Biopics About Famous Comedians That Were Full of Sh*t
Since there are only a finite number of music legends available to mine/exploit for cinematic drama, filmmakers occasionally have to make melodramatic biopics about the lives of famous comedians. Of course, Hollywood has a habit of filling these “true stories” with George Santos-esque falsehoods. Hopefully, the supposedly upcoming movies and TV shows about Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx and Bill Hicks won’t make the same mistakes as…
‘Chaplin’ Ignores the Fact That Charlie Chaplin Was A Monster
Before he battled aliens as Iron Man or gave a dragon an enema as Doctor Dolittle (seriously), Robert Downey Jr. played legendary silent film star Charlie Chaplin in the aptly-named Chaplin. But in its reverence for his films, the 1992 movie somehow missed the fact that Charlie Chaplin was a giant piece of crap. Sure, we get a weirdly romanticized account of the time he married a 16-year-old actress — but the movie doesn’t reckon with the fact that he routinely targeted underage girls; his second wife was only 12 when they met. The movie shrugs it off as if Chaplin was just an incorrigible womanizer, not a literal sexual predator.
Moreover, the filmmakers definitely omitted any scenes where he tried to force his second wife to get an abortion at gunpoint, or assaulted women with his iconic cane.
‘Wired’ Turned the Story of John Belushi Into ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Based on Bob Woodward’s controversial book about Belushi, which Dan Aykroyd called "trash" and Belushi’s widow claimed “was only about drugs and madness, and it wasn’t even accurate,” 1989’s Wired somehow only made things even worse. Instead of trying to rectify the book’s inaccuracies, Wired turned Woodward into a character within the story and, more bizarrely, included a theological twist in which a literal guardian angel character “leads the comedian's ghost through a series of flashbacks.” Not to mention, the movie didn’t clear the rights to certain characters; hence the reason why Belushi is seen performing with the “Brothers Blues.”
It was so bad that its star, Michael Chiklis, nearly didn’t take the part in the next comedy biopic he was offered…
‘The Three Stooges’ — Moe Wasn’ t Reduced to Becoming a Delivery Guy
Chiklis played Curly in the 2000 TV movie The Three Stooges, which opens in 1959, when an aging Moe Howard is working as a studio gofer, humbly fetching sandwiches for executives. When the Stooges shorts are sold to a new distributor, he’s dragged back into performing again even after dramatically shouting, “The Three Stooges are over! … They’re dead.”
Which… didn’t happen? Moe was never forced to work as an errand boy, and the Stooges weren’t “dead”; they were still performing live, even before the sale of their old shorts revitalized their image. Hell, they were still making movies for Columbia in 1958.
That’s all a far cry from fetching lunches like a depressing old intern.
‘Bud and Lou’ Glosses Over the Real Reason for Abbott and Costello’s Split
The infamous 1978 TV movie Bud and Lou chronicled the rise and fall of the legendary comedy duo Abbott and Costello, best known for their routine “Who’s on First?” and for meeting Frankenstein and somehow living to tell the tale. Starring Harvey Korman and Buddy Hackett, the movie was based on a "scathing" book of the same name, and both the book and the film were criticized by the families of the comedians for various inaccuracies.
Despite being “spectacularly kind,” Costello was portrayed as “a fat moron who spent all his time yelling at people.” According to his close friends, he was “never the kind of man that they portrayed him as in that movie.” Not to mention how they give him what is perhaps the lamest death scene in the history of recorded media.
The film also glosses over the alleged reason why the pair broke up. According to Errol Flynn (who, to be fair, wasn't necessarily to be trusted himself), Bud and Lou called it quits after attending Flynn’s house for movie night to watch The Adventures of Robin Hood with their families, where they were treated to a porno movie instead (“as obscene as could be devised!”). Afterward, “Costello accused Abbott of doing this deliberately.”
Who cares if it’s true or not? That needs to be in a movie.
You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).