13 Devilish Facts About Rosemary’s Baby

Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

In the late 1960s, a B-movie producer, a filmmaker untested in America, and a TV star untested on the big screen got together to make a horror movie. They produced a classic.

Rosemary’s Baby is a kind of godmother to all of the Satan-themed horror films that followed it, from The Exorcist to The Omen to The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It’s scary yet elegant, eerie yet oddly romantic, horrifying yet beautiful in its design. It’s the product of a meticulous director who went over his shooting schedule, a young star who persevered even in the midst of a divorce, and a cast and crew who may have ultimately suffered a curse for their part in it.

As the film nears its 50th anniversary, here are 13 facts about Rosemary’s Baby.

1. WILLIAM CASTLE ORIGINALLY WANTED TO DIRECT IT.

Even before Ira Levin’s novel hit bookstores, Rosemary’s Baby became a hot property in Hollywood. The galleys of the novel caught the eye of director/producer William Castle, best known for B-movie horror films like The Tingler and House On Haunted Hill. Castle, eager to make a prestigious film, snapped up the rights to the book, and sought a deal with Paramount Pictures to get the film made. Producer Robert Evans also saw potential in the novel and agreed to adapt it for the screen, but insisted that Castle only work on the film as a producer. Castle, who’d hoped to direct the film himself, reluctantly agreed.

“It was too good for Bill Castle,” Evans later said

Evans ultimately decided on Roman Polanski, who made his American debut with the film, to direct Rosemary’s Baby.

2. ROMAN POLANSKI MADE ONE VERY SIGNIFICANT STORYTELLING DECISION.

Roman Polanski and Sharon State attend the premiere of 'Rosemary's Baby.'
William Milsom/Evening Standard/Getty Images

When Evans offered him the film, Polanski was immediately engaged by Levin’s novel, and decided to write the screenplay himself. He had little difficultly, but as an agnostic, there was one particular aspect he wanted to remain intact onscreen: ambiguity. He set out to tell a story where, in theory, you could perceive everything that happened to Rosemary as something she was imagining.

“Being an agnostic, however, I no more believed in Satan as evil incarnate than I believed in a personal god; the whole idea conflicted with my rational view of the world,” Polanski later said. “For credibility's sake, I decided that there would have to be a loophole: the possibility that Rosemary's supernatural experiences were figments of her imagination. The entire story, as seen through her eyes, could have been a chain of only superficially sinister coincidences, a product of her feverish fancies ... That is why a thread of deliberate ambiguity runs throughout the film.”

3. IRA LEVIN MADE DRAWINGS OF THE BRAMFORD APARTMENTS.

Prior to shooting Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski gathered the cast for rehearsals on soundstages, complete with taped-off layouts of each apartment (the interiors were all shot on constructed sets) to give the actors an idea of how their movements would work within the eventual sets. Helping that process along was Levin himself, who provided detailed layouts of the apartments.

4. POLANSKI MADE SKETCHES TO CHOOSE THE SUPPORTING CAST.

Ruth Gordon in 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Paramount Home Video

When it came time to choose the supporting cast, Polanski did something a little unorthodox: He drew them. Feeling that each resident of the Bramford needed a very particular look, he felt that it would actually be easier if he simply showed those looks to the Paramount casting director. So, he made sketches of each Bramford resident and turned them over to the studios. That’s how actors like Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer made their way into the film.

5. ROBERT REDFORD WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR GUY WOODHOUSE. 

In casting Rosemary’s Baby, Evans and Polanski didn’t always agree from the start, so several different incarnations of the cast were possible. They did, however, agree that Robert Redford would be perfect for the role of Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary’s ambitious actor husband. Unfortunately, Paramount and Redford were locked in a contractual dispute at the time, so he wasn’t available. So the studio went searching, and other choices included Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain, James Fox, Laurence Harvey, and Jack Nicholson (who actually tested for the role). Ultimately, Polanski decided on John Cassavetes, a talented filmmaker he was already familiar with.

6. MIA FARROW WAS NOT POLANSKI’S FIRST CHOICE FOR ROSEMARY.

Mia Farrow on the set of 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For the role of Rosemary Woodhouse, Polanski set out to find an “All-American” actress. His choice was Tuesday Weld, then known for her work in films like The Cincinnati Kid. Evans and Castle had a different idea: Mia Farrow, then best-known for the TV series Peyton Place. After auditioning a few actresses, Polanski ended up agreeing that Farrow was right for the role.

“Mia was a little left-of-center. That’s the reason we wanted her,” Evans said. “She wasn’t just another pretty face.

“She had another dimension. And what she didn’t have, Roman got out of her.”

7. POLANSKI CLASHED WITH THE STUDIO DURING PRODUCTION.

Rosemary’s Baby was Polanski’s first American film, and his attention to detail ultimately created some problems with Paramount. According to Evans, the director fell behind his shooting schedule very quickly, to the point that Castle was calling and warning him that problems were ahead. Evans and Castle, according to Polanski, stood by their director, and it also didn’t hurt that the footage coming back from the film was impressive. In Polanski’s recollection, it took a fellow director—the great Otto Preminger (Laura, Anatomy of a Murder)—to convince him he had nothing to worry about. In a chance meeting on the Paramount lot, Polanski explained his schedule problems to the legend. Preminger asked him about the “rushes,” the raw footage screened for studio executives. When Polanski explained that Paramount seemed to love his footage, Preminger put him at ease.

“‘So what do you care?’ he says,” Polanski recalled. “‘They never fired anyone because of schedule, because of lagging behind, but if they don’t like the rushes, you’re out very soon.’ So, that was the case. They really liked the material very much.”

8. POLANSKI AND JOHN CASSAVETES CLASHED DURING PRODUCTION, TOO. 

John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow in 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images

John Cassavetes is still remembered as a titan of independent film, known for his freewheeling, improvisational productions like A Woman Under the Influence. Polanski is a different kind of director, known for his precision. Though Cassavetes was only working as an actor on Rosemary’s Baby, their respective filmmaking styles still clashed. According to Farrow, Cassavetes longed to improvise and let the moment carry him through the scene, while Polanski would be annoyed if an actor lifted a glass mere inches from where he imagined it to be. Though Polanski and Cassavetes knew each other, and apparently liked each other, prior to filming, their working relationship became a bit strained.

“John Cassavetes was not my best experience, I must say,” Polanski recalled.

9. FARROW REALLY WALKED OUT INTO NEW YORK TRAFFIC.

According to Farrow, Polanski’s directing style often involved him acting out the scenes himself to show the actors what he wanted, and this apparently had the effect of convincing Farrow to do a few outrageous things. For example, she ate raw liver on camera through several takes, even though she was a strict vegetarian. The most extreme instance of this, though, came during the sequence when Rosemary is attempting to flee the Bramford and walks out into traffic in an effort to quickly cross the street. This was not a carefully orchestrated sequence in which streets were blocked off and stunt drivers were employed. According to Farrow, she really did just simply walk out into a New York street and hoped the oncoming cars would stop. This was Polanski’s idea, and he assured Farrow that “Nobody will hit a pregnant woman.” He was right, and the scene was shot several times, with one caveat: Polanski himself had to operate the camera, because no one else dared to.

10. FRANK SINATRA FILED FOR DIVORCE FROM FARROW DURING PRODUCTION.

The wedding of Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow.
Keystone/Getty Images

At the time of Rosemary’s Baby’s production, Farrow was famous for two things: starring in Peyton Place and being married to legendary singer Frank Sinatra. When Farrow got the script for Rosemary’s Baby, she asked Sinatra to read it, and after he finished he turned to her and said “I can’t see you in it.” Farrow agreed to do the film anyway, but as Polanski’s shooting schedule stretched out it began to conflict with a planned role in Sinatra’s own film, The Detective. Farrow hoped she could make the schedules work and do both films, flying coast-to-coast in the process, but ultimately Rosemary won out, and Sinatra issued a demand that she choose between the movie or her husband. When she decided to finish Rosemary’s Baby, he sent his lawyer to the set to deliver divorce papers. Farrow signed them in “a blur of tears,” then continued shooting.

The incident created such tension that Sinatra and Evans didn’t speak for several years, to the point that Evans would call restaurants and ask if Sinatra was dining there before he decided to go. According to Farrow, she and Sinatra remained friends until his death in 1998.

11. WILLIAM CASTLE THOUGHT THE FILM WAS CURSED.

According to Farrow, actor Sidney Blackmer (who played coven leader Roman Castevet) once said on set “No good will come of all this ‘Hail Satan’ business,” and apparently he wasn’t the only one who thought so. William Castle later became convinced the film was cursed. Shortly after production he suffered gallstones to such a severe extent that he required surgery. As he recovered from that illness, Rosemary’s Baby composer Krzysztof Komeda suffered an accidental fall that led to a coma and, eventually, his death. Then, in the summer of 1969, actress Sharon Tate—Polanski’s wife—was infamously murdered by the Manson Family. For Castle, it all added up.

"The story of Rosemary's Baby was happening in real life. Witches, all of them, were casting their spell, and I was becoming one of the principal players,” he later recalled.

12. CASTLE MADE A CAMEO.

Castle initially wanted to direct Rosemary’s Baby himself, and had to settle for a producer’s role instead. He did also get to act a little in the film. When Rosemary goes to the phone booth to call Dr. Hill’s office, a man with a cigar comes up and waits outside. Because the paranoia level in the film is so intense at this point, the viewer initially wonders if the man is part of the conspiracy against Rosemary. Ultimately, he’s a man just waiting to use the phone. The man is Castle.

13. THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT SEQUELS.

Rosemary’s Baby was an instant hit, and the Satanism woven into its plot ultimately started a craze that led to other hits like The Omen and The Exorcist. So, naturally, a sequel was in the cards. In 1976 a made-for-TV movie titled Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby aired on ABC during the Halloween season. It stars Patty Duke as Rosemary, was directed by Rosemary’s Baby co-editor Sam O’Steen, and even features the return of Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet.

In 1997, Levin himself produced a sequel, a novel titled Son of Rosemary. The film was also remade as an NBC miniseries in 2014, starring Zoe Saldana as Rosemary.

Rewind Time With This Blockbuster-Themed Party Game

Amazon/Big Potato Games
Amazon/Big Potato Games

With only one Blockbuster location left in the world, the good old days of wandering video rental store aisles and getting chewed out for late fees are definitely a thing of the past—but like so many relics from the '90s, the pull of nostalgia has ensured that Blockbuster (or at least the brand) won't disappear for good. Now the video store is back in the form of a party game from Big Potato Games that is designed to test the movie knowledge of you and up to 11 friends.

Marketing itself as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster party game consists of two parts. In part one, players from each team compete head-to-head to name as many movies as they can that fit under specific categories (e.g., movies with Tom Cruise, famous trilogies, movies with planes). In the second half, two teams face off against each other to test their skills at a game of movie-related charades. The catch? Players can only describe movies in one of three randomly chosen ways: acting out scenes, rattling off a famous quote, or describing the films with one word.

The real selling point of the whole package is that Big Potato fit all the game cards and buzzer into a box that is virtually identical to the old-school Blockbuster VHS rental cases, right down to its distinct color scheme and shape. All it's missing is the membership card. 

The Blockbuster board game costs $26 on Amazon and $20 at Target. That’s a fair price for getting the chance to rewind time.

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8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

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