Saturday, December 20, 2008

Apple #359: When Harry Met Sally

I just watched this movie again for, oh, probably the tenth time or so. I've been thinking about the mini-scene where Sally has to drag the Christmas tree up the hill by herself for a few weeks now, and I finally decided, Hey, that makes it a Christmas movie. I'll watch it.

I still enjoyed it. Mostly, it was satisfying to see, on the screen, little tidbits that have occurred to me multiple times over the past couple of years. The bit where, after he gets off the phone with her, he lies awake in bed with the remote in his hand and moans. The part where they're in the Sharper Image singing "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" and Helen walks in, and he looks totally gut-shot. When he says, "That's the good thing about depression. You get your rest."

I know, you're sensing a theme here. Well, it can't be helped.

Also, watching this movie always makes me want to eat salad. Because of the scene when they go to dinner after they do it, and she says it was a mistake, and he agrees right away, and then the salads arrive, and Harry eats his salad like he's a rabbit with a mission. So after I finished watching the movie, I made a salad. I am eating it now, as I type this.

So, I've got some trivia about the movie to share with you, and then because that sort of thing gets on my nerves sometimes, I also have some trivia related to things that appear in the movie.


The Scene
(Photo from the In Between Thoughts blog)

  • As we all know, that was Rob Reiner's mother who says "I'll have what she's having" at the end of the orgasm-in-the-diner scene. But did you also know:
  1. It was Meg Ryan's idea that she should fake the orgasm in front of him, and that the scene should take place in a restaurant
  2. She had to do the fake orgasm 8 or 10 times before they got the scene right
  3. The bump line was Billy Crystal's idea
  4. Rob Reiner's mother, Estelle, became a jazz singer when she was 65. She died November 1, 2008 (yeah, a month a half ago). She was 94.

You can go to Katz's Delicatessen where this scene was filmed and sit at the table where Harry & Sally sat, indicated by this sign.
(Photo from Picasaweb, posted by HAdidas)

  • The woman who played Harry's young date Emily (the one who makes all those cakes) at the Win, Lose, or Draw party is Rob Reiner's adopted daughter, Tracy.
  • The guy who played Sally's boyfriend Joe is Steven Ford, son of former President Gerald and Betty Ford. He now has a horse ranch, and he used to compete in rodeos.

Steven Ford, son of Gerald R. Ford, a.k.a. Joe, a.k.a. Andy Richards from The Young and The Restless. Who knew?
(Photo from

  • The "documentary" couples are actors -- which, when I first learned this, greatly disappointed me. But they're giving more concise versions of stories that Reiner and Ephron collected from real couples they knew or had interviewed. One of the stories is that of the parents of a friend of Reiner's; another is the story of how Ephron's parents met.
  • The character of Harry was based very much on Rob Reiner. He had just gone through a devastating divorce and was depressed and upset. A lot of the things Harry does in the movie were things that Reiner was doing or talking about at the time.
  • Reiner met and fell in love with his next wife, Michelle Singer, while working on this film.

Rob Reiner and his wife Michelle Singer at the premiere of The Bucket List in 2007
(Photo from IMDB)

  • The character of Sally was based mostly on Nora Ephron. She used to order food in restaurants in a very complex way. Rob noticed this and decided to put that in the movie.
  • One time Ephron was on a plane, ordering something from the flight attendant in her usual involved fashion, and the flight attendant asked her, "Have you ever seen 'When Harry Met Sally'?"
  • The first couple of drafts of the script, Harry and Sally did not get together in the end. Ephron says that after a while, "it became obvious" they they should wind up together.
  • Ephron describes herself as a generally optimistic, sunny person, which is what Sally is in the movie. However, at the end of the short film in which people talk about how this movie was made, Ephron says she gets young people coming up to her all the time and saying, "I'm in this When Harry Met Sally kind of situation." She said she wants to tell them that, most of the time, "It's probably not going to work."
  • Who's really the sunny one here?

Trivia About Things In the Movie

Sally drags the Christmas tree up the hill by herself.
  • The average cut Christmas tree weighs about 10 pounds. Not heavy, just unwieldy.

This is Stacey. She's dragging her Christmas tree by herself to a waiting snowmobile.
(Photo from Rob Pennie's blog)

When Harry is telling Jess about how his marriage to Helen ended, they are at a football game. Giants versus Lions, to be exact.
  • The movie was released in July 1989, which means it would have been filmed mainly in 1988.
  • The Lions did play the Giants at Giants stadium in 1988, on October 16. The Giants won, 30-10.

At this game, the crowd is doing The Wave. So during this painful conversation, Harry and Jess have to stand up to do their part in The Wave. Makes for good comedic punctuation, for one thing.
  • The invention of The Wave is the subject of much dispute. Was it during a Canadian hockey game? Did it first happen during an Oakland A's baseball game? Or was it at a football game in Seattle? Or did Frank Zappa come up with it first at a concert in 1969.
  • Nobody can verify for sure which came first. But those professional sporting events occurred in the early 1980s.
  • By 1988, when this movie was filmed, The Wave was pretty much de rigeur, and such a common element of sporting events, it would have been something you do without thinking much about it. Which is exactly Harry and Jess' attitude.

These people are at a zoo and they're doing The Wave. That's how common it's become.
(Photo from Webshots, posted by rachelaustralia)

When Harry and Sally are shopping for a housewarming present for Jess and Marie at the Sharper Image, Harry sees what he calls "a singing machine," and gets them both singing "Surrey With the Fringe on Top"
  • Sharper Image declared bankruptcy in June of 2008. What did them in was the fact that one of their products, the Ionic Breeze air purifier didn't actually clean the air.
  • There is actually a company called The Singing Machine Company which makes Singing Machines. They're still going strong.
  • One Singing Machine model that's pretty similar to the one in the movie is the STVG-512. That was on sale for Black Friday deals for $49.99.

STVG-512 Singing Machine
(Image from The Singing Machine Company)

  • Here are the lyrics to "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" from Oklahoma!
[Harry] Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!

[Harry + Sally] Watch that fringe and see how it flutters
When I drive them high steppin' strutters.
Nosey pokes'll peek thru' their shutters and their eyes will pop!
[He stops & stares at Helen. Sally keeps going]

The wheels are yeller, the upholstery's brown,
The dashboard's genuine leather

[Sally stops here, thinking he's appalled by her singing. But I wonder if, in real life, the reason they stopped there was because the next line includes the word "isinglass" which is a weird word to say or sing.]

When they're playing Win, Lose, or Draw, Sally is trying to draw "baby talk" and Jess comes up with "baby fish mouth" as a guess. When the answer is revealed, he says he's never heard of "baby talk" before. Harry says, "Oh, and baby fish mouth is sweeping the nation?"
  • Baby Fish Mouth is now the name of a business which sells T-shirts and clothing for babies. They take famous lines from movies and tweak them to be baby-cute -- or something -- and print them on the clothes. "I love the smell of baby powder in the morning" is one example.

At Jess and Marie's wedding, Harry and Sally are offered shrimp with pea pod hors d'oeuvres. Harry declines, but Sally takes one. She never even takes a bite, but later, throws it in anger in the kitchen.
  • It looks like it's just a piece of shrimp with a pea pod wrapped around it and the whole thing stuck through with a toothpick.
  • That's probably accurate, but I found a recipe online that says you're also to serve such a thing with a sauce that includes cream cheese, green onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt, and watercress. Blend all of that, pour it into a bowl, and it becomes a dip for the shrimp.
  • That sounds more appetizing to me than just the cold shrimp on a toothpick. But if she had dipped it into the sauce first, when she hurled it across the kitchen, that might have made for a messy take.

(Photo from Yahoo Movies production photos)

At New Year's Eve party at the very end, people are singing "Auld Lang Syne," the traditional New Year's Eve song. Harry pauses in the middle of a romantic moment to ask in his usual convoluted way, what does this song mean?

I'll break it down for you, Harry:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

[Should we forget our old acquaintances
and never think of them anymore?
Should we forget our old friends
and days long ago?]

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne.
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
for auld lang syne.

let's drink a cup of kindness
and toast to days long ago]
Okay, so my translation gets a little loose there, but you get the point.
  • The song was originally a poem written by Robert Burns.
  • Guy Lombardo turned it into a song probably around 1919.
  • He and his band played it at a New Year's Eve party in 1929. Every year for 50 years after that, his band played the song on New Year's Eve radio. Hence the tradition of singing that song on New Year's Eve.
  • "Prior to Dick Clark, there was Guy Lombardo," said the man who organizes the Royal Canadian Big Band Music Festival each year. He ought to know.

(Image from Squidoo)

"How Harry Met Sally" special feature documentary on the DVD
IMDB, When Harry Met Sally
80s Movie Rewind, When Harry Met Sally trivia
Netscape Celebrity from AOL News, "Estelle Reiner, 'When Harry Met Sally' Actress Dies," October 27-November 2, 2008
City of Winnipeg, Recycle your Christmas tree
Pro-Football, 1988 Boxscores
Consumer, "Sharper Image Closing All Stores," June 3, 2008
Stephen Lynch, "New Year's song remains ingrained in public mind," The Augusta Chronicle, December 31, 1999


  1. Ok, the most comprehensive list of trivia from this movie I have ever seen! And my company is the Baby Fish Mouth you referenced! From one fan to another, "we're not worthy!"
    Thanks for giving this movie its due and for providing me with hours of cocktail party fodder. I salute you!

  2. I had no idea that Joe was Gerald Ford's son! I also just watched a montage of actors who passed this year, and the only person in the whole montage to speak was Rob Reiner's mom. She said her famous line. And thanks for pointing me to the Baby Fish Mouth store. Cute stuff.

  3. Thanks for your salute, Baby Fish Mouth! May that phrase really begin sweeping the nation -- in terms of your site, that is.

    Elaine, it was news to me about Joe, too. When I watched the movie again, I still didn't see the resemblance until he smiled.

  4. I LOVE THIS ENTRY!!! Who but the brilliant and intrepid Apple Lady would find out the score of the football game that Harry and Jess are watching? This blog is indispensable and awesome.

  5. Apple lady, you are HARD CORE!


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