20 Pieces of Etiquette Every Royal Wedding Guest Needs to Follow

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP/Getty Images

If you were lucky enough to score an invite to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, you'd better know what to do once you get there. And no, we’re not talking about just knowing which fork is the salad fork (though that’s important, too). Royal events come with their own set of rules—some of them obvious, others anything but. So that you don’t embarrass yourself on Harry and Meghan’s big day, here are 20 etiquette rules you’ll definitely want to follow.

1. IF YOU FORGOT TO RSVP, DON’T BOTHER SHOWING UP.

Invitations for the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle are pictured, after they have been printed at the workshop of Barnard and Westwood in London on March 22, 2018
VICTORIA JONES, AFP/Getty Images

While it stands to reason that you should never show up to any wedding—royal or otherwise—if you did not RSVP to let the couple know you'd be coming, don’t expect to show up at Windsor Castle and watch the royal family scramble to make room for you. In 2011, the King of Cambodia forgot to respond to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding invitation, and was left to watch the ceremony on television like the rest of us (not sitting alongside his fellow global royals).

2. RESIST THE URGE TO WEAR WHITE OR CREAM. OR BLACK.

Young woman in a white dress
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This rule, too, is pretty standard and universal. But the Queen herself made a point of reminding guests to William and Kate’s 2011 wedding—via a 22-page Etiquette Book issued by Buckingham Palace—that “Wearing cream or white is not appropriate. That must be left to the bride.”

“We steer clear of white because that's considered to be stealing the bride's thunder,” CNN royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told Us Weekly, though she clarified that since the wedding is a daytime affair taking place in the springtime, wearing a floral or other printed dress with a white or cream base is fine, just as long as the pattern overwhelms the base.

On the opposite side of the color spectrum, you shouldn't wear black either (unless it’s a jacket or accessory worn over a brighter color). “Black is considered a funeral color, so you wouldn't wear all black,” Arbiter added. “Victoria Beckham wore navy to Prince William and Kate's wedding and it looked very elegant and sophisticated, that was fine since she wasn't in black.”

For the men in attendance, “Navy or grey suits are customary at weddings, and garish waistcoats or ties should be avoided,” Lucy Hume, an etiquette expert and publisher of Debrett's Peerage, told Town & Country Magazine.

3. WATCH THE HEIGHT OF YOUR HEELS.

 David Beckham and Victoria Beckham arrive to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England
Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images

Speaking of Victoria Beckham: Don’t make the same mistake that she did at William and Kate’s wedding and go too high with your heel height. “Don’t wear huge heels,” etiquette tutor William Hanson told Town & Country. “It’s not practical as well as not being etiquette. Victoria Beckham wore huge stilettos [to William and Catherine’s wedding]. Now, they were going into Westminster Abbey—a church floor is not a smooth floor.”

4. BARE LEGS WON'T IMPRESS THE QUEEN.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha outside Westminster Abbey after attending the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton in London, on April 29, 2011
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

Bare legs have never flown in the royal family, a fact that came to very public light when Kate Middleton brought pantyhose back in a big way. So if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a royal affair, you’d best follow the rules—lest you become an object of hosiery-shaming. “Wear tights,” Hanson told Town & Country. “[Former British Prime Minister] David Cameron's wife didn't wear tights [to the Royal Wedding in 2011], which was a bit of a shame.”

5. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A HAT, BUT NOT TOO MUCH HAT.

 Princess Beatrice of York (L) with her sister Princess Eugenie of York arrive to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Nothing screams “royal event” like loads of fancy headgear, and that’s because it’s a required part of the day’s uniform. According to the Evening Standard, wearing a full hat—not a fascinator—is standard for all female attendees. (The guess is that the tradition has biblical origins.) And while fashion fans like to have fun with their millinery, there are rules of etiquette that apply here, too.

“Wearing the right hat and not overdoing it is important,” was the simple advice written in Buckingham Palace’s Etiquette Book. (We’re guessing Princess Beatrice of York, seen above, didn't get the memo.) “Resist novelty elements or anything that will draw too much attention away from the bride,” Hume said. Equally important is making sure that the hat isn't so large or distracting that it blocks the view of those sitting behind you. Which is why Buckingham Palace instructed male guests that, “A top hat should be carried, not worn, inside the church.”

6. LEAVE YOUR TIARA AT HOME.

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, wave as they travel in the 1902 State Landau carriage along the Processional Route to Buckingham Palace, in London, on April 29, 2011
ODD ANDERSEN, AFP/Getty Images

Speaking of headgear: Wearing a tiara if you’re anyone but Meghan Markle is a very bad idea, even if you’ve earned the right to wear one (or just feel like royalty). “You wouldn't wear a tiara to a daytime British wedding unless you were the bride," Arbiter explained, adding that, “Meghan may choose to forgo that tradition since it's not a hard and fast rule, but chances are the Queen will offer to loan her a tiara and if the Queen is offering to loan you something, it's rare that somebody would say no.” (Which takes care of the “something borrowed” part of the bride’s outfit.)

7. SHOWING SHOULDER IS A NO-NO. SAME GOES FOR TOES.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C), Carole Middleton (L) and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall talk as they come out of Westminster Abbey in London, following the wedding ceremony of Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on April 29, 2011
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

When choosing a wedding outfit, it’s always best to err on the side of a more conservative style. “Ladies must dress appropriately for church,” notes the Palace’s Etiquette Guide. “This rule includes covering one's shoulders, wearing a hat to cover one's head, and not wearing anything garish or to garner attention. It is the bride's day.” If you’re thinking, “Great, I’ll wear my favorite pant suit,” think again! “Pants suits are frowned upon,” according to the official guide.

Bare toes can also be considered a bit too revealing. “Shoulders should be covered, hemlines should be on the conservative side, and closed-toe shoes,” Myka Meier, the Plaza Hotel's etiquette expert, told Town & Country.

8. KEEP YOUR HANDS AT YOUR SIDES (AND DEFINITELY OUT OF YOUR POCKETS).

Britain's Prince Harry (R) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge walk to the church for the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews at St Mark's Church in Englefield, west of London, on May 20, 2017
JUSTIN TALLIS, AFP/Getty Images

The Palace's Etiquette Book is nothing if not thorough, even going so far as to tell guests what to do with their limbs: “Keep your hands at your sides when standing,” it advises. “Gentleman, keep your hands out of your pockets. Europeans consider this act rude.”

9. ARRIVE AN HOUR EARLY.

Man in suit looking at watch
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What could be worse than arriving to the church after the bride has already started her procession down the aisle? In the case of a royal wedding: getting there after the Queen has made her entrance. According to Cosmopolitan UK, guests should arrive an hour before the wedding’s official start time to ensure that they’re not tripping over Queen Elizabeth II as they make their way in. “You don’t want to turn up after her,” Duncan Larcombe, the former Royal Editor for The Sun, said. “She will get there five minutes before Meghan will arrive.”

10. BRING YOUR CELLPHONE IF YOU MUST, BUT DON'T PLAN ON USING IT.

 Patricia Ford from Tamworth talks on the phone in the Village of Bucklebury on April 29, 2011 in Bucklebury, United Kingdom
Jamie McDonald, Getty Images

The official Etiquette Book was pretty straightforward when it came to mobile phones: “Needless to say, turn OFF your cell phone.” Larcombe underscored this point to Cosmopolitan UK, saying that while guests will likely be allowed to have their phones on their person, “Under no circumstances are they allowed to use them.”

11. DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SNAPPING A PHOTO.

Wedding guest snaps photo of wine glasses during the reception
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What happens at Windsor Castle stays at Windsor Castle—unless the royal family is the one releasing the information or images. “There will be no photography in Windsor Castle if they follow the precedent of the 2011 wedding,” Hume told Town & Country. “And with any wedding,” added Hume, “you shouldn't take photographs and release them before the official photographs are released.”

“Guests will be told not to take pictures at any [time during] the day, particularly during the evening reception at Frogmore House," Larcombe said. "No pictures ever emerged from William and Kate’s party—anyone who broke this rule would certainly end up in hot water with the happy couple.” (Not to mention being on the wrong side of the Queen.)

12. PLAN TO TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA VACATION.

 Queen Elizabeth II sends her first Tweet during a visit to the 'Information Age' Exhibition at the Science Museum on October 24, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

If the same rules apply to Harry and Meghan’s wedding as did William and Kate’s, the official stance of Buckingham Palace is: “Do not take photos of the Queen as she passes by with your cell phone … Enjoy the moment instead of holding the camera in the Queen's face as she walks in front of you and trying to capture the moment with a photograph. Do not update your Facebook status. Do not tweet.” Got it?

13. DON'T JUST GRAB ANY SEAT YOU CAN FIND AT THE CHURCH.

A general view shows the choir in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle
DOMINIC LIPINSKI, AFP/Getty Images

If you think that arriving to St. George’s Chapel a couple of hours early will nab you a front-row seat to the nuptials, we’ve got bad news: “The seats are all allocated,” Larcombe explained to Cosmopolitan UK. “They are numbered to match the number given on the invitation.” And being that this is a royal wedding, tradition dictates that the royal family calls dibs on the right side of the church (whether or not it’s the bride or groom who is the official royal).

“The entire royal family will be seated to the right-hand side of Harry and Meghan,” Larcombe continued. “Meghan's parents, co-stars, and friends will be given priority seating on the left. In a way, they will be trying to make it as normal a wedding as possible. So, when they look around they will both see their families.”

14. IF YOU WERE THINKING OF BUYING A BLENDER AS A GIFT, THINK AGAIN.

A wrapped gift
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Royal wedding gifts are a tricky topic: Buying a toaster for a couple who occupies a royal residence seems strange, and probably unnecessary. But showing up empty-handed feels rude. (This conundrum might explain the long list of strange gifts that other royals have received over the years, like the tandem bike Boris Johnson gave to William and Kate.)

“For this kind of a wedding—for any kind of a royal wedding—it is considered a great honor,” Lisa Gaché, a manners expert at Beverly Hills Manners, told the Los Angeles Times. “In order to show or convey respect and that gracious feeling for being invited, the ante is a bit more.” She suggests that making a charitable donation of $500 to an organization close to the couple’s heart is appropriate.

Even if you do decide to bring something tangible, “Don’t bring [the gift] to the wedding itself,” Hanson said, though he added that Markle’s status as a divorcée adds one more layer of complication to proper etiquette: “This is a second wedding for Meghan Markle. The etiquette in both America and Britain, especially Britain, is that you don’t normally ask for gifts, because it’s your second wedding. They’ve already got toasters and French presses, etc. It would not surprise me if they choose donations for charities instead.” Indeed, in early April, Kensington Palace announced via Twitter that:

“Prince Harry & Ms. Meghan Markle are incredibly grateful for the goodwill they have received since their engagement, & have asked that anyone who might wish to mark the occasion of their wedding considers giving to charity, instead of sending a gift. The couple have personally chosen 7 charities which represent a range of issues that they are passionate about, including sport for social change, women's empowerment, conservation, the environment, homelessness, HIV and the Armed Forces.”

15. PREPARE TO BOW AND CURTSY.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry bow as they see off Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaving after the Royal Family's traditional Christmas Day church service
ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP/Getty Images

When you're in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, it’s appropriate to curtsy and bow. “Americans are not required to bow or curtsy as the Queen walks by, but may do so out of respect,” according to the Etiquette Book, which included tips on how to do it correctly. “Ladies, place your right ankle behind your left ankle and dip at the knee, arms at your sides, and bow your head slightly. Gentleman, bend your elbow and place your hand, palm in, at your waist. Bend slightly at the waist and bow your head slightly.”

16. DON'T ATTEMPT TO WIN THE QUEEN'S AFFECTION.

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she shakes hands with Dean of Windsor, David Conner (R) after attending the Easter Mattins Service at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 1, 2018
TOLGA AKMEN, AFP/Getty Images

Just because you’ve been invited to sit in a room with the Queen doesn't mean that you’ll get a chance to meet her—and if you do, it should only be at her bidding. “Normal protocol suggests you shouldn't approach the Queen or ask her any questions,” Larcombe said. Myka Meier echoed this sentiment when she advised, “Enthusiastic fans beware: Never approach the Queen unless she approaches you. One should never touch the Queen unless she extends her hand to you.” And definitely don’t ask if you can take a selfie with her, no matter how much you’ve had to drink. Speaking of which …

17. DON'T GET DRUNK. BUT DO KNOW THE CORRECT WAY TO HOLD YOUR CHAMPAGNE GLASS.

Glasses full of champagne
iStock

As lavish as a royal wedding may be, overindulgence is never appropriate. “Do not gobble up food and gulp up drink at the reception,” noted the Etiquette Book, “and for goodness sakes, do not get drunk.”

Of course, a wedding just wouldn't be a wedding without a bit of bubbly, but don’t embarrass yourself by clasping your glass incorrectly. “There will be champagne flowing and you’ve got to hold the glass properly, by the stem,” royal etiquette expert Jean Broke-Smith said. “During the formal dinner a lot of people won’t know how to use a knife and fork properly, let alone which cutlery to choose from. You must eat from the outside in and if you have a mass of glasses in front of you, it helps to know which to use. With tea cups, lift the cup not the saucer and hold it very gently with your index finger and thumb, returning the cup to the saucer after every sip.”

18. IF YOU DO MEET THE QUEEN, KNOW HOW TO ADDRESS HER.

 Queen Elizabeth II arrives for the state banquet in her honour at Schloss Bellevue palace on the second of the royal couple's four-day visit to Germany on June 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

If you do get the chance to meet the Queen, don’t make an idiot of yourself. “When you meet the Queen, she puts her hand out first and you address her as Your Majesty,” Broke-Smith said. “In conversation you address her as Ma’am, to rhyme with jam or ham, not palm.”

The Etiquette Book is even more direct with its dos and don’ts:

“Do not touch the Queen.

Do not shake the Queen's hand unless she holds her hand out first to shake your hand.

Do not speak to the Queen unless she speaks to you first.

If the Queen addresses you first, answer her ending your first response with ‘Your Majesty.’ End your second response with ‘Ma'am’ to rhyme with ‘jam.’”

If you think you’ll have trouble controlling yourself from hugging Her Majesty, just remember how Australia's former prime minister Paul Keating was dubbed “The Lizard of Oz” by the press when he dared to place his arm on the Queen’s back.

19. KEEP YOUR HAND GESTURES TO YOURSELF.

Prince Harry gives the 'thumbs up' ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London
Phil Walter, Getty Images

You might be tempted to give Harry a thumbs up or flash Meghan the “OK” sign once they’ve said “I do,” but don’t do it. “Do not make any gestures with your hands,” the Etiquette Book warns. “In Europe, the ‘O.K.’ and ‘Thumbs Up’ hand gestures have very different meanings, and these hand gestures are extremely insulting and rude.”

20. DON'T CUT OUT EARLY.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leave a reception for young people in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, during their visit to Scotland on February 13, 2018
ANDREW MILLIGAN, AFP/Getty Images

Between the wedding itself and not one but two receptions—a post-ceremony luncheon at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Hall and then a more intimate evening event at The Frogmore House—it’s going to be a long day for the happy couple and their guests. And if the bride and groom decide to keep the party going into the wee hours of the morning, you’d better be prepared to celebrate right alongside of them. “You shouldn't leave before the newlyweds,” Hanson told Town & Country. “They will be the most senior members of the royal family in the room at that time.” Better get a good night’s sleep!

20 Surprising Facts About Pulp Fiction

Miramax
Miramax

On October 14, 1994, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was released in theaters in America and a new Hollywood auteur was born. In addition to teaching Americans what a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called in Europe, the film reignited the career of John Travolta (who received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his work) and showed audiences a different side of Bruce Willis. In honor of the film's anniversary, here are 20 things you might not have known about Pulp Fiction.

1. THE FILM WAS RELEASED IN SOUTH KOREA, JAPAN, AND EVEN SLOVAKIA BEFORE IT ARRIVED IN AMERICA.

Tarantino’s film first played the Cannes Film Festival in May 1994. It was shown at other festivals around the world, from Munich to Locarno, before hitting American shores on September 23, 1994, at the New York Film Festival. The film was released in South Korea, Japan, and Slovakia before it officially opened in the U.S. on October 14, 1994. The feature rolled out across Asia and Europe throughout 1994 and 1995.

2. HONEY BUNNY WAS NAMED AFTER AN ACTUAL RABBIT.

Honey Bunny belonged to Linda Chen, who typed up Tarantino's handwritten script for Pulp Fiction. In lieu of payment, she asked Tarantino to watch her rabbit when she went on location; Tarantino wouldn't do it, and when the rabbit later died, he named Amanda Plummer's character after Chen's pet.

3. YOU CAN WATCH THE FILM CHRONOLOGICALLY ... KIND OF.

The narrative structure of the film plays out of sequence, but it’s easy enough to break it down into seven distinct sections (a prologue, an epilogue, two preludes, and three large segments) that can then be re-ordered into a chronological narrative (Hint: The first prelude, to the “Gold Watch” section, plays first. If that doesn’t help, here’s an infographic).

4. THE FILM CONTAINS 265 “F WORDS.”

Even that hefty number isn’t Tarantino’s highest (1992’s Reservoir Dogs used it 269 times). Still, the film was the big “f word” winner of 1994, as no other film released that year even came close to that amount of profanity.

5. VINCENT VEGA’S 1964 CHEVELLE MALIBU WAS STOLEN AFTER THE SHOOT.

John Travolta’s character in the film had a sweet ride—which, in real life, belonged to Tarantino—and it was such a hot rod that it was stolen soon after the film’s release. It wasn’t found for nearly two decades, when two cops happened on a pair of kids stripping an older car. After running the Vehicle Identification Number, they found it shared the number with a car in Oakland, which turned out to be Tarantino’s car.

6. THE MOVIE COST ONLY $8.5 MILLION TO MAKE.

Five million went to the actors’ salaries. It made that all back in its first week at the U.S. box office (the film pulled in $9.3 million the first weekend of release).

7. THE FILM WAS THE THIRD BIGGEST R-RATED EARNER OF 1994.

The film lost out on the title to True Lies ($146.2 million) and Speed ($121.2 million). The film’s earnings were strong enough to place it in the overall top 10 for the year, though 1994 was dominated by Forrest Gump, which made $329.6 million that year.

8. EVEN THOUGH THE FILM MADE OVER $100 MILLION, IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO GET THERE.

Even though Tarantino’s film ended up being a tremendous hit—especially considering that slim budget—it took some time to get there. The film was in release for 178 days before it finally pulled in 100 million domestic dollars. A little comparison? It took Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 only two days.

9. VINCENT VEGA WAS WRITTEN FOR MICHAEL MADSEN ...

Tarantino specifically wrote a number of roles in the film for chosen actors (including Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Amanda Plummer), but nothing compared to his dedication to having Michael Madsen play Vince. Madsen, who knew of Tarantino’s plans and said he wanted to do the part, dropped out two weeks before the script was finished to star in Wyatt Earp.

10. ... WHICH COULD HAVE MADE HIM MR. BLONDE’S TWIN.

Tarantino has a long tradition of connecting characters in his various films—basically, the filmmaker is working with a number of sprawling family trees, and it’s always a treat to see how characters intersect—which would have made Madsen’s casting of Vince come with a surprising twist: it might have made him Mr. Blonde’s (Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs) twin, as it’s long been known that Vince and Blonde are brothers.

11. IT INSPIRED TOP GEAR’S STIG.

The mysterious, anonymous Stig was inspired by the mysterious, anonymous Gimp. The Gimp was even the original name for the Stig, until they couldn’t find a racing driver willing to use that name.

12. BUTCH WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LOT YOUNGER.

Tarantino wrote the part as a young boxer, with Matt Dillon specifically in mind for the role, but when the actor took too much time considering the part, it was tweaked slightly to accommodate Bruce Willis (who was a little ticked that he wasn’t asked to play Vincent).

13. TARANTINO LOVES VINTAGE BOARD GAMES, AND IT SHOWS.

The filmmaker is an avid board game collector, which is why the film features Operation and The Game of Life. Tarantino convinced Travolta to come on board with an all-day Welcome Back, Kotter, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever board game marathon.

14. VINCENT’S PREFERRED READING MATERIAL IS REAL.

Vince loves reading pulp fiction books during his, ahem, private time, including Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise, a real pulp fiction novel based on O’Donnell’s '60s comic strip. Tarantino has long expressed interest in bringing that tale to the big screen, including giving his official license to the 2003 film (Quentin Tarantino Presents) My Name is Modesty.

15. DESPITE TARANTINO’S LOVE FOR UMA THURMAN, SHE WASN’T HIS FIRST PICK.

Other possible Mias? Isabella Rossellini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Meg Ryan, Alfre Woodard, Halle Berry, Daryl Hannah, Rosanna Arquette, Joan Cusack, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Tarantino’s original favorite was supposedly Pfeiffer.

16. THE ORIGINAL POSTER CAN FETCH YOU SEVERAL HUNDRED DOLLARS.

The first poster had Thurman smoking from a box of Lucky Strike cigarettes—but Miramax hadn’t licensed usage rights from Lucky Strikes, who threatened to sue. Rather than fight it, Miramax had the posters returned. Those that survived can now command big money.

17. JULES MAY HAVE BEEN WRITTEN FOR SAMUEL L. JACKSON, BUT HE ALMOST LOST THE PART.

Tarantino very much had Jackson in mind for the role of Jules, but when he auditioned Paul Calderon, he was so struck by the performance that he very nearly hired him. Jackson, desperate to get “his” role back, flew to Los Angeles and auditioned for Tarantino again.

18. CAPTAIN KOONS MIGHT HAVE A FAMOUS RELATIVE.

Well, famous in the Tarantino universe, anyway: It’s widely believed that Christopher Walken’s Captain Koons is a descendent of Django Unchained character Crazy Craig Koons, who is only mentioned by name in a Wanted poster.

19. ROBERT RODRIGUEZ DIRECTED PARTS OF THE FILM.

When Tarantino is on screen as Jimmie, someone else had to be behind the camera—and that someone was Robert Rodriguez. The pair later teamed up for a number of other projects, including From Dusk Till Dawn and Grindhouse.

20. TRAVOLTA DIDN’T REALLY INJECT THURMAN IN THAT SCENE.

The infamous scene in which Mia is stabbed with a very necessary adrenaline shot was stressful enough, so Tarantino took off some of the pressure: the needle was inserted, and then Travolta pulled it out. The scene was reversed in post-production so it looks as if Vincent Vega really is plunging that syringe into her. Movie magic!

Additional Sources: Short List; Box Office Mojo (1, 2)

This article originally ran in 2015.

Aaugh! 10 Facts About It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Lee Mendelson hadn’t planned on a career in animation. But when television sponsors saw the filmmaker’s documentary about cartoonist Charles Schulz, they asked if the two could team up to produce a Christmas special based on Schulz’s Peanuts strip. The result, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was seen by roughly half of all households watching television during its premiere on CBS on December 9, 1965.

Mendelson went on to produce other Peanuts primetime specials, but 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown remains one of the most endearing. As you prepare annual sympathy for poor ol' Chuck (“I got a rock”), check out some facts about naked composers, vomiting voice actors, and CBS’s bizarre ultimatum.

1. THE FUTURE OF ANIMATED PEANUTS SPECIALS DEPENDED ON IT.  


Warner Home Video

Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez had very high aspirations for A Charlie Brown Christmas. When they screened it prior to its premiere, however, they felt it didn’t live up to its potential—and CBS agreed. The network said it was the last Peanuts special they would buy. But after it delivered huge ratings, CBS changed their mind and asked for more. When the two delivered another hit—the baseball-themed Charlie Brown All-Stars—they thought they had earned the network’s confidence.

Instead, CBS told them they needed a special that could run every year, like A Charlie Brown Christmas. If Mendelson couldn’t provide it, they told him they might not pick up an option for a fourth show. Despite Schulz and his collaborators being annoyed by the network's abrasive attitude, they hammered out a story with a seasonal clothesline that could be rerun in perpetuity.   

2. THE VOICE OF VIOLET PUKED AFTER EVERY RECORDING SESSION.

It’s standard practice these days to use adult actors to mimic juvenile cartoon characters: adults are (presumably) better able to take direction and deliver a performance in line with the director’s wishes. But for many Peanuts specials, children were used to voice Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and the rest. Anne Altieri, who portrayed both Violet and Frieda, was so nervous to be part of the show that she threw up every time she was done with a recording session.

3. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME LUCY SNATCHED THE FOOTBALL FROM CHARLIE BROWN.

In animated form, anyway. When Schulz, Mendelson, and Melendez were brainstorming scene ideas for the special, talk turned to the fact that Lucy’s habit of pulling the football away from Charlie Brown had never been seen in animation. They also decided it would be a good time to introduce Snoopy’s World War I Flying Ace. The joke had appeared in the strip, but Mendelson thought it would work even better in motion. He was right: the sequence with Snoopy in a doghouse dogfight is one of the most memorable in the Peanuts animated canon.

4. IT’S SECRETLY ABOUT SANTA.

The Great Pumpkin saga was adapted from Schulz’s newspaper strip, where he had conceived it as a metaphor for some of the hope (and disappointment) associated with Saint Nick. Schulz disliked the idea kids heard of a jolly fat man who delivered presents all over the world when he knew many families could only afford one or two gifts for the holidays. “The Great Pumpkin is really kind of a satire on Santa Claus,” he told Mendelson. “When [he] doesn’t come, Linus is crushed.”

5. THE MUSIC COMPOSER WAS FOUND NAKED BY COPS.


Warner Home Video

The jazzy scores of the early Peanuts specials were the work of composer Vince Guaraldi. When he was busy putting together “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” for the show, he decided to break for a shower. When he came out, he thought he heard noises outside and went to investigate, naked, and locked himself out in the process. Keyless, Guaraldi tried climbing a ladder to a second-floor window when cops spotted him. “Don’t shoot,” he said. “I’m the Great Pumpkin.” Police, who were many months away from getting the joke, let him back inside.  

6. A LISP ALMOST RUINED THE SHOW.

Kathy Steinberg was only four years old when she portrayed Sally for the first time in A Charlie Brown Christmas: her big break came when Mendelson, her neighbor, started work on the specials. While Steinberg had some limitations—like being too young to know how to read a script—things were going well until producers realized she was on the verge of losing a tooth. Fearing a lisp would ruin the voiceover work, they rushed to get her lines done. The day after finishing, the tooth fell out.  

7. KIDS SENT CHARLIE BROWN CANDY FOR YEARS.

One of the most poignant moments of any Peanuts cartoon comes when downtrodden Charlie Brown opens his Halloween goodie sack and discovers he’s been given rocks instead of candy. According to Schulz, this so angered viewers that for years his California office was inundated with sacks of treats addressed to the character.

8. THE ORIGINAL AIRINGS WERE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT.

Production costs for the early Charlie Brown specials were subsidized by television sponsors Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison snack cakes: the brands appear at the beginning and end of the broadcast. The Coke “bug” appeared for several years before getting phased out. 

9. CBS GOT A LITTLE SALTY ABOUT LOSING THE RIGHTS.

After spending decades at CBS, the rights to three holiday Peanuts installments went up for grabs in 2000. Though CBS could make the first offer, it was ABC who made the winning bid. Privately, CBS executives were not at all pleased about the business decision to take the football away. “It's a shame that a few more dollars meant more to them than years of tradition and loyalty," one network employee anonymously told Variety

10. SOME SCHOLARS THOUGHT THE GREAT PUMPKIN WAS REAL.


Warner Home Video

A real myth, at any rate. Talking to the Schenectady Gazette in 1968, Schulz said that since the special began airing two years earlier, he had received a number of letters from academics wondering where the Great Pumpkin story had originated. “A number of professional scholars have written me about the origination of the legend,” he said. “They insist it must be based on something.” Schulz suggested they broach the topic with Linus instead.

This article originally ran in 2015.

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