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20th Century Fox

10 Unsinkable Facts About Titanic

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Titanic is one of those rare movies that wasn’t just a hit—it was a phenomenon. It won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, and made mega-stars out of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. But here are a few things you might not know about one of the second highest-grossing film in Hollywood history, which was released in theaters 20 years ago today.

1. THE FILM'S MOST ICONIC LINE WAS IMPROVISED.

When Leonardo DiCaprio first got up on the end of the ship, he improvised the line “I'm the king of the world!” Cameron liked the line so much that he kept it in the movie. Though the line would go on to be parodied countless times—including at the Oscars—it landed at #100 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest movie quotes.

2. JACK DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE.

One question that has plagued Cameron for the past 20 years is: Did Jack really have to die? In an episode of MythBusters that examined whether both Jack and Rose could have stayed on the wooden beam without it sinking, Cameron himself came on the show to admit that the movie's dramatic ending depended on Jack dying. “If [he] lives, the movie makes a tenth as much,” quipped Cameron.

In November of this year, Cameron was still being grilled about it. Though he repeated that the decision to kill Jack was “an artistic choice,” as the movie “is about death and separation” in an interview with Vanity Fair, he still defended the means, saying he tested the floating board prop itself to gauge its buoyancy.

3. TITANIC WON 11 OSCARS—BUT NONE OF THEM FOR ACTING.

Although 87-year-old Gloria Stuart (Old Rose) was considered a lock for the Best Supporting Actress trophy, she lost to Kim Basinger for L.A. Confidential. Winslet was nominated for Best Actress but lost to Helen Hunt for As Good as It Gets. It would take Winslet another five nominations before she’d take home a statue (for The Reader in 2009).

4. KATE WINSLET LEARNED SHE HAD LANDED THE PART OF ROSE WHILE SHE WAS WEARING A STRAITJACKET.

The day Winslet learned she had landed her star-making role, she was in England filming Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh. After getting off the phone with her agent, she then went to work, which meant wearing a straitjacket to film Ophelia's famous breakdown scene.

5. A NAKED DRAWING OF WINSLET SOLD FOR THOUSANDS.

Kate Winslet in 'Titanic' (1997)
Paramount Pictures

In 2011, a company called Premiere Props auctioned off one of the movie's most iconic pieces of memorabilia: one of the drawings Jack made of Rose, who is wearing nothing but the Heart of the Ocean necklace. Although the identity of the buyer and the final price were not released publicly, the highest known bid was $16,000. The drawing was done by Cameron, not DiCaprio.

6. THE FREEZING COLD WATER WASN'T COLD AT ALL.

“The water in the tank was about 80 degrees, so it was really like a pool,” James Cameron explained of the filming of the water scenes. “All of the cold, frigid water was added later.”

7. A FAMOUS REAL COUPLE GETS A SMALL CAMEO IN THE MOVIE.

Ida and Isidor Straus, who founded Macy's, were on the Titanic and died together on the ship. They get a brief, unidentified cameo in the film as the elderly couple lying in bed together as the water washes over them. They are named in the film's credits, though: Lew Palter and Elsa Raven portrayed them.

8. AN ALTERNATE ENDING WAS FILMED.

An alternate ending of the movie was filmed in which Bill Paxton’s character finally does get to hold the Heart of the Ocean necklace in his hand, and Stuart’s character gives him a speech about making every day count.

9. NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON MADE AN IMPORTANT CHANGE TO THE MOVIE.

The noted astrophysicist didn’t see Titanic until years after it was released, but he took issue with the scene where Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and looking up at the sky. He sent James Cameron “quite a snarky email” (Cameron’s description) explaining that the star field Rose saw in the movie isn't the one she would have seen in real life at that place and time. Cameron—ever the perfectionist—re-shot the scene for the 3-D edition of the movie.

10. THE FILM SET A NON-BOX OFFICE RECORD.

Because it remained in cinemas for so long, Titanic was the first movie ever released on VHS while it was still playing in theaters. Its popularity was so massive, with people lining up for repeat viewings, that some theaters reportedly had to get new film reels to replace the ones they’d worn out.

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How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
STF/AFP/Getty Images
STF/AFP/Getty Images

Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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