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The Little Prince Movie You Probably Never Saw

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This week, Netflix will release The Little Prince, a film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved 1943 book about a pilot who crashes in the desert, where he befriends the titular character after the boy demands the pilot draw him a sheep. The movie, which features the voices of Jeff Bridges, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Paul Rudd, and more, expands on Saint-Exupéry’s story by adding a little girl and her mother, who live next door to the aviator; the Little Prince’s tale is a film within the film, created using stop-motion animation. But Netflix’s flick isn’t the first time The Little Prince has been adapted into a film; there was another star-studded Little Prince movie, and it was more bizarre than you can imagine.

The first Little Prince film was a musical that brought together a number of Broadway and Hollywood heavyweights. Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner came on board to write the screenplay and songs and, for a time, composers like John Barry and Burt Bacharach were linked to the project. Eventually, though, Lerner persuaded his old partner, Fritz Loewe—with whom he’d written My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Brigadoon, among other musicals—to come out of retirement to compose the film’s songs and score. (Angela Morley, an English composer, was also a part of the team; she became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Oscar when she received an Academy Award nod for her work on The Little Prince.) The movie was produced and directed by Stanley Donen, who, among many other films, helmed Singin' in the Rain and the 1958 film adaptation of the musical Damn Yankees.

The cast was no less stellar: Gene Wilder took on the role of The Fox; Bob Fosse played The Snake; and Donna McKechnie (who would later star in the Fame TV show) was cast as The Rose. Six-year-old Steven Warner played The Little Prince, while Richard Kiley was cast in the role of The Pilot. (The studio wanted Frank Sinatra for the role, but Donen vetoed the idea, saying in 1976 that “The part [called] for a man who must allow himself to be dominated by a 6-year-old boy. It’s difficult for me to imagine Frank relating to a child in such a way … I didn’t want to risk the movie on him.”)

You would think, with all of this star power, that the film would have been wonderful, but instead, the result was rather strange. Wilder, Fosse, and McKechnie—who were playing two animals and a plant, respectively—were not voicing their characters. They were just people acting like animals and a flower, and they weren't even dressed up à la Zoobilee Zoo. In his book Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, Wilder wrote that Donen had approached him to play The Fox, telling the actor that it was "the best part." Wilder agreed: "The Fox was certainly the best part for me, and I said I would be happy to do it." In one memorable scene, Wilder sits in a field of wheat and recites the book's most beloved line:

If Wilder seems profoundly sad in the scene, it might not be acting. "Before I left for London to do The Little Prince, I went to Milwaukee to visit my father, who was very ill," Wilder wrote. "When I kissed him goodbye, I knew I was seeing him for the last time. A week later I was told my father had died. I was filming in an enormous artificial wheat field on a huge soundstage delivering the most memorable lines in the script: 'It's only with the heart that one can see clearly; what's essential is invisible to the eye.'"

Donen offered the part of the Snake to Fosse, and to land the legendary dancer and choreographer, the director offered him complete control of the number. Fosse was reluctant to take the part, but his daughter, Nicole, loved the book so much that he couldn't say no. Fosse bought his own costume—yellow tinted sunglasses and a bowler hat, plus gloves from Bergdorf's and shoes from LaRay—and choreographed himself. He also mapped out camera angles for the sequence with his former assistant, Pat Ferrier Kiley (who was married to Richard). "Bobby came with the Snake Dance already mapped out," Kiley recalled, "and Stanley [Donen] was occupied in other areas, so Bobby and I would get up there and literally pick out camera angles."

McKechnie's sequence was filmed on a soundstage in London against a black background. The actress wrote later that she was “thrown at first by Stanley’s direction, as he wanted the number to be seductive, a hot dance with bumps and grinds”:

“I was reluctant to go that way with it because I was performing the scene with [a boy]. I tried to compromise with a more playful approach, which was sexy but not too hard-edged, as if I were a child in a woman’s body ... When I saw the movie months later, I was mortified. My scene had been cut to ribbons and the music was changed completely. The song I sang, ‘Be Happy,’ was in my soprano voice, but my voice in the scene was dubbed by someone with a very low, sultry English accent. It occurred to me that [Donen] never had any intention to use my speaking voice.”

(Lerner would later write that the sequence was “an absolute abomination and that Donen refuses to change it.”)

But the best and most bizarre musical number comes after The Little Prince and The Pilot find water in the desert. Delirious with joy, they sing, “Why am I happy? We’re dying of thirst,” followed by a slow-motion sequence featuring the actors playing in the water:

Much of the film was shot on location in Tunisia, presumably without Lerner and Loewe around—and, according to Lerner, Donen did his fair share of messing with the screenplay, the music, and the choreography: “The director … took it upon himself to change every tempo, delete musical phrases at will, and distort the intention of every song, until the score was entirely unrecognizable,” Lerner said, later calling what Donen did a “butchering of the script and score.”

The lyricist sent letters to Donen with suggestions for what could be reworked, but his letters were ignored. “Unlike the theater, where the author is the final authority, in motion pictures it is the director,” Lerner later said. “And if one falls into the hands of some cinematic Bigfoot, one pays the price for someone else’s ineptitude. In this case the price was high, because it was undoubtedly Fritz’s last score.” (The score, as Lerner and Loewe had intended it to be heard, would be released a few years later.)

Paramount released The Little Prince in 1974, and despite its star power, the film flopped at the box office. The New York Times’s critic Vincent Canby was not a fan. To start, he called it “a very exasperating experience,” then proceeded to drop a series of sick burns: “So little happens,” he wrote, “that the movie, which is stretched out with the Lerner-Loewe music, lasts only 88 minutes and seems at least five times that long.” For one song, Kiley seemed to have been filmed from a helicopter; according to Canby, “the actor, seen alternately in long shots and close-ups, appears to have lost his mind.” Fosse is “dressed like a 19th-century Chicago pimp” whose dance moves “look great when done by Gwen Verdon but [are] embarrassing in this context.” Warner had “a delightful laugh, but the way things are done these days I wondered if it might be Mercedes McCambridge.”

While conceding that “in addition to the score … there are some other isolated good things in the movie,” Canby ultimately concluded that “there are lots of pleasures that children and adults can share: zoos, circuses, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie Brown, roller coasters, hot dogs between meals. The Little Prince is not one of them.” Thankfully, Netflix’s adaptation is already getting better reviews—it currently has a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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