Trivia / 1941

  • Acting for Two: During the USO riot scene, when a military police officer is tossed into the window of a restaurant from the fire truck, John Belushi plays the patron eating spaghetti. He is in makeup to resemble Marlon Brando in The Godfather, which he famously parodied on Saturday Night Live. Belushi told Steven Spielberg he wanted to appear as a second character and the idea struck Spielberg as humorous.
  • All-Star Cast: Featuring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Robert Stack, Slim Pickens, John Candy, and even Christopher Lee as the Nazi officer and Toshiro Mifune as the Japanese officer!
  • Doing It for the Art: An actual, functioning replica of an M3 Lee medium tank was built for filming. Part of the reason the movie went over budget. Particularly noteworthy as the M3 Lee is far less well-known than its replacement, the M4 Sherman medium tank.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Toshiro Mifune, who had been in the Imperial Japanese Military during World War II, grew disgusted with the lackadaisical behavior of the actors (mostly Nisei) who were playing the submarine crew. So he took the expedient of actually acting like an Imperial Japanese Navy captain would with his crew, including shouting at them and administering at least one Bright Slap to the actors, all of this with Spielberg's permission. The actors shaped up, realizing that Mifune was not playing around.
  • Fake Nationality: Christopher Lee as a German officer.
  • Follow Up Failure: Although not really the Box Office Bomb it's often remembered as, 1941 was almost universally panned by critics and, by Steven Spielberg's own admission, provided a needed humbling experience after the success of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind had gone to his head. Fortunately, things got right back on track with his next film.
    • Spielberg also said that for Raiders he really wanted to prove that he could do a movie in time and under budget (which he did) and this movie was one of the main reasons.
  • In Memoriam: 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 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and would have reprised those duties with this film had she not unexpectedly died.
  • Old Shame: Spielberg readily acknowledges he screwed up big time. It was such a massive failure that in the trailers for Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was the only Spielberg movie not mentioned.
  • Playing Against Type: John Candy, usually cast as Big Fun or at least Nice Guy characters, is a racist Jerkass here.
  • Throw It In!: John Belushi really did slip on the dew that had coated the plane wing. Luckily, his ability to pop right back up made it fit perfectly with the character.
  • What Could Have Been
    • The original Zemeckis-Gale script was a Black Comedy entitled The Night the Japs Attacked.
    • A scene of Slim Pickens being threatened with what looks like a torture device but turns out to be a coat hanger was cut, but Steven Spielberg liked the joke so much he swore that he'd try to put it in every one of his future movies until it stayed. He got his wish in his very next film, but just imagine if he hadn't and had held his promise during some of his later work...
    • Stanley Kubrick tried to talk Spielberg into making the film as a straight war drama. Later, Spielberg supposedly considered doing it as a musical.
    • Spielberg initially approached John Wayne to play Stilwell. Wayne, unaware that the film was to be a comedy, showed an interest... until he read the script, after which he refused in disgust at the film's "anti-American" tone. Charlton Heston passed on it for the same reason.
    • The Ferris wheel subplot started as a vehicle for Jackie Gleason and Art Carney to essentially reprise their roles from The Honeymooners, to the point that the original script says the characters resemble a bus driver and a sewer worker. Gleason torpedoed the plan by mysteriously refusing to work with Carney again.
    • 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.
    • Zemickis and Gale briefly considered ending the film with the "Buy war bonds at this theater" card which was a regular feature during World War II (those being the days when films, shorts, cartoons, and newsreels simply ran on a constant loop and people left once it got back around to where they came in).


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