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16 Loud Facts About The Last Waltz

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Martin Scorsese directed The Last Waltz with an army of seasoned and acclaimed cinematographers behind the cameras, creating an innovative—and much more cinematic—approach to the live concert documentary than music fans had seen before. It documented the final concert performed by The Band's original lineup of Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson. Going down in San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving 1976, the event concert promoter Bill Graham dubbed "rock 'n' roll's last supper" featured a lineup of special guests, including Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. Dylan was the most reluctant to join in the festivities, despite The Band having been his backing band from 1965 to 1966 and in 1974. Take a load off with these facts about one of the most celebrated shows in music history.

1. A LOT OF FAMOUS CINEMATOGRAPHERS WERE INVOLVED.

The seven 35mm camera operators included Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull), Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter), and László Kovács (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces). Scorsese and Robbie Robertson (who also served as a producer) came up with a 300-page shooting script of diagrams and text that assigned the camera positions with the music lyrics and cues. According to the film's production notes, it was the first music documentary made on 35mm.

2. IT WASN'T MARTIN SCORSESE'S FIRST TIME WORKING ON A MUSIC DOCUMENTARY.

He was one of several editors on Woodstock (1970), and worked as a montage supervisor on Elvis on Tour (1972). Robertson convinced Scorsese to direct the concert film six weeks before the show (the two later became roommates).

3. SCORSESE DUG UP THE VENUE'S FLOOR.

With Graham's permission, Scorsese commissioned someone to dig into a section of the Winterland Ballroom floor in order to anchor a tower that could hold Zsigmond and his camera at the back of the venue, allowing him to get some great wide-angle long shots.

4. CHANDELIERS FROM GONE WITH THE WIND WERE USED.

The show was designed by Boris Leven, who has served as production designer on West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). Leven created a backdrop inspired by the films of Luchino Visconti (Death In Venice, The Leopard), borrowing props from the San Francisco Opera's production of La Traviata and chandeliers designed for Gone with the Wind. Robertson wasn't sold on the elaborate decor. He told Leven, "Chandeliers? I don't think that's going to go over with Neil or Bob or the rest of the musicians. These people don't do chandeliers, Boris."

5. SCORSESE WAS WORKING ON NEW YORK, NEW YORK AT THE SAME TIME.

Scorsese was supposed to be in New York editing the Liza Minnelli/Robert De Niro musical drama when he was in San Francisco preparing and shooting The Last Waltz. According to Scorsese, New York, New York producer Irwin Winkler was "very upset" when he learned this.

6. SCORSESE PURPOSELY DIDN'T SHOOT THE AUDIENCE.

"I had the feeling that the movie audience could become involved with the concert if we concentrated on the stage," Scorsese explained. "Besides, after Woodstock, who wants to see the audience anymore?"

7. THERE WERE TURKEY DINNERS FOR ALL THE UNSEEN.

The 5000 fans in attendance had to pay the princely sum of $25, which was more than triple the average price of a concert ticket at the time. However, they were well fed when the doors opened at 5 p.m.: 220 turkeys, 500 pounds of cranberry sauce, 90 gallons of brown gravy, one ton of candied yams, 800 pounds of mincemeat, 6000 rolls, and 400 gallons of cider were available. For non-turkey eaters, there was also 400 pounds of fresh salmon, provided by a childhood friend of Bob Dylan's. After dinner, the patrons danced to the music of a 38-piece orchestra, joined by three teams of professional ballroom dancers.

8. BOB DYLAN ATTEMPTED TO BACK OUT AT THE LAST MINUTE.

Fifteen minutes before he was scheduled to go on, Dylan arrived at the venue and announced that he would not be appearing in the film after all. He was reluctant largely out of concern that The Last Waltz would compete with his own upcoming concert film, Renaldo & Clara (1978). In his memoir, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band, Helm wrote that Scorsese "went nuts."

With five minutes to go, Graham convinced Dylan to agree to be filmed for his last two songs only. To make it clear that he wasn't being filmed, the cameras were physically turned away from the stage during his first few songs. After the show, Dylan's lawyer seized the footage that was shot of his client for future negotiation purposes.

9. NEIL DIAMOND TRIED TO MAKE A JOKE TO DYLAN ... IT DIDN'T GO OVER SO WELL.

As the legend goes, Diamond, riding high after his performance of "Dry Your Eyes," challenged Dylan to "follow that." Dylan allegedly responded by asking Diamond, rhetorically, "What do I have to do, go on stage and fall asleep?” When Rolling Stone asked Diamond about the incident in 2010, the story changed. "Actually, it was before we both went on. He was tuning his guitar and I came over to him and I said, 'You know, Bob, those are really my people out there.'" Diamond claimed he was only joking, and all Dylan did was look at him "quizzically."

10. PEOPLE WONDERED WHY DIAMOND WAS THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Levon Helm was one of those people. "When I heard that Neil Diamond was going to play I asked, 'What the hell does Neil Diamond have to do with us?'" the drummer asked in his memoir. Diamond was invited after Robertson produced his album, Beautiful Noise; "Dry Your Eyes" was a number Robertson and Diamond wrote together.

11. NEIL YOUNG INTRODUCED HIMSELF TO DIAMOND. SORT OF.

Backstage, Young walked up to Diamond and said, "Nice to meet you. I'm Neil Sedaka."

12. YOUNG'S "BOOGER" HAD TO BE EDITED OUT.

When the movie was projected for the first time, Neil Young's manager was horrified when he saw his client's face. "There was a rock of cocaine falling out of his nostril," the film's executive producer, Jonathan Taplin, remembered. When Young's manager suddenly blustered that he was refusing to allow "Helpless" to appear in The Last Waltz, Taplin went to a special effects company to fix things, telling them: "This guy has got a booger in his nose, can you fix it?" After a few days they responded, saying, "We've invented a travelling booger matte."

13. SCORSESE AND ALL THE CAMERAMEN ALMOST MISSED MUDDY WATERS'S PERFORMANCE ENTIRELY.

Thanks to The Band making some changes on the fly, Scorsese grew frustrated, screaming into his headphones to make last-second cue changes to his camera crew. Kovács couldn't handle it and ripped off his headset. With Scorsese thinking a different song was coming up, he ordered all the cameras to shut down—just as blues legend Muddy Waters launched into "Mannish Boy." Fortunately, Kovács didn't hear Scorsese's order, which is why the only footage of Waters's performance came from Kovács's camera.

14. IT WAS INITIALLY RATED R BY THE MPAA.

The R rating was due to language used in the film. After an appeal, it was bumped down to a PG.

15. IT WASN'T, IN FACT, THE BAND'S FINAL PERFORMANCE.

It was just the last with Robertson, who was the only one who wanted to stop touring in the first place. The Band reformed without the guitarist and began touring again in 1983.

16. LEVON HELM WAS CRITICAL OF THE MOVIE.

"As far as I was concerned, the movie was a disaster," Helm wrote in This Wheel's on Fire. "For two hours [at a screening] we watched as the camera focused almost exclusively on Robbie Robertson, long and loving close-ups of his heavily made-up face and expensive haircut. The film was edited so it looked like Robbie was conducting the band with expansive waves of his guitar neck. The muscles on his neck stood out like cords when he sang so powerfully into his switched-off microphone."

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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