Hard to believe its been almost 26 years since I cut class to see Raising Arizona in the theater. That’s over a quarter century ago!
All I knew going in was that it was by the guys who’d made Blood Simple, and that it was a comedy. I’m not ashamed to say that I literally laughed ’til I cried.
Raising Arizona is a classic, one of the funniest movies ever and one of the most quotable:
- “OK, then,” which is what I tend to say whenever someone says something so stupid it’s easier to agree with them and move than argue the point.
- “Gov’ment do take a bite, don’ she?” which is the only thing you can say on Tax Day.
- “There’s what’s right, an’ there’s what’s right, and never the twain shall meet,” which is perfect for when there’s no right answer.
- “That’s natural,” which I think I said every single time my wife said one of the kids had hisself or herself a little ol’ rest stop.
- “Son, you got a panty on your head,” which I said to Thing 2 once when he was a toddler, because he did. (He was playing super hero.)
I missed the movie’s silver anniversary, but when I read somewhere the other day that its 26th anniversary was coming up, I thought I’d post a list of 26 things about Raising Arizona:
1. It came out on March 6, 1987, the same day as Lethal Weapon.
2. You might have recognized Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on the soundtrack, but the tune that plays under the opening credits is a cover of “Way Out There,” originally recorded by Sons of the Pioneers back in the 1930s.
3. The opening credits don’t start until 11 minutes into the movie.
4. The American Film Institute ranks Raising Arizona 31st on its list of America’s 100 Funniest Movies. Arsenic and Old Lace was No. 30. The Thin Man was No. 32. (If you haven’t seen either of those, shame on you.)
5. Raising Arizona opened to mixed reviews; it has a 57% (rotten) rating among top critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
6. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker liked it well enough. She said it’s “no big deal, but it has a rambunctious charm.”
7. Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert disagreed. His 1.5-star review began: “I have a problem with movies where everybody talks as if they were reading out of an old novel about a bunch of would-be colorful characters.” OK, then.
8. David Kehr of the Chicago Tribune didn’t like it, either. He said it was like “an episode of ‘Hee Haw’ directed by an amphetamine-crazed Orson Welles,” which I think sounds awesome.
9. Audiences were pretty much ”meh.” Raising Arizona earned only about $22.8 million in 1987 (that’s $45.5 million in today’s dollars).
10. Based on ticket sales, here’s a list of some of the movies that audiences in 1987 liked better than Raising Arizona: Ernest Goes to Camp ($23.5 million), Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol ($28 million) and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise ($30.1 million).
11. Raising Arizona was shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, who went on to direct the Men in Black and Addams Family movies.
12. The outside of the “Maricopa County Maximum Security Correctional Facility For Men” is really the 24th Street Water Treatment Plant in Phoenix.
13. The prison counselor (“Why do you say you feel ‘trapped’ in a man’s body?”) was played Peter Benedek, co-founder of the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills.
14. H.I.’s cell mate (“…and when there was no meat, we ate fowl and when there was no fowl, we ate crawdad, and when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand”) was played by Sidney Dawson, a retired music teacher from Tucson.
15. In the scene were H.I.’s co-worker is telling him about the wreck (“… there was this spherical object restin’ in the highway, and it wasn’t a piece of the car,”) their coveralls say “Hudsucker Industries.” Joel and Ethan Coen wrote The Hudsucker Proxy first but didn’t shoot until a few years after Raising Arizona. (In The Hudsucker Proxy, Hudsucker Industries is the company that introduces the hula hoop. You know, for kids!)
16. The outside of Nathan and Florence Arizona’s home is the historic Jokake Inn, which is now part of The Phoenician, a five-diamond resort at 6000 East Camelback Road in Phoenix.
17. Florence is a town in Arizona. There’s a prison there.
18. Florence Arizona was played by Lynne Dumin Kitei, who’s really a doctor.
19. In the movie, a reporter asks Nathan Sr. if it’s true Nathan Jr. was abducted by UFOs. (“Don’t print that, son. His mama reads that, she’s just gonna lose all hope.”) In real life, Lynne Dumin Kitei wrote a book and made a documentary about the Phoenix Lights, a 1997 UFO sighting over the city.
20. Nathan Sr. tells the FBI Nathan Jr. was wearing his jammies (“Nobody sleeps naked in this house, boy!”), but, in fact, the quints were wearing only diapers.
21. Unpainted Arizona was really the Home Depot at 12434 North Cave Creek Road in Cave Creek.
22. H.I. and the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse have matching tattoos of a cartoon bird. It’s the logo for Thrush, a brand of mufflers (slogan: “Making hot rods hotter since 1966″).
23. The lullaby that Edwina sings to Nathan Jr. (“…for I did murder that dear little girl/Whose name was Rose Connelly”) is a 19th century ballad, “Down in the Willow Garden.” that’s been recorded by everyone from the Everly Brothers to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
24. The graffiti on the men’s room door at the gas station where Gale and Evelle clean up after releasing themselves on their own recognizance says “P.O.E/O.P.E” That’s a reference Dr. Strangelove. It stands for “peace on Earth” or “purity of essence” and is the code needed to avert the apocalypse.
25. In “Raising Arizona,” the door is knocked down by the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, who’s on the trail of Nathan Jr. (Symbolism!)
26. The hayseed bank that’s robbed by Gale and Evelle (“You want I should freeze or get down on the ground?”) was Cavalliere’s Reata Pass, a Western-themed steakhouse at 27500 N. Alma School Parkway, Scottsdale. (When I checked on February 23, 2013, its website said it was closed, but it might have reopened.)
PHOTO: Jokake Inn Bell Towers by Michael D. Martin via Flickr (Creative Commons)