The 7500, nope 7900 word, Ultimate Groundhog Day written/ picture essay/ commentary/ scrapped podcast thing you will ever need. Part Two: Words 2842- 5471
If you missed Part One, allow me link you.
13:08 Nepotism alert: Brian Doyle Murray as Buster, Head Groundhog Keeper.
13:25 “Master at work?” Hardly. Master Poophead (Avatar reference!) Since 1887, Phil has only been right 39% of the time. That’s worse then a weighted coin flip. I’m going with Staten Island Chuck and blaming my new interborough loyalties.
15:00 Squirrel? Indeed. Less fearsome to be sure but groundhogs are from the family Sciuridae which are ground squirrels known marmots. Which is a sub-set of varmints.
16:00 Blizzard. Name something that did not push off and hit Altoona. The blizzard was not surprisingly complete movie fabrication. Most of the snow, throughout the movie, came from 40 foot trailer housing hundreds of blocks of ice ready to be chipped at will. White blankets made up for most of the snow in the background. And (Nepotism alert) Ramis even went so far as to have his cousin shaking the No Parking signs as if it were the whipping highway wind. Even the voice of the cops voice wasn’t real. Completely ADR’d. I bet cop boy and Andie MacDowell shared a sweet vermouth over that pain.
The Amstutz Expressway, named for the unremarkable, but very Chicago, Mel Amstutz, where the scene was filmed, was also where the big chase scene from the Blues Brothers was filmed. You know with the cars and the jumps and the nazis. That one.
16:50 “What about the sattelite? Is it snowing in space?”
16:54 “Don’t you have some kind of line for celebrities or emergencies? I’m both. I’m a celebrity in an emergency.” and then…
The shovel hit, which Harold Ramis called “cheap, but necessary.” Or just good comedy. The guy who hits him with the shovel is Douglas Blakeslee, who also played Doris’s Number One Fan in “A League Of Their Own.” Quite the looker.
17:14 IT’S A BLACK PERSON! AND HE’S A BARTENDER! AND HE HAS NO LINES! But whatta knowing nod. And that smile. So coy.
Black people are not prevolent in this film, but according to the prevailing theory and confirmed by the authority known as “the tweets” from acclaimed bald man/ comic book scribe Brian Michael Bendis, this man may be God. And this God is John Watson Sr. He also played a tiki bar bartender in the Nia Long star maker “Love Jones.” Do not take John Watson Sr. in vain.
17:19 The bar itself is a former jail. The booths are actual cells you can sit in. Sounds like something Brooklyn or the Liberty Tree Mall is sorely missing right now. Later on when Bill Murray gets arrested, he’s really just in that restaurant. Go figure.
18:00 Billl Murray, once mad at Harold Ramis over this scene, hid in this shower and would not come out. I love Bill Murray, I want to be Bill Murray and I hope to never work with Bill Murray. (LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIARRRRRRRRRRRR)
18:16 Day 2. According to people and/ or super computers who did this for me, there are actually 38 days shown in the movie. The actually time Phil is supposed to have spent in his time warp was originally written to be 10000 years which is a significant time in Buddist philosophy, which Harold Ramis is a part of (my friends Renee and Kristie once went to see the Daili Llama in Chicago, and came away much more excited that they had seen Harold Ramis with him.) Ramis said himself that he thought it was about 10 years, but it is much more likely, according to bigger geeks than Ramis, that Phil spends somewhere around 30-40 years in his warp.
21:15 “It’s still just once a year isn’t it?” Stage 1 DENIAL: Danny Rubin based his screenplay in part to the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief. So denial wasn’t an Egyptian river after all. Stuart Smiley was right all along.
21:47 If you look over Ned’s shoulder you’ll see a store named Lloyd’s. They tried suing the production for over $200,000 dollars in lost profits, but the suit was tossed when it was revealed they didn’t even make that in a year. I imagine they sat in the window much like The Guttmans waited in that boat for Richard Dreyfuss’s house to burn.
22:17 While teeth draggingly annoying, Stephen Tobolowsky did recieve a nice thank you later note from his own insurance agent for portraying the profession in a less cardboard demeanor. He obviously never saw Double Indemnity.
22:18 That doozie of a first step is now marked with a plaque in Woodstock, Ill as is Ned’s corner. The cobblestone was completely dug up and replaced after shooting. So you can’t commemorate your visit with a broken ankle.
22:29 The cheerful, gay tones of the ‘The Pennsylvania Polka” that you hear constantly in Gobbler’s Knob is written by polka great Frank Yankovic who is sadly not related to fellow accordian great and polka enthusiasiat Weird Al Yankovic. “Dare to be Stupid” would have been way better to listen to a daily basis for millennia.
23:05 Rita’s first Phil slap. It’s the only good spirited one and there are 9 more to come.
23:46 “Well it’s Groundhog day…again.”
24:44 “Well what if there is no tomorrow, there wasn’t one today.” Among the ways, Groundhog Day avoided becoming, “just another Bill Murray comedy” was in this broken pencil scene. The first 3 days of the Groundhog Day shoot were actually used setting up an elaborate scene, where Phil, realizing there may be no tomorrow, destroys the room he’s in: spray painting walls, tearing up pillows, chopping up the bed and giving himself a mohawk which was both expensive and time consuming, but after putting it together Harold Ramis decided to scrap the whole thing and instead he and Danny Rubin came up with the much more subtle and poetic snapping of the pencil.
25:42 Which leads to the horror in Bill Murray’s face. Winter is coming. Ned Stark was named after Ned Ryerson. Not true, but thanks for reading. Day 3. Stage 2: ANGER.
26:23 While there is no actual Case Western High. There is a Case Western Reserve High School, but it’s in Cleveland, OH sooooooo…..
26:33 The Tip Top Cafe (with all those really subtle stopped clocks) was an empty storefront that was built into the cafe set. After the shoot, the town tried to take it over but it failed pretty fast. But recently in it’s place, the Tip Top Bistro has opened. Because bistro always do better.
28:01 “Morons, your bus is leaving.” Those morons are acclaimed 80’s stand- ups Rick Ducommun and Rick Overton. Ducommun is also an acclaimmed extra in Spaceballs and Tom Hank’s neighbor in The Burbs. He can be seen here at Comedy Relief 3 making some amazingly 80’s gay jokes.
Overton, a more political comic, is also best known as one of the little shits who talk shit to Val Kilmer along with Kevin Pollack in Willow. And you would be hard up to find something that said 1991 more than this stand up set.
Speaking of Hanks, Tom Hanks himself was Ramis’s first choice for the role of Phil, but Ramis thought he was too nice. While Tom seemed to do alright for himself in 1993 and beyond, the flop of Road To Perdition may have proved Ramis right. Danny Rubin originally wanted Kevin Kline but no one cared what he thought.
28:39 Bill and Harold together on film for the last time. This set was their 2am cover set. It’s only 2 walls and as a cover set, Ramis was his own cover actor. After collaborating on such great films, as Caddyshack, Stripes and the Ghostbusters movies, Groundhog Day marks the last time the two have worked together. According to some sources the falling out started during Ghostbusters 2 and was the reason for the Ramis’s initial flirtations with casting Hanks. But Groundhog Day became a last straw, Murray was going through a rough divorce that the time and seems to have blamed Ramis for some of the mental distress. During the shooting, Murray was the erractic version of himself that Dan Ackroyd once referred to as “The Murricane.” Danny Rubin described them as fighting brothers and their ideas of the movie were far apart. Murray kept pushing for the more philosophical themes, while Ramis who describes himself as a “benevolent hack” has always directed and written under the funny first mantra. In a New Yorker profile during Ramis’s shooting of the Ice Harvest, Ramis speaks extensively on Murray including what he wanted to say during the Groundhog Day shoot to Murray.
“At times, Bill was just really irrationally mean and unavailable; he was constantly late on set,” Ramis says. “What I’d want to say to him is just what we tell our children: ‘You don’t have to throw tantrums to get what you want. Just say what you want.’ ”
As evidenced by the recent followings of on again, off again, Ghostbusters 3, the two have not really ever reconciled. (Murray at one point sent the script from GB3 back to Ramis and Ackroyd shredded.) Much is made of it but its seems to come down to pride. Later in the same profile Ramis said, “Bill would give you his kidney if you needed it, but he wouldn’t necessarily return your phone calls.”
Murray when reached for the piece said, “I really don’t have anything to say.”
29:00 This young man, at least young at the time, is Dave Pasquesi. You pretty much can’t film something in Chicago without seeing this character actor’s face somewhere in the production. But to anyone who’s ever taken an more than an introductory improv class you will know him as one half of the legendary two prov team TJ and Dave with
T.J. Jagodowski. I will admit, as a once and future improvisor, what the two of them can make up in 60 minutes on stage together is better than 99% of any type of comedy staged or otherwise and is truly an art. As someone who knows very well improv sucks way more than it doesn’t, I highly recommend their one filmed performance, “Trust Us, This is All Made Up.” (which also occasionally shows up on Netflix instant for the lazy.)
29:59 “At sunset we made love like sea otters.” This is the real Woodstock bowling alley. This is otter sex. Stage 3 BARGAINING.
During the commentary for the DVD, Harold Ramis uses this car as a metaphor on how unglamourous directing can be. Choosing the make of the car, roof or convertable, color, clean or dirty, rusty, how much rust, where do you want the rust… yeah I’m bored too.
Most of this driving was in one take in one night to save on stunt work and Ramis does not recall how he got a train.
34:22 “Too early for flapjacks?” A flapjack is often used when pancake is more apt and vice versa, but the flapjack itself is usually thicker and more round. The term can be traced back to the 17th century and even refered to in Shakesphere’s Pericles.
“Come, thou shant go home, and we’ll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and moreo’er puddings and flap-jacks, and thou shalt be welcome.” – Act II Scene I
Not to be confused with a Johnny cake which is more corn meal based and never used in high brow art or a the insane sexual event The Manhattan Flapjack.
34:28 There’s the jail in the restaurant.
34:33 Day four.
35:36 Phil punches Ned. In the original draft of the script, this is where the movie starts. The previous 35 minutes are explained by voice over. Every screen writer’s dream.
36:18 This is Robin Duke. Besides Groundhog Day, Ramis has also used her in SNL, SCTV, Multiplicity and Stuart Saves his Family. Good guy to know.
36:25 Bill Murray refused the spit bucket here, consuming all he could. Including…
A LOT of angelfood cake.
And here’s the rest of that Sir Walter Scott poem Andie MacDowell recites.
Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d 1
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well!
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,—
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.
37:28 Willard Scott was not a poet but the first Ronald McDonald. Not McDonald’s brightest day.
38:45 Day 5
39:01 “NANCY! NANCY TAYLOR!” Nancy Taylor is played by Marita Geraghty who actually goes by Rita. So when Phil is calling her “Rita” later during their embrace. He’s not actually wrong. Geraghty is also recognized for the episode in Seinfeld as the Jerry girlfriend that he dumps because she was dumped by Newman in the episode, “The Big Salad.”
There is a Lincoln High School in Ellwood City, PA. BOOM!
42:47 “Told you, call me Bronco.” While definitely channelling Clint Eastwood, the only character Eastwood played named Bronco was Bronco Billy from the movie of the same name. He was more trick shooting cowboy than the real Western type. More Glenn Campbell than Butch Cassidy.
43:27 Cut scene: Big crazy party back in his room with every weirdo in town with Phil as king of the rabble.
45:24 “I’m REALLLLLY close on this one.” According to Ramis, this not just a lie for Bill.
45:57 Nepotism alert: Ramis’s cousin and wife. I’m sure he has an unlisted number now.
It’s the distributor he’s pulled to keep them in town. Which apparently anyone with any car knowledge would know. I am not anyone.
46:51 Sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. Gross. What are you 17 Andie MacDowell? Apparently that’s what Ramis’s wife drinks. Still I’d rather drink cough syrup. Same taste, better buzz.
48:03 “Saying a prayer” part is all Bill.
48:53 This takes place in restaurant called the Heidelberger Fass which was a legend of German cuisine on 4300 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. It is now a Badapple Bar, which looks like the Applebee’s The Pickup Artist would take his class to, at least according to its very 1999 website.
49:12 Believe it or not 19th Century French poetry is not the biggest waste of time in college (or surprisingly illustration). According to Salary.com, it’s Communications, followed by Psychology and Nutrition, that brings the worst return on investment.
50:00 The poem Phil recites back to Rita is actually a lyric from 20th Century French/ Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel. He was a big influence on David Bowie and Leonard Cohen and the translation of his song, “Seasons in the Sun” was a huge pop hit by Terry Jacks in 1974.
50:41 While there is no actual Snowman Shop or Snowman City, Factorydirect.com does offer a snowman accessory menu. Proving all can be found on the internet.
50:54 The kids were told to throw really hard at Bill and he reciprocated.
51:27 Actual romantic snowfall.
53:10 First Phil/Rita kiss annnnnnnnnnnd….
55:22 Slap #2
56:22 Slap #3
56:24 Slap #4
56:24 Slap #5
56:28 #10 Because of the nature of the shoot. The slaps were taken at different points in the shoot and Bill, “being macho” was willing to take the full brunt of each slap each time. By the end of the sequence, he was much less willing to take a slap as he had in the beginning, but MacDowell enjoyed it. “I slapped (Murray) all the time,” MacDowell said. “It was great fun. He’s just the right kind of person to slap.”
57:10 Stage 4: DEPRESSION sets in at 10 slaps. That’s at least 3 concussions. There really won’t be football in 25 years will there.
57:29 This is actually a specially made oversize clock shot at high speed.
58:19 “What is the Rhone?” would be a great mantra for depression/ T-shirt idea. DON’T TAKE IT. I’M ON IT.
59:48 When Murray smashes the clock for the third time, throwing it on the ground, the actual clock continued to play and Ramis kept filming it.