4 Famous People Who Accidentally Created Classic Movies

#2. Miss Congeniality Was Based on Ellen DeGeneres Getting Ready for the Emmys

Warner Bros. Pictures

In Miss Congeniality (2000), Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a tough-as-nails FBI special agent who must infiltrate a beauty pageant filled with slightly taller Bratz strippers to stop a deadly domestic terrorist. She of course does (kind of), and she falls in love along the way, because the entire movie was little more than a Hollywood retelling of the classic "fish out of water" story where you give the fish a gun and a pair of combat boots.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Admittedly, it's a very sexy fish, but ... I have no idea how to finish this sentence.

Don't get me wrong: Miss Congeniality might be a predictable action/romance comedy, but as far as those go, it's an excellently done predictable action/romance comedy filled with tons of amazing performances by incredibly talented actors. My favorite must be William Shatner doing a sort of self-parody where he plays an annoying has-been desperately clinging to his glorious past, because I like to imagine that they just put him in front of the camera without a script and told him to do whatever.

The only real problem with the film is that most of its comedy comes from how unfeminine and graceless Bullock's character was (and yet the movie won zero Oscars for Best Special Effects), which kind of dates it a little. If you tried making a movie about "women failing to be women" nowadays, the audience would probably dig up your childhood pet and force you to eat it on live television, which I hardly think is fair. Not everyone is great at things traditionally associated with their gender, you know. Just look at Ellen DeGeneres: She's a woman, but when she was being coached to look poised and, well, womanly for the Emmy Awards, the results were so hilarious that her ineptitude actually went on to inspire the story of Miss Congeniality.

Getty Images/Getty Images Entertainment
Thankfully, the part where Gracie brutally murders a swan to make
an impromptu dress was cut from the final draft.

At least that's what DeGeneres herself claims. She explains that, while preparing to co-host the 46th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1994, she had to hire a coach to teach her how to walk properly in high heels and be graceful, because all those times DeGeneres played a clumsy/awkward character on TV weren't exactly a testament to her acting ability, apparently.

The whole training thing had purportedly become such a hilarious ordeal that when one of the future writers of Miss Congeniality saw it on TV, they decided that DeGeneres' story absolutely needed to be told in a blockbuster comedy film about a tomboyish FBI agent who gets turned into a beauty queen by Michael Caine. Although why the writer then decided to have the Ellen DeGeneres stand-in sweatily wrestle guys to the ground and appear in loads of fetishistic garb is anyone's guess.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Ellen DeGeneres has since gotten a restraining order against the writer of the movie.

#1. The Batman TV Series Was Inspired by Hugh Hefner


Disclaimer: Yes, I know that the Batman TV series is not a movie. No, I don't care. Yes, you're absolutely right, sharing the link to this article with everyone you know would be the best way to express your dissatisfaction with the inaccuracy of this column's title. That will show me.

So ... I love Batman. I love him so much that if I were a raging douchebag, I'd have to follow that statement up with a "No homo." But I'm not, so I'll just say that my fascination with the character even extends to the silly 1960s Batman TV show.

I have my reasons.

Make all the gay jokes about it that you want, the fact is that the ABC series was the perfect representation of the Caped Crusader comic books at the time. It was also funny as shit. A lot of that came down to Adam West, one of the funniest, just all-around best people in entertainment, who made it possible to laugh earnestly at a character known for being darker than a bag of kittens in a trash compactor. That's why, as a Batman fan, I will never be ashamed of this version of the character, which sadly I can't say about the 1940s Batman serials.

Columbia Pictures
Which I'm pretty sure started out as an amateur Batman porno.

In 1943 and 1949, Columbia Pictures released two Batman films as 15-chapter serials, marking the Dark Knight's first ever cinematic appearance. All you really need to know about them is that the villain in the first one was a racist "Japanese" mad scientist played by totes white guy J. Carrol Naish.

Columbia Pictures

The Columbia movies also had nonexistent budgets and less care for the source material than Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. In fact, they were such train wrecks that in the early '60s professional lucky SOB and inventor of the jealousy Hugh Hefner (of Playboy fame) began showing the serials in the Chicago Playboy Club so he and his guests could make fun of them.

According to industry rumors, one such screening was attended by an unnamed ABC executive who was surprised by the audience's positive reactions to a silly Batman, and then decided that ABC should totally get in on that racket. And while they were at it, the executive reckoned, they should make the character actually resemble Hugh Hefner, because why mess with the winning formula of Playboy + Batman = comedy gold?

And God bless them for that.

Soon, the network was ready with their own comedic Caped Crusader, who, no matter how you look at it, did bear a lot of resemblance to the founder of Playboy. He was suave, well-spoken, charismatic, even a bit James Bond-like, which might not have happened if it had been anyone else organizing the movie screenings.

Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos, ABC
That jacket, for example, could have been a completely different color.

Whether Hefner had a real impact on the Batman TV series is up for debate, but this is what we know for sure: Originally, ABC was planning a more serious Batman series with NFL star Mike Henry in the main role, but then changed their minds and went for a more campy approach around the time of the Batman parties held in the Playboy Club. In any case, let's just be grateful that no ABC executives were attending Batman serial screenings in John Wayne's house.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check out Jacopo della Quercia's awesome new book, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy.

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