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The Pia Zadora/Rondo Hatton Connection
19 September 2005

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Curious Article No. 8:

There’s an online Degrees of Kevin Bacon calculator run from the University of Virginia at oracleofbacon.org that uses the definitive Internet Movie Database (at imdb.com). Craig Fass, Mike Ginelli, and Brian Turtle originally conceived the game as students at Albright College in Reading, PA, in 1993. They observed that Kevin Bacon, who had appeared in almost thirty respectably diverse films by that time, represented a kind of movie world nexus who could be connected with any other actor with six or fewer steps. For example, here are the results for Vivien Leigh of Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire:

1. Vivien Leigh was in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) with Jill St. John; 2. Jill St. John was in The Player (1992) with David Alan Grier; 3. David Alan Grier was in The Woodsman (2004) with Kevin Bacon.

Thus Vivian Leigh yields a Kevin Bacon number of 3. Now for more variety, the site also lets you calculate the steps between any two actors. For example, here’s the shortest path it can find between Carrot Top (Scott Thompson) and Ethel Barrymore:

1. Carrot Top was in Chairman of the Board (1998) with Bill Erwin; 2. Bill Erwin was in The Color of Evening (1994) with Stuart Whitman; 3. Stuart Whitman was in Johnny Trouble (1957) with Ethel Barrymore.

The trick is to get this number as high as possible. So I thought I'd try a similarly ridiculous pairing like Natalie Portman and Shemp Howard, but even that one scored no better:

1. Natalie Portman was in Zoolander (2001) with Ben Stiller; 2. Ben Stiller was in The Nutt House (1992) with Emil Sitka; 3. Emil Sitka was in Husbands Beware (1956) with Shemp Howard.

The name Emil Sitka probably doesn't mean much to most people but he was a regular in many of the Three Stooges shorts, often wearing coke bottle glasses and a mustache and probably best remembered as a mousy justice of the peace who says, “Hold hands, you lovebirds.” Next, let’s try Macaulay Culkin and Dooley Wilson (Sam the piano player in Casablanca):

1. Macaulay Culkin was in Rocket Gibraltar (1988) with Burt Lancaster; 2. Burt Lancaster was in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) with Frank Faylen; 3. Frank Faylen was in Passage West (1951) with Dooley Wilson.

Hmm, 3 again. Can we now connect Pia Zadora with Rondo Hatton? Sure.

1. Pia Zadora was in Favorite Deadly Sins (1995) with Brian Keith; 2. Brian Keith was in Arrowhead (1953) with Milburn Stone; 3. Milburn Stone was in The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) with Rondo Hatton.

For those of you under forty, Pia Zadora is a cherubic, affluently married actress and chanteuse who was the butt of a lot of industry jokes during the 80s but got in a few last laughs by earning a Grammy nomination. Milburn Stone, a name infrequently heard in the same sentence with Pia Zadora’s, was best known as Doc on the long running Gunsmoke TV series. Rondo Hatton started out as a normal-looking reporter for the Tampa Tribune but developed acromegaly — a pituitary disorder that causes the face and hands to grow uncontrollably. Making the best of it, he pursued a second career as a character actor in horror films. Let’s see if we can do better linking Eddie Deezen (the insufferable geek in War Games) with Grace Kelly:

1. Eddie Deezen was in Grease (1978) with Michael Biehn; 2. Michael Biehn was in Blood of the Hunter (1995) with Edward Meeks; 3. Edward Meeks was in Rearranged (1982) with Grace Kelly.

As you can see it’s very tough to fetch numbers larger than three, regardless of the seeming disparity between the two actors you choose. Of course you could jack up your scores by selecting two obscure one-picture-wonders that hardly anyone has heard of, but that would be uninteresting. Ideally you want two easily recognizable individuals who did very few pictures and are as far apart chronologically as possible. One logical suspect might be Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie in the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but declined all subsequent film offers and became a veterinarian. Let’s pair him with Albert Dieudonné, who played the title role in Abel Gance’s epic silent film Napoleon (1927) but appeared in only three further pictures:

1. Peter Ostrum was in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) with Roy Kinnear; 2. Roy Kinnear was in The Return of the Musketeers (1989) with Christopher Lee; 3. Christopher Lee was in Amere Victoire (1957) with Joe Davray; 4. Joe Davray was in Madame Sans-Gene (1941) with Albert Dieudonné.

So there we are: 4. That Roy Kinnear really got around, until he died in 1988 falling from a horse. Because he was involved with a vast array of fairly big pictures, he invariably spoils it for Peter Ostrum and the other relatively non-famous Willie Wonka alums (Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson, Michael Bollner, etc.). Christopher Lee is similarly omnipresent and in fact scores the lowest of ALL Hollywood actors in terms of this kind of interconnectedness.

© Peter Blinn 2005
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