Monday, February 05, 2024

I hate you, leopard

I'm sure that you, like me, are a deeply tedious and unappealing person to be with at parties owing to your propensity for offering up "fascinating" trivia factoids at the drop of a hat: Birmingham has more canals than Venice, Gary Oldman is thirteen days younger than Gary Numan, et teeth-grindingly cetera. Those two do at least have the virtue of being true, though the Birmingham one is considerably less impressive than it sounds once you consider the relative sizes of the two cities. 

Another one that I've heard a few times is: did you know that Olive out of On The Buses was married in real life to Ape Being Attacked By Leopard from 2001: A Space Odyssey? This one is only really suitable for trotting out in the company of people old enough to remember On The Buses - a group, I should add, which actually excludes me as I don't think I've ever seen it. This is partly because I was only three when its original run ended in 1973 and partly because it was on ITV, which there was a largely-unspoken ban on in our house for reasons I've never quite been able to fathom in hindsight. Anyway, Olive was one of the main characters, requiring actress Anna Karen, in real life a slim occasional model, to don large amounts of padding, an unflattering wig and glasses. It's fair to say On The Buses doesn't see much repeat action these days as it's no doubt Highly Problematic in a whole variety of ways. 

Anyway, back to the claim - what is certain is that Anna Karen was married to a guy called Terry Duggan, from 1967 to his death in 2008. He was a comedian and actor who appeared with his wife in several things (On The Buses included). His Wikipedia page does make brief and slightly vague reference to him having also "learned acrobatics which led to film stuntman roles", but there is no mention of 2001 in his filmography. Go to IMDb, though, and you will see that he is credited with the role of "Ape Attacked By Leopard". So who is right?

Well, closer examination of the Wikipedia edit history reveals that there was an update - fairly recently, in late 2023 - that removed that role from his list. There is an explanatory note which says that the role was indeed played by a bloke called Terry Duggan, but a different one, and links to this article. Lots of interesting stuff there related to the shooting of the Dawn Of Man sequence at the start of 2001, ending with the famous match cut from the flying bone to the spaceship, and in particular this:

Terry Duggan was a acrobat and stuntman born in Coventry in 1935 (no relation with Terry Duggan the comedian). Duggan had already worked with the Chipperfield's, a famous british circus, and later joined a member of the family, Jimmy, who had started a film animal business and at that time of the shooting of 2001 was operating Southampton Zoo. 

There is also a footnote, as follows:

(dec.11: the article has been updated with the removal of the picture of Terry Duggan the comedian, who was not the Duggan involved with the Chipperlfield's and 2001. As Mission Control would say, IMDB and Wikipedia are "in error" in saying that they were the same person. Source: Mr.Duggan' sister thanks to Jamie Clubb.)

There is a link to the blog of the Jamie Clubb mentioned in the footnote, and some relevant entries are here and here. This is the most relevant paragraph:

The bounce article referenced Terry Duggan, a wild animal trainer who worked with my two great uncles and my grandfather when they ran "Chipperfield's Circus". I am not directly related to the Duggans, but we share cousins and they have been connected to my family for a very long time now. Terry and my great-uncle, Jimmy Chipperfield, were involved with the prologue sequence of Kubrick's film, where a leopard attacks a member of a tribe of australopiths.

On the other hand, there is this page which purports to be written by a relative and which does make the 2001 claim in relation to Terry Duggan the comedian and husband of Anna Karen. So who do we believe?

My gut instinct is to believe that these were two different people; it seems implausible that someone whose day job was as an actor and comedian would be entrusted with the job of wrestling a leopard, still less be inclined to accept it. On the other hand, someone who worked pretty much full-time with circus animals would be an ideal fit for the job. 

So I think we tentatively conclude that this is a myth - that obviously shouldn't stop you from watching 2001, though you might want to secure 3-4 undisturbed hours and get lightly baked first. As for On The Buses, I couldn't say I'd recommend it, but you do you.

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