“Is it too hard?” David Thomson asked me when he submitted his second Impossibly Hard Quiz (to accompany his new Hollywood history, “The Big Screen”). I jumped into the rabbit hole for a few queries and thought if I gave it enough time I’d be able figure them out. Did I have that time? No. And when Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule quiz master Dennis Cozzalio abandoned ship early on I should have known something was wrong. (Here’s the first “Stump-the-Film-Buff” quiz.)
Yes, boys and girls, only two people sent in enough answers to this quiz to be in the running. Many of the questions had multiple answers, so it was tough to get all 30 right. Congrats to winner Jeffrey Miller, who was the first to submit an answer. He got most of 25 answers right, while runner-up Sara Sana summoned up more or less 19 right answers. Why was it so hard? Thomson admitted later that he purposely devised the quiz so that it would be difficult to look up online.
In some cases there were a variety of legitimate answers:
1. Who was responsible for Pyewacket, Florio, Flike, the Lydia and 5135 Kensington?
Pyewacket is Kim Novak’s cat in Bell, Book and Candle; Florio is Tippi Hedren’s horse in Marnie; Flike is the old man’s dog in Umberto D; the Lydia is the ship in Captain Horatio Hornblower; and 5135 Kensington is the family house in Meet Me in St Louis.
2. What was the decision in cases involving Tom Robinson, Dr Towler, Madeleine Smith, Tom Garrett, Dominique Marceau?
Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) is guilty in To Kill a Mockingbird; the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff against Dr Towler (Wesley Addy) in The Verdict; Madeleine Smith (Ann Todd) is “not proven” in Madeleine; Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews) is guilty in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt; Dominique Marceau (Brigitte Bardot) is guilty in La Verite.
3. Who is raised up or shot down by the 3, the jack of diamonds, the queen of diamonds, and 23?
Axel (James Caan) in The Gambler; Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid; Leslie Parrish in The Manchurian Candidate; Joy Page in Casablanca
4. Who or what did the following see across the way: Paul Sheridan, Tom Doyle, Lou, Terry Lambert, Edouard Lestingois?
Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) watches Kim Novak in Pushover; Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) doesn’t see much wrong in Rear Window; Lou (Burt Lancaster) watches Susan Sarandon in Atlantic City; Terry Lambert (Steve Guttenberg) sees an attack in The Bedroom Window; and Edouard Lestingois (Charles Granval) sees Boudu in the river in Boudu Saved from Drowning.
5. What do these characters have in common: Paul Mallen, Nedda Longden, Jenny Maple? And which one makes you think of Brideshead Revisited?
They are all characters created by Patrick Hamilton: Paul Mallen is Anton Walbrook in the original Gaslight; Nedda Longden is a character in Hangover Square, based on the real actress Geraldine Fitzgerald; Jenny Maple is in 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. Nedda might make you think of Brideshead Revisited because Geraldine Fitzgerald had a child by Orson Welles who was named Michael Lindsay-Hogg and he directed several episodes of the original Brideshead .
6. Who said, “One moment and I’ll give you a kiss.”; “Do you realize I haven’t kissed you in over an hour?”; and “Drawing room E, car thirty-nine-oh-one.”?
Marlene Dietrich to Lionel Atwill in The Devil is a Woman; Charlton Heston to Janet Leigh in Touch of Evil; Eva Marie Saint to Cary Grant in North by Northwest
7. Who was Joey, John Henry and Lonnie?
Brandon de Wilde in Shane, Member of the Wedding and Hud
8. Who played Stella, Moe and Birdie?
Thelma Ritter in Rear Window, Pick Up on South Street and All About Eve
9. They were born in Cadiz, Ohio and west Bengal – what was their movie together?
Gone With the Wind; they are Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh
10. What do these have in common: Anna, Camille Javal, Jim and Junior?
Characters killed in car crashes: Anna (Jacqueline Sassard) in Accident; Camille Javal (Brigitte Bardot) in Contempt; Jim (Henri Serre) in Jules and Jim ; Junior (Sonny Bupp), the son in Citizen Kane
11. Who played Elvira Puccini, Mary Queen of Scots and Henrietta Browning?
Virginia McKenna in Puccini, Mary Queen of Scots and The Barretts of Wimpole Street
12. Who played Napoleon, Kristo and Ben Yussuf?
Herbert Lom in War and Peace; Night and the City; El Cid
13. Who filmed the Galveston flood, a retreat from Moscow and the essential song?
King Vidor: in Galveston as a youth; retreat from Moscow in War and Peace; the essential song, “Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz, shot by Vidor in the absence of Victor Fleming
14. Name three left-handed actresses.
Start with Eva Marie Saint, Emma Thompson, Diane Keaton, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren
15. Name three films where people have fun in small boats, and three where the experience turns tragic.
Fun: Three Men in a Boat; Partie de Campagne; Some Like It Hot. Tragic: A Place in the Sun; Leave Her to Heaven; Sunrise – and many others in both areas
16. What happened to Loretta, Red Lightning and Brewster?
They are all shot: Loretta (Dimitra Arliss) in The Sting; Red Lightning, a race horse in The Killing; Brewster (Carroll O’Connor) in Point Blank
17. Name films in which these rivers participate: the Ouse, the Blackfoot, the Ganges, the Tennessee, the Seine.
The Ouse is the river where Virginia Woolf kills herself in The Hours; the Blackfoot is in A River Runs Through It; the Ganges is in The River; the Tennessee is in Wild River; and the Seine is in so many films, notably L’Atalante
18. Who said: “I played the Advocate.”, “Free of income tax, old man”, “Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your roles rather severely?”?
Orson Welles in The Trial; Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in The Third Man; Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) in North by Northwest
19. Who were patients to these doctors: Dr Jaquith, Dr Kelekian, Alex Linden, Dr Larsen, Dr Alex Brooks, Dr Lewicki
Dr Jaquith (Claude Rains) treats Bette Davis in Now, Voyager; Dr Kelekian (Christopher Lloyd) treats Emma Thompson in Wit; Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) treats Theresa Russell in Bad Timing; Dr Larsen (Herbert Lom) treats Ann Todd in The Seventh Veil; Dr Alex Brooks (Barry Sullivan) treats Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark; Dr Lewicki (Nicole Kidman) treats Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder
20. He played Cardinal Danaher, a munitions expert who stammered, a senior fire operative and Bob Assingham?
Cyril Cusack in True Confessions; The Small Back Room; Fahrenheit 451 and The Golden Bowl (on TV)
21. Who stayed at the Hotel de la Gloria?
David Locke (Jack Nicholson) in The Passenger
22. What did these women have in common: Gabrielle Gerard, Jo Stockton, Maria Acuna, Penny Carrol, Dale Tremont?
They are female roles in Fred Astaire films: Gabrielle Gerard is Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon; Jo Stockton is Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face; Maria Acuna is Rita Hayworth in You Were Never Lovelier; Penny Carrol is Ginger Rogers in Swing Time; and Dale Tremont is Ginger in Top Hat
23. In what film does the business of Thomas Crapper appear?
24. Could it have been Mary Pickford and Montgomery Clift?
Original casting ideas on Sunset Blvd
25. Who set sail on the Santa Maria and bumped into the horizon?
Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) in The Truman Show
26. William Katt, Laurence Olivier and Mandy Patinkin – what do they share?
It’s a Carrie connection: William Katt was in Brian De Palma’s Carrie; Olivier was in William Wyler’s Carrie; and Mandy Patinkin tries to look after Carrie (Claire Danes) in Homeland
27. Who taught Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, the talking treatment, psychology and the Song of Songs, how to fold a napkin. and mathematics at Princeton?
Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave) in The Browning Version; Carl Jung (Michael Fassbinder) in A Dangerous Method; Professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) in The Woman in the Window; Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) in The Miracle Worker; Richard Nash (Russell Crowe) in A Beautiful Mind
28. What film did Mary Sinclair do so much to fund and produce?
Eisenstein’s Que Viva Mexico. She was the wife of Upton Sinclair and did a lot of work raising money on the film.
29. Name film titles composed of three adverbs, two and one.
Truly Madly Deeply; Gaily, Gaily; and Suddenly – among others
30. Who was Nabby, Maren Hontvedt and Nicole and will soon be herself?
Sarah Polley in John Adams; The Weight of Water, The Sweet Hereafter and in next year’s Stories We Tell