#2. Scooby-Doo's Name Was Almost "Too Much"
There's a reason why people remember Scooby-Doo as, well, "Scooby-Doo," and not "Daphne" or something: The dog is the only thing separating the show from being a cartoon about four '60s teenagers doing everything but what teenagers actually did in the '60s.
With one exception.
The original series was called Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? because that's exactly what the viewership wondered during every second of footage in which Scooby wasn't on the screen. Also, Scooby's name is way catchier than everyone else's: There are literally no words you can rhyme with "Velma."
"Thelema" kind of works, but it's a bit of a stretch.
But It Was Almost ...
Scooby was almost called "Too Much," wasn't going be the star of the show, and would play the bongos. So why did that change? Because Frank Sinatra intervened.
And for once, not by threatening to break anyone's legs.
Originally, the show was going to be about a musical group that solved mysteries between gigs, which would actually explain what four teens are doing going around the country in a cramped van painted with psychedelic artwork. The teens had a Great Dane called Too Much, who was also their drummer (this wasn't a very good band). Too Much had a cowardly personality and was best friends with Shaggy -- he was essentially Scooby-Doo already, only with a terrible name.
Nobody would say "I like that dog, Too Much" for fear of sounding like a zoophile.
However, during a plane ride back from meeting with CBS executives (who initially rejected the show), producer Fred Silverman was listening to music on his headphones when he heard Frank Sinatra improvise some gibberish at the end of his song "Strangers in the Night" -- at around the 2:22 mark, as the song fades away, Sinatra sings "dooby-dooby-doo." Silverman liked the sound of that and decided the dog should be named Scooby-Doo and should also be the star of the show. Just like that.
In order to make Scooby more of a protagonist, the writers dropped the whole music group idea and made the characters just four regular mystery-solving teens with a talking dog. CBS picked up the retooled show, and it's pretty much been on the screen in one form or another since then (including the latest live-action movie, Cabin in the Woods). If it wasn't for Frank Sinatra scatting in the studio, everything from the iconic theme song to Scooby snacks would have been different or, more likely, nonexistent.
#1. Dr. Strangelove's Actors Thought They Were Just Practicing
Before 2001 or A Clockwork Orange, the movie that first elevated Stanley Kubrick from "great director" to "mad genius" was Dr. Strangelove (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Cast Peter Sellers in Every Other Role). While Kubrick had already raised some controversy with Lolita, Dr. Strangelove was the first time he really challenged the audience by taking a serious subject like nuclear war and treating it like a comedy. Keep in mind that this was done at a time when "nuclear war" wasn't just the setting for your favorite video game, but something that could actually happen at any moment.
Audiences knew the movie could literally at any time be interrupted by a nuclear explosion.
Tone was something really important for this movie, and the main thing that helped Kubrick tread that fine line between satire and all-out comedy was the performances of great actors like George C. Scott and several Peter Sellerses. Scott plays the stereotypically American general Buck Turgidson, a raging maniac in favor of nuking the Soviet Union who speaks almost exclusively by yelling. In fact, he played that part so convincingly that they later cast him as General Patton.
But It Was Almost ...
The movie started out as a serious drama. Remember Peter Sellers' third-best performance in the film, as the sensible and almost sheepish U.S. president? It was almost all like that.
"Gentlemen, there's no polite dissenting in the War Room!"
As we mentioned a while back, Dr. Strangelove is based on a novel called Red Alert, which is exactly as serious as you'd expect a novel about Cold War politics to be. Kubrick decided pretty early in the production that he'd turn the story into a satire -- the problem was, he'd already cast some actors to play a drama. Among them was Scott, who wanted to give his character a subdued performance (despite having the word "turgid" in his name).
Kubrick realized he'd never be able to convince Scott, so he used another technique to get the iconic performance out of the actor: straight-out lies.
Kubrick: The Definitive Edition, via Wiki Commons
A merciless calculating being who always wins at chess? Dear God, he was HAL.
According to James Earl Jones, Kubrick came up with the idea of doing practice takes, asking everyone to give their craziest performance just to warm up before shooting the real thing. Scott hated the idea, but Kubrick convinced him to do the warm-ups by promising that no one would ever see them. Which was bullshit, of course: The camera was rolling the whole time. Scott was so furious when he saw the "practice" sessions in the finished movie that he swore he'd never work with Kubrick again.
But hey, at least Kubrick actually told him they were now doing a comedy ... unlike actor Slim Pickens, who was reportedly never informed that he wasn't in a drama.
"You mean to tell me that the movie where I ride an atom bomb wasn't completely serious? Huh."
When he isn't busy trying to make the world a better place, Evan V. Symon can occasionally be found on Facebook. He just might friend you.
For more popular events you thought were improvised, check out 7 Viral Videos You Didn't Know Were Staged (and How They Did It) and 7 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled The Mainstream Media.