Trivia / The Blue Bird

1976 version

  • All-Star Cast: Both on the American and Russian sides of the equation, but this does mean some Billing Displacement.
  • Billing Displacement: Tyltyl and Mytyl (Todd Lookinland and Patsy Kensit) are billed ninth and tenth in the opening credits, and after the title to boot. Moreover, while Elizabeth Taylor's top billing makes sense (given her Loads and Loads of Roles and their relevance to the plot), and U.S. viewers of the time would certainly recognize her fellow American actresses in important supporting roles, the four Russian performers credited before the title all play much smaller roles. (Oleg Popov, as "The Clown" at the Palace of Luxury, is just The Cameo played up because he was the star of the Moscow Circus.) Given the nature of the production, this was probably mandated so that the Russian side of it would not be marginalized.
  • Box Office Bomb: Grossed less than $1 million in the U.S. against a $12 million budget. Financial figures for the production became a state secret in Russia!
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: No legit U.S. video release as yet, and unscreened on television for 20+ years before Fall 2011, when Fox Movie Channel (now FX Movies) began occasionally airing it.
  • The Other Marty: Shooting started with James Coco as Tylo, but he suffered a gallbladder attack and was replaced with George Cole.
  • Playing Against Type: Shirley Temple playing a girl who starts out as outspoken and spiteful and gradually learns her lesson was something audiences were not comfortable with.
  • Troubled Production: This was a much-ballyhooed family musical, the first-ever cinematic co-production between the United States and the U.S.S.R. An All-Star Cast of mostly American actors had the lead roles while respected director George Cukor helmed the project, shooting in Russia.
    • The first problem was that the U.S. side originally promised the participation of Marlon Brando (in what role, it isn't known), but he backed out. This was resolved amicably when Elizabeth Taylor was brought in to play four parts, though her attempt to get David Bowie in the cast (probably as Fire) didn't pan out once he read the script; for that matter, Katherine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine also backed out of the film by the time it was set to go.
    • The real trouble started in Russia. The Russian studio and crew were far behind the curve of the American talent (they had to replace the cinematographer because he'd never shot a film in color) and the on-set translators weren't up to the task of making sure both sides could communicate clearly. Leading ladies Taylor, Jane Fonda and Cicely Tyson all caused unique sets of problems: Taylor fell ill with amoebic dysentery, Fonda wouldn't stop chatting up the crew about politics, and Tyson warred with the director (among other things, she couldn't get proper lighting with a Caucasian woman serving as her stand-in). The American and Russian composers argued over the direction the score should take, James Coco (cast as Tylo the dog) dropped out in mid-shoot when he suffered a gallbladder attack, the filmmakers couldn't find real bluebirds to use or import for the title figure and resorted to dyeing pigeons (and their handlers were actually accused of eating some of them), etc. The resultant $12 million film was so bad that it tanked instantly; in the U.S. it still hasn't had a legit video release after 35+ years, and the financial figures related to it were rendered a state secret in Russia.
    • George Cukor told the Soviet studio head how honored he was to be filming in the same studio where Sergei Eisenstein had filmed The Battleship Potemkin in 1925. "Yes," said the studio head, "and with the very same equipment."
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