Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28: "Animal House"

On this date in History .....July 28, 1978:  

The movie “Animal House” is released in theaters and becomes a multi-million dollar box office hit and a pop culture icon. 

It was made for $3 million and grossed over $141 million. More money was spent on advertising than on the movie itself. 

It was the first big hit for director John Landis who went on to direct “The Blues Brothers” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. It was also the first film affiliated with college magazine National Lampoon.  Future Lampoon movies included the “Christmas Vacation” movies. 

Toga parties, popular in the 1950s, saw a rebirth in popularity upon the release of this film. 

Many of the cast members were unknowns but went on to become well known. John Belushi, for example, was the son of Albanian immigrants and did some theater summer stock in rural Indiana. Even though John appeared in only about a dozen scenes in the movie, it is said that his performance “stole the movie” and made it a box-office smash. 

It was the film debut for Kevin Bacon. Bacon and his wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) have been married since 1988 and found out in 2011, when doing family genealogy, that they are 9th cousins, once removed.

Stephen Furst (“Flounder”) also made his film debut in “Animal House”.  Both of his parents died when he was 16.  At 17, he was diagnosed with diabetes and it was not until he was facing amputation of this foot that he realized the seriousness of the disease and lost over 100 pounds.  He has become outspoken on the topic including making a video, “Diabetes for Guys”. He is surrounded by an artistic family.  Son Nathan is a TV and film composer; son Griff is an actor, director and musician; wife Lorraine is an entertainment lawyer.

The film spawned phrases that are still quoted today such as “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”, putting people on “double secret probation” and of course the infamous, “FOOD FIGHT!!!!!”

(The favorite phrase is our house was used when we put our kids on "double secret probation" (click to see clip)!

Some additional trivia about the movie (source: 

  • The President of the University of Oregon only allowed this movie to be filmed on that campus because he decided he did not know how to read screenplays. In 1967 he had received the screenplay for a movie but had denied it permission to film there. That movie was The Graduate and he liked that movie so much that he decided he didn't want to miss another opportunity, so he allowed Animal House to be filmed on the University of Oregon campus. But he insisted that the college's name not be listed in the film's credits. 

  • According to Landis, Universal Pictures President Ned Tanen objected so strongly to the Dexter Lake Club scene that he interrupted a screening of the film and ordered the scene be removed immediately, claiming it would cause race riots in the theaters. In response, Landis screened the film for Richard Pryor, who then wrote a note to Tanen which read: "Ned, Animal House is fucking funny, and white people are crazy. Richard." 

  • Donald Sutherland was so convinced of the movie's lack of potential, that, when offered a percent of the gross or a flat fee of $75,000 for his three days' work, he took the upfront payment. Had he taken the gross percentage he would have been worth an additional $3-4 million. 

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