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Burnett: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain; Ball: Getty Images 
Burnett: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain; Ball: Getty Images 

12 Lesser-Known Historical Friendships

Burnett: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain; Ball: Getty Images 
Burnett: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain; Ball: Getty Images 

The founder of gonzo journalism and a conservative political advisor. A Nobel Prize-winning playwright and one of the most famous French wrestlers of all time. A legendarily dry comedian and an award-winning poet. Here are 12 epic friendships you probably weren’t aware of.

1. LUCILLE BALL AND CAROL BURNETT

It’s no surprise that these two legendary comedians who ran their own television shows got along well. Ball’s historic hit, I Love Lucy, ran on CBS from 1951 through 1957. The Carol Burnett Show premiered a decade later and ran from 1967 through 1978. The two also acted together—Burnett appeared on four episodes of The Lucy Show, and Ball guest-starred on four episodes of The Carol Burnett Show—and had a mentor-mentee relationship: Ball was 22 years older than Burnett and called her “kid.” Burnett describes her relationship with Ball as “very close.” Ball even threw her a black tie baby shower, which Burnett has called “one of the funniest evenings ever.”

Ball died on April 26, 1989—Burnett’s birthday. Burnett received flowers that day from her friend with a message: “Happy Birthday, Kid.”

2. HUNTER S. THOMPSON AND PAT BUCHANAN

It's hard to think of two more polar opposite personalities than journalist and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas author Hunter S. Thompson and conservative politician-turned-commentator Patrick Buchanan. They met when Thompson covered Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign, for which Buchanan was an advisor, in a series of articles for Rolling Stone. (Buchanan also served as an advisor to Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and ran for president himself in 1992, 1996, and 2000.) Thompson notoriously hated Nixon, but he felt drawn to Nixon’s advisor. “We’re still friends, Thompson said in 2003. Patrick is a libertarian, or at least in that direction. I think of politics as a circle, not a spectrum of one line not just right and left. Patrick and I are often pretty close. Patrick’s an honest person. He’s a straight guy and a very smart guy.”

3. SAMUEL BECKETT AND ANDRE THE GIANT

Beckett: Getty Images; Roussimoff: Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett moved to a small commune in France in 1953, the same year that one of his most famous works, Waiting for Godot, was published. It was there that he became friends with Boris Roussimoff, whose son, André René, would one day become André the Giant. The Roussimoff family lived in the same commune and Boris would occasionally play cards with Beckett. Not much is known about Beckett’s relationship with André, but the story goes that the future professional wrestler outgrew the school bus when he was 12 years old—and 250 pounds. Beckett had a pick-up truck and frequently drove to town, so he offered to take André to school. (There’s another version of the story in which André would hitchhike to school and Beckett just picked him up on occasion.) As far as what they had in common, they talked about cricket and not much else. Apparently, André loved to tell this story on the set of The Princess Bride.

4. MARTINA NAVARATILOVA AND CHRIS EVERT

Athletes Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert were rivals on the tennis court: During the 1970s and '80s, the two played against each other 80 times over the course of 16 years (60 of those matches were finals). But off the court, the two women developed a strong friendship that has endured to this day.

Navratilova was born in Czechoslovakia, where she started playing tennis at a very young age. When she was 16, she began playing matches in the U.S., and met Evert not long after. “When I was a young girl, a long way from home, Chris and her mother [Colette] were always nice to me,” Navratilova said later.

The admiration was (and still is) mutual. In another interview, Evert explained, “I think people forget that we were left alone in the locker room every Sunday after we played final matches, and one of us would be crying and the other would be comforting—nobody saw that.” And this translated to non-tennis settings as well. While Evert went through a divorce in 1986, Navratilova invited her to Aspen for a relaxing vacation. On that trip, Evert met her future husband: downhill skier Andy Mill.

5. HELEN KELLER AND SAMUEL CLEMENS (A.K.A. MARK TWAIN)

When these two met, Twain was in his late fifties and Keller was just 14—the same age as Twain's youngest daughter. In the late 1890s, writer Laurence Hutton was hosting Keller—who was still a student at the Wrist-Humason School for the Deaf—at his home one afternoon when Mark Twain and his good friend William Dean Howells arrived. Keller described the experience in a letter to her mother afterwards, writing, “The two authors were very gentle and kind ... Mr. Clemens told us many entertaining stories and made us laugh till we cried.” Twain felt the same way about her: In 1901, he described Keller as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Despite their age difference, they became friends and remained so for about 15 years. They exchanged many letters and always spoke highly of each other. In 1903, Twain sent Keller a letter, praising her autobiography The Story of My Life, and signing off with “Every lovingly your friend [sic], Mark.”

6. HELEN KELLER AND ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL

Before he was the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell taught people who were deaf and mute—work that he later said was “more pleasing to me than even recognition of my work with the telephone.” He met Keller in 1886 when her family sent her to Washington, D.C. to work with specialists. Keller later recalled that she “loved him at once.”

Bell referred Keller to the Perkins Institution in Boston, but he kept tabs on her case. In fact, while Annie Sullivan worked with Keller, she corresponded with Bell, too. A lot of people were hard on Sullivan, accusing her of being overbearing, but Bell stood by her and championed those methods.

As Keller got older, she started exchanging letters with Bell herself, and they visited each other throughout the years. He helped her financially, as well, even helping to organize a trust fund for her in 1896. In 1907, Keller wrote to Bell, “You have been and are very good to me, and so is Mrs. Bell, and though I be silent, I cherish ever the many tokens of your love” [PDF]. When her autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published, she dedicated it to him.

7. JOHN F. KENNEDY AND FRANK SINATRA

Lots of what we know about our 35th president's friendship with Ol' Blue Eyes comes courtesy of the FBI. The bureau discovered that, in 1960, Kennedy and Sinatra spent a weekend in Palm Springs at the singer's house and had traveled to Las Vegas and New York together when it was investigating Sinatra's connections to the mafia.

According to the book The Kennedy Half-Century, the Kennedy family and Sinatra were connected to a mafia boss in Chicago named Sam Giancana. There’s a legend that Joseph Kennedy asked Giancana to help his son get elected in exchange for a contact in the White House. Sinatra was apparently nothing more than a middle man between the mafia and the political family. His daughter, Tina, has also gone on record confirming this story.

Eventually, the duo's friendship ended. Kennedy's administration went after crime and the mafia, which certainly severed any relationship that might have existed with Giancana.

8. J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND C.S. LEWIS

The two esteemed authors first met in 1926 at a gathering for English faculty at Merton College, but they didn't really become friends until the 1930s, when they were both in a literary discussion group at Oxford University known as the Inklings. (Other notable members included philosopher Owen Barfield, writer Charles Williams, and scholar Henry Victor Dyson.) Many of the members had different religious beliefs—some were atheists, some were Christians, some were more interested in philosophy than religion. The Inklings frequently discussed religion and shared their original pieces.

Tolkien was raised Catholic and subscribed to that belief system his whole life. Lewis, on the other hand, had a more complicated relationship with religion. He was raised Irish Protestant, then became agnostic; while in the Inklings, he was working his way back toward religion. Then, in 1931, he and Tolkien went on a long walk with Dyson. As they wandered, the men had a conversation about myth and God. All three later cited an important moment when Tolkien verbalized how ancient stories were able to describe higher truths, and within two weeks, Lewis was a Christian once again.

That conversation didn't just inspire Lewis's return to Christianity; it also inspired him and Tolkien to write The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, respectively. The writers had a falling out while working on the books, but they continued to praise and support each other in public over the years. A movie about their friendship is currently in the works.

9. GROUCHO MARX AND T.S. ELIOT

This complicated friendship started in 1961, when Eliot wrote to Marx, saying he was a fan and asking for an autographed picture. Marx obliged and requested an autographed picture of Eliot. From then on, the two men were in correspondence. They eventually had dinner in 1964, just months before Eliot died. Afterward, Marx wrote that they had a few things in common, including: “(1) an affection for good cigars and (2) cats; and (3) a weakness for making puns.”

Marx’s biographer, Lee Siegel, had researched this friendship extensively. And it’s worth noting that in his book, Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence, Siegel posits that there was more competition than friendliness: 

“The tension between Groucho and Eliot became suddenly palpable when I reread an exchange they had about the two photographs that Groucho had sent. Eliot assured Groucho that one of them now hung on a wall in his office, ‘with other famous friends such as W. B. Yeats and Paul Valery.’ About three and a half months later, Groucho wrote to Eliot to say that he had just read an essay about Eliot, by Stephen Spender, that had appeared in the Times Book Review. In it, Spender described the portraits on the wall in Eliot’s office but, Groucho said, ‘one name was conspicuous by its absence. I trust this was an oversight on the part of Stephen Spender.’ Eliot wrote back two weeks later, saying, ‘I think that Stephen Spender was only attempting to enumerate oil and water colour pictures and not photographs—I trust so.’”

10. ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE AND HARRY HOUDINI

On the surface, Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini didn't have much in common: Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, was a proper Scottish-Victorian man who believed in fairies and supernatural phenomena, and Houdini was a cynical Hungarian-American illusionist who had made a career out of exposing mediums as frauds. Still, for a time, they were friends. The two corresponded briefly when Houdini sent Doyle a copy of his own book, The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, and exchanged many more letters before they met in person around 1920. It’s unclear why they hit it off so well, but they did have fame and a love of sports in common. At one point, Doyle invited Houdini to a dinner party, where Houdini performed a trick in order to prove there was no such thing as real magic. Though Houdini ended the display by explaining that it was an “illusion” and “pure trickery,” it only further convinced Doyle that his friend had powers. Doyle later took Houdini on a tour of Great Britain, dragging him to a myriad of psychics and séances, which Houdini abhorred.

He put up with it for a while, but the final straw for Houdini was when the pair went to Atlantic City together and tried to reach his mother at a séance. Doyle’s wife, Lady Jean, acted as though she’d made contact. She wrote pages of text, which were supposedly directly from Houdini’s deceased mother. Houdini played along for a bit, but there were a few glaring errors that he couldn’t ignore—like the fact that the entire thing was in English, despite the fact that his mother did not know the language very well. There were also many crosses throughout the message ... and Houdini’s family was Jewish.

Unsurprisingly, Houdini found the whole display very disrespectful, and it was enough to end their friendship. By 1923, the former friends were publicly feuding through letters published in The New York Times. Houdini later wrote, “There is nothing that Sir Arthur will believe that surprises me.”

11. BOB HOPE AND DWIGHT EISENHOWER

During the course of his career, comedian Bob Hope entertained 11 presidents. “They’re the greatest audience," he once said. "They love it when you bruise them a little, because nobody does.” Hope was friends with many of the commanders-in-chief he roasted, but he was closest to President Eisenhower.

The pair met in Algiers, Algeria in 1943, where Hope had traveled to perform one his many United Service Organization shows. Eisenhower, who was a General for the U.S. Army at that time, requested to meet Hope and his fellow comedians, and he and Hope hit it off. “Meeting General Eisenhower in the midst of that deadly muddle was like a breath of fresh air," the comedian later recalled. "It quieted us all, brought us all back to our sense, and in every way paid us off for the whole trip.”

Over the years, and even after Eisenhower became president in 1953, their friendship continued; Hope and Eisenhower golfed together and exchanged many letters. In 1965, Eisenhower wrote Hope, “I would like to see you again ... My parents started their married life in 1885 in the town of Hope, Kansas. Throughout my life the association of the names Hope and Eisenhower has had a subconscious appeal.” And it was a family affair. Not only did Hope volunteer his time for the Eisenhower Medical Center, but his wife, Dolores, also served as Chairman Emeritus for their board.

12. MARK TWAIN AND NIKOLA TESLA

In the 1890s, Twain befriended legendary inventor and engineer (and pigeon enthusiast) Nikola Tesla. Historians don’t know exactly how they met, but it was probably in New York City at a private party or a men’s club. They had a little history prior to this, though. When Tesla was at school, he became dangerously ill—so sick that he later claimed to have been “given up by physicians.” He spent a lot of his bedridden time reading. And he became infatuated with Twain’s early pieces. When he recovered, he credited Twain’s writing; Tesla told him this story when they eventually met in person and, according to Tesla, Twain burst into tears. (Some Tesla experts think the inventor may have exaggerated this story, though.)

The details of the duo's relationship are unknown, but there are multiple photographs of the two men together, so it’s clear that they spent time together. Probably the most famous photograph involving the two men, though, is one that Tesla took of Twain with a vacuum tube that Tesla created that was marred by mysterious splotches. He didn’t exactly know what he had done, but this was actually a precursor to the x-ray (a discovery that happened mere weeks later by Wilhelm Röntigen).

There’s a famous legend about the two men that may have been exaggerated over time. According to the story, Twain suffered from chronic constipation. So, he sat on one of Tesla’s inventions—an “earthquake machine.” This was a vibrating, humming, and swinging metal disc, which was supposed to provide a therapeutic massage experience. W. Bernard Carlson, author of the book Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age, told PBS that, within a minute and a half, the machine managed to “shake the poop out of Mark Twain.” Immediately after the machine was turned off, Twain sprinted for the restroom.

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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25 Wonderful Facts About It’s a Wonderful Life
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Mary Owen wasn’t welcomed into the world until more than a decade after Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life made its premiere in 1946. But she grew up cherishing the film and getting the inside scoop on its making from its star, Donna Reed—who just so happens to be her mom. Though Reed passed away in 1986, Owen has stood as one of the film’s most dedicated historians, regularly introducing screenings of the ultimate holiday classic, including during its annual run at New York City’s IFC Center. She shared some of her mom’s memories with us to help reveal 25 things you might not have known about It’s a Wonderful Life.

1. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A CHRISTMAS CARD.

After years of unsuccessfully trying to shop his short story, The Greatest Gift, to publishers, Philip Van Doren Stern decided to give the gift of words to his closest friends for the holidays when he printed up 200 copies of the story and sent them out as a 21-page Christmas card. David Hempstead, a producer at RKO Pictures, ended up getting a hold of it, and purchased the movie rights for $10,000.

2. CARY GRANT WAS SET TO STAR IN THE ADAPTATION.

When RKO purchased the rights, they did so with the plan of having Cary Grant in the lead. But, as happens so often in Hollywood, the project went through some ups and downs in the development process. In 1945, after a number of rewrites, RKO sold the movie rights to Frank Capra, who quickly recruited Jimmy Stewart to play George Bailey.

3. DOROTHY PARKER WORKED ON THE SCRIPT.


Getty Images

By the time It’s a Wonderful Life made it into theaters, the story was much different from Stern’s original tale. That’s because more than a half-dozen people contributed to the screenplay, including some of the most acclaimed writers of the time—Dorothy Parker, Dalton Trumbo, Marc Connelly, and Clifford Odets among them.

4. SCREENWRITERS FRANCES GOODRICH AND ALBERT HACKETT WALKED OUT.

Though they’re credited as the film’s screenwriters with Capra, the husband and wife writing duo were not pleased with the treatment they received from Capra. “Frank Capra could be condescending,” Hackett said in an interview, “and you just didn't address Frances as ‘my dear woman.’ When we were pretty far along in the script but not done, our agent called and said, ‘Capra wants to know how soon you'll be finished.’ Frances said, ‘We're finished right now.’ We put our pens down and never went back to it.”

5. CAPRA DIDN’T DO THE BEST JOB OF SELLING THE FILM TO STEWART.

After laying out the plot line of the film for Stewart in a meeting, Capra realized that, “This really doesn’t sound so good, does it?” Stewart recalled in an interview. Stewart’s reply? “Frank: If you want me to be in a picture about a guy that wants to kill himself and an angel comes down named Clarence who can’t swim and I save him, when do we start?”

6. IT WAS DONNA REED’S FIRST STARRING ROLE.


Getty Images

Though Donna Reed was hardly a newcomer when It’s a Wonderful Life rolled around, having appeared in nearly 20 projects previously, the film did mark her first starring role. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role today, but Reed had some serious competition from Jean Arthur. “[Frank Capra] had seen mom in They Were Expendable and liked her,” Mary Owen told Mental Floss. “When Capra met my mother at MGM, he knew she'd be just right for Mary Bailey.”

7. MARY OWEN IS NOT NAMED AFTER MARY BAILEY.

Before you ask whether Owen was named after her mom’s much beloved It’s a Wonderful Life character, “The answer is no,” says Owen. “I was named after my great grandmother, Mary Mullenger.”

8. BEULAH BONDI WAS A PRO AT PLAYING STEWART’S MOM.

Beulah Bondi, who plays Mrs. Bailey, didn’t need a lot of rehearsal to play Jimmy Stewart’s mom. She had done it three times previously—in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, and Vivacious Lady—and once later on The Jimmy Stewart Show: The Identity Crisis.

9. CAPRA, REED, AND STEWART HAVE ALL CALLED IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE THEIR FAVORITE MOVIE.


Liberty Films

Though their collective filmographies consist of a couple hundred movies, Capra, Reed, and Stewart have all cited It’s a Wonderful Life as their favorite movie. In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, Capra took that praise even one step further, writing: “I thought it was the greatest film I ever made. Better yet, I thought it was the greatest film anybody ever made.”

10. THE MOVIE BOMBED AT THE BOX OFFICE.

Though it has become a quintessential American classic, It’s a Wonderful Life was not an immediate hit with audiences. In fact, it put Capra $525,000 in the hole, which left him scrambling to finance his production company’s next picture, State of the Union.

11. A COPYRIGHT LAPSE AIDED THE FILM’S POPULARITY.

Though it didn’t make much of a dent at the box office, It’s a Wonderful Life found a whole new life on television—particularly when its copyright lapsed in 1974, making it available royalty-free to anyone who wanted to show it for the next 20 years. (Which would explain why it was on television all the time during the holiday season.) The free-for-all ended in 1994.

12. THE ROCK THAT BROKE THE WINDOW OF THE GRANVILLE HOUSE WAS ALL REAL.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

Though Capra had a stuntman at the ready in order to shoot out the window of the Granville House in a scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock through it, it was all a waste of money. “Mom threw the rock herself that broke the window in the Granville House,” Owen says. “On the first try.”

13. IT TOOK TWO MONTHS TO BUILD BEDFORD FALLS.

Shot on a budget of $3.7 million (which was a lot by mid-1940s standards), Bedford Falls—which covered a full four acres of RKO’s Encino Ranch—was one of the most elaborate movie sets ever built up to that time, with 75 stores and buildings, 20 fully-grown oak trees, factories, residential areas, and a 300-yard-long Main Street.

14. SENECA FALLS, NEW YORK IS “THE REAL BEDFORD FALLS.”

Though Bedford Falls is a fictitious place, the town of Seneca Falls, New York swears that it's the real-life inspiration for George Bailey’s charming hometown. And each year they program a full lineup of holiday-themed events to put locals (and yuletide visitors) into the holiday spirit.

15. THE GYM FLOOR-TURNED-SWIMMING POOL WAS REAL.

Though the bulk of the film was filmed on pre-built sets, the dance at the gym was filmed on location at Beverly Hills High School. And the retractable floor was no set piece. Better known as the Swim Gym, the school is currently in the process of restoring the landmark filming location.

16. ALFALFA IS THE TEENAGER BEHIND THAT SWIMMING POOL PRANK.

Though he’s uncredited in the part, if Freddie Othello—the little prankster who pushes the button that opens the pool that swallows George and Mary up—looks familiar, that’s because he is played by Carl Switzer, a.k.a. Alfalfa of The Little Rascals.

17. DONNA REED WON $50 FROM LIONEL BARRYMORE ... FOR MILKING A COW.

Though she was a Hollywood icon, Donna Reed—born Donnabelle Mullenger—was a farm girl at heart who came to Los Angeles by way of Denison, Iowa. Lionel Barrymore (a.k.a. Mr. Potter) didn’t believe it. “So he bet $50 that she couldn't milk a cow,” recalls Owen. “She said it was the easiest $50 she ever made.”

18. THE FILM WAS SHOT DURING A HEAT WAVE.

It may be an iconic Christmas movie, but It’s a Wonderful Life was actually shot in the summer of 1946—in the midst of a heat wave, no less. At one point, Capra had to shut filming down for a day because of the sky-high temperatures—which also explains why Stewart is clearly sweating in key moments of the film.

19. CAPRA ENGINEERED A NEW KIND OF MOVIE SNOW.

Capra—who trained as an engineer—and special effects supervisor Russell Shearman engineered a new type of artificial snow for the film. At the time, painted cornflakes were the most common form of fake snow, but they posed a bit of an audio problem for Capra. So he and Shearman opted to mix foamite (the stuff you find in fire extinguishers) with sugar and water to create a less noisy option.

20. THE MOVIE WASN’T REQUIRED VIEWING IN REED’S HOUSEHOLD.

Though It’s a Wonderful Life is a staple of many family holiday movie marathons, that wasn’t the case in Reed’s home. In fact, Owen herself didn’t see the film until three decades after its release. “I saw it in the late 1970s at the Nuart Theatre in L.A. and loved it,” she says.

21. ZUZU DIDN’T SEE THE FILM UNTIL 1980.

Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the film, didn’t see the film until 1980. “I never took the time to see the movie,” she told Detroit’s WWJ in 2013. “I never just sat down and watched the film.”

22. THE FBI SAW THE FILM. THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT.

In 1947, the FBI issued a memo noting the film as a potential “Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry,” citing its “rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘Scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.”

23. THE MOVIE’S BERT AND ERNIE HAVE NO RELATION TO SESAME STREET.

Yes, the cop and cab driver in It’s a Wonderful Life are named Bert and Ernie, respectively. But Jim Henson’s longtime writing partner, Jerry Juhl, insists that it’s by coincidence only that they share their names with Sesame Street’s stripe-shirted buds. “I was the head writer for the Muppets for 36 years and one of the original writers on Sesame Street,” Juhl told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “The rumor about It's a Wonderful Life has persisted over the years. I was not present at the naming, but I was always positive [the rumor] was incorrect. Despite his many talents, Jim had no memory for details like this. He knew the movie, of course, but would not have remembered the cop and the cab driver. I was not able to confirm this with Jim before he died, but shortly thereafter I spoke to Jon Stone, Sesame Street's first producer and head writer and a man largely responsible for the show's format … He assured me that Ernie and Bert were named one day when he and Jim were studying the prototype puppets. They decided that one of them looked like an Ernie, and the other one looked like a Bert. The movie character names are purely coincidental.”

24. SOME PEOPLE ARE ANXIOUS FOR A SEQUEL.

Well, two people: Producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth, who announced in 2013 that they would be continuing the story with a sequel, It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story, which they planned for a 2015 release. It didn’t take long for Paramount, which owns the copyright, to step in and assure furious fans of the original film that “No project relating to It’s a Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.”

25. THE FILM’S ENDURING LEGACY WAS SURPRISING TO CAPRA.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen," Capra said of the film’s classic status. "The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud… but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

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Listen to What Darth Vader Sounded Like On the Star Wars Set
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The voice of Darth Vader, provided by James Earl Jones, is one of the most iconic aspects of the original Star Wars movies. But James Earl Jones wasn't the actor wearing that outfit—it was British actor David Prowse, who was cast in part because he was huge (reportedly 6'5" and a former body-building champion).

George Lucas always intended to replace Prowse's voice, but it's still a bit of a shock to hear a muffled British voice coming out of Darth Vader's helmet. Here's video showing what Darth Vader sounded like on the set before James Earl Jones re-recorded the dialogue.

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