July 27, 2023

#ThrowbackThursday – 27 July

What’s your favourite movie line? Do you like a little “Go ahead, make my day”, a bit of “Houston, we have a problem”, or the ever-memetic “To infinity and beyond”?

While not every movie can be cinematic masterpieces, sometimes gems in the form of witty one-liners, sombre phrases and memorable catchphrases will emerge and endure for years upon years to come.

With that being said, here are three events that went down in history on 27 July:

1940 – “What’s Up, Doc?”

“A Wild Hare”, a short animated film directed by Tex Avery and released on 27 July 1940, is notable for three reasons: number one, it’s the first time that Bugs Bunny, one of the world’s most beloved and iconic cartoon characters, made his official debut.

Number two, he’s voiced by Mel Blanc, who would become the definitive voice of Bugs (and other legendary “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies” characters) for decades to come, bringing to life Bugs’ New York accent (and not least his witty, wiseguy tendencies).

And number three, it’s the first time that theatregoers heard Bugs – while chomping on a carrot with aplomb as he confronts rabbit-hunter Elmer Fudd – uttering his famous catchphrase: “What’s up, Doc?”

“A Wild Hare” was a hit among the masses, who especially adored Bugs Bunny. By the mid-40s, when World War II was at its worst, he would become an even bigger star due to his easy, carefree and cocky attitude (and not least because of his American patriotism as he took on members of enemy nations in subsequent cartoons). So, it’s no surprise that Warner Bros., who produced and distributed “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies”, placed him front and centre of their cartoon shorts onwards.

To this day, Bugs Bunny is still hugely popular, practically on the same level as Disney’s Mickey Mouse. He continues to star in a smorgasbord of Warner Bros. media, with various voice actors honouring Blanc’s legacy by delivering their best Bugs impersonations. Indeed, Bugs continues to entertain the masses with his shenanigans – and if you ever happen to utter “What’s up, doc?”, chances are you’ll be thinking of him AND carrots!

1982 – “Feed Me, Seymour!”

If you’re a theatre aficionado, then you’ll know where this line comes from! It features in the song “Feed Me (Git It)”, which is sung by a carnivorous plant in the wacky musical, “Little Shop of Horrors”.

Adapted from the 1960 film of the same name, “Little Shop of Horrors” is the combined efforts of composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman – it tells the story of lovelorn Seymour (portrayed by Lee Wilkof), a flower shop assistant who raises a bloodthirsty plant named Audrey II (voiced by Ron Taylor, puppeteered by Martin P. Robinson) from a wee pot plant to a monstrous, mean green mother from outer space with an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

Caught up in the drama (and comedy) are Seymour’s boss Mushnik (Hy Anzell), Seymour’s love interest Audrey (Ellen Greene), after whom the plant is named, and her dentist boyfriend Orin (Franc Luz). Three street urchins – Chiffon, Crystal and Ronette (Leilani Jones, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Sheila Kay Davis, respectively) – narrate the events as they unfold.

The musical opened off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre in Manhattan’s East Village on 27 July 1982. It was a critically acclaimed success, running for 2 209 performances. This made it the highest-grossing off-Broadway production at the time. Its songs, from “Suddenly, Seymour” to “Skid Row” – and of course, “Feed Me” – have since become firm favourites among fans.

This iteration of “Little Shop of Horrors” was adapted into the beloved 1986 film of the same name; it starred Rick Moranis as Seymour and Levi Stubbs as the voice of Audrey II, while Green reprised her role as Audrey. Like its predecessor, it also received much love from critics and audiences alike.

“Little Shop of Horrors” continues to be performed off (and on)-Broadway and on the West End, plus it’s also a popular staging piece for smaller theatres and schools due to its relatively small cast.

2012 – “Good Evening, Mr Bond”

Eleven years ago, the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics kicked off in London, England, and who better to escort Queen Elizabeth II to the ceremony than 007 himself?

Yes, you read that right: James Bond escorted the queen to the Olympics!

In a short segment directed by Danny Boyle, the top agent on Her Majesty’s secret service (played by then-Bond star, Daniel Craig) arrives at Buckingham Palace to take her to the ceremony, which had begun 25 minutes before. After being greeted by her corgis, Bond watches as the queen finishes off a letter before turning around to say, “Good evening, Mr Bond.”

The duo then leave the palace and head to the Olympic Stadium in a helicopter – once they reach their destination, the queen jumps out of the helicopter and parachutes into the stadium (don’t worry, a stuntman – decked out in a dress, jewellery and handbag – did the actual jumping!). She then appears in the stands alongside her husband Prince Philip.

Following the queen’s passing in 2022, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who co-wrote the segment, lifted the lid on how they got her involved.

“We went to the Palace asking for permission to represent her and to know what she was wearing on the day, and it was her amazing dresser who said, ‘No, no, she wants to be in it’,” he explained. “She was game and she was up for that.”

As for the simple line she greets James Bond with? Cottrell-Boyce claimed that the queen asked Boyle to give her a line.

“In fact, on the day when we were filming, she asked Danny Boyle if she could have a line because there wasn’t a line in the script, probably because when I was typing the script I didn’t quite know how you would type the character of the queen. What would you type?”

Ian Fleming must have been grinning in his grave about this!

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