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16 Illuminating Facts About Sixteen Candles

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Sixteen Candles was the first in John Hughes' series of iconic 1980s teen movies which depicted the unfairness of having to go through puberty while attempting to graduate high school with a bunch of other people experiencing the same exact thing. Hughes may have been a couple of decades past his high school years when he wrote the movie, but he managed to accurately capture the teen experience. Here are 16 things you might not know about the film, which was released 32 years ago today—making it officially twice as old as its protagonist.

1. HUGHES WAS INSPIRED BY MOLLY RINGWALD BEFORE HE EVEN MET HER.

After writing the screenplays for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes' agents at ICM gave him a stack of photos of young actors. "I was in that stack," Ringwald recalled to Entertainment Weekly in January. ''He flipped through and saw one he liked and put it on his bulletin board." Hughes, who was known for writing while chain-smoking and blaring music, wrote the Sixteen Candles script over a single Fourth of July weekend.

2. VIGGO MORTENSEN ALMOST GOT THE ROLE OF JAKE RYAN.

Mortensen and Ringwald kissed during the audition, which made the future The Lord of the Rings star Ringwald's pick to play her love interest. “He made me weak in the knees," she told Access Hollywood. "He really did.” When the two co-starred in the movie Fresh Horses, Mortensen told Ringwald that he always thought he didn’t get the job because of his kissing.

3. JAKE RYAN WAS 23 YEARS OLD.

Michael Schoeffling, who beat Mortensen out for the part of Jake, was 23 years old during filming, unlike Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, who were both 15. Though Sixteen Candles made him one of Hollywood’s most in-demand young stars, Schoeffling left the business completely following 1991’s Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. By most accounts, he moved to Virginia with his wife and kids, where he works as a carpenter. Haviland Morris, who played Jake's girlfriend Caroline, also left the business—sort of. Though she does still act on occasion, she works as a real estate agent in New York City.

4. HUGHES WROTE FARMER TED SPECIFICALLY FOR ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL.

Based on his performance in Vacation, Hughes felt that Hall would be perfect for “The Geek/Farmer Ted” character, so he wrote the role specifically for the young actor.

5. SKOKIE, ILLINOIS WASN’T FUN FOR RINGWALD AND HALL.

The two underage thespians had nothing to do when filming wrapped on weekends and some of their fellow castmates abandoned them to go to bars. At their Skokie hotel however, the two crashed a Bat Mitzvah to help pass the time.

6. LONG DUK DONG WAS PLAYED BY A 28-YEAR-OLD UTAH-BORN ACTOR WHO ONLY SPOKE ENGLISH.

Gedde Watanabe’s Japanese-American parents settled in Ogden, Utah. Watanabe went into his Long Duk Dong audition in character, borrowing the thick accent of his Korean friend. Watanabe eventually admitted to Hughes at the table read that the accent wasn’t real. While he was scared that he would be fired for the deception, Hughes simply laughed.

7. THE GONG NOISE WAS NOT IN THE SCRIPT.

Watanabe claimed that the sound effect was added in post-production, and quipped that “somebody must’ve had a few beers.” He was also surprised that his performance would be deemed racist by several Asian-American groups. "It took me a while to understand that," he told NPR. "In fact, I was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was accosted a couple of times by a couple of women who were just really irate and angry. They asked, 'How could you do a role like that?' But it's funny, too, because at the same time I laugh at the character. It's an odd animal."

8. JOHN AND JOAN CUSACK’S ROLES WERE ESSENTIALLY CONSOLATION PRIZES.

The Cusacks were initially prominently cast in The Breakfast Club, with John cast as Bender (eventually played by Judd Nelson) and Joan set to play Allison (Ally Sheedy.) But Universal thought Hughes’ other finished screenplay, Sixteen Candles, was more commercial, and therefore should be made first. With John as Farmer Ted’s buddy Bryce and Joan as Geek Girl #1, a.k.a. the girl in the neck brace, Sixteen Candles was the second of (currently) 10 movies in which the siblings have appeared in together.

9. THERE WERE MORE FAMOUS FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE FILM.

When Ginny, Sam’s sister whose pending marriage takes the attention away from Sam’s sixteenth birthday, sits down in the church scene, she does so next to John and Jim Belushi’s mother Agnes. The reverend is played by actor Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill’s older brother.

10. IT WAS ONE HOT SCHOOL DANCE.

The gym in which the school dance was filmed didn't have air conditioning due to a lack of funds, so it was over 100 degrees during the filming. The same goes for Sam’s bedroom, as the set was built inside the high school gymnasium. At least Ringwald got to decorate her character’s room with items from her own dwelling.

11. SOME OF THE LICENSE PLATE NUMBERS WERE EASTER EGGS.

Sam’s grandparents’ license plate read V 58 for “Vacation ‘58,” the National Lampoon Magazine story by John Hughes which led to the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. Jake Ryan’s Porsche had the plate number 21850, for John Hughes’ birthday of February 18, 1950. For what it’s worth, Molly Ringwald’s birthday is also February 18th.

12. JAKE’S FATHER’S ROLLS-ROYCE IS WORTH MORE THAN $66,000 TODAY.

The 1974 Corniche, which Farmer Ted uses to drive drunk Caroline Mulford home, was John Hughes’ father’s friend’s car. Naturally.

13. MOLLY RINGWALD’S MOTHER HAD A SAY IN THE SCRIPT.

In the initial script, Sam’s father ends his heart-to-heart with his daughter by flat out asking what happened to her underwear (she gave it to Farmer Ted.) Molly’s mother pointed out that it was weird for a girl’s father to ask that. Hughes agreed that it was creepy and changed the line.

14. A DELETED SCENE IS ONLY IN THE TELEVISED VERSION.

Not in the theatrical cut, the VHS copies, or even as a DVD extra, a scene set in the school cafeteria fills an additional minute of time.

15. THE BIRTHDAY CAKE AT THE END ISN’T WHAT IT SEEMS.

It turns out Jake is a bit of a cheapskate. The cake he gave Sam was made of cardboard.

16. MOLLY RINGWALD WAS INTERESTED IN DOING A SEQUEL.

After rejecting various pitches through the years, Ringwald said in 2005 that she read a 32 Candles script that she liked and had an interest in starring in. For better or worse, we still wait.

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Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in May
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Warner Bros. Entertainment

While Netflix has got plenty of laughs in store for its streaming customers next month, the loss of several contemporary classic films likes Goodfellas, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Hurt Locker means that if you’re in desperate need of a British rom-com fix or badass Scorsese crime drama fix, you’d better start streaming. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in May.

MAY 1

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Casper
Chappie
Charlotte’s Web
Field of Dreams
Goodfellas
Ocean’s Eleven
Sahara
Silent Hill
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Hurt Locker
To Rome With Love
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

MAY 2

12 Dates of Christmas
Beauty & the Briefcase
Cadet Kelly
Camp Rock
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Cow Belles
Cyberbully
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
Frenemies
Geek Charming
Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas
Hello Sister, Goodbye Life
High School Musical
High School Musical 2
Jump In!
Lemonade Mouth
Little Einsteins: Seasons 1 – 2
My Fake Fiancé
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Phineas and Ferb: Seasons 1 – 4
Princess Protection Program
Princess: A Modern Fairytale
Read It and Weep
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
Special Agent Oso: Seasons 1 – 2
StarStruck
Teen Spirit
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Seasons 1 – 5
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

MAY 7

The Host

MAY 12

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

MAY 30

Disney’s The Jungle Book

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