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15 Famous Filmmakers Who Never Won Best Director Academy Awards

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These filmmakers directed movies you love—but they never took home Best Directing Oscars for them.

1. Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick was nominated for Best Director four times throughout his career, for the films Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon. Though he never won an award for directing, he did take home one Oscar: Best Special Visual Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey. And according to visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull, who worked on the film with Kubrick, it was an award the filmmaker didn't deserve. "Kubrick did not create the visual effects. He directed them," Trumbull toldThe Hollywood Reporter. "There was a certain level of inappropriateness to taking that Oscar. But the tragic aspect of it for me is it's the only Oscar Stanley Kubrick ever won. He was an incredibly gifted director and should have gotten something for directing and writing and what his real strength was—not special effects."

2. Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock got his first Best Director nomination for 1940's Rebecca. The movie won the Oscar for Outstanding Production (now called Best Picture), but Hitchcock went home empty-handed because the rules of the day gave the award to the production company, Selznick International Pictures. Hitchcock would later earn nominations for Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window, and Psycho, but he lost each and every time. The filmmaker would eventually be honored by The Academy when it gave him the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for "creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production" in 1968. Hitchcock accepted the award and simply said, "Thank you ... very much indeed."

3. Orson Welles

Though Citizen Kane is considered one of the greatest films of all time, Orson Welles lost the 1941 Best Director Oscar to John Ford and How Green Was My Valley. But he didn't go home entirely empty-handed: He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, along with Herman J. Mankiewicz, for the film. (That statuette would be auctioned off in 2011, amid much controversy.)

Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons was nominated the following year for Outstanding Picture, but lost out to Mrs. Miniver. In 1971, Welles received the Academy Honorary Award for "superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures."

4. Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet was nominated for Best Director for his very first feature film, 1957's 12 Angry Men. Sadly, he lost out to David Lean for The Bridge on the River Kwai. Though the director would be nominated four more times in his career—for Dog Day Afternoon, NetworkThe Verdict, and a writing nomination for Prince of the City—he never won. Lumet did receive an Honorary Academy Award in 2005, but in 2009, the filmmaker told Vanity Fair that yes, he was annoyed that he'd never actually won one. "[A]nyone who says it doesn’t matter is talking bull****,” he said. “Of course it matters! First of all, the difference between winning and losing can be $3 or $4 million on your next fee. So let’s start with that. And maybe this is a very subjective reaction, but it seems to me that I’ve always lost to crap.”

5. Charlie Chaplin

Although he was considered one of the most iconic and influential filmmakers of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin didn't receive a real nomination from his peers until he was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture for 1940's The Great Dictator. Chaplin—who also directed The Great Dictator—never received a single nomination for Best Director.

The filmmaker did receive an Honorary Academy Award for "versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus" in 1929 (the Oscar was stolen from the offices of the Association Chaplin just last month), and another Honorary Oscar for "the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures, the art form of this century" in 1972. He received an Oscar for Best Score for Limelight in 1973, despite its original release in 1952. Academy rules state that a film can’t be considered for an award until it’s played in a theater in Los Angeles County. Limelight only played in a few east coast cities before it was blacklisted, so it first played in LA (and was first eligible) in 1972.

6. Robert Altman

Robert Altman was nominated for Best Director five times for M*A*S*H*, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park—but he never won. "They'll never give me an Oscar," he told Total Film in 2004. "And I sincerely, honestly don't care. I always turn up when I'm nominated and it would be nice to get one, but to win one would be bad luck. It comes with too much expectation. It would be the end." But the Academy did, eventually, give Altman an Oscar: In 2006, just months before his death, he received the Honorary Oscar for his long and impressive career as a Hollywood filmmaker. 

7. Ingmar Bergman

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was nominated for the Best Director Oscar three times during his career. The first nomination came in 1974, for Cries and Whispers; Bergman lost to George Roy Hill for The Sting. Three years later, Bergman was nominated for Face to Face, but Rocky's John G. Avildsen received the Best Director Oscar instead. Finally, Bergman was nominated for his three-hour family drama Fanny & Alexander in 1984, but James L. Brooks took the prize for Terms of Endearment.

Bergman did, however, have three films win Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film for The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly, and Fanny & Alexander. He also received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for filmmakers "whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production." Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann accepted the award on his behalf because Bergman didn't attend the ceremony in 1970.

8. Arthur Penn

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American director Arthur Penn is considered one of the key filmmakers of the New Hollywood era during the 1960s. With movies such as The Chase, Bonnie & Clyde, and Alice's Restaurant, Penn (along with other directors like Sam Peckinpah, William Friedkin, and Mike Nichols) radically changed the face of Hollywood movie-making with an added emphasis on realism with sex and violence in movies.

During the '60s, Penn was nominated for Best Director three times: First for 1962's The Miracle Worker (he lost the award to David Lean and Lawrence of Arabia), then for Bonnie & Clyde in 1968 (Mike Nichols took home the statue for The Graduate). Two years later, in 1970, Penn was nominated for Alice's Restaurant, but lost to John Schlesinger and Midnight Cowboy.

9. Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks was responsible for iconic screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday in the '30s and '40s. He was only nominated for Best Director once, for 1941's Sergeant York. Hawks lost to John Ford and How Green Was My Valley. In 1975, Hawks was awarded an Honorary Oscar for "a master American filmmaker whose creative efforts hold a distinguished place in world cinema." He died two years later.

10. Sergio Leone

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Celebrated Italian director Sergio Leone is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of the Western genre. During his 25-year career, Leone never received a single Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Though his final film, Once Upon A Time in America, got him directing nods from the Golden Globes and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominations, it failed to gain any recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  

11. David Lynch

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Although he has been nominated three times for Best Director, David Lynch has yet to win an Academy Award. He was first nominated for The Elephant Man in 1981, but lost out to Robert Redford for Ordinary People. Six years later, he was nominated again for Blue Velvet, but lost to Oliver Stone for Platoon. It would take 15 years for David Lynch to earn another Academy Award nomination for Mulholland Drive in 2002, but he lost that Oscar to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind.

12. David Fincher

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David Fincher has been nominated for Best Director twice: In 2009, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (he lost the Oscar to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire) and in 2011 for The Social Network (which went to Tom Hooper for The King's Speech instead). When a movie is celebrated in whatever way, I think it’s bad form not to engage in some way, because people shower you with goodwill. It seems only polite to acknowledge it and be thankful for it,” Fincher told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. He said he found the campaigning around Oscar season to be “a cosmic drain ... you have to be on your best behavior. Every little weird facial tic that you may already have is now going to come under weird scrutiny on f***ing YouTube.”

13. Akira Kurosawa

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's movies are a huge influence on American filmmakers: His films, including The Hidden Fortress, Ran, Seven Samurai, and Rashomon, have inspired the likes of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola. But even though he's one of the most celebrated Japanese directors in the West, Akira Kurosawa has never won an Oscar for Best Director; he was only nominated once, for Ran in 1985. Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior) and Dodes'ka-den were nominated for Best Foreign Language Film; Dersu Uzala won the award in 1976. Rashomon received an Honorary Academy Award for Outstanding Foreign Language Film in 1952, before the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was established. In 1990, Lucas and Spielberg presented Kurosawa a Lifetime Achievement Oscar during the 62nd Academy Awards.

14. Federico Fellini

Despite four Academy Award nominations for Best Director during his 40-year career, Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini never won the golden statuette. Fellini was first nominated for 1961's La Dolce Vita, but lost to Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for West Side Story. He was nominated again two years later for 8 1/2, losing to Tony Richardson for Tom Jones. He was nominated two more times—for Satyricon in 1971 and Amarcord in 1976—but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences didn't award him with an Oscar. But he did take home some trophies: Fellini received four Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film for La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, 8 1/2, and Amarcord (weirdly, in 1975). He also received a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award in 1993.

15. Quentin Tarantino

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Quentin Tarantino picked up his first Best Director nomination—and loss—for Pulp Fiction; the Oscar went to Robert Zemeckis for Forrest Gump instead. Fifteen years later, in 2010, Tarantino was nominated for Inglourious Basterds, but he lost the Academy Award to Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. But he's probably not all that cut up about those losses; after all, Tarantino does have two Best Original Screenplay Oscars for Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained.

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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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