Marty is a 1955 drama starring Ernest Borgnine (you probably, tragically, know him best for his work as Mermaid Man from SpongeBob SquarePants) and Betsy Blair as a pair of middle-aged, plain-looking New Yorkers who fall in love despite Borgnine's family and friends being total dicks about their relationship.
Ah, the beautiful people of Hollywood.
It's the sort of slow-moving tale about the human condition that gives film critics week-long erections and ends in a shameful bukkake of self-congratulatory Hollywood awards. In Marty's case, the film won four Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and even became the second American movie to score one of those fancy European Super Oscars, the Palme d'Or, at the Cannes Film Festival. Not too bad for a movie specifically designed by the studio to crash and burn at the box office.
Thirty-six years later, another Ernest would receive the same accolades.
In 1954, actor Burt "I was the old guy from Field of Dreams" Lancaster and producer Harold Hecht faced a "problem" in every sense that the quotation marks imply: Their movies were too successful and made their studio too much money, which would actually end up costing them a bundle after taxes. So the studio came up with the idea to produce a movie so bad that it would become an instant flop and allow the studio to write it off on April 15, earning them a nifty net profit. As you may have guessed, Marty was meant to be that flop.
The studio started by digging up a script from an episode of a third-rate TV show on NBC and had the original writer turn it into a full-length movie on the fly. They followed it by casting, as Lancaster put it, "two ugly people" in the main roles of this romantic dramedy, one of whom was mostly known for playing tough guys. They were so sure it would fail that the studio even had an accountant dutifully add up the costs of the production as they went and actually closed the set once he calculated that they'd lost enough money for the day. However, it turned out that the movie still had to be completed and released for the tax write-off to work, which was when the unthinkable happened: Marty became a hit.
"Mel, Mel, it's Marty! Your cousin, Marty Brooks. You know that new plot you're looking for? Well, listen to this!"
Shockingly, those two "ugly people" that Lancaster was talking about turned out to be more relatable than the beautiful plastic-faced actors that comprise 99 percent of Hollywood. The idea that true love is for everyone, regardless of outer beauty, struck a chord with audiences for some bizarre reason and created a massive pop culture phenomenon. All from a film that literally started out as the plot of The Producers.
20th Century Fox
It's tough to explain the 1985 cult classic Brazil. It's a comedy of sorts (it was written and directed by one of the guys from Monty Python), but at the same time it's also darker than the devil's taint, mostly due to its depressing ending. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that studios don't like it when your film is more than one thing ("Psychological slasher? Dramatic wartime comedy? What are we, computers? Who can keep track of that many words? It's one thing or no-thing, buddy!), so obviously Brazil encountered heavy opposition from the studio before its release.
20th Century Fox
We presume the studio executives made that exact face at the pitch meeting.
Terry Gilliam initially handed over a 142-minute film; the studio insisted that it be 135 minutes, tops, and also have a happy ending where butterflies fly out of a unicorn's mouth and distribute free candy to all the world's children. Then, the studio delayed the movie's premiere so many times that Gilliam paid for the following full-page ad in Variety:
Gilliam made a private disagreement into a public feud, and he did it in a way that made him look like a martyr and the studio guys like typical Hollywood buttholes (which, OK, they were, but that's beside the point!). Luckily, the execs decided to act like adults, by which we mean they threw a fit, basically holding their breath until Gilliam went away: Universal immediately put out an embargo, preventing any theater in the country from showing Brazil, which had already been released abroad. They of course refused to distribute it themselves, and they wouldn't even let any theater show Gilliam's own personal prints. Publicly, studio boss Sid Sheinberg justified this by saying that the film was doing miserably overseas and would probably do as bad here at home, but when the LA Times checked that story, it turned out to be a lie. In the end, fed up with the bullshit, Gilliam started holding private, completely illegal screenings of his film, where it was seen by a few film critics. And so, when Hollywood handed out its Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards that year, the award for Best Screenplay went to ... Brazil.
Best Picture went to ... Brazil.
Best Director went to ... Terry Gilliam ... for Brazil.
Unfortunately, due to an administrative mix-up, all of Gilliam's awards were mailed to South America.
They say that, to this day, if you look up at the stars above Hollywood, you can still see Gilliam's giant raised middle fingers there, sparkling in the sky for all eternity.
Soon Van writes and builds websites. Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't watching movies to see which ones sync up with David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album, he can be found on Facebook, and be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line. Dustin Koski also wrote Six Dances to End the World, which he would oddly prefer to be a successful book. Ryan Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. He broke down and made a Twitter page just for his Cracked fans.
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