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The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Day the Earth Stood Still(1951)


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The working titles of this film were Farewell to the Master and Journey to the World. Harry Bates's short story also appeared in a 1946 anthology of science fiction stories entitled Adventures in Time and Space. According to a May 1950 New York Times news item, Anne Baxter was originally cast in the role of "Helen Benson." Modern sources note that first Spencer Tracy and then Claude Rains were considered for the role of "Klaatu" before director Robert Wise saw British actor Michael Rennie perform in a Broadway play and cast him as the alien. Although Hollywood Reporter news items include Richard Allan and Duke Watson in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A late April 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item speculated that Lowell Thomas would be appearing as himself in the film, along with noted journalists Drew Pearson, Gabriel Heater, H. V. Kaltenborn and Elmer Davis, but Thomas does not appear in the released film. Other Hollywood Reporter news items note that second unit "action" and backgrounds were filmed on location in Washington, D.C.
       Although Perkins Bailey, the fashion and design editor of Look magazine, receives an onscreen credit for designing "Klaatu's" costume, information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, indicates that Bailey's credit was "a kind of publicity stunt." The costume was most likely designed by one of the studio's regular wardrobe personnel. A August 31, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the picture would be screened in New Orleans in early September 1951 at the annual convention of the Science-Fiction Writers of America.
       In a modern interview, Wise claimed that the Department of Defense would not cooperate with the filming of the picture and provide needed equipment because it disagreed with the picture's theme. Wise instead obtained equipment and military extras from the Washington branch of the National Guard. According to a modern source, the film's musical score included parts for two theremins, which were played by Dr. Samuel Hoffman. Modern sources also include Major Sam Harris (Delegate) and Snub Pollard in the cast, and report that Lock Martin, who played "Gort," was over seven feet tall and worked as a doorman at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Modern sources also state that a free-standing model of Gort was used for long sequences in which the robot was to stand still, as the costume was too heavy for Martin to wear for protracted periods of time. A model of Gort's head was also used for close-ups.
       The Day the Earth Stood Still received a Golden Globe Award as the "Best Film Promoting International Understanding." The picture, which is regarded by many film historians as one of the most influential and noteworthy of the 1950s cycle of science fiction films, received very positive reviews. The Time reviewer judged the picture to be "by far the best of Hollywood's recent flights into science-fiction." Gort is regarded by science fiction aficionados as one of the most best-loved and well-known of motion picture robots, and the command "Gort! Klaatu Barada Nikto" has become a part of the American film lexicon.
       The film marked the feature film debut of Stuart Whitman, here credited as "Kip Whitman." Rennie co-starred with Jean Peters in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story on January 4, 1954. In 1954, Patricia Neal starred in Stranger from Venus, an English remake of the film that was released in the U.S. as Immediate Disaster. The remake was directed by Burt Balaban and co-starred Helmut Dantine as the alien. Although Rennie had appeared in three previous Twentieth Century-Fox films, two shot in England and one filmed on location in Canada, The Day The Earth Stood Still was his first feature film made in the U.S. Rennie, who was under contract to the studio, appeared in many more films for Fox.