10 Marvelous Facts About The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Sarah Shatz, Amazon Studios
Sarah Shatz, Amazon Studios

Miriam “Midge” Maisel has it all. Beauty, wit, a home that belongs in a magazine spread, and an alliterative name. Then she loses a major piece of the puzzle: her husband, who philanders and leaves her high and dry after sparking an interest in stand-up comedy in her. It’s on the stage that she finds success and herself, and it’s online that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has found similar success.

An effervescent comedy from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, the Rachel Brosnahan-starring series also tackles modern sexual politics with quick quips and antique flair. Here are 10 facts about the Amazon Studios series, which was just nominated for eight Emmy Awards.

1. THEY BORROWED AN HERB FROM ROSEMARY’S BABY.

Rachel Brosnahan in 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'
Nicole Rivelli, Amazon Studios

In an early episode, a fortune teller hands over a charm to Midge’s mom, Rose (Marin Hinkle), that includes tannis root, which is made up. Specifically, it was invented for the Roman Polanski horror film Rosemary’s Baby, which doesn’t involve comedy so much as it involves a New York City apartment complex filled with Satan worshippers.

2. SOME INITIAL ADVERTISING MADE A CONFUSING RELIGIOUS STATEMENT.

Amazon promos described Midge’s home as “an elegant Upper East Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner,” which may have confused potential Jewish fans since Yom Kippur is marked by fasting. There is a meal called a “Break-the-Fast,” and while the pilot episode of the show gets that right, the advertising does not.

3. AMY SHERMAN-PALLADINO’S FATHER WAS A COMIC IN THE 1950S.

The show opens in 1958, which required a healthy amount of research, but Sherman-Palladino had the inside track. Her father was Don Sherman, who started off in the Greenwich Village comedy scene. “I grew up with stand-up comedians hanging out in my house,” Sherman-Palladino told Variety. “Stand-up comedians either work a lot or they have a lot of time on their hands to hang around with each other eating deli and making each other laugh. It was like Broadway Danny Rose a lot of the time at my house.” She also dedicated an episode to her father.

4. RACHEL BROSNAHAN WAS TOLD REPEATEDLY THAT SHE WASN’T FUNNY.

Rachel Brosnahan and Wakeema Hollis in 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'
Nicole Rivelli, Amazon Studios

Up until she was cast as Midge, Rachel Brosnahan mostly played haunted-eyed girls in severe dramas (see: House of Cards). A lot of bad stuff happened to her characters. She also lost a lot of acting jobs because, while talented, casting directors didn’t think she was funny. “It happened enough times that there was a pattern,” Brosnahan told Glamour. “I thought, ‘Maybe I should listen to it.’ Now I’ve realized you can continue to learn things even when you’ve formed a really solid sense of self.” Now she’s an award-winning comedic actor. Not bad for someone who isn’t funny.

5. THE CREATOR KEEPS ASKING ACTORS IF THEY HAVE MORE HIDDEN TALENTS.

Beyond making a dramatic actor learn how to be a convincing stand-up comic, Sherman-Palladino continues to keep the actors on their toes. After wrapping the first season, Brosnahan got a text from Sherman-Palladino asking if she could ride a bike. Marin Hinkle got a text asking if she could speak French. They also made Brosnahan do something involving “a rolling chair and some choreography” that we’ll have to wait for season two to see. “Took a tumble, so I’m learning new skills,” Brosnahan said.

6. MIDGE IS A SALUTE TO JOAN RIVERS.

Midge is brimming with the same kind of pioneering spirit exemplified by early female comics like Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. Midge has a certain brashness that would resonate particularly with the latter. Brosnahan watched a lot of Rivers’s performances to prepare for the role, and even though their styles are somewhat different, their drive and tenacity in a male-dominated field is the same.

7. SHERMAN-PALLADINO WANTED TO MAKE A PERIOD PIECE BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T LIKE TECHNOLOGY.

The writer/producer is known for caffeine-powered dialogue that’s laced with pop culture references aplenty, but she’s not the biggest fan of modernity. Besides creating an homage to her father’s early career, mounting a mid-century series appealed to Sherman-Palladino because of its technological limitations. She relished “the opportunity to do any sort of show where I don’t have to think about Shapchat—I’m thrilled, delighted because I don’t understand technology. I just want to go back to a time where there wasn’t any,” she told Vanity Fair.

8. COFFEE IS ONE KEY TO THE CHARACTER.

How does one spew all those lines written by Sherman-Palladino? “It helps when you really love the project and the role,” Brosnahan told Harper's Bazaar. “But as we went on, it definitely involved digging pretty deep, and a lot of coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee.” The show’s scripts are 10 to 15 pages longer than the average television series.

9. BROSNAHAN GOT THE ROLE DESPITE BOMBING AN AUDITION AND GETTING APOCALYPTICALLY SICK.

After years of being told she wasn’t funny, Brosnahan almost missed the Mrs. Maisel boat, too. She thought she’d done horribly in her initial audition, and then she got sick just before a second chance test with Sherman-Palladino and executive producer Dan Palladino. She postponed the test to see if she’d get better, but she only got worse.

“I rallied, but I honestly was so sick during the camera test," Brosnahan admitted. "I was so sweaty Amy kept stopping me because I had to powder my face, I was blowing my nose, I took my shoes off at some point ... at best, that test was a beautiful disaster. But Midge is kind of a disaster sometimes.”

10. BROSNAHAN DOESN’T THINK OF MIDGE AS A FEMINIST.

Despite treading on traditionally male ground, Brosnahan doesn’t apply the feminist label to her character. Hers is more of a quiet, personal, subversive revolution. “What I love about Midge is that she is so not a feminist,” she told The New York Times. “She’s a creature of her time. What she is, is curious. She’s insatiable. If she doesn’t know things, she wants to know them. And she doesn’t know any other way than forward."

13 Great Rockumentaries Every Music (and Movie) Fan Should See

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

More people are watching documentaries these days, which likely means that more people are rocking their faces off with nonfiction. Far from Ken Burns’s soothing tones, these music-filled films demand amplification and an unseemly amount of perspiration.

Rock documentaries are tricky beasts. Though they often have the built-in advantage of following around famous people, they aren’t immune to boredom and eye-rolling faux depth. Keeping it simple by showcasing the music can be good, but it’s no way to be great. The best of the best manage to deliver a stellar soundscape, offer a backstage pass to the real humans who make it, and hold our ears even if we aren’t already devoted fans. If a little history gets made in the process, even better.

Grab a seat next to Penny Lane on the bus. Here are 13 of the best documentaries that every music—and film—fan should add to their Must Watch list.

1. WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.A. (1964)

A singular piece of filmmaking where nonfiction talent met transcendent musical genius on the threshold of gargantuan stardom, this is the best Beatles documentary ever produced. Directed by legendary documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the film captures the band’s first frivolous jaunt through America, where they raised the screaming decibel level in The Ed Sullivan Show theater and goofed off in hotel rooms. It’s an explosion of youth before they changed music forever.

2. DON’T LOOK BACK (1967)

Another marriage of style, skill, and subject, Don't Look Back helped shape how the rockumentary genre could provide insights into the people who shape our popular culture. That so many iconic moments emerged from D.A. Pennebaker’s watershed work, which strolled with Bob Dylan through England in 1965, is a testament to the legendary musician's infinite magnetism. The cue cards, singing with Joan Baez in a hotel room on the edge of breaking up, the Mississippi voter registration rally, and on and on. Since it portrayed fame’s effect on the artist, the art, and the audience, most every other rock doc has been chasing its brilliance.

3. GIMME SHELTER (1970)

The rockumentary has evolved to be as diverse as the sonic landscape itself, which is why Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping can send up the current scene just like This Is Spinal Tap! did in the 1980s. Still, 1970 feels like the year that defined the rockumentary. Another Maysles joint, this profound doc captured The Rolling Stones touring at a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world and only getting bigger. The music is powerful and immediate, and the film closes with their appearance at the Altamont Free Concert, which turned deadly when—after a day of skirmishes between concertgoers and the Hell’s Angels acting as security—a fan with a gun was stabbed to death when he tried to get on stage during “Under My Thumb.”

4. WOODSTOCK (1970)

The other 1970 film that helped define the genre allowed thousands to claim they’d been to the biggest concert event of the generation without actually going. If rock ‘n’ roll emerged from unruly teenage years into conflicted young adulthood in the 1960s, nothing stamped that image in henna ink better than Woodstock and the documentary that accompanied it. The bands that appear are legendary: Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Who; Joe Cocker singing The Beatles; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and many more. It’s a fly-by of the three days of peace and music that you could play on repeat with summery ease.

5. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973)

Rock doc royalty D.A. Pennebaker captured David Bowie’s final performance in his red-domed sci-fi persona at London's Hammersmith Odeon with a flair that captures the frenetic energy of the room. The crowd is as much a part of the moment as the band is, as the camera places you in the middle of a transitional moment in music history. To see Bowie that close up now is a wonder. And, naturally, the music is out of this world.

6. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)

Instead of following the famous, Penelope Spheeris’s debut dug its nails deep into the Los Angeles punk scene at the turn of the decade. Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and other bands your parents have never heard of perform mosh pit-sparking anthems and show off their living conditions like a grungy proto-version of MTV Cribs. There’s a purity here missing from most music docs—a chronicle of people whose passion far, far outweighs their paychecks, and a screening that led the LAPD to request that the movie never be shown in LA again.

7. SIGN "☮" THE TIMES (1987)

Having Prince at the center of your concert doc is a shortcut to ensuring it’s one of the best of all time. There’s the music, of course. Hits like “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look,” and Sheila E. beating the hell out of her drum kit. There’s also The Purple One's inexhaustible energy and stage presence. As a bonus, the film jumps between concert footage and (instead of candid hotel conversations) a sci-fi narrative where we get to go to Prince Planet. It’s a rocky, disorienting experience that could have only been held so tightly together by a master showman.

8. MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)

It might be hard to explain to a younger audience just how dominant Madonna was as an artist coming out of the 1980s or the kind of landmark event this film represented because of her status. The travelogue of her Blonde Ambition Tour was like peeking into the insane world of the ultra-famous—not least because Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at the time and part of the film involves her hanging out with Al Pacino, Lionel Richie, and more. There are threats that the Canadian police will arrest her for simulating masturbation in her show, the Pope trying to get the tour canceled in Italy, and a slightly awkward return home to see family. All par for the course for someone whose personal life was carved up for public consumption.

9. RHYME & REASON (1997)

An unparalleled look into the lyricism and lifestyle of rap musicians from the genre’s rise through its global domination of the 1990s, the concert and party footage is fantastic, and the number of interviews is staggering. Peter Spirer spoke with more than 80 rap and hip-hop artists to craft a snapshot of what life was like for a group of musicians who discovered their voices could echo across the world as well as those who followed after to even greater success. Instead of going deep on one person behind the music, it’s a historical document of the culture itself as seen through the eyes of those at its very center.

10. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2005)

For those who don’t know Daniel Johnston’s music, this doc is a crash course not only in its stripped-down, anti-folk vibes but the head it all comes spilling out of. Instead of romanticizing or ignoring his bipolar disorder, Jeff Feuerzeig’s movie engages with it directly, drawing beautiful gems from a troubled mind. An absolute masterpiece, it’s less a vision of a musician giving glimpses into his real life than it is a vision of a human being who makes music.

11. AWESOME; I F*CKIN’ SHOT THAT! (2006)

Rockumentaries follow two major formats: the raw concert doc that’s like a ticket to a show you couldn’t attend, and the profile where artists drop quotables in between performances. They’re safe and familiar, which is probably why the Beastie Boys gave both styles the middle finger in favor of a grand experiment. A year before YouTube launched, the rap trio gave 50 fans in their Madison Square Garden audience camcorders to capture the concert. The result is a genuine, fans’-eye-view of the experience, and a chaotic mashup of perspectives.

12. THE PUNK SINGER (2013)

It’s astonishing how much time and ground Sini Anderson’s portrait of Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna covers. It’s so much that labeling her Bikini Kill’s leader is woefully reductive. Artist, pioneer, feminist, activist, and a dozen other titles swirl around Hanna’s sweat-covered brow as we get to know her both as an artist and as a person. It’s also a punk fever dream of riot grrrl greatness, featuring incendiary archival footage and excellent talks with members of Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, and Julie Ruin, as well as Carrie Brownstein and the Beastie Boys’s Adam Horovitz (who is also Hanna’s husband).

13. JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015)

A fairly recent addition to the pantheon, Amy J. Berg’s doc is a stirring tour of archival footage of the gravel-throated songstress. Narrated by musician Cat Power, instead of losing perspective to the fog of history, a blend of modern conversations and ghosts from the past offer fresh eyes and ears to create a heartsick celebration of one of music history's most beloved artists, whose career was cut woefully short.

20 Memorable Elvis Presley Quotes

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a rock ‘n' roll icon and has yet to be ousted from his position as “The King.” Yet the Tupelo, Mississippi-born, Memphis, Tennessee-raised superstar never took his fame for granted, nor did he forget his roots. Here are 20 memorable quotes about Elvis’s life and legacy.

ON AMBITION

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

ON MAINTAINING YOUR VALUES

“It's not how much you have that makes people look up to you, it's who you are.”

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.”

“I've never written a song in my life. It's all a big hoax.”

“I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.”

ON THE ARMY

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

“The army teaches boys to think like men.”

ON TRUTH

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”

ON THOSE LEGENDARY DANCE MOVES

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.”

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.”

ON KEEPING POSITIVE

“When things go wrong, don't go with them.”

ON STARDOM

“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”

“The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.”

ON LOVE

“Sad thing is, you can still love someone and be wrong for them.”

ON THE PITFALLS OF HOLLYWOOD

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyer belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

ON GETTING OLDER

“Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”

ON LEAVING A LEGACY

“Do something worth remembering.”

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