In the 1964 film Fail Safe, it is mentioned that the United States has never been to condition red (DEFCON 2), but that is not true. The US was at DEFCON 2 during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. At the time this movie was made that was the only such example, but the US declared DEFCON 2 at the commencement of the Gulf War in 1991 as well. DEFCON 1, incidentally, is condition white, signifying imminent and all but unavoidable nuclear war. Happily, condition white was never been reached. Not yet anyway.
The character Eduard Roschmann (portrayed by Maximilion Schell in the 1974 thriller The Odessa File), was a real-life wanted war criminal living in South America when this movie was released. He became even more wanted after the Frederick Forsythe book and the picture based on it engendered massive media attention on discovering his whereabouts. He turned up dead, rumored to have been killed by his O.D.E.S.S.A. comrades in order to put a stop to the search for him. O.D.E.S.S.A. was a real, functioning organization during the sixties when the film’s action takes place. Furthermore, Egypt’s then President Nasser did indeed seek to perfect a strike force of 400 rockets to wipe Israel off the face of the map. His key scientists were mostly from Hitler’s former rocket program.
Zulu Dawn (1979) focuses on the Battle of Isandhlwana in 1879, an engagement in which a force of 20,000 Zulus overran a column of around 2,000 British soldiers, killing all but a handful of them. The lack of ammunition due to boxes being ‘screwed down’ was given as the main reason for the British defeat, but this has since been disproven. The ammo boxes were indeed screwed down but were designed to be opened in a hurry by knocking off the center section of the lid (with a rifle butt if need be). Primarily, the defeat came about for two reasons – a) the British firing lines were too far out and thinly spread, and b) the Martini Henry rifles they were issued with heated up and jammed with prolonged firing. When this happened the Zulus closed on the firing lines quickly and over-ran them. Initially, Lord Chelmsford, the British commander of the column stated that the Zulu force was 60,000 strong. It was a blatant lie. He was, however, a favorite of Queen Victoria who would later promote him despite the disaster. Fortunately for him, he was off chasing Zulu scouts when the camp was attacked and lived to tell the tale.
BRUCE BERESFORD – the overlooked director of Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Since the Academy Awards came into existence, only six films to win the Best Picture Oscar were directed by individuals who failed to even be nominated as Best Director for those movies. The first of these pictures was Wings (1927) and neither of its directors (William A. Wellman or Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast) was nominated. Five years later, Edmund Goulding directed Best Picture Grand Hotel (1932) and was also not nominated. In 1989 Australian director Bruce Beresford went un-nominated when his film Driving Miss Daisy won. Twenty-three years down the track the director of Argo (Ben Affleck) was also overlooked in 2012. Six years later, so was Peter Farrelly when he directed the 2018 Best Picture Green Book. And in 2021, Sian Heder failed to be nominated for the winning film CODA.
The 1982 telemovie of The Scarlet Pimpernel starred Anthony Andrews in the title role, Jane Seymour as his wife Marguerite St. Just, Ian McKellen as Chauvelin, and Julian Fellowes as the Prince Regent. Andrews and McKellen shared the honors in the acting department, while Jane was as gorgeous as ever. Interestingly, Fellowes would achieve renown as the creator of Downton Abbey years later. Also, Timothy Carlton, the real life father of actor Benedict Cumberbatch, also gets a run in this film. He portrays the Count de Beaulieu and used to read ‘The Hobbit’ to Benedict, creating all the voices for the characters as he did so. His son was thus inspired to audition for Peter Jackson’s movie version and was eventually cast as the voice of Smaug.
Samantha Smith first came to national attention in 1983. The ten year-old American girl from the state of Maine wrote to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov and asked him, ‘Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country?’ Touched by her genuineness, Andropov replied that he had no such intention and invited Samantha and her family to the USSR for a special tour. She became famous overnight but her moment in the sun was tragically short-lived. At the age of thirteen, in August 1985, she died in a plane crash along with her father during a break in the filming of her TV series ‘Lime Street’. After her death she was honored with the first prize of the Children’s Peace Award. The Soviet Union issued a postage stamp in her honor.
Writer Joe Eszterhas wrote in his book ‘Hollywood Animal’ that producer Martin Ransohoff was against the casting of Glenn Close as the female lead in the 1985 courtroom thriller Jagged Edge, because he believed she was ‘too ugly for the part’. Consequently, Miss Close had the director Richard Marquand bar Ransohoff from the set whenever she had scenes to shoot. The infuriated producer went to the studio heads in an endeavor to have both Close and Marquand removed from the picture. He was unsuccessful. Jagged Edge. Incidentally, was the first part of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’s San Francisco thriller trilogy; followed by Basic Instinct (1992) and Jade (1995).
Richard Burton was Oscar-nominated seven times, six of these in the Best Actor category and just once as a Best Supporting Actor, for My Cousin Rachel (1952), his first Hollywood film. The picture was re-fashioned as a vehicle for Olivia de Havilland following her Oscar- winning success in The Heiress. Burton later claimed that his leading lady was impossibly arrogant after her Oscar triumph. She insisted on having sole above-the-title star billing, and would not allow anyone to call her by her first name. She insisted she be addressed as ‘Miss de Havilland’, which Burton found preposterous. He despised the picture and was rude about her for the rest of his life whenever the film came up in interviews.