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12 Facts About Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a more critically and commercially successful version of the film it was "remaking"—the 1964 David Niven/Marlon Brando comedy Bedtime Story. The 1988 version starred Michael Caine as classy con man Lawrence Jamieson, and Steve Martin as the more lowbrow, American upstart huckster Freddy Benson. The two make a bet that they can con Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) out of her money, with the loser having to leave the French Riviera. Here are 12 facts you need to know about the popular con man comedy. 

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT FOR MICK JAGGER AND DAVID BOWIE.

The two singers, fresh off their collaboration with their "Dancing in the Street" cover, wanted to do a movie together. Jagger, who found screenwriter Dale Launer's first produced screenplay Ruthless People (1986) to be brilliant, suggested that Launer write a script for them. The writer thought Bedtime Story, starring David Niven and Marlon Brando, would work for them. Launer, as instructed, thought up ways to allow Jagger's character to sing in the movie without turning it into a musical. Eventually, Launer was told Jagger and Bowie wanted a "more serious" project. In 1992, Bowie expressed displeasure at not getting to do Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. "How 'bout them apples! Mick and I were a bit tweezed that we lost out on a script that could have been reasonably good," he told Movieline.

2. AT ONE POINT, IT WAS GOING TO BE AN EDDIE MURPHY MOVIE.

Murphy had seen Bedtime Story on his uncle's recommendation. His production company, Eddie Murphy Productions, asked Launer to re-write it if they could get the rights to the movie from Universal. It would later be revealed that everyone had mistakenly thought Universal owned the rights; it had reverted back two years earlier to co-writer and producer Stanley Shapiro. Launer and his lawyer bought the rights from him. Launer then tried to sell the film to Paramount Pictures, with Eddie Murphy attached. To Launer's surprise, they said no. Murphy then dropped out.

3. IT COULD HAVE BEEN A MONTY PYTHON REUNION.

John Cleese claimed he was offered the role that would later go to Michael Caine, but he turned it down because filming would have taken place right after six weeks of publicity work for another movie. It was a decision he would later regret. Michael Palin read for Lawrence and was one of the finalists for the part.

It wasn't just former Pythoners—Richard Dreyfuss and Matthew Broderick were also in the running to star.

4. STEVE MARTIN WANTED TO PLAY LAWRENCE.

Director Frank Oz gave Steve Martin the script, and Launer was told that Martin "swooned" over it and was to play David Niven's role. Launer, however, saw him as Freddy, since Freddy was a "lout" just like Martin's stand-up persona. To Oz's surprise, Martin changed his mind.

5. IT WAS SHOT ENTIRELY IN FRANCE.

Scoundrels was shot, as was explained in the end credits, entirely on location in the south of France and at La Victorine Cote D’Azur Studios in Nice. Caine stayed in a St. Paul villa during shooting and later recalled with a laugh, "It’s tough duty, but someone’s got to do it, you know?"

6. THE TEASER FEATURED A SCENE THAT ISN'T IN THE MOVIE.

Frank Oz, believing he didn't have enough footage yet to make a good trailer, shot a scene not in the movie of Caine and Martin taking a little stroll.

7. THE CREW DIDN'T LAUGH.

When Michael Caine was asked what the most important lesson he learned in making movies over the decades, he had Scoundrels in mind. "If you’re doing a comedy and the crew laughs, it’s not funny [laughs]. I did Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin. The crew never laughed once at anything. It’s the funniest film I ever made."

8. CAINE WONDERED WHY THEY WERE REMAKING A FLOP.

When Caine asked Oz why they were remaking a commercial flop, Oz said there would be no point in remaking a film that had been a success. That was good enough for the actor.

9. CAINE HAS A FAVORITE SCENE.

"It’s one of those films where you’re just waiting for your favorite bits to happen," he said. "For me, it’s when I’m hitting Steve’s knees playing Dr. Shauffhausen. (laughs) I’m laughing now thinking about it."

10. FREDDY GETTING UP FROM HIS WHEELCHAIR WASN'T FUNNY AT FIRST.

In a test screening, the scene didn't get many laughs, to the surprise of Frank Oz and the editors, Stephen A. Rotter and William S. Scharf. Launer then had an idea. "I suggested laying in some inspirational music, something hugely dramatic like Thus Spake Zarathustra, or Handel’s Messiah (the "Hallelujah" chorus) and they tried it, played it and it got a good solid laugh."

11. OZ AND THE EDITORS MADE A POTENTIALLY BIG DECISION ABOUT LAWRENCE.

Launer revealed that at the end of his script, it turned out that Lawrence Jamison knew all along that Janet was The Jackal. "And he’s fallen in love with her. You think he’s fallen in love with her because she’s so guileless, so honest, so decent – and then she takes him – and you feel bad for him. But, in the end, you find out he did fall in love with her, but not because of her guilelessness, but because she was such a good con artist. I think the director and editor saw that it could work either way, so they changed it. Maybe it’s better, but it’s an editing change. It’s not much different actually."

12. REBEL WILSON IS ATTACHED TO STAR IN A FEMALE REMAKE.

Two female scam artists, one being Wilson, will compete to con a naive tech prodigy out of his fortune.

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Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.

1. SHE WAS A JAZZ FAN FROM A YOUNG AGE.

Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”

2. SHE DABBLED IN CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES AS A TEENAGER.

A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.

3. SHE MADE HER STAGE DEBUT AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.

4. A NURSERY RHYME HELPED HER GET THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION.

Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."

5. SHE WAS PAINFULLY SHY.

Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."

6. SHE MADE HER FILM DEBUT IN AN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MOVIE.

As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

7. SHE GOT SOME HELP FROM MARILYN MONROE.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.

8. SHE WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN TO WIN A GRAMMY.

Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.

9. HER FINAL PERFORMANCE WAS AT CARNEGIE HALL.

On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.

10. SHE LOST BOTH OF HER LEGS TO DIABETES.

In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in May
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Warner Bros. Entertainment

While Netflix has got plenty of laughs in store for its streaming customers next month, the loss of several contemporary classic films likes Goodfellas, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Hurt Locker means that if you’re in desperate need of a British rom-com fix or badass Scorsese crime drama fix, you’d better start streaming. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in May.

MAY 1

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Casper
Chappie
Charlotte’s Web
Field of Dreams
Goodfellas
Ocean’s Eleven
Sahara
Silent Hill
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Hurt Locker
To Rome With Love
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

MAY 2

12 Dates of Christmas
Beauty & the Briefcase
Cadet Kelly
Camp Rock
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Cow Belles
Cyberbully
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2
Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World
Frenemies
Geek Charming
Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas
Hello Sister, Goodbye Life
High School Musical
High School Musical 2
Jump In!
Lemonade Mouth
Little Einsteins: Seasons 1 – 2
My Fake Fiancé
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
Phineas and Ferb: Seasons 1 – 4
Princess Protection Program
Princess: A Modern Fairytale
Read It and Weep
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
Special Agent Oso: Seasons 1 – 2
StarStruck
Teen Spirit
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Seasons 1 – 5
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

MAY 7

The Host

MAY 12

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

MAY 30

Disney’s The Jungle Book

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