The infamous 1973 movie The Exorcist will be broadcast tonight at 10:00 p.m. EST on IFC Channel. To quote Yogi Berra (or was it Abraham Lincoln?), if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you’ll like. I’ve never had any desire to see the movie, having nearly lost my cookies as a teenager just from reading the original novel.
So why I am writing a blog about it? Because of the wild story I read about its origin. It all started one day when the novel’s author, William Peter Blatty, appeared on Groucho Marx’s TV quiz show “You Bet Your Life.” According to Wikipedia:
“A guest purporting to be a wealthy Arabian prince was actually writer William Peter Blatty. Groucho saw through the disguise, stating, ‘You’re no more a prince than I am because I have an Arabian horse and I know what they look like.’ Blatty won $10,000 and used the leave of absence that the money afforded him to write The Exorcist.”
So there you have it. Groucho Marx is at least partially responsible for one of cinema’s most painful experiences since The Big Store.
But the Groucho connection doesn’t end there. In an online chat about the movie, Blatty and Exorcist director William Friedkin stated that they had tried to involve Groucho in a practical joke directed at executives from Warner Bros., the movie’s distributor.
During the filming, the execs wanted to see dailies of the movie. Friedkin and Blatty had planned to film Groucho standing at the door when Father Merrin entered the room of the possessed girl, played by Linda Blair. “There would be Linda strapped to the bed,” Blatty said, “and then the duck [“You Bet Your Life’s” mascot] would come down.”
Anyway, if you want to see The Exorcist tonight, have fun with it. For me, the secret word is NO
BTW, here’s the episode in question: