Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Question Master is Always Right - part 2

Who was the father of film star Clint Eastwood ?

This one is also brought to you from the Department of Tenacious Urban Myths. If you hear the question asked, the answer required will invariably be
Stan Laurel
This is such a wonderful thought that its almost irresistible to a certain type of question master. Unfortunately , there is not the slightest shred of truth in it ! The fact is that Clint Eastwood was actually born at the same time that Stan Laurel's real son was born, and sadly, this child died when it was just a couple of months old. However there is no doubt that Clint Eastwood's father actually was : -
Clint Eastwood ( senior )
Advice : - resist the temptation and don't ask the question, even if you are intending to catch people out, by giving the correct answer. Its not worth it.

Who played the saxophone on Gerry Rafferty's record "Baker Street "

I honestly have no idea why anyone would ever have thought that the answer to this one should be
Bob Holness
Legend has it that this urban myth was started by broadcaster Stuart Maconie. Bob Holness does not play, and never has played the saxophone. On the record, the saxophone was played by
Raphael 'Raff' Ravenscroft
Advice : - Would you ever have asked the question if you'd never heard the Holness myth ? No ? Well don't ask it now that you know the truth, then.

What were the names of the crew of Captain Pugwash's ship "The Black Pig ?

Overgrown schoolboys and very naughty question masters will tell you that the names were
Master Bates, Seaman Staines and Roger the Cabin Boy
This is highly irresponsible, and also probably legally actionable ! John Ryan , the creator, successfully took action against newspapers who printed this allegation as a fact. The BBC would never have allowed such outright crudery on a children's show. The names were in fact,
Master Mate, Pirates Barnabas and Willy ( oooh , Matron ! ) and Tom the cabin boy
Victor Lewis Smith claims to have started the rumour, but its one of those ones I'm sure a lot of people would like to claim credit for.
Advice : - A little smut has its place in a social quiz, but not when its a wrong’un. Don’t touch this one - at the end of the day, the funny answer is wrong, and the right answer is dull.

Tinkerbell in Disney’s "Peter Pan " was based on which real life actress ?

Ah, yes, this is one we know , isn't it ? Of course, its
Marilyn Monroe
Thank you very much, one point in the bag. The problem is, though, that she was not based on poor old Norma Jean at all. Disney archives show that she was based on a little known actress model called
Margaret Kerry
At one time she was voted the actress with the Best Legs in Hollywood. And that's about it for Margaret Kerry.
Advice : - Its not worth asking it when you know Margaret Kerry is the answer. Not unless you say it along these lines - Many people think that Marilyn Monroe was the model, but actually Margaret Kerry was really the model for which Disney character ? Its not as snappy, but its more accurate for the purists.

Which actor played Frankenstein in the 1931 movie of the same name ?

This is a question guaranteed to raise many a furrow in the hardened quizzer's brow. This is because there is an easy wrong answer, and a more difficult correct answer. The problem with this is that the question master is just as likely to have the right answer down, as he is to have the wrong answer. Years ago, when this question was asked, the answer the question master would almost always give was the wrong one, ie -
Boris Karloff
Boris Karloff played the monster, which was always called just that - the Monster. Frankenstein was the name of the man who created the monster - Victor Frankenstein, and he was actually played by
Colin Clive
I'm sorry ? Colin who ? Colin Clive was a film actor of the 30s, never a great star, and Frankenstein was probably his most memorable role. Except that hardly anyone remembers it . However, over the years a certain class of wily quizmaster has taken to asking the question to deliberately catch players out, by giving the right answer. The result of this is that whenever one hears the question being asked, you have to quickly weigh up whether your question master is likely to have the right answer or the wrong answer. This calls for 'playing the man, and not the ball'
Advice: - If you ask the question, with Colin Clive as the answer, then say " be careful " when you ask it. This is the best way of showing that you want the correct answer, rather than the easy one. Don’t ask it if Boris Karloff is your answer – its wrong.

Who was the first person to play who on film ?

Its not uncommon to find this sort of question being asked in a quiz. These questions attract wrong'uns like moths to a flame. The problem is that the first person to play a well known character on film is rarely the most famous one. Just a quick glance of a small selection of some of the most well known screen characters should convince you of that.

James Bond

Everyone knows that the first James Bond was
Sean Connery
Except that he wasn't. Sean Connery was the first actor to play James Bond on film. However, he wasn't the first person to play James Bond on the screen. A little known TV actor played Bond in a CBS TV adaptation of Casino Royale in the 1950s, and he was called
Barry Nelson
Yet he was only the first James Bond on screen. The first performance of James Bond was in a radio adaptation, and was by none other than
Bob Holness
who of course never played the saxophone on “Baker Street”
Advice : - if you want to ask this question, then define your terms. If you want Sean Connery as your answer, then you have to say its the first Bond on the big screen. If you want Barry Nelson, then say on screen, or if you want to be kind, who played him on Television before he was played on film. If you want Bob Holness, then say the first ever person to play James Bond, and give the obligatory warning to be careful.


A very poor question master will give the answer
Christopher Reeve
This is just a category 1 wrong’un, since there is nothing which could ever make it a correct answer. He was the first to play Superman in the Alexander and Ilya Salkind series of films, but that's about it.
A more painstaking and careful quiz master may give the answer
George Reeves
but there is a problem with this answer too. George Reeves played Superman in the 1950's american TV series, and very successful he was too. However this is TV, not film. Moreover, Superman was played in a film serial in the 1940s, by a man called
Kirk Alyn
So does that count, even though its in a serial rather than a feature film ? Its all a question of interpretation once again.
Advice : If you really must ask this question, then be very specific what you mean. If you want George Reeves, then mention its TV. If you want Christopher Reeve, then say its the series of films by the Salkinds. If you want Kirk Alyn, then ask it the other way round- which famous character was first played on film by Kirk Alyn - or nobody will have a chance of getting it right, which means there's little point asking it.


What is the name of the actor who played Superman, and became so obsessed with being Superman that he actually thought he was Superman, and died when he threw himself off the roof of a building believing he could fly?

I've heard this one asked before, and the answer be given as
George Reeves
Complete tosh. Actually George Reeves was killed when he shot himself through the head in his home.
Advice - this is a wrong'un which can never be a right'un. Dump it like a cheating girlfriend and move on.


To be fair, many question masters do know that the first person to play Tarzan on film wasn't
Johnny Weissmuller
although lazy ones still give this as an answer. But back in the silent movie days, the first person to really play Tarzan was called
Elmo Lincoln
Between ourselves he looked a little overweight in his loincloth, but he must have been successful since they made a sequel.
Advice ; - The answer is Elmo Lincoln. Get over it.


This is a tricky little one. For once, the usual answer , that is : -
Bela Lugosi
is technically probably the fairest answer. He was the first to play the actual character Dracula. However a famous german film, called Nosferatu was made several years earlier than the Lugosi version, and it was actually Dracula, just with the names changed to avoid copyright issues. It didn't work, because Bram Stoker's widow successfully sued the producers. In this film, the vampire, Count Orlok, who was Dracula in all but name, was played by an actor called
Max Shreck
Interestingly enough, Shreck is the german word for terror.
Advice ; - stick with Lugosi - its technically correct, and far easier.

Frankenstein's Monster

Yes, once again we dip our toe into the dangerous waters of questions about Frankenstein. If you're asked who was the first man to play Frankenstein's monster on film, then you can be almost 100% certain that the answer wanted will be
Boris Karloff
This is a great pity, since Karloff's definitive performance of 1931 came over 20 years after a very early silent version of the story, made by the Edison company, in which the monster was played by one
Charles Ogle
Ogle wore the most extraordinary makeup and costume, which made him look as if he was wearing a giant brillo pad, whereas the make up created by Jack Pierce for the 1931 film has come to define the popular image of the monster, even though this is very different from the creature described by Mary Shelley.
Advice: - There's no point asking who was the first to play the monster, because no one will know Charles Ogle. So ask who played the monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein. Come to think of it, I'm getting a feeling of deja vu - or should that be deja -dit - over this.

Sherlock Holmes

Any question about Sherlock Holmes on film should immediately conjure up a mental image of the pipe , deerstalker and aquiline profile of
Basil Rathbone
Yet as we have seen, best , or most popular, is rarely the same as first. The silents got there long before Rathbone. In 1916, british actor manager
William Gillette
committed his performance as Holmes to film. Gillette had been playing Holmes on stage for a decade and a half by this time, and would go on doing so until the 1930s. As a point of interest, one of his Holmes productions saw one of the very first public performances of a young boy in his cast called Charles Chaplin.
Advice : Just don't ask. If you want to ask about Basil Rathbone, just say " Which actor played Sherlock Holmes in a number of films made in Hollywood in the 1930s?"


In which of the Sherlock Holmes stories does Holmes first say “ Elementary, my dear Watson “ ?

Actually , as you’ve probably guessed this is a trick question. The simple fact is that he doesn’t. He says Elementary, but never adds the dear Watson bit to it. The phrase was popularized by Rathbone in the Hollywood films, but its believed to have been first used in the William Gillette stage adaptations.

Who played the title role in “Saving Private Ryan “ ?

There’s a reason why I’ve included this one. I found this in an otherwise excellent quiz book, and couldn’t believe that such a well researched and well written book would ask the question, and then give
Tom Hanks
As the answer. Tom Hanks starred in it – true. Tom Hanks, played the main role – true. But his character was called Captain John Miller – and you can search as much as you like, but you won’t find that name in the title. So the title role of the film is obviously, Private Ryan. And as many of us know, Private Ryan was played by
Matt Damon
The title role means what it says – it’s the character the film is named after. I include this one since it shows how even the most normally reliable sources are capable of propagating a wrong’un.

Advice – look, if you want the star, then ask for him/her.As always, try to be absolutely clear about the answer you want to be provided with.

What were Oscar Wilde’s Last Words ?

Whenever you're given a witty quotation , and asked who said it, normally you can narrow your possible answers down to a very few names. Woody Allen if its about sex, death, or being jewish, and if not, then Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde. So you'd expect Oscar's last words to be appropriately risible. When this question is asked, his last words are usually given as : -
"Either that wallpaper goes, or I do "
As last words go, that's pretty good. Only there is no evidence that he actually said this. There is some evidence that he actually said,
"I am dying beyond my means."
Equally witty, but somehow more poignant than funny.
Advice - ask it backwards if at all. Give the last words you want to go with, and ask whose they were. If you ask what were Oscar Wilde's last words, then you're forcing the players to have to decide whether to play the man or the ball.

1 comment:

Paul Diamond said...


Good post and don't forget - you can't see the Great Wall of China from Outer Space either!!

Dr Paul