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12 Feathered Facts About 'Charlie's Angels'

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An all-female cast for a crime drama was practically unheard of when ABC premiered Charlie’s Angels on September 22, 1976. Would audiences tolerate a lack of testosterone in a television world inhabited by Erik Estrada?

They would, and in substantial numbers. By November, the show was seen by over half of all viewers watching television during its time slot, making stars out of Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith. Though the show would see regular cast changes throughout its five-year run, it never strayed from the formula: photogenic women caught up in private investigation cases provided by unseen benefactor Charlie Townsend. With its 40th anniversary around the corner, check out some facts about a proposed all-male spin-off, Farrah's abrupt exit, and how the Bionic Man affected their shooting schedule.

1. ABC HATED THE IDEA.   

ABC network executives Barry Diller and Michael Eisner were not at all sold on the premise of three female leads in an hour-long action series. When producer Aaron Spelling and partner Leonard Goldberg brought the project to them, they declared it “the worst idea we have ever heard.” Because Spelling had a deal from a previous television movie arrangement that guaranteed him $25,000 to script a new pilot, he convinced Eisner that they might as well get something for their money. Eisner agreed, and ABC commissioned a script.

2. THE ORIGINAL TITLE WAS THE ALLEY CATS.

Sony Pictures

The 1970s were a crucial decade for feminism, with women successfully putting forward the idea of gender equality. Which made it a bad time for a network to consider calling a female-led series The Alley Cats, which is what Spelling and Goldberg had originally proposed. Kate Jackson, who had more acting experience than any of the other leads and was initially designated the “star,” preferred it be called Harry’s Angels, after the original name of their unseen benefactor. When his name was changed to avoid confusion over the detective show Harry-O, the series settled on Charlie’s Angels.

3. THE ORIGINAL CHARLIE GOT FIRED FOR BEING DRUNK.

Producers decided on the novel concept of Charlie Townsend giving the Angels their case information via a Western Electric Speakerphone and never showing up in person. Spelling hired veteran actor Gig Young for what amounted to a voiceover role, but when Young showed up to record his lines, he was drunk. A frantic Spelling called John Forsythe (Dynasty) at 12:30 a.m. and begged him to perform the part before he had to turn in the pilot to ABC executives. Forsythe drove to the 20th Century Fox lot in his bedroom slippers to do Spelling the favor; he wound up on the show for its entire five-year run.

4. FARRAH FAWCETT’S CONTRACT STIPULATED SHE FINISHED SHOOTING IN TIME TO COOK HER BIONIC HUSBAND’S DINNER.

Farrah Fawcett, a.k.a. Farrah Fawcett-Majors, was known mainly for shampoo commercials and for being the wife of The Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors before being cast in Angels. While she would shortly eclipse Jackson as the star of the show—her agent, Jay Bernstein, planted her on as many magazine covers as possible—her primary focus was her marriage. Her contract with Spelling stipulated that she was finished with each day’s shooting at exactly 7 p.m. to make it home in time to cook dinner for Majors.

5. AT THE HEIGHT OF ANGELS MANIA, FAWCETT QUIT.

Sony Pictures

The show was an enormous hit for ABC, easily winning its time slot and delivering some of the best ratings the network had ever seen. What could go wrong? Plenty: before the end of the first season, Fawcett-Majors announced she was leaving the show. According to People, marital trouble and a desire to move to film work was behind the departure. ABC, which had a verbal agreement with her, sued. Eventually, Fawcett-Majors was released from her contract conditional on making six guest appearances during the next two seasons. Cheryl Ladd played her character’s sister, Kris Munroe, beginning in season two; ratings remained high.

6. THE SHOW WAS AFFECTED BY DUSTIN HOFFMAN.

Kate Jackson was already growing tired of the show’s simplistic narratives when the shooting schedule forced her to pass on an opportunity to star opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1979’s divorce drama Kramer vs. Kramer. The role went to Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar. A dismayed Jackson was alleged to have become more unpleasant on set, prompting producers to let her go before the start of the fourth season. Michelle Pfeiffer was considered before model Shelley Hack was brought in to replace Jackson.

7. THE FARRAH POSTER CAME BEFORE THE SHOW AIRED.

Fawcett-Majors adorned more bedroom walls than sheetrock in the late 1970s, having posed for a now-iconic bathing suit shoot that went on to sell over 12 million copies. The photographer, Bruce McBloom, was a friend of the Majors family and had been enlisted by ABC to take publicity shots during the filming of the pilot in 1976. Months later, McBloom got a call saying Fawcett-Majors was the only Angel who had agreed to pose for a poster; she insisted McBloom be the cameraman. He did the session at her house—with the actress swapping out a bikini for the red swimsuit—six months before Angels aired. In 2009, the outfit was donated to the Smithsonian.  

8. THE NETWORK ALWAYS WANTED TO SHOW CHARLIE.

Forsythe was never seen on camera in the series, but ABC continually pushed for an episode where the women would finally have a face-to-face with their boss. Producer Leonard Goldberg told the Archive of American Television that the network “talked often about the episode where you got to see Charlie. Every year the network would say, ‘Sweeps are coming. Let’s show Charlie.’” Ultimately, they couldn’t be persuaded.  

9. THE CLOTHES BUDGET WAS $20,000 PER EPISODE.

Charlie’s Angels stuck to its promise of glossy content, with viewers virtually guaranteed the ladies would fight crime while sporting the latest in high fashion. To that end, producers spared no expense in the show’s wardrobe department, allotting $20,000 per episode. (Even the shoes, which were rarely onscreen, were high-end.) Costumes were changed a minimum of eight times per hour. Fawcett-Majors broke some kind of record when, during one of her guest appearances, she sported 12 different outfits.

10. THEY VISITED THE LOVE BOAT.

To help draw attention to the 1979-80 season with new Jackson replacement Shelley Hack, Spelling had the team visit the dock of his highly successful series The Love Boat to investigate a $5 million stash of gold and bronze. While the network expected a ratings bump for Hack, it was not to be: the actress was written out of the show by the end of the season. She did not take it well. “A business decision was made,” she told People in 1980. “Change the time slot or bring on some new publicity. How to get publicity? A new Angel hunt. Who is the obvious person to replace? I am—the new kid on the block.” Tanya Roberts became the sixth (and final) Angel for the show’s last season.

11. AN ALL-MALE SPIN-OFF WAS ATTEMPTED.

Seemingly misunderstanding the appeal of Charlie’s Angels down to its very marrow, Spelling arranged for a spin-off titled Toni’s Boys. The Boys backdoor pilot, which was part of the show’s fourth season, featured three men going undercover at the behest of a female Charlie named Toni Blake (Barbara Stanwyck). Toni had a friendly rivalry with Charlie, and used a rodeo rider and athlete among her operatives. Spelling promised a series if the public “took to it,” which they did not.

12. REVIVAL ATTEMPTS HAVE RARELY BEEN SUCCESSFUL.

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Fans have not been kind toward previous attempts to rekindle that ‘70s-era Angel aesthetic. While the Drew Barrymore-produced feature performed well in 2000, its 2003 sequel was a disappointment; Spelling himself tried with Angels ’88, which was victimized by a Writers Guild strike that year, was delayed for so long it became Angels '89 and then never aired; a 2011 revival made it only four episodes. It was recently reported that actress-director Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) will try again for Sony Pictures.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
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If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
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While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
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Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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