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11 Transformative Facts About The Fly

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Audiences in 1958 sat down to watch Vincent Price in a film about a scientist whose DNA is fused with a fly's during a teleportation experiment gone awry. Nearly 30 years later, in 1986, audiences went to see a David Cronenberg film with the same basic premise, but got something entirely different than the original—and some literally left the theater sick from seeing it. As the update of The Fly zooms toward its 30th anniversary, we're looking back at some things you might not have known the gory horror classic.

1. IT WAS PRODUCED BY MEL BROOKS.

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Known as a master of comedy, Mel Brooks is also a fan of the horror genre. Producer Stuart Cornfeld convinced the reluctant studio to distribute the film if he could find the money to make it, and Mel Brooks was the first person he went to for help (the two had previously collaborated on David Lynch's The Elephant Man in 1980). It was Brooks who encouraged Cronenberg to take the movie as far as he wanted. "[Brooks] said ‘I want you to go all the way. Let yourself go, and don’t hold back.’ There were no restraints," Cronenberg recalled. "They were willing to lose that percentage of the audience that would have liked the love interest stuff, but couldn’t take the horror."

2. BROOKS CAME UP WITH THE FILM'S MOST FAMOUS LINE.

“Be afraid, be very afraid” is a quote that many people have heard, but not everyone knows comes from The Fly. Cronenberg revealed in a commentary track that the iconic line was invented by Mel Brooks while discussing how characters should react to the early stages of Seth Brundle’s transformation. The quote also became one of the film’s taglines.

3. IT WAS ALMOST NOT DIRECTED BY DAVID CRONENBERG.

Stuart Cornfeld wanted Cronenberg for the project, but the director was busy working on Total Recall. Another young director named Robert Bierman was brought on to make the film, but during the early stages of pre-production, a family tragedy caused him to withdraw from it, with Mel Brooks’ consent. After a brief period of not having a director or a finalized script, Cornfeld learned that Cronenberg’s involvement with Total Recall was unexpectedly ending, which meant that he was free. He recalled in a DVD special features interview that Cronenberg agreed to direct and help rewrite the script for $750,000, so Mel Brooks wrote a letter to the heads of the studio and was able to counter with $1,000,000. "Fastest deal I've ever seen made in Hollywood," Cornfeld said.

4. JEFF GOLDBLUM WAS A MAJOR GAMBLE AS THE LEAD.

Jeff Goldblum was the opposite of what the filmmakers thought would work for the stages of man-to-fly transformation. "Casting was a major major issue," creature effects artist Chris Walas said in a DVD special feature interview. When he and the effects team signed on to the project, they asked Cronenberg to make finding the lead actor the number one priority because it would be the hardest part of their job. The director asked Walas for input in terms of physical attributes that would help the effects team. "Get somebody with no ears and no bridge of the nose so that way we have a lot more control with the makeup," Walas said. When Goldblum was mentioned as the top choice, Walas and the others agreed that it was not what they wanted, but they were fans of the actor so they wanted to make it work.

In addition to the makeup concerns, not everyone was convinced that Goldblum was the right choice as the character of Seth Brundle. Cornfeld reveals in a making-of documentary that when he told the studio about their choice, former 20th Century Fox president Larry Gordon called it an “absolutely horrible mistake,” but he greenlit the decision anyway because he felt it was the filmmakers’ mistake to make.

5. JEFF GOLDBLUM AND GEENA DAVIS WERE A COUPLE.

Goldblum was the one who campaigned for then-girlfriend Geena Davis to co-star in the film as journalist/love interest Veronica Quaife, a.k.a. Ronnie. Goldblum admits in a special features documentary that he became jealous of her scenes with actor John Getz and had to be told to leave the set because of his emotional attachment. Their relationship also affected the way they performed the roles. "The problem really in working with a couple who were so close and had been together for quite some time was that Geena, who was an adept mimic, she would basically do Jeff," Cronenberg said in his commentary track. "She was like Jeff in her linguistic rhythm, her speech rhythm, and her body language because Jeff has a very strange and infectious way of speaking and moving ...one of the things we had to do was to disconnect Geena and Jeff for the sake of the movie."

6. THE TELEPODS WERE INSPIRED BY CRONENBERG’S MOTORCYCLE.

Cronenberg described the early designs of the now-iconic teleportation pods in his DVD commentary as being more like phone booths or glass showers. The final design took inspiration from the cylindrical structure of Cronenberg’s vintage Ducati 450 Desmo motorcycle (when it was placed upside down). The name of the lead character also came from the director’s obsession with fast things. "The name Brundle I took from a Formula 1 racer named Martin Brundle," Cronenberg said in his commentary. "A lot of the names I invent for my characters come from the annals of motor racing. I don't know why, for some reason I'm just a big enthusiast of motor racing."

7. TYPHOON THE BABOON WAS SCARY TO WORK WITH.

Those involved with the making of the film, including Cronenberg, remember that the baboon (whose name was Typhoon) was very much a wild animal, and not an actor. Visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman said in a special features documentary that Typhoon was once startled by the flashing lights in the telepod and broke the door off to get out. The wrangler and Jeff Goldblum (who is 6'4") were the ones who had to keep the primate in check.

"They're very volatile, and there's no such thing as a tame baboon," Cronenberg said. "Jeff, because he was much bigger and stronger than the baboon, was able to dominate him, and the baboon's wrangler said it was a good thing that the baboon formed that relationship ... Otherwise there could have been big trouble on the set with some of the female members of the crew." 

8. SOME PARTICULARLY GRAPHIC SCENES WERE CUT.

Alternating Line on YouTube

In a special features documentary, Cornfeld revealed that after screening the film for audiences, he and his team decided that some pretty interesting scenes just did not work in the film. After Brundlefly dissolves a leg with his fly vomit, a scene was shot that involved close-ups of him consuming the severed foot (which actor John Getz kept in his refrigerator after filming). Another scene in the lab involved an experiment by Brundlefly that resulted in a crazed hybrid animal that was half baboon and half cat, which is included on the DVD as a deleted scene.

In it, Brundlefly chases the creature and beats it repeatedly with a lead pipe. He later goes to the roof of his building in anguish and falls off. After sliding down the side of his building, the protagonist grows a small arm from his torso and proceeds to chew it off. "When we screened it," Cornfeld said," besides being a little too intense, this one woman had thrown up ... it taught us a very valuable lesson. We were basically telling a story where the protagonist on some level becomes the antagonist, and we had to keep the audience locked into the tragedy that this guy was going through. If you beat an animal, even a cat-monkey, to death with a lead pipe, your audience is no longer interested in your problems."

9. THE BRUNDLE CHARACTER LOST HIS VOICE IN AN EARLIER VERSION.

Alternating Line on YouTube

Like the original film from 1958, one version of the script for the 1986 film had Brundle losing his ability to speak while becoming more fly-like. “I wanted Brundle to be very articulate about what he does because I wanted him to be very articulate about what was happening to him as the film progressed," Cronenberg said in his commentary. "I wanted to hear what Brundle's experience of transformation was ... that's one of the more subtle but really more important changes that I made to the way that his disease, his transformation, progresses." 

10. CRONENBERG’S CAMEO WAS NOT HIS IDEA.

In a dream sequence, (SPOILER) Ronnie is at the doctor’s office giving birth to Brundlefly’s larva. Cronenberg plays the gynecologist who delivers the baby, but he said in the DVD commentary that it was Geena Davis’s idea, not his, that he appear in the film. "It wasn't something that I wanted, and it's not something that I do," Cronenberg said. "Geena asked me to do this role because she just felt she wanted me there ... if anybody was going to be in that position when she was up in the stirrups, she would rather it be her director, so I said I would do it knowing that my face would be covered and I could get someone to dub my lines if I wasn't happy with my performance."

11. IT SPAWNED A STAGE OPERA.

Cronenberg said in the DVD commentary that, because The Fly takes place primarily in a room that is both Brundle’s apartment and his laboratory, it would translate nicely for the stage. "We knew from the very beginning that there was a theatricality and an operatic aspect to the movie ... even though it has a very small cast, basically three characters in one space, four if you count the baboon." In 2008, an opera composed by Howard Shore and directed by Cronenberg was performed in Paris and later in Los Angeles. “Honestly, I'm not as enthusiastic as I'd expected to be,” one attendee told The Guardian of the opera loosely based on the film. “It was a little static, a little heavy. Some scenes were magnificent—others lacked rhythm.”

Additional Source:
The Fly Collector's Edition DVD, Special Features

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10 of Benjamin Franklin’s Lesser-Known Feats of Awesomeness
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We all know about Benjamin Franklin’s kite-flyin’, library-establishin’, Declaration-signin’, newspaper-printin’, lady-killin’ ways. But let’s celebrate some of his lesser-known but very cool contributions to society, on what would be his 312th birthday.

1. HE SWAM WITH THE FISHES.

As a youngster, Ben learned to swim in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River and became somewhat of an expert. On a Thames River boating trip with friends, a 19-year-old Franklin jumped into the river and swam from Chelsea to Blackfriars (around 3.5 miles), performing all sorts of water tricks along the way or, as he described it, “…many feats of activity, both upon and under the water, that surprised and pleased those to whom they were novelties.” Franklin’s Phelpsian feats earned him an honorary induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968.

He was such an excellent swimmer, one of the careers he considered (and seemingly one of the few he did not choose) was running a swimming school of his own. Of course, he also invented his own swim fins.

2. HE PRINTED BENJAMINS, BEFORE THEY WERE BENJAMINS.

Many people know that Ben Franklin owned a printing company and the Pennsylvania Gazette. But it may be new knowledge that his company also printed all of the paper money for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Beginning in 1929, his face would grace the front of the $100 bill and people would call them “Benjamins” in his honor.

3. HE DEVELOPED AN ELECTRIC VOCABULARY.

Because the things Franklin was doing in his experiments with electricity were so new, he had to make words up for them as he went along. One scholar suggests that Franklin may have been the first to use as many as 25 electrical terms including battery, brushed, charged, conductor, and even electrician.

4. HE WAS NO DEBTOR.

Franklin was terrified of debt and viewed it as similar to slavery because he believed that, through the acquisition of debt, man essentially sold his own freedom. He was so anti-debt that he often spoke (seriously) about forming an international organization called The Society of the Free and Easy for virtuous individuals who, among other things, were free of debt and, therefore, easy in spirit.

5. HE WAS ALWAYS PUTTING OUT FIRES.

In addition to being a famously calming voice of reason and a frequent mediator at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin organized the first volunteer fire company in 1736: The Union Fire Company (nicknamed Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade). Among his many writings are articles on fire prevention, stressing that an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was more eloquent than Smokey Bear.

6. HE INVENTED A TON OF COOL STUFF, INCLUDING THE ROCKING CHAIR AND THE ODOMETER.

Of course, you probably know that Franklin is responsible for the lightning rod, bifocal glasses, and the Franklin stove. But in 1761, Franklin also invented the glass harmonica (or "armonica," as he called it). It became quite popular during Franklin’s time and armonica-specific pieces were composed by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel.

Some of Franklin’s other inventions include:
• The library stepstool, a chair whose seat could be lifted and folded down to make a short ladder.
• A mechanical arm for reaching books on high shelves. (Book retrieval—clearly a focus of Franklinian innovation.)
• The rocking chair—a chair that rocks.
• The writing chair—a chair with an arm on one side to provide a writing surface. (Activities one can do while seated were also a focus.)
• The odometer—used in Franklin’s time to measure distance along colonial roads used by the postal service.
• A pulley system that enabled him to lock and unlock his bedroom door from his bed.
• The flexible urinary catheter.

7. HE WAS PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AMERICA'S FIRST HOSPITAL.

Established in 1751 by Ben and Dr. Thomas Bond, Pennsylvania Hospital was built “… to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia” (those sound like some wild streets). While the hospital was Bond’s brainchild, Franklin’s support and advocacy got the project off the ground. He galvanized the Pennsylvania Assembly and helped raise the necessary funds. It appears that Franklin was more proud of this accomplishment than most (even all those outrageous swimming tricks); he said later of the hospital’s establishment, “I do not remember any of my political maneuvers, the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure.”

8. HE HAD SEVERAL PSEUDONYMS.

Franklin was prolifically pseudonymous and his pseudonyms were pretty wonderful:

• Richard Saunders. Richard Saunders is Franklin’s most well-known pseudonym; it’s the one he used for his wildly popular Poor Richard’s Almanac, which ran annually from 1732 to 1758. Poor Richard was partially based on one of Jonathan Swift’s pseudonyms, Isaac Bickerstaff – Saunders and Bickerstaff shared a love of learning and astrology. The Richard character brought a comic frame to what was otherwise a serious resource in the almanac and, over the years of publication, the fun but likely unnecessary character gradually disappeared.

• Silence Dogood. When Ben was 16 years old, he desperately wanted to write for his brother James’s newspaper, The New England Courant, but James was something of a bully and wouldn’t allow it. So, Ben contributed to the paper as a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood whose witty and satirical letters covered a range of topics from courtship to education. A total of 15 Dogood letters were published, resulting in the amusement of Courant readers, several marriage proposals for the pretend Mrs. Dogood, and, ultimately, a rise in the ire of James Franklin.

• Anthony Afterwit. Mr. Afterwit, a gentleman, wrote humorous letters about married life that appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s own Pennsylvania Gazette.

• Polly Baker. Polly Baker was a pseudonym Franklin used to examine colonial society’s unequal treatment of women. She was pretend punished by society for having pretend children out of pretend wedlock while the fathers of the pretend children went pretend unpunished.

• Alice Addertongue. Alice is another middle-aged widow who wrote what amounts to a gossip column for Franklin’s Gazette in the form of scandalous stories about prominent members of society.

• Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful. These pseudonyms were used by Franklin to settle a personal dispute; they wrote letters mocking Franklin’s former employer, Samuel Keimer, who had stolen some of Franklin’s publishing ideas. Shortface and Careful’s letters were published in The American Weekly Mercury, a publication by a Keimer rival.

Busy Body. Also published in The American Weekly Mercury, Miss Body’s letters were basically gossip stories about local businessmen.

• Benevolous. Benevolous wrote letters to British newspapers while Franklin was in London. The primary focus of the letters was to correct negative statements made about Americans in the British press.

9. HE WAS A TRAVELING FOOL.

During Franklin’s life, the average person never traveled more than 20 miles from their home. Franklin, on the other hand, crossed the Atlantic Ocean eight times (the first time at age 18 and the last time at age 79) and spent 27 years of his life overseas.

10. HE THOUGHT GETTING TOGETHER WITH HIS BUDDIES TO DRINK BEER AND CHAT WAS A FANTASTIC WAY TO IGNITE SOCIAL ACTION (AS IT TURNS OUT, HE WAS RIGHT).

Franklin formed a group that he called the Junto. The group’s purpose was to gather and debate philosophical questions on topics from ethics to business. Initially composed of 12 members, the group brought together people from different backgrounds (among the originals were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, a glazier, a cobbler, and a bartender) and gathered in a tavern on Friday nights. In his autobiography, Franklin described the group as a “…club for mutual improvement.” But the group discussions resulted in not only self-improvement, but societal improvement: The Junto has been credited as the breeding ground for some of Franklin’s greatest achievements, including the establishment of the first library, the first volunteer fire departments, the first public hospital, and even the University of Pennsylvania. Makes your Friday night pub trivia team seem like a bunch of underachievers, doesn’t it?

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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