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10 Rich Facts About Brewster's Millions

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Based on a 1902 novel of the same name, Brewster's Millions starred Richard Pryor as minor league pitcher Monty Brewster, who stands to inherit $300 million of his great uncle's fortune if he can spend $30 million in 30 days without retaining any assets. John Candy co-starred alongside Pryor as his best friend and teammate Spike Nolan.

Despite primarily negative reviews, the film did well at the box office and was a mainstay on cable television over the years, making it beloved by those who were watching the likes of TBS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

1. THE NOVEL HAS BEEN ADAPTED SEVERAL TIMES.

George Barr McCutcheon's novel Brewster's Millions was adapted for the screen in the United States in 1914, 1921, 1935, and 1945, as well as in 1926 as Miss Brewster's Millions. In England, it was remade as Three on a Spree (1961). In the earlier incarnations of Brewster's Millions, the titular character was required to spend just $1 million.

2. PETER BOGDANOVICH WAS SET TO DIRECT.

Peter Bogdanovich was reportedly going to make it similar to director Allan Dwan's 1945 version. Bogdanovich interviewed Dwan about his films, including Millions, which Dwan called "one of the best pieces of material" he ever had.

3. WALTER HILL DIRECTED IT FOR THE MONEY.

Walter Hill, director of The Warriors and 48 Hrs., admitted in 1988 that at the time the only film he didn't make out of passion was Brewster's Millions. As  the Chicago Tribune put it, Hill made the movie to "improve his bank account and success quotient."

4. JENNIFER BEALS WAS CONSIDERED FOR THE FEMALE LEAD.

The filmmakers wanted Flashdance star Jennifer Beals to co-star with Pryor as accountant Angela Drake. Instead, Lonette McKee (Pryor's co-star in Which Way Is Up) got the role.

5. HILL WAS SURPRISED THAT JOHN CANDY WANTED TO DO IT.

John Candy agreed to take the part once he heard that Pryor was starring and Walter Hill was directing. When Candy came to visit Hill on the set of Streets of Fire (1984), Hill—a fan of SCTVtold Candy: “I'd love to have you in the picture. I'm afraid the way the script stands there isn't much for you to do. But I'll do my best to expand the part for you."

6. THEY HAD TO STOP SHOOTING BEFORE THE OLYMPICS BEGAN.

Shooting began on April 30, 1984 in Los Angeles and had to conclude before July 28, to ensure it wouldn't interfere with the 1984 Summer Olympics. Location shooting continued in New York City and ended on August 8, 1984.

7. PRINCESS ANNE VISITED THE SET.

Anne, Princess Royal, only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, was in Los Angeles and paid a visit to the set of Brewster's Millions as part of her itinerary. She was greeted by Candy and producer Joel Silver; Candy and the princess discussed a fire that had recently broken out at Pinewood Studios in England. She was scheduled to visit a scene involving Richard Pryor, but it was shot a day earlier, as Hill had production ahead of schedule. "I don't think she even knows Richard Pryor," an observer was quoted as saying. "I'm sure she was more excited at meeting John Candy, who's a Canadian citizen."

8. PRYOR HAD AN ISSUE WITH CANDY.

According to Paul Mooney's Black is the New White, Candy was jealous of Pryor and Eddie Murphy's instant friendship on the set of Brewster's Millions (Candy brought Murphy on set as a guest of his). Candy confessed to Mooney that he thought Pryor "hated him." Mooney told him otherwise, but wrote that the truth was "Richard cannot stand the man."

9. YAKOV SMIRNOFF WAS TYPECAST, ACCORDING TO YAKOV SMIRNOFF.

"I was not only typecast as a Russian, but I was typecast as Yakov Smirnoff," the comedian said in 1992 of his roles in Heartburn (1986), The Money Pit (1986), and Brewster's Millions. "This is understandable, and I was very happy to get the roles, but it would be nice to be in a movie where I could be someone else."

10. ANOTHER REMAKE IS POSSIBLY FORTHCOMING.

In 2015, Entertainment Weekly reported that Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle) is set to direct a new version of Brewster's Millions.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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