA. “So we had a big battle about that and it ended up being called Moonstruck because I convinced [Shanley] it’s about the moon. Everybody’s talking about the moon. The father’s talking about the moon, the full moon. We keep shooting the moon. It should be called something. What is it? She’s moonstruck. That’s a good title. So we called it Moonstruck.”

It should be noted the definition of moonstruck means “mentally deranged, supposedly by the influence of the moon; crazed dreamily romantic or bemused.”

2. JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY BASED THE STYLIZED DIALOGUE ON REAL PEOPLE.

Shanley admitted to Bomb Magazine that Moonstruck’s language has a certain affectation and poetry to it. “I remember somebody saying, ‘People don’t talk that way, but if he talks that way in the movie you buy it,’” the playwright said. “There’s truth and not truth in that. I said, ‘Well, it’s not the way all people talk, but I was on the train and I heard two women talking and they were talking in the exact style of Moonstruck.’ I said, ‘Well, you know, I chose that.’ And that’s what style is all about. It’s just making a choice about which of the many things, many aspects, you’re going to choose to go with for a whole picture or play.”

3. NICOLAS CAGE WANTED TO MAKE PUNK FILMS, NOT MOVIES LIKE MOONSTRUCK.

Nicolas Cage in 'Moonstruck' (1987)
MGM

When Cage was in his early 20s, he “wanted to make the kind of movies that are essentially punk gestures,” he told The Baltimore Sun. “I read the screenplay to Moonstruck and thought, ‘I would never pay money to see this film!’ But my agent insisted I do it, practically forced me to do it. When I saw the finished film I didn’t know what in the world to make of it. That was my era of wanting to make new-wave, alternative films.”

His follow-up film, Vampire’s Kiss, was completely different from Moonstruck (for instance, Cage eats a live cockroach). “I was in such a state of shock that I had made a sweet, romantic movie I had to go and do Vampire's Kiss right after,” he told The New York Times.

4. CHER WAS AFRAID TO TAKE ON LORETTA.

In 1987, Cher wasn’t new to the acting world—she had been nominated for an Oscar in 1984, for Silkwood—but she was worried fans still wouldn’t take her seriously as an actress. A few months before Moonstruck was released, The Witches of Eastwick and Suspect came out, so she was in demand. “It wasn’t like Mask, which I felt I just had to do,” she told the Los Angeles Times. "I was a little frightened because there seemed to be all kinds of possibilities and all kinds of risks here. I wondered if, at this point in my career when there might be some people out there interested in seeing my movies, they would accept me in this role.”

5. DUKAKIS AND CHER DIDN’T THINK THE MOVIE WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Dukakis confessed she didn’t think the movie would be a hit. “As a matter of fact, one day we were sitting around talking, and somebody asked Cher what she thought was going to happen, and she gave it the thumbs-down,” the actress said. “Nobody really expected too much out of it. And then look what happened. And that’s because we were all stupid and didn’t understand what Norman Jewison was really doing. The guy’s incredible, you know?”

6. NORMAN JEWISON KNEW THE MOVIE WOULD WIN OSCARS.

In the same interview with The A.V. Club, Dukakis said she knew the movie was a big deal when she went with Jewison to a benefit in Canada where he screened the film. “And he said, ‘You know, you’re gonna get an Academy Award for this.’ I looked at him like he was stark-raving mad. I thought, ‘This little movie and that little Italian lady are gonna get an award?’ I said, ‘You really think so?’ He said, ‘Yeah!’ I thought, ‘He’s just being nice because I came up here to do the benefit for him. He thinks he has to say something nice to me.’ And then all that happened. It was just amazing. The writer got it, I got it, and then Jewison didn’t get it. Can you imagine?”

7. MOONSTRUCK CHANGED OLYMPIA DUKAKIS’S LIFE FOR THE BETTER.

By the time Moonstruck came around for her, the then 55-year-old had mostly made a name for herself in theater. But when she landed the role as Cher’s mother, Rose Castorini, and ended up winning Best Supporting Actress (and saying the line, “your life is going down the toilet,” something her mother said to her once), she became famous.

“It’s like somebody said ‘Look, she waited all these years, let’s give her something good,’” she said on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. “And it was incredible. And that changed my whole life. My daughter was going to college on credit cards when I did that movie. After that, we were able to send our children to college with no problems.”

8. CHER ENJOYED PLAYING THE "BEFORE" LORETTA MORE THAN THE "AFTER" LORETTA.

The “before” Loretta entails the gray-haired widow and the “after” is when she falls for Ronny. “But I much prefer playing her ‘before’ than ‘after,’” Cher told the Los Angeles Times. “The freedom is not interesting to me because that’s something I know, usually. Yet I don’t think of her as being constrained, exactly. My idea was to play her more as bossy and controlled.”

9. THE GRANDFATHER RELEASED TENSION FROM A SCENE.

During shooting of the climax, cast members lost their cool because they couldn’t get the timing right. According to The New York Times, Jewison said Cage threw a chair at another actor, and Cher was threatening to report Jewison to the Screen Actors Guild for keeping them through lunch. Feodor Chaliapin Jr., who played Cher’s grandfather, walked into the room and told them to “calma, calma, calma” and, “This is a Feydeau farce, and in a Feydeau farce we pull everything together in the last scene.” After he said that the rest of the cast behaved themselves and finished the scene.

10. CHER USED SONNY BONO’S FAMILY AS A REFERENCE POINT.

A still from Moonstruck (1987)
MGM

Cher, who is part Armenian and part Cherokee, didn’t know how Italian families worked. “I didn’t come from that kind of family. I really didn’t relate exactly to it, but I had a sense of it, like a distant sense of it,” she told Good Morning America. “Not like something that you can relate to first hand. I’ve known some families like that and I got feelings of it. After a while I thought I might be able to do this.”

But her Moonstruck family reminded her of her ex-husband’s family. “It kind of reminded me of Sonny’s family,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “Everybody eating and talking and shouting—but you have such good times.”

11. CAGE WASN’T ALLOWED TO SPEAK LIKE A WOLF.

Going along with the wolf theme, Cage said he desired to speak like Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast. “He had that accent and his voice was very gravelly—and I thought of my character in Moonstruck like a wolf who spoke with a growl,” Cage said. “And so I was talking like that in the movie and I got a call from the director, Norman Jewison, and he said, ‘Nicolas, the dailies aren’t working.’ And then I started hearing names of other actors and I thought I was going to get fired. I had to quickly drop the Jean Marais.”

12. DANNY AIELLO HATED THE MOVIE.

On the Diane Rehm radio show, Aiello, who played Loretta’s fiancé and Ronny’s brother, told the host he “couldn’t stand the character I played.” He continued, “Norman Jewison, the director, when I told him, he said, ‘Are you crazy? You’re wonderful.’ But in my neighborhood you can’t play a wimp on the screen. You know, people didn’t even know me as an actor, but to see me as they didn’t know me, was troubling in the area where I live. So it did adversely affect me at first. All I know is that I was stupid looking on the screen.”

Aiello also felt Cher should’ve picked him over Cage. “I said, ‘Do you think Nicky Cage is going to get a woman what I have?’ I said, ‘That's not going to happen.’ I said, ‘Cher would be with me from the beginning.’” Despite not liking the role, it earned him more money and “it elevated a lot of other parts for me in comedic situations and so forth,” he said.

13. THE MOVIE MADE CAMMARERI BROS. BAKERY WORLD FAMOUS.

Ronny works at the Brooklyn bakery, and even though the bakery is only featured in a couple of scenes, it caused tourists to flock to the place after the movie was released. One of the owners, Gilberto Godoy, used to sign his autograph on bread bags, as he played a baker in the film. Jewison told The New York Times, “Whenever I can, I like to cast people who do the same job in real life,” and he picked that particular bakery because “It has one of the few coal-fired ovens left in the city,” he said. “Heat and humidity are always there. And bread is always rising, and there is an incredible smell. It helps the actors to be in a real environment.”

Godoy refused to close the bakery for the filming—he had a quota of 5,000 loaves a day to meet—so for three days he worked around the cast and crew. “It was hysterical,” Jewison said. “We had trucks, lights, cameras, Cher—and the poor guy was still baking.” The cast and crew did benefit from complimentary breads, though.

The tourists kept the bakery afloat until 1998, when the bakery briefly closed. It eventually moved into a different location and reopened. But in 2013 the 92-year-old bakery filed for bankruptcy.

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