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Universal offers up 100 fun movie facts for their centennial celebration

Universal Pictures 100th Anniversary Logo

Did you know the working title for “E.T.” was “A Boy’s Life”? Or that both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in “Field of Dreams”? All of those facts plus 98 more were released today by Universal Pictures to tease their 100th anniversary. Included are everything from the name of the mechanical shark in “Jaws” to what Bela Lugosi was wearing at his funeral.

It’s a fascinating list for movie buffs so check it out below. When you’re finished with that, hit up Universal’s birthday website here to find out more about the dozens of new centennial edition Blu-rays and DVDs that the company is releasing this year.


1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.

2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.

3. The working title for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was “A Boy’s Life.”

4. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”

5. In 1969, a then 22-year old Steven Spielberg was assigned to direct the Universal Television series pilot, Night Gallery. It’s safe to say things went pretty well for Steven after that.

6. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.

7. The first feature filmed at Universal City was Damon and Pythias in 1914.

8. President Ronald Reagan starred in the 1951 Universal feature film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

9. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.

10. The film A Beautiful Mind was shot in sequence in order to help Russell Crowe better develop his character’s emotional and physical arc.

11. American Graffiti’s budget was exactly $777,777.77, and it was delivered on time – and on budget.

12. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds, Tippi Hedren was actually cut in the face by a bird during the shooting of one sequence.

13. Throughout his career, Rock Hudson appeared in 46 feature films with Universal including Pillow Talk, All That Heaven Allows and Magnificent Obsession. In 1953, he was elected Mayor of Universal City.

14. The infamous apple pie in the movie American Pie was purchased by the production from Costco.

15. In the movie The Breakfast Club, the students ate the following for lunch: Andrew: A bag of chips, chocolate cookies, three sandwiches, milk, a banana and an apple. Claire: Sushi. Allison: Sandwich with Pixie Stix and Captain Crunch cereal. Brian: Soup, sandwich with peanut butter and jam and apple juice. Bender: Nothing.

16. In Brokeback Mountain, the song Jack plays on his harmonica is “He Was a Friend of Mine,” the same song Willie Nelson sings during the closing credits.

17. The film Buck Privates took in $4 million at the U.S. Box Office (at a time when theater admission ranged between 10 and 25 cents).

18. A sneak preview of the film Buck Privates was held in late January 1941 for soldiers at Fort MacArthur, California.

19. The Munster’s House on Colonial Street was originally built for the 1946 production, So Goes My Love.

20. The title of the movie Do The Right Thing comes from a Malcolm X quote: “You’ve got to do the right thing.”

21. According to reports, during some of the Russian roulette scenes in the movie The Deer Hunter, a live round was put into the gun to heighten the actors’ tension per Robert De Niro’s suggestion. It was checked, however, to make sure the bullet was not in the chamber before the trigger was pulled.

22. In the first scene of the movie Double Indemnity, when Walter first kisses Phyllis, there is a wedding ring on Walter’s hand. Fred MacMurray was married and the ring was not noticed until post-production.

23. When Bela Lugosi, star of the monster classic, Dracula, died in 1956, he was buried wearing a black silk cape similar to the one he wore in the film.

24. At 29,500 sq. ft., Universal Studios’ Stage 12 is the 7th largest soundstage in the world. It was originally built for the 1929 musical Broadway.

25. Carl Laemmle Jr. offered James Whale a list of more than 30 film adaptations he could direct and out of them all, Whale picked Frankenstein. It was his transition from war movies to monster pics.

26. Today’s Universal City officially opened March 15, 1915. Nearly three years after Universal Film Manufacturing Company was created. The first mayor was Herbert Rawlinson.

27. Vans, the company behind the checkerboard shoes worn by Sean Penn (a.k.a. Jeff Spicoli) in the cult movie classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, became a national brand after the film’s release in 1982.

28. Actor Charlton Heston “parted” the Red Sea attraction on the Universal Studios Tour at the attraction’s grand opening in 1973.

29. Neither Michelle Rodriguez nor Jordana Brewster had drivers’ licenses or even learners’ permits before production of the film in Fast and the Furious.

30. Universal pioneered the Academy Award-winning Sensurround Sound System which made its first appearance in the 1974 movie, Earthquake. The Sensurround system caused low-frequency audio waves to be felt by the audience and created a visceral complement to the seismic tremors and destruction depicted on screen..

31. In the movie Field of Dreams, both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among the thousands of extras in the Fenway Park scene. Over a decade later, when Phil Alden Robinson worked with Affleck on the production of The Sum of All Fears, Affleck said, “Nice working with you again.”

32. In the coliseum scenes in Gladiator, only the bottom two decks are actually filled with people. The other thousands of spectators are computer-animated.

33. Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey was the first actress at Universal to receive a nomination for “Best Actress” at the Academy Awards.

34. William Powell from the 1936 film, My Man Godfrey was the first actor at Universal to receive a nomination for “Best Actor” at the Academy Awards.

35. The Universal sound technician, Jack Foley, developed the method of creating and recording many of the natural, everyday sound effects in a film. Today this method is named after him.

36. Universal’s first talking picture was Melody of Love.

37. The Universal Amphitheatre opened in 1972 with a staged concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The film version was released in 1973.

38. The legendary thriller and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock did not win any Academy Awards while working with Universal.

39. Thomas Edison presented Universal Studios with a plaque dedicating its first electric studio on October 27, 1915.

40. In the infamous shower scene in Psycho, the sound of the knife-stabbing actress Janet Leigh was made by plunging a knife into a melon.

41. The film Traffic in Souls is considered Universal’s first full-length feature film.

42. The legendary studio head Irving Thalberg got his start in show business as Carl Laemmle’s personal secretary in 1917.

43. ET: The Extra Terrestrial is Universal Pictures’ all-time highest grossing film.

44. With the over-budget production of Show Boat, Carl Laemmle was forced to sell Universal Studios to his creditors in 1936.

45. In 1995, Waterworld generated worldwide attention for being the most expensive film made to date. Unable to live up to expectations at the box office, the film eventually turned a profit due to strong home video sales and inspired one of the most popular theme park attractions of all time.

46. About 25% of the film Jaws was shot from water level so audiences could better relate to treading water.

47. In the film The Invisible Man, the director dressed Claude Rains in black velvet and filmed him against a black velvet background to create the effect that he wasn’t there.

48. Some of the props used in the 2005 version of King Kong were original props from the 1933 version. These props came from Peter Jackson’s personal collection and include the Skull Island spears and brightly painted shield, and some of the drums from the sacrifice scene.

49. In Jurassic Park, a guitar string was used to make the water ripple on the dash of the Ford Explorer by attaching it to the underside of the dash beneath the glass.

50. Universal entered the 3-D market with the film, It Came from Outer Space (1953)

51. Universal won its first Best Picture Academy Award for All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.

52. Steven Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark in the movie Jaws, “Bruce.”

53. In the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, when Louise is on the phone asking for the operator, the music playing on the radio is the theme song to Written on the Wind, which was made at Universal the year prior.

54. The script Charlton Heston holds in the film Earthquake as he’s running lines with Genevieve Bujold is actually the script for “Earthquake” and on the page of the scene being shot.

55. It took two-and-a-half hours a day to apply Lon Chaney’s makeup in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

56. Legendary Universal Chairman Lew R. Wasserman received an Academy Award in 1973 for his role as a humanitarian.

57. With the film Meet the Fockers, the MPAA would not allow use of the name ‘Focker’ unless the filmmakers could find an actual person with that last name.

58. The first American film to show a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.

59. While Jurassic Park was in post-production, Steven Spielberg began working on Schindler’s List in Poland and worked via satellite, courtesy of technology provided by George Lucas.

60. In the film, Scarface, an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel is Tony’s “little friend.”

61. The 1932 film Scarface was one of the first films to feature the Thompson submachine gun, known historically as the “tommy gun.”

62. In the film Pillow Talk, Tony Randall was supposed to fake a reaction to being decked in the face by one of the restaurant patrons. However, during filming, the actor overestimated and actually knocked out Randall. The shot was so well done— it was used in the film.

63. Alfred Hitchcock did not choose to conclude the film, The Birds, with the usual “THE END” title because he wanted to leave the audience with the feeling of unending terror and uncertainty.

64. Groucho Marx explained the title Duck Soup as follows: “Take two turkeys, one goose, four cabbages, but no duck, and mix them together. After one taste, you’ll duck soup the rest of your life.”

65. For Despicable Me, the film’s directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin provide most of the voices for Gru’s minions.

66. In The Nutty Professor starring Eddie Murphy, the family dinner scene was initially going to be cut out due to what was believed to be its lack of relevance.

67. When the Universal Studios Tour opened to the general public in 1964, the general admission price for one adult was $2.50.

68. The children who sang the song, “Every Sperm is Sacred” in the Monty Python film, The Meaning of Life, later said they had no idea what sperm was or what they were singing about.

69. In the film, My Little Chickadee, Cuthbert J. Twille (W.C. Fields) says to Flower Belle (Mae West), “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”—This is in reference to West’s famous line in the film She Done Him Wrong.

70. The following institutions have existed at one time on the Universal Studios lot—a school, zoo, and hospital.

71. The hair-washing scene in Out of Africa was shot very close to a live, territorial hippopotamus. Meryl Streep was extremely nervous during its filming.

72. The locusts in the 1999 film, The Mummy, were mostly computer-generated, however, some live grasshoppers were used. Hours before filming they were chilled in a refrigerator to make them more sluggish.

73. In Smokey and the Bandit, the Trans-Am featured in the bridge jump scene was fitted with a more powerful Chevrolet engine.

74. The average shot length in the film Vertigo is 6.7 seconds.

75. The permanent set in Stage 28 was created to be a replica of the landmark The Paris Opera House, for the classic film, The Phantom of the Opera.

76. When you hear the sound of the crowd cheering, “Spartacus! Spartacus!” in the movie Spartacus, it was actually a pre-taped recording from a 1959 football game at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium.

77. In Sullivan’s Travels, director Preston Sturges can be seen in the background on the set of ‘The Girls’ period movie.

78. The cake in the movie Sixteen Candles is made of cardboard.

79. The final speech by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird was done in one take.

80. The diner in the movie The Sting is the same diner interior used in Back to the Future.

81. In 1928, famous cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, debuted at a Universal-owned theater.

82. Elizabeth Taylor made her feature film debut in Universal’s 1942 film, There’s One Born Every Minute.

83. Yes, at some point, some Universal executive, or team of executives, thought 1986’s Howard the Duck was a good idea.

84. The dog chase scene at the beginning of the film Beethoven was filmed on the Universal backlot.

85. The title of the film Streets of Fire starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane, was drawn from a Bruce Springsteen song, from his album Darkness on the Edge of Town. The song, unfortunately, does not appear in the film.

86. Robert Redford’s character in The Sting is named after blues legend John Lee Hooker. The character’s name is Johnny Hooker.

87. 1920’s Shipwrecked Among Cannibals was the first film to gross $1,000,000 for Universal.

88. Prominent Universal Director Edward Laemmle was the nephew of Universal Founder Carl Laemmle. He directed over 60 films (including shorts) for Universal.

89. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the films that are watched by the “employees” in the Smar-Tech store are all produced by Universal.

90. The Blues Brothers “Bluesmobile” is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.

91. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is only the second time Bela Lugosi would play “Dracula” in a feature film. (He played other vampires in the interim, but not Dracula.)

92. In 1973’s High Plains Drifter starring Clint Eastwood, one of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute.

93. On Golden Pond was Henry Fonda’s final film, and the only one he starred in with his daughter Jane.

94. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is the third major motion picture produced by Universal from a book written by Theodore Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

95. In 1992’s Scent of Woman, Al Pacino repeatedly shouts “Hoo-ah.” “Hoo-ah” comes from the military acronym “HUA” which stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”

96. The car wash in Car Wash was named The Dee Luxe Car Wash.

97. 1971’s Play Misty for Me was set in Carmel, CA, where Clint Eastwood later lived and became mayor in 1986.

98. “The Bride” in “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only one of Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters to have never killed anyone.

99. Throughout its hundred year legacy, Universal brought to audiences the first films of talents such as John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Norman Jewison, Ben Stiller, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Amy Heckerling, Spike Jonze, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow.

100. More than 100 million people from around the world have taken the Universal Studios “studio tour.” While the tour officially began in 1964, Universal has been welcoming the public to our studio since 1915 and the silent era.

Which of these movie facts did you find most interesting? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.




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