10 Fun Facts About THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1952)
THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (’52) is available to stream on FilmStruck until October and if you haven’t seen this science fiction classic it’s a terrific opportunity to get caught up with one of the most acclaimed genre films released during the 1950s. If you have already seen it, you’ll find that it’s a great movie to revisit thanks to the snappy dialogue, solid cast and imaginative set pieces that have influenced generations of filmmakers.
Here’s a list of 10 fun facts you may or may not know about the film.
1. Christian Nyby is credited as the director but many critics, scholars, and fans believe Howard Hawks directed the film. Even some of the actors on set insisted that Hawks was the creative force behind the camera. Despite this, Hawks refused to take credit and repeatedly attributed the film to Nyby who had previously worked under him as an editor. Throughout his life, Nyby was frustrated by these claims but admitted that he was inspired by his mentor and Hawks’ influence, particularly during the fast-paced dialogue scenes, is plainly apparent.
2. This was the first of two films produced by Howard Hawks and his semi-independent RKO-backed company Winchester Pictures.
3. The script was written by Charles Lederer and based on the novella “Who Goes There?” written by John W. Campbell, Jr. Campbell was a science fiction pioneer and editor of Astounding magazine (retitled Analog in 1960) for nearly four decades. During that time he helped launch the careers of many prominent genre authors including Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Campbell wrote “Who Goes There?” in 1938 under the pseudonym Don Stuart and although he published many more novels and short stories, “Who Goes There?” is the only one that has been adapted for the screen.
4. Acclaimed writer William Faulkner, who was a friend of Howard Hawks and worked with him on a number of films, is rumored to have contributed to the script although he’s not listed in the credits.
5. Margaret Sheridan, who plays the wisecracking secretary, was discovered by Hawks in 1945 after he spotted a modeling photo of her in Vogue magazine. At the time, she was a college student enrolled at USC but she dropped out of school to become Hawks’ protégée. The director paid for her acting classes, voice coaching, and other actives in the hopes that she would eventually become a Hollywood star. Sheridan made her screen debut in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and received positive reviews but her acting career never took off.
6. Actor James Arness plays the monstrous “Thing” and he was allegedly so embarrassed by his role that he didn’t attend the premiere. In his autobiography, Arness claims that the worst part about making the movie was having to spend hours in the makeup chair. The process was so time-consuming that he occasionally left work to get lunch or grab a newspaper while wearing his monster makeup. As a result, Arness’ appearance frightened strangers until he explained that he was in the process of making a movie.
7. Despite the best efforts of the makeup department supervised by Lee Greenway, no one was particularly happy with the way Arness looked in closeup. The makeup apparently made the 6’7” actor look like a “giant carrot” so there are very few shots of the monster in the movie.
8. The film terrified audiences when it was released thanks to its serious approach to the material. So much so that a young boy who saw the film in Georgia was so shocked by the viewing experience that he became catatonic. According to James Arness, studio executives asked the actor to visit the boy in the hospital to comfort him and explain that the alien monster on screen wasn’t real. Thankfully the boy recovered before Arness’ scheduled visit.
9. John Carpenter included a clip of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD in his horror film, HALLOWEEN (‘78). Carpenter would later go on to direct his own adaptation of “Who Goes There?” simply titled THE THING (’82) which was a much more faithful adaption of Campbell’s original story.
10. Carpenter’s film inspired a prequel in 2011 also titled THE THING, which starred Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Additionally, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD has been credited for influencing many other films included HORROR EXPRESS (’72), ALIEN (’79) and more recently THE LAST WINTER (’06) and THE THAW (’09).
by Kimberly Lindbergs, originally written for FilmStruck in 2018