Agent—c/o Renaissance Books, 6639 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, CA 92506. E-mail—[email protected].
Author, entertainment journalist, lecturer, and television writer. Founder of the Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation; founder of Film Flubs Web site.
Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers citation, American Library Association (ALA), 1991, for Blue Dog; Best Books for Young Adults citation, ALA, 1995, for Blue Dog Grows Up; first place in the Southern Literary Festival; first place, for the nonfiction book Flying with Loran-C, in the Aviation/Space Writers Award competition.
Flying with Loran-C, TAB Books (Blue Ridge Summit, PA), 1985.
Film Flubs: Memorable Movie Mistakes, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1990.
Son of Film Flubs: More Memorable Movie Mistakes, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1991.
Film Flubs, the Sequel: Even More Memorable Movie Mistakes, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1992.
Roman Soldiers Don't Wear Watches: 501 Film Flubs—Memorable Movie Mistakes, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1996.
Reel Gags: Jokes, Sight Gags, and Directors' Tricks from Your Favorite Films, Renaissance Books (Los Angeles, CA), 1998.
Also author of the television presentation Hollywood Stuntmakers, aired on the Discovery Channel. Contributor to Premiere magazine.
Bill Givens has made a career out of spotting mistakes in film. His career as a flub-spotter began in 1988, when he started writing the "Gaffe Squad" column for Premiere magazine. Givens quickly discovered that such goofs are a treasure. Appealing to readers who themselves enjoy spotting mistakes in motion pictures, Givens's Film Flubs books have benefited immeasurably from readers' contributions of their own favorite gaffes. As Susan Wloszczyna quipped in a USA Today piece, "One person's goof is another person's gold."
Givens has noted flubs in all genres from all eras of cinematic history. In Gone with the Wind, as Scarlett O'Hara runs through Atlanta during the 1864 battle, a streetlight can be seen overhead—even though Thomas Edison would not create the incandescent light bulb for another fifteen years. Ilsa in Casablanca (1942) describes having worn a dress on her last day in Paris with Rick, but her memory must not be very good: as the audience can see in a flashback, she was wearing a suit. And while "Carrie" might have been a perfectly appropriate way for Mark Hamill to address Carrie Fisher on the set of Star Wars (1977), the fact that he calls her that at one point on screen, when they are supposed to be Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, is a problem.
Raised in northern Mississippi, Givens worked in advertising and public relations in Memphis, Tennessee, before striking out for California. There he published the first of more than a half-dozen books, Flying with Loran-C, which he wrote after obtaining his private pilot's license. Over the next few years, he worked in film and television—for instance, he wrote Hollywood Stuntmakers, featuring James Coburn, for the Discovery Channel. With the success of his writings on film, including not only the Film Flubs books but Reel Gags: Jokes, Sight Gags, and Directors' Tricks from Your Favorite Films, he has become a popular lecturer and TV and radio talk-show guest, appearing on programs such as Today, Inside Edition, and ABC World News with Peter Jennings.
Givens's big break came when Premiere made "The Gaffe Squad" a regular feature in 1988. He had long been fascinated with movie gaffes, and told Wloszczyna, "For years, I had heard about a biblical epic where the extras were wearing wristwatches." Although he did catch the king in a 1935 Cecil B. De Mille movie about the Crusades checking his watch, Givens never located the rumored gaffe, but that did not stop him from naming one book in the Film Flubs series Roman Soldiers Don't Wear Watches: 501 Film Flubs—Memorable Movie Mistakes.
His readers responded enthusiastically to the "Gaffe Squad" column, sending in details of their own sightings, most of which focused on common movie gaffe material. Because scenes are often shot and reshot, and films are not made in the sequence in which they are presented, personnel assigned to maintain continuity from frame to frame or scene to scene may not notice a ponytail or a burning cigarette that gets longer, a buttoned button that was unbuttoned a second before, or a drink that miraculously has more liquid in it than it did earlier. "I'm not really a good trivia person, to tell the truth," Givens told Michael Mills of the Chicago Tribune, "but I'm a good researcher." Discussing what motivates his quest for film gaffes, he told Larry McShane of the Chicago Sun-Times, "I call it the 'Aha!' factor. You're watching a movie, and it's 'A-ha! There's the mistake!'"
At the time of McShane's 1991 profile, Givens was receiving a thousand letters a year from fans offering their own sightings, though some tended to go overboard: for instance, Premiere editor Terri Minsky told Wloszczyna that one viewer claimed a stamp that appears on an envelope in the film The Two Jakes was issued a few months after the action takes place in 1948. But the mistakes noted by Givens in his books tend to be much more rewarding than that one. For instance, in Die Hard 2 (1990), Bruce Willis makes a call at a bank of pay phones marked "Pacific Bell"—even though he is supposed to be at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Chicago Sun-Times, November 20, 1991, Larry McShane, "Filmmakers' Flubs Get Own Moment in the Spotlight," review of Son of Film Flubs: More Memorable Movie Mistakes, p. 37.
Chicago Tribune, December 27, 1990, "Goof Sleuth: Unplanned Mistakes Delight 'Film Flubs' Writer," p. 13A; January 30, 1991, Donald Liebenson, "Film Flubs: The Gaffe Squad Is Watching," p. 57.
Detroit News, April 17, 1991, Julie Hinds, "Son of Flubber," p. F1.
Houston Chronicle, November 8, 1991, "Writer Finds Film Flubs," p. 9.
Los Angeles Times, February 17, 1991, "Quibbles and Bits," p. 38.
USA Today, December 6, 1990, Susan Wloszczyna, "Gotcha! Mistakes the Moviemakers Missed: The Best Spots to Catch Flubs," p. D5; March 16, 1994, Arlene Vigoda, "The Sun Also Rises," p. D1.
Bill Givens,http://home.earthlink.net/~bgivens/bio.html/ (September 14, 2003), biography of Bill Givens.
Film Flubs Web site,http://www.flubs.com/ (September 14, 2003).*