|[The airfreshener in my car is the Ikea monkey, thus (partly) relevant to this post.]|
Today was just a typical day. One minute you're casually watching Monkey Shines and the next you're discovering that creepy Pete from Mad Men was the star of one of your treasured childhood movies.
Random occurrences of this sort always start in one place - The Internet Movie Database. Anyone who scours IMDB knows that, much like Wikipedia, you can get sucked into a worm hole of actor filmography's. Scouring through this information always comes along with a lot of exclamations like, "Oh, I didn't realize ____ (so and so) was in that!"
It's not unusual to start by looking up one actor and then, about an hour later, realize that you have somehow ended up on the Trivia page for Mr. Holland's Opus...again.
Today's search started innocently enough. I was watching a movie about a helper monkey who goes rogue and that lead to a conversation with some people about other movie titles that include "monkey." Who doesn't want to do more research about that topic?
There was that one where, for some reason or another, Thora Birch had a pet monkey. Did it run away from the circus? Did she find it on the side of the road? Or maybe she grew up at a wildlife rescue. Either way, since all our minds are a mush full of info these days, it is only making it more difficult to recall "important" facts. (By the by, remembering random movie titles is very important.) All in all, some searching on IMDB had to be done in order to conquer this quandary.
"Aha! It's called Monkey Trouble!"
Of course it is. The poster even shows a delightful monkey flashing a vest full of expensive watches. Right, it is about a monkey pickpocket.
The page for Monkey Trouble revealed the first in a hilarious chain of shockers. Starring along side Birch and that monkey was a man known more for his intense performances in Scorsese pictures than his aptitude for children's flicks - it was none other than Harvey Keitel! I bet being a co-president of The Actors Studio really helped him go all "method" for this part.
After finally getting over that revelation, moving along all "Six Degress Of Separation" style meant clicking on Thora Birch's page next. There I reconnected with a flick I hadn't thought about in ages.
Stuck between those cute kid roles and more adult roles, in 1996 Birch starred in an adventurous romp called Alaska. It was probably the last one of her movies to be released in a giant, squeaky, plastic VHS box. Those that were specifically reserved for kids movies. People of a certain age will reflect on those wonderful collections that lovingly were crammed into shelves. Even without a VCR, my heart hasn't been able to get rid of those yet. Honestly, I probably never will.
During my childhood there was a string of kids movies all focused on young teens fighting the odds, often out in the wilderness*. Alaska was just one of them and my brother and I watched it on a regular basis. This movie alone definitely had a lot to do with the two of us acting out survival techniques in our back yard tree fort.
We of course knew Birch from starring in all those other classics from the 1990s (Hocus Pocus, Now & Then), but had no connection to the actor that played her brother. Nearly 20 years later, it turns out that kid became something.
Mad Men fans brace yourself - Pete Campbell had a career before falling down stairs and putting everyone at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price on edge! It was surprising to find out that Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete), started his career just like any other child actor. After some smaller roles, as a teenager he eventually found himself traipsing through Alaska with Thora Birch and a polar bear in tow.
I never would have made that connection, especially since the odds of me ever dragging out my VHS copy of Alaska again was slim. Thanks to Monkey Shines and IMDB for making this discovery possible. Sometimes going on nonsensical interludes pays off.
You would think that entertainment you watched over and over again would no longer be able to have any surprises. I guess time can make anything new.
If any of this was at all interesting, get to sleuthing out your own information about old movies. You never know what other connections can be made.
Until next time.