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1941 (1979) Poster

(1979)

Trivia

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The extras cast as the Japanese submarine crew were hired because they were Asian. Most were typical laid-back Southern Californians, and none had any acting training. Toshirô Mifune was so outraged at their attitudes that he asked Steven Spielberg if he could deal with them. He then started yelling at them to get in line, and slapped one of them, saying, "This is how Japanese men are trained!" Mifune worked with them from that point on.
Dan Aykroyd's American feature film debut.
The scene where Wild Bill Kelso slips and tumbles off of the wing of his airplane as he is about to take off was a real accident. John Belushi slipped as he was climbing into the plane. It was kept in the movie because it fit his character.
Steven Spielberg shot one million feet of film over 247 shooting days.
In a deleted scene, Slim Pickens' character is threatened with a torture device that turns out to be a coat hanger. Steven Spielberg hated losing the joke, and swore he'd to put it in every one of his future movies until it stayed there. Luckily, it stayed in his very next film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
According to co-writer Bob Gale in the DVD documentary, many of the events in the movie are based on real incidents. The army really put an anti-aircraft gun in the yard of a homeowner on the Maine coast. An air raid false alarm over Los Angeles resulted in Civil Defense and Army weapons firing into the air one night, thinking they were being attacked by the Japanese. A Japanese submarine shelled a refinery on the California coast. The infamous Zoot Suit Riots, between Hispanic youths and servicemen, were in May and June 1943.
Charlton Heston and John Wayne turned down the role of Maj. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell. Wayne phoned director Steven Spielberg, who had given him the script, and not only turned it down due to ill health, but tried to get Spielberg to drop the project. Wayne felt it was unpatriotic and a slap in the face to WWII vets. Heston is thought to have turned it down for the same reasons. The role was taken by Robert Stack who, once in costume and make-up, bore a striking resemblance to the real General Stilwell.
In one deleted scene, John Belushi's character meets Dan Aykroyd's character right before he boards the Japanese sub. They look at each other as if recognizing one another, a nod to their real-life friendship. It was the only scene in the film where they interacted.
It took so long to set up the final shot of the house falling down that cast and crew members actually started a betting pool on what day and time the shot would actually begin filming. Dan Aykroyd won the bet.
This was regarded as such a failure in the US that when the advance teaser trailer for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was made, it listed all of Steven Spielberg's previous films except this one.
Some scenes were so noisy during filming, the crew could not hear Steven Spielberg yell, "Cut." He had to fire a prop machine gun in the air to get the action to stop.
John Belushi failed to show up on a couple of occasions because his nightlife made him too tired to work.
Mickey Rourke's feature film debut.
Once Slim Pickens was signed on, the character of Hollis "Holly" Wood was greatly expanded.
Wild Bill Kelso was originally a very minor character. It was expanded once John Belushi was signed for the role.
Steven Spielberg has revealed that he almost made this film a musical.
Reese and Foley are the names used by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale for any police officers or government agents in films they have written.
Throughout the movie Sgt. Frank Tree (Dan Aykroyd) and Capt. Wild Bill Kelso (John Belushi) never exchange any dialog. It is only at the very end of the movie when Wild Bill has climbed aboard the Japanese submarine that these two characters acknowledge each other with a salute.
The man eating spaghetti during one of the riot/fight scenes is also played by John Belushi.
Steven Spielberg has said that the march John Williams composed for 1941 (1979) is his favorite of all of the marches Williams has written.
In the Director's Cut, when Pops drags Wally and Dennis out of Malcomb's Diner and throws them into the street, a group of children dressed as The Little Rascals are standing in front of the restaurant.
Often regarded as 'Steven Spielberg (I)''s first flop. It was actually a moderate box-office success, but when compared to his early hits Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), it didn't meet expectations.
The names of David L. Lander' and Michael McKean's characters, Willie and Joe, are a nod to cartoonist and WWII veteran Bill Mauldin's creations for the Army newspaper, "Stars and Stripes". Mauldin's Willie and Joe represented average American GIs, their viewpoints, and their daily lives outside of combat.
During the "attack" on Hollywood scene, when Wild Bill Kelso is flying his plane through the streets of Los Angeles chasing and shooting at the trainer airplane, the soldiers move into action. Two soldiers man an anti-aircraft gun. The soldiers manning this gun, Willy and Joe, are Michael McKean and David L. Lander, who played "Lenny" and "Squiggy" in Laverne & Shirley (1976). McKean and Lander also appeared as the TV jamming duo, Eddie and Freddie in Used Cars (1980) which was also written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (and directed by Zemeckis).
The dialog between Claude and Herbie was written along the same lines as Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton. Jackie Gleason and Art Carney were offered the roles, but Gleason refused, saying he would not and could not work with Carney any longer. However, Gleason and Carney re-teamed one last time for Izzy & Moe (1985).
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To create the flash of explosions in the distant background, A.D. Flowers estimated that he used between 50,000 and 75,000 flashbulbs during the production.
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Steven Spielberg joked at one point that he considered converting the film into a musical halfway into production and mused that "in retrospect, that might have helped."
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This was the first U.S. production to use the French-made Louma crane. It was going to be used for shooting the miniatures. The Louma proved to be so flexible that it was frequently used for the "A" camera.
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The first advance trailer centered on John Belushi's character, who was identified as "Wild Wayne Kelso". When the movie was shot, the character's name was changed to "Wild Bill Kelso".
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Special effects legend A.D. Flowers' last project.
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3/4 of the way through the theatrical version, John Belushi says to John Landis (as he steals his motorcycle) "Aw, look. A baby wolf!" - to which Landis replies, "Where?" Landis was working on -and his next film would be-(at that time) An American Werewolf in London (1981).
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According to Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick allegedly told Steven Spielberg that the film was "great, but not funny."
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Like real movies of the early 1940s, the director planned for a card at the end urging the audience to "Buy War Bonds at This Theater."
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Cinematographer William A. Fraker was reportedly fired late in shooting due to creative differences with Steven Spielberg and John Milius. The remainder of the film was shot by Frank Stanley.
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The ferris wheel scene was shot with fog to match with the special effects shots of the wheel rolling down into the sea. These shots used the fog effects to make the miniatures look realistic.
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All told, seven directors were involved in some manner in making this movie: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale wrote the film, John Milius helped with production of the film, and Steven Spielberg directed it. The other director involved was Brian De Palma. According to Millius in the DVD 'making of' documentary, DePalma contributed the gag of the Japanese asking Slim Pickens "Where's Hollywood?" to which Pickens, whose character name is Hollis "Holly" Wood would answer "I'm here." as a play on Abbott and Costello's "Who's on first?" routine. In addition, Samuel Fuller and John Landis have cameo roles.
The film takes place in a 24-hour period from 6 A.M. December 13th, 1941 (six days after Pearl Harbor) to 6 A.M. December 14, 1941. The original theatrical release was on December 14, 1979.
The advance teaser trailer, with John Belushi as "Wild" Wayne Kelso, was an original production in its own part. Directed by John Milius with an original score by John Williams and featuring thematic materials that differed from the score of the actual motion picture. The score for the advance teaser is featured on the LaLaLand Records 1941 extended score two CD set.
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According to Steven Spielberg's appearance in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001), Stanley Kubrick suggested that the film should have been marketed as a drama rather than a comedy.
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The gas station that Wild Bill Kelso accidentally blows up early in the film is the same one seen in Duel (1971), with Lucille Benson appearing as the proprietor in both films.
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The film is dedicated to the memory of Charlsie Bryant, a longtime script supervisor at Universal Studios. She had served in that capacity on both Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and would have reprised those duties with this film had she not unexpectedly died.
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The film was initially set up at MGM, where John Milius had a production deal. It wound up at Columbia because Steven Spielberg did not want to work at MGM. Besides, he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) for Columbia and wanted to make another movie there. Spielberg got Universal to co-produce because he wanted to fulfill a contractual obligation with the studio.
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Ivan Reitman was first approached to direct this film, but he declined because he was busy shooting Meatballs (1979) at the same time.
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The advance teaser trailer for the film, directed by John Milius, featured a voice-over by Dan Aykroyd as John Belushi lands his plane and gives the audience a pep-talk to join the armed forces, else they will find one morning that "the street signs will be written in Japanese!"
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In a 1990 interview with British film pundit Barry Norman, Steven Spielberg admitted that the mixed reception to the film was one of the biggest lessons of his career citing personal arrogance that had got in the way after the runaway success of Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). He also regretted ceding control of the action and miniature sequences (such as the Ferris wheel collapse in the film's finale) to second unit directors and model units, something which he would not do in his next film - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
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Harold Ramis was first hired to write a draft of the screenplay, but was fired due to creative differences between John Milius and Steven Spielberg.
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Nancy Allen plays a character named Donna Stratton, her co star Tim Matheson played Eric Stratton in Animal House (1978).
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Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale met while attending the University of Southern California Film School. One of USC's most famous school presidents was Rufus von Kleinschmidt, and several buildings on campus bear his name. Ironically, one of von Kleinschmidt's many accomplishments was helping start the film school.
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The M3 tank Lulu Belle (named after a race horse) and fashioned from a mocked-up tractor, paid homage to its forebear in Sahara (1943), where an authentic M3 named Lulubelle was prominently featured.
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The original Robert Zemeckis-Bob Gale script was a black comedy entitled The Night the Japs Attacked.
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Before the film was released, Spielberg appeared on a radio program with critic Pauline Kael. During a commercial break, Kael and Speilberg were discussing 1941, and Kael told him that he was not going to get off easy with the critics after the massive success, critically and commercially, of his last two films. Kael warned him that they were ready to attack him without mercy if the movie fell even slightly below expectations. Ironically, Kael would be one of the few critics to give a positive review to the movie when it was released.
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Robert Stack (General Joseph W. Stilwell) played Lieutenant Andrei Sobinski in To Be or Not to Be (1942) while Tim Matheson (Captain Loomis Birkhead) played him in the remake To Be or Not to Be (1983).
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Dan Aykroyd (Sgt. Frank Tree) would later appear in Pearl Harbor (2001), another film concerning the attack on Pearl Harbor.
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The fight/riot scene music set to same fight scene music as The Quiet Man (1952) starring John Wayne who turned down the role of General Stilwell.
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Susan Backlinie reprised her role as the first victim in Jaws (1975) by playing the young woman seen at the beginning of the film.
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Writer and director Samuel Fuller plays the role of Interceptor Commander in this movie. Two other actors in this movie (Perry Lang and Bobby Di Cicco) also star in Fuller's The Big Red One (1980).
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Steven Spielberg originally wanted Roy Scheider for the role of Major General Joseph W. Stilwell.
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For a while there was going to be a scene where Wally is dancing along with a musical film behind the screen, and ends up falling through it, out of Joe E. Brown's mouth.
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The Party (1968) had a character named "Wyoming Bill Kelso" who was played by Denny Miller.
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Cameo 

James Caan: seen in the USO fight scene.
John Landis: plays the dirt-covered soldier whose motorcycle is stolen in front of the movie theater.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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