Things in Comedy Movies
Locations, people, props and scenes from comedy films.
Wandering around in the background of Bill Forsyth’s charming comedy is a lost boy in a penguin costume. He doesn’t serve any part in the story, and his presence is something of a mystery.
In an interview with The Times, Forsyth explained that the idea came from watching someone at Abronhill High school, where the film was shot, carrying a papier-mâché head down a corridor “and no one batting an eyelid; a school is a place where anything can happen.”
Inside the suit was Christopher Higson, son of production manager Peter Higson. It seems to have been his only credited acting role, but rumour has it that he went on to be a model-maker for the Lord of the Rings films.
Here’s an onscreen mistake that makes the misplaced apostrophe in The Last Man on Earth look like a huge, movie-wrecking blunder.
During the opening titles in The Odd Couple, somewhere between Felix Ungar’s failed suicide attempt and his trip to the strip bar, the titles show the copyright year as MCMXLVII – that’s 1947 – as opposed to the correct MCMLXVII (1967).
The transposed L and X, blown up in the image above, must be about as small a goof as is possible to find in a movie, at least until the successor to Blu-Ray starts showing up non-native species of aphid.
In Henry Koster’s 1950 comedy Harvey, James Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, a good-natured sort who’s befriended Harvey, a giant invisible rabbit. At least, he seems to be a giant rabbit, by the way that Stewart spends the film looking up at him.
However, Harvey was meant to be 6’3.5″ and Jimmy Stewart himself was 6’3.5″, so he should be looking directly across at him.
In 1990, Stewart recorded an introduction to the film, in which he says that he’d decided that Harvey is actually 6’8″. This wasn’t actually reflected in the script, which is quite firm about Harvey being 6’3.5″, but then again, who’s going to argue with Elwood P. Dowd?
The iconic red telephone box featured in Bill Forsyth’s 1983 comedy Local Hero was just a prop: the tiny town of Pennan in Aberdeenshire didn’t actually have a phone box.
There’s nothing unusual about that, but in this case, life soon followed art as film fans and tourists lobbied BT to install one. And so they did, although in a slightly less dramatic position than the film’s booth. (See below for a slightly skewed shot of the real box from Google Street View.)
At least BT got their money’s worth: according to aboutaberdeen.com, the phone box is now the most called booth in Scotland, due to tourists calling friends and family and getting them to call back.
The phone box’s iconic status almost came about by chance. The final shot of the phone box was inserted as a result of what director Bill Forsyth called ‘benign studio pressure’ for a more upbeat ending. Forsyth rejected various ideas for reshot final scenes, and finally came up with the idea that’s used; the shot itself was salvaged from the cutting room floor.
The original 1955 Ealing film of The Ladykillers featured Alec Guinness as the leader of a band of robbers who find their plans scuppered by Mrs Wilberforce, an elderly widow. Alec Guinness also appears in a second, minor role in the film.
There’s a photograph on Mrs Wilberforce’s wall of her late husband, a captain who went down with his ship 29 years before. The picture is actually of Alec Guinness in his role as The Admiral in the earlier film Kind Hearts and Coronets (see below)—although you’ll notice that they must have doctored the portrait in order to reduce his rank.