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Old 08-12-2005, 04:03 PM
Don Draper Don Draper is offline
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"Watermelon, cantalope, watermelon, cantalope, watermelon, cantalope..."

In movie scenes depicting large crowds, it is common practice for extras & background folk who don't have actual lines of dialogue (but are supposed to be chatting, talking, etc.) to silently or very quietly mouth the words "watermelon, cantalope, watermelon, cantalope..." and on & on.

The reason for this is that their characters (as in RL) would be carrying on normal conversations about unrelated subjects. But being mere background, they shouldn't distract from actual written dialogue being spoken by the central characters. (Were extras allowed to simply improvise dialogue, they run the risk of inadvertanly acting out in character, and thereby causing a distraction.)

The infamous 'mess hall' scene from Alien is one particular instance of this: before the evil little thing bursts out of Kane's chest, there are some brief shots of the relaxed crew (apparently believing the emergency is over) sitting around eating, smoking cigarettes and shooting the breeze. The first line of actual dialogue is when Parker states (paraphrasing): "this stuff tastes like shit..." Before that, the crewmembers are quietly mouthing the word "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon" over & over again. Check out the brief shot of Tom Skerrit (Dallas) and watch his lips, you'll see what I mean.

Has anyone else ever noticed this, or can cite instances where they've noticed this on screen?
  #2  
Old 08-12-2005, 04:06 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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I'll be the first to say that he thought the word for crowds to say was supposed to be "rhubarb".

Someone with experience in the industry will be along shortly to tell me how out of touch I am.
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Old 08-12-2005, 04:09 PM
Zeldar Zeldar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
I'll be the first to say that he thought the word for crowds to say was supposed to be "rhubarb".

Someone with experience in the industry will be along shortly to tell me how out of touch I am.

Well, I'll second that and yield only when that expert does arrive.

Has anybody taped such a scene and slowed it down or done other audio isolation on it?
  #4  
Old 08-12-2005, 04:10 PM
Wolfian Wolfian is offline
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Is that what that is from? There's an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Prince of Space?) which features a crowd of men murmuring. Mike and the bots add this bit:

"Watermelon."
"Cantelope."
"Bak Choi."
"Cabbage."

There's also an episode of Duck Dodgers (which is filled with in-jokes) in which the title character attempts to fake an oath in which he includes the line "Watermelon, cantelope, yaddy yada."

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Old 08-12-2005, 04:13 PM
Zeldar Zeldar is offline
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I found this link by doing a search for "rhubarb crowd noise" and checked for "rhubarb" with a Find function. Located it under Walla.

At least one support for what I remembered.
  #6  
Old 08-12-2005, 04:19 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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A trivia book I had as a kid said "Rhubarb" too.
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Old 08-12-2005, 04:22 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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David Gerrold in his book on making "The Trouble With Tribbles" wrote that when he was in on-screen conversations one person would say "nadder nadder nadder" and the other would say "grommish grommish grommish."
  #8  
Old 08-12-2005, 04:25 PM
Askia Askia is offline
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Mel Brooks lied? I thought it was "hurumph!"
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Old 08-12-2005, 04:29 PM
Hal Briston Hal Briston is offline
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As defined in the Glossary of Specialized Terms for Jabootu’s Dimension of Bad Movies:

"Watermelon, watermelon, cantaloupe, cantaloupe" (adj.): (also the shortened ‘Watermelon, watermelon’) Used to indicate obviously bogus ‘crowd’ murmurings. Taken from the venerable stage tradition of informing extras to say the above to each other to indicate mass communication, so that they wouldn’t ask the director, "What should I say?" This is especially amusing when the ‘watermelon’ noises are overlaid with obviously dubbed-in and spotlighted dialog. EXAMPLE: As in On Deadly Ground, when the generic ‘watermelon, watermelon’ sounds of the assembled Press are overlaid with lines like "Answer the questions, you weasel!"
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  #10  
Old 08-12-2005, 05:04 PM
Zeldar Zeldar is offline
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Here's another link that suggests "rhubarb" is at least in the running. I'll concede to their being multiple words, phrases and nonsense used in the situation.
  #11  
Old 08-12-2005, 05:10 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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I mostly heard that it was "watermelon," with some kind of reasoning (likely bogus) about the number or variety of syllables lending verissimilitude.
  #12  
Old 08-12-2005, 06:27 PM
Tracy Lord Tracy Lord is offline
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On stage, we do "Rumpelstiltskin" and "popsicle rhubarb."

The idea is that the more plosives, the better it looks.
  #13  
Old 08-12-2005, 06:49 PM
Shoeless Shoeless is online now
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A guy I used to work with who, in a former life, tried to make it as an actor in Hollywood, told me that the magic phrase was "Sassafrass and rutabagas".
  #14  
Old 08-12-2005, 06:49 PM
jackelope jackelope is offline
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I saw a movie once, probably twenty years ago, in which one character is a Hollywood old-timer who's known in the biz as the World's Greatest Extra. Another character says, awestruck, "He invented the 'Courtroom Walla'!" It's explained that in courtroom dramas, when the verdict is announced, everyone in the courtroom softly says, "walla walla walla," creating a nice, low-level hum of excitement without anything really discernible in it.

I have no idea what film that was in, though. I think I saw it on TV, and I think the scene in question took place in a lunchroom of some kind.

Oh, and when I acted in an indie film once, we needed to record some generic background sounds of a roomful of people talking excitedly. The director had seven or eight of us sit in a circle around a microphone and, all at once, complain about our jobs for a few minutes. The effect was pretty cool.
  #15  
Old 08-12-2005, 06:50 PM
amarinth amarinth is online now
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I learned "Rutabaga" "Watermelon," were the background fake words
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Old 08-12-2005, 07:16 PM
Ludy Ludy is offline
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When a friend of mine was in school (around grade 3) he was in the choir. He was told by the teacher to mouth "watermelon" instead of singing when they performed.
  #17  
Old 08-12-2005, 07:47 PM
danceswithcats danceswithcats is offline
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Nowadays they say badgers badgers badgers badgers mushrom mushroom
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  #18  
Old 08-12-2005, 08:31 PM
Queen Tonya Queen Tonya is offline
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Huh, I learned watermelon marshmallow watermelon marshmallow.

I'm sorta sad to realize I wasn't nearly plosive enough.
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Old 08-12-2005, 08:57 PM
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This was probably intentional, but a Chinese comedy film had some monks chanting a tongue twister ("Chi1 pu2 tao2 bu4 tu3 pu2 tao2 pi2", "eating grapes without spitting out the skins) in a funeral sequence.
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Old 08-12-2005, 10:50 PM
Phnord Prephect Phnord Prephect is offline
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Malkovich Malkovich, malkovich malkovich malkovich.

Malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich, malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich. Malkovich. Malkovich malkovich! Malkovich malkovich malkovich Malkovich malkovich!

Malkovich malkovich Malkovich malkovich. Malkovich malkovich. Malkovich malkovich?

Malkovich.
  #21  
Old 08-12-2005, 11:40 PM
Cherry2000 Cherry2000 is offline
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Wow...when I used to stage work it was "peas and carrots peas and carrots".

Guess I am old
  #22  
Old 08-13-2005, 12:16 AM
NoCoolUserName NoCoolUserName is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto
David Gerrold in his book on making "The Trouble With Tribbles" wrote that when he was in on-screen conversations one person would say "nadder nadder nadder" and the other would say "grommish grommish grommish."
I remember it as "natter, natter" and "grommish, grommish"...but my copy is in a box since we moved so I can't look it up.
  #23  
Old 08-13-2005, 04:17 AM
DMark DMark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherry2000
Wow...when I used to stage work it was "peas and carrots peas and carrots".

Guess I am old
Well let me join the "old" club as that was always the phrase we were told to use in every play I was ever in.
  #24  
Old 08-13-2005, 07:04 AM
Wolfian Wolfian is offline
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There is also the episode of South Park in which the citizens of the town storm the mayor's office. It sounds like generic chatter until the mayor says, "You're not going to get anywhere just standing here all day saying 'Rabble-rabble-rabble!'"
  #25  
Old 08-13-2005, 12:56 PM
Bill Door Bill Door is offline
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I had heard that rhubarb was used for crowd noise to suggest an angry mob, and that's how the term rhubarb came to be used as a synomym for a quarrel or fight.
  #26  
Old 08-14-2005, 07:47 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Door
I had heard that rhubarb was used for crowd noise to suggest an angry mob, and that's how the term rhubarb came to be used as a synomym for a quarrel or fight.
We were obviously exposed to the same source, as that's my recollection, too. If I had a gun at my head, I'd say I heard it on some old radio quiz show. Back then, whatever urban legends there were held the same degree of authenticity as the ones now debunked on Snopes. For all I know, Crapper invented the toilet.
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Old 08-14-2005, 10:18 AM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackelope
I saw a movie once, probably twenty years ago, in which one character is a Hollywood old-timer who's known in the biz as the World's Greatest Extra. Another character says, awestruck, "He invented the 'Courtroom Walla'!" It's explained that in courtroom dramas, when the verdict is announced, everyone in the courtroom softly says, "walla walla walla," creating a nice, low-level hum of excitement without anything really discernible in it.

I have no idea what film that was in, though. I think I saw it on TV, and I think the scene in question took place in a lunchroom of some kind.
That was Memories of Me (1988), with Alan King as Abe, the King of the Extras. He's introducing his son (Billy Crystal) to his fellow professional extras, in a Hollywood restaurant where they all hang out. One was an expert at "waller", which Abe demonstrated by theatrically asking (more or less), as if in a courtroom: "And isn't it true, Mr. Jones, that you were having an affair with both the victim and the defendant?"

Extras: *gasp!* waller-waller-waller-waller.....


Similiarly, the Steve Martin comedy The Man With Two Brains had a scene where Martin, a neurosurgeon, is giving a presentation at a conference in Vienna. After one dramatic moment, when the crowd is murmuring excitedly:

Martin: What are they saying?
Interpreter: They are just saying 'murmur, murmur, murmur.'
Martin: You mean it's just sort of a general murmur?
Interpreter: Ja. Murmurmur.
Martin: Oh. [To the crowd] You may murmur all you like -
Crowd: [distinctly] Murmur, murmur, MURMUR, murmur, murmur...!
  #28  
Old 08-14-2005, 10:32 AM
FilmGeek FilmGeek is offline
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Hubbub works like rhubarb.

There's also a scene in Waiting for Guffman where Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara are supposed to be the excited crowd, but since it's only the two of them, you can see them saying "hubbub hubbub".
  #29  
Old 08-14-2005, 12:52 PM
drewbert drewbert is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan Freberg
King: But you better sight land soon. There’s rumblings of mutiny!
Columbus: Really?
King: Come over here and listen.
Columbus: Alright.
Crew: Rumble, rumble, rumble. Mutiny, mutiny, mutiny.
..
  #30  
Old 08-14-2005, 01:04 PM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Vandelay, Architect
The infamous 'mess hall' scene from Alien is one particular instance of this: before the evil little thing bursts out of Kane's chest, there are some brief shots of the relaxed crew (apparently believing the emergency is over) sitting around eating, smoking cigarettes and shooting the breeze. The first line of actual dialogue is when Parker states (paraphrasing): "this stuff tastes like shit..." Before that, the crewmembers are quietly mouthing the word "watermelon, watermelon, watermelon" over & over again. Check out the brief shot of Tom Skerrit (Dallas) and watch his lips, you'll see what I mean.
Well, i just hauled out my Alien DVD and watched the scene three times, and at no stage did any character look like he or she was saying "watermelon."
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