Mike Nichols' Catch-22 (1970): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts
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Mike Nichols' Catch-22 (1970): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 debuted in movie theaters on June 24, 1970. Amazing Catch-22 movie trivia and fun facts encompass Alan Arkin, Mike Nichols, Jon Voight, Captain Yossarian, Martin Sheen, Simon & Garfunkel, Martin Balsam, Orson Welles, Richard Dreyfuss and Anthony Perkins.

The black war comedy Catch-22 came to movie theaters in 1970. Directed by Mike Nichols, Catch-22 features Alan Arkin as Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier stationed on the island of Pianosa off the Italian coast during World War II. Here are 21 Catch-22 movie trivia items and fun facts...

1. Catch-22 is based on the novel of the same name by Joseph Heller (1923-1999), first published by Simon & Schuster on November 10, 1961. Heller had first embarked on his novel while working as a copywriter at an advertising agency in the early 1950s: "As I’ve said and repeat, I wrote the first chapter in longhand one morning in 1953, hunched over my desk at the advertising agency – from ideas and words that had leaped into my mind only the night before. The chapter was published in the quarterly New World Writing #7 in 1955 under the title ‘Catch-18.’"

Art Garfunkel as Captain Nately in Catch-22 (1974) - Heritage Auctions

2. Catch-22 numbered 443 pages and was priced at $5.95. Reported Granville Hicks in Saturday Review (10/14/61): “Heller’s satire cuts a wide swath. He takes after a variety of bureaucrats, makes fun of security checks, ridicules psychiatrists and army doctors in general. Sometimes he shoots way over the mark, but often his aim is good…But the book as a whole is less effective than it might be. Heller has introduced so many characters, tried to deliver so many knockout blows, and written in such a variety of styles that the reader becomes a little dizzy.”

3. Joseph Heller had served as a bombardier with the 12th Air Force in Italy during World War II. He eventually logged 60 combat missions in B-25 Mitchell medium bombers while stationed on the island of Corsica.

4. The "22" in the book's title refers to the number of missions the men had to fly before rotating home. The "catch" was that the number could be magically increased by the top Army brass.

5. With the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War raging at the time, producers thought Heller's anti-war novel Catch-22 would strike a nerve with movie audiences in 1969-70. Taking on the project were Filmways Productions and Paramount Pictures, with John Calley and Martin Ransohoff producing.  

6. Mike Nichols, who had won a Best Director Oscar for his 1967 film classic The Graduate, was signed at a salary of $1 million. It was the first million-dollar salary for a movie director in Hollywood history.

7. George C. Scott was the original choice to play Colonel Cathcart, a role which then went to Stacy Keach, who was cut loose by director Mike Nichols because the latter thought Keach (born in 6/2/41) was too young to play a colonel. Brought in as his replacement was Martin Balsam.

8. Both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel almost made it into Catch-22. Garfunkel plays Captain Nately while Simon was to appear as an unnamed character who was eventually written out of the movie by producers.

9. Buck Henry, the author of the screenplay, also appears as Lt. Colonel Korn. Bob Newhart plays Maj. Major Major. Richard Benjamin plays Major Danby and Paula Prentiss appears as Nurse Duckett. Benjamin and Prentiss were married on October 26, 1961.

10. Catch-22 was made for $18 million. Guaymas and San Carlos, Mexico, along with Rome, Italy, served as the principal locations. Filming took six months to complete in 1969, with 18 B-25 Mitchell bombers (17 flyable and one not, with the latter destroyed in a crash-landing scene) rented for the production.

Alan Arkin, left, and Anthony Perkins in Catch-22 (1974) - Heritage Auctions

11. John Jordan, a 44-year-old second unit director, lost his life while filming Catch-22. Refusing to wear a safety harness, Jordan was sucked out of an airplane's open doorway, plunging to his immediate death 2,000 feet below into the Gulf of Mexico on May 16, 1969.

12. Catch-22 begins on the island of Pianosa, with a group of B-25 Mitchell bombers firing their engines for a first-light mission.

13. Jack Gilford plays the Army doctor Doc Daneeka. Captain Yossarian (Alan Arkin) visits the flight surgeon, telling him that he doesn't want to fly anymore. His reasoning: "It's dangerous." But Doc Daneeka informs Yossarian that he can't certify him as crazy because of an unwritten rule known as Catch-22. "Let me see if I’ve got this straight: in order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy and I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy any more and I have to keep flying?” Yossarain inquires. Exactly...

14. Jon Voight plays Lt. Milo Minderbinder, the brains behind M&M Enterprises. Milo's latest project: a marketing scheme to trade silk parachutes for Egyptian cotton. When the international cotton market crashes, Milo comes up with a new confection: chocolate-flavored cotton.

15. Anthony Perkins plays the oddball character Chaplain A.T. Tappman, who is of the Anabaptist persuasion. Colonel Cathcart (Martin Balsam) hands the chaplain an issue of The Saturday Evening Post, which features a story on a devout Army Air Forces colonel in England who stages a prayer service before each mission. Cathcart orders Tappman to come up with some catchy prayers so they too can be written up in the Post.

16. Orson Welles plays Major Dreedle, who makes his appearance at the air base with his toady son-in-law and a buxom WAC (Susanne Benton) in tow.

17. Martin Sheen plays First Lieutenant Dobbs, who freaks out after the number of missions required to get home is increased to 80. Dobbs decides to take out crazy Colonel Cathcart, sneaking up to the colonel's window one night with his .45 automatic in hand.

18. Best madcap scene: A recovering Yossarian, who has completed 55 combat missions, jumps out of his hospital window, inflates a yellow rubber raft and tries to paddle his way to Sweden while an Army band plays "Stars and Stripes Forever" on the parade ground.

19. Catch-22 opened simultaneously in New York City at the Paramount and Sutton Theaters on June 24, 1970. Giving the movie a big thumbs-up was Vincent Canby of The New York Times (6/25/70): “Catch-22...is, quite simply, the best American film I’ve seen this year...Catch-22 is so good that I hope it won’t be confused with what is all too loosely referred to as black comedy…Catch-22, like Yossarian, is almost beside itself with panic because it grieves for the human condition.”

20. Catch-22 grossed $12.25 million at the box office, good for the #10 position on the list of the top Hollywood moneymakers of 1970. One catch: it cost $18 million to make!

21. A made-for-TV movie titled Catch-22 starring Richard Dreyfuss, Dana Elcar and Stewart Moss was telecast over ABC on May 21, 1973. The pilot movie failed to generate a planned TV series and went unsold.

Catch-22: “A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.” - The American Heritage Dictionary

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  •  Orson Welles as Brigadier General Dreedle in Catch-22 (1974) - Heritage Auctions

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner

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Comments (1)

I had first read Heller's novel and then went to see the movie when it debuted in 1970. As is usually the case, I thought that the books was much better than the movie, still I didn't know much of the details that your enlightened me on with your trivia. Very nice job. Happy Holidays!

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