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16 Faithful Facts About The Seven Year Itch

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Despite being stymied by strict morality guidelines set forth by The Motion Picture Production Code, The Seven Year Itch is best known for the iconic scene in which Marilyn Monroe's dress blows above her knees while she's standing over a subway grate. Based on a play by George Axelrod, Billy Wilder co-wrote and directed the movie version of the story of the nerdy, married Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) who, during one summer, is tempted to cheat on his wife when he meets The Girl (Monroe).

1. THE SCREEN RIGHTS WERE ACQUIRED FOR $255,000.

Part of the 1953 agreement with Axelrod was that the movie could not be released before January 31, 1956, since the play was still making money. When 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck grew impatient, he paid Axelrod another $175,000 to move up the movie debut to June 3, 1955.

2. WILDER AND AXELROD HAD A SOMEWHAT CONTEMPTUOUS FIRST MEETING.

Both Wilder and Axelrod worked on the movie adaptation. Axelrod brought his script from the play with him to his first meeting with Wilder, and told Wilder he thought they could use it as a guide. Wilder famously replied, "Fine. We'll use it as a doorstop."

3. THANKS TO THE HAYS CODE, THERE WERE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PLAY AND THE MOVIE.

In the play, Sherman and The Girl have sex. However, the Production Code dictated that “adultery must never be the subject of comedy or laughter.” Wilder thought he came up with a workaround and suggested they have Sherman's maid find a hairpin when making up his bed, implying the adulterous act without showing it. Zanuck refused to give Wilder—or anyone else—the go-ahead to even suggest the idea to censor Geoffrey Shurlock. Instead, Sherman only fantasizes about cheating with The Girl in the film. Two decades later, Wilder said the limitations imposed by the Hays Code made The Seven Year Itch a "nothing picture," and that he wished he had waited until the 1970s to make it. The Production Code effectively ended on November 1, 1968, with the introduction of the MPAA film rating system.

4. THE GIRL HAD NO NAME FOR A REASON.

"The truth is that I could never think of a name to really fit the girl I had in mind," Axelrod said. Apparently Wilder couldn't come up with one either.

5. AN UNKNOWN WALTER MATTHAU ALMOST LANDED THE ROLE OF RICHARD SHERMAN.

Walter Matthau tested for the part along with the then-just-as-unknown Gena Rowlands as The Girl on June 15, 1954. After considering Gary Cooper and William Holden, Wilder wanted Matthau. Axelrod agreed with the Matthau choice. Zanuck did not. James Stewart expressed interest but his schedule was already full.

6. TOM EWELL WAS SURPRISED HE WAS CAST.

Even though he played Richard Sherman 730 times in the Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch, and won a Tony Award for his troubles, Ewell said he "never expected to get the part" in the film adaptation. "In fact, I had already taken a house on Martha's Vineyard for a vacation. Needless to say, I'm happy they did choose me."

7. A SCENE INVOLVING YOGI BERRA WAS CUT.

Footage featuring Yankees catcher Yogi Berra and pitcher "Steady" Eddie Lopat that was filmed during an Indians-Yankees game on September 1, 1954 was meant to be a part of the gossip sequence when Sherman daydreams about news of his activities with The Girl spreading throughout New York City. Shooting for the film began on that Wednesday afternoon. Twelve days earlier, Hedda Hopper reported on the upcoming scene in her gossip column, adding that the script for the movie was the "best I've ever read."

8. MONROE ANNOYED WILDER WITH HER TARDINESS.

"I would get very angry at her," Wilder admitted. "For The Seven Year Itch, she was perfectly un-punctual. She never came on time once. Instead of studying with [acclaimed acting teacher] Lee Strasberg, she should have studied in Switzerland at Patek Philippe." Despite this, Wilder went on to work with Monroe again in Some Like It Hot (1959).

9. BELL CHIPS DELIVERED CASES OF THEIR CHIPS TO THE SET, HOPING THEY'D BE USED AS A PROP.

Then a west coast regional brand trying to go national, Bell potato chips sent cases of their goods to various movie sets. When Wilder ended up casting them as the chips Monroe ate, Bell became famous. However, the company went out of business in 1995.

10. NEW YORK CITY ONLOOKERS FOR THE DRESS-BLOWING SCENE WERE SO LOUD, IT HAD TO BE SHOT ALL OVER AGAIN—IN HOLLYWOOD.

Originally the scene was shot in New York on September 15, 1954 at one in the morning on Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street, in front of a crowd of an estimated 1000 to 5000 spectators. Monroe's husband, Joe DiMaggio, was one of those onlookers, and he was reportedly "embarrassed and angry" about the scene. The scene was reshot in Hollywood on the 20th Century Fox lot. Forty more takes were necessary.

11. WILDER'S CREW ARGUED OVER WHO GOT TO WORK ON THE DRESS-BLOWING MOMENT.

"I had guys fighting as to who was going to put the ventilator on, in the shaft there, below the grill," Wilder revealed to Cameron Crowe in 1999.

12. A SIMILAR SIDEWALK GRATE SCENE WAS FILMED IN 1901.

The 1901 short What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City featured actress Florence Georgie's dress being blown up above her knees, too.

13. MONROE'S "GRATE DRESS" WAS SOLD FOR $5.6 MILLION IN JUNE 2011.

Actress Debbie Reynolds, a collector of Hollywood memorabilia in her spare time, was the one who put it up for auction. CNN reported that Reynolds was "in tears" when the bidding ended. The auction house believed it would only fetch $2 million.

14. MONROE FILED FOR DIVORCE DURING THE MAKING OF THE FILM.

DiMaggio's anger over the subway grate scene was allegedly the final straw in his short-lived marriage to Monroe. Still, he escorted her to the movie premiere on June 1, 1955.

15. A 52-FOOT BANNER OF MONROE WAS USED TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE.

20th Century Fox put up a 52-foot cutout of the Monroe grate dress shot on the façade of the Loew's State Theatre in Times Square. It had to be taken down after people complained.

16. THE FILM WAS BANNED IN IRELAND.

Due to the fact it was "indecent and unfit for general exhibition."

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Walt Disney Pictures
10 Facts About Hocus Pocus
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a Hocus Pocus sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court." While you get those cards ready, here are some facts about the original, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.

1. THE STORY ORIGINATED AS A BEDTIME STORY.

The story for Hocus Pocus came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to Muppet Magazine (why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. THE WRITERS USED PROPS TO PITCH IT TO STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Bette Midler in 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)
Walt Disney Pictures

To pitch the story to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. IT WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT.

Though it’s a cult classic now, Hocus Pocus didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly was particularly put off by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. BETTE MIDLER LOVES IT.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”

5. KATHY NAJIMY LOVES IT, TOO.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. IT COULD HAVE STARRED LEONARDO DICAPRIO.

The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

7. SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS RELATED TO A WOMAN FAMOUSLY ACCUSED OF BEING A WITCH.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. THORA BIRCH REVISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICAN BEAUTY.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for American Beauty.

9. THE KIDS WEREN'T HUGE FANS OF THE CATS.

The kids all hated working with the cats. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a different purpose—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL CAST REUNITED FOR A 20TH REUNION.

Most of the cast participated in a 20th anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

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