Quiz show

A study in film

Following last month’s “Talking About Movies” column, “Isn’t that Ironic,” about the ways in which filmmakers convey irony on screen, it occurred to me it might be time for something less weighty, more interactive for Michigan Today readers.

So, I’ve come up with a series of questions that highlight the University of Michigan’s long and distinguished presence in big-screen filmmaking. Thirty-two multiple choice questions appear in the first half of the quiz followed by the answers and pertinent notations.  The quiz challenge is meant to both inform and pay tribute to our alma mater.  Enjoy!

The Questions

Anatomy of a Murder poster

(Columbia Pictures, 1959.)

1. Dudley Nichols (U-M 1917) was a founder and later president of the Writers Guild of America. In 1935 Nichols won a Best Screenplay Oscar for John Ford’s Irish-based psychological drama The Informer.  What  venerable 1938 screwball comedy did Nichols co-write with Hagar Wilde?

a)  His Girl Friday
b)  Front Page
c)  Bringing Up Baby

2.  Valentine Davies (U-M 1927) won a Best Writing/Best Screenplay Oscar for what classic holiday movie?

a) Holiday Affair (1949)
b) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
c) The Great Rupert (1950)

3. Using the pen name, Robert Traver, John D. Voelker (U-M 1928) wrote the best-selling novel Anatomy of a Murder  based on his own role as a trial lawyer in an Upper Peninsula crime case. His book  was the source of the courtroom film by the same name. What Michigan state government position did Voelker hold when his novel was published in 1958?

a) Attorney General
b) Supreme Court Justice
c) Speaker of the House

4. The last film made from a drama by Arthur Miller (U-M 1938) was the 1996 adaptation of The Crucible, written in 1953.  Miller said the drama was meant as an allegory about what?

a) Religious persecution
b) WWII death camps
c) McCarthyism

U-M football star Tom Harmon with his parents, 1940. (Image: Bentley Historical Library.)

U-M football star Tom Harmon with his parents, 1940. (Image: Bentley Historical Library.)

5.  1940, Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, aka  “Old 98,” left the University of Michigan in 1941 and became:

a) A Wall Street investor
b) A sports broadcaster
c) A U.S. Army Air Force pilot

6.  John Rich, Emmy-award-winning TV director of All In The Family” and film director of the Elvis Presley movies Roustabout (1964) and Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) was reunited with fellow 1948 graduate, actor Ann B. Davis, when Rich directed her in the pilot for what iconic 1960s-70s television sit-com?

a) “Family Affair”
b) “The Brady Bunch”
c) “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

7.  John Briley (U-M 1951) won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 1982 for what biographical film?

a) Gandhi
b) Sandino
c) Molokai

A young James Earl Jones performs at U-M.

A young James Earl Jones performs at U-M. (Image: Bentley Historical Library.)

8.  James Earl Jones’ (U-M 1955)  first film role was as Lt. Lothar Zogg in what 1964 screen satire?

a) It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
b) Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb
c) The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming

9.  Husband and wife screenwriters David and Leslie Newman (both 1958 graduates) were two of four writers on this 1978  superhero comic-book film that was the costliest movie to date ($55 million). Its release rebooted a franchise that has seen subsequent sequels and spinoffs spread over four decades. Name the superhero.

a) Spider-Man
b) Batman
c) Superman

10.  Robert McKee (U-M 1966, 1973) has conducted screenwriting seminars around the globe,  attended by thousands over the years. In what 2002 film was McKee a fictionalized character in a plot about a writer struggling to finish a screenplay?

a) Adaptation
b) The Orchid Thief
c) Analyze That

11.  Josh Greenfield (U-M 1949) co-scripted Harry and Tonto (1974) a seriously comic and humanistic “road picture.”  Tonto was the family cat traveling west with widower Harry Coombes.  Who played Harry?

a) Bruce Dern
b) Richard Farnsworth
c) Art Carney

Story, by Robert McKee

McKee is a widely noted expert on screenwriting.

12.  Richard Friedenberg (U-M 1967) adapted this classic coming-of-age novel by Norman Maclean for the screen, with poetic voice-over narration by Robert Redford.

a) Stand by Me (1986)
b) Dead Poets Society (1989)
c) A River Runs Through It (1992)

13.  Gilda Radner (U-M 1964-67) of “Saturday Night Live” fame published her memoir, It’s Always Something, in 1989, five years after marrying actor Gene Wilder. The book’s catchphrase title originated with what SNL character?

a) Roseanne Roseannadanna, a personal advice expert
b) Baba Wawa, a parodic version of Barbara Walters
c) Emily Litella, a hearing-impaired elderly woman

14.  The 2017 Netflix eight-part crime series Manhunt Unabomber, starring Sam Worthington, was about the long, tense quest by the FBI to locate bomber-terrorist Theodore Kaczynski. Kaczynski earned an MA degree (1964) and his PhD (1967) in what University of Michigan department?

a) Mathematics
b) Physics
c) Psychology

15.  This alum (U-M 1971) is a noted film historian, biographer, media culture journalist, and former co-host of PBS’ “Sneak Previews.”

a) Chris Van Allsburg
b) Neal Gabler
c) John Papanek

The Big Chill

Lawrence Kasdan’s “Big Chill” was a big hit. (Columbia Pictures, 1983.)

16.  Director/screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill) and actor Meg Goldman Kasdan (Continental Divide) — both U-M 1970 grads — are the parents of Jake Kasdan, who directed what mega box-office hit of 2017?

a) Thor Ragnarok
b) Baby Driver
c) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

17.  Christine Lahti (U-M 1972) is a renowned Broadway and motion picture actress and director who was awarded an Oscar for what film?

a) Swing Shift (1984)
b) Housekeeping (1987)
c) Lieberman in Love (1995)

18.  Love and Honor (2013), a romantic drama set in and around Ann Arbor during the Vietnam war era, was co-written by U-M Screen Arts and Cultures professor Jim Burnstein (U-M 1972 and 1974). What comedy-drama with Danny DeVito is Burnstein also noted for writing?

a) Renaissance Man (1994)
b) Twins (1988)
c) The War of the Roses (1989)

19.  David Alan Grier (U-M 1978) starred in the sketch-comedy television show “In Living Color” and also starred on Broadway as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess. Grier made his film debut as Roger in what Robert Altman film?

a) Streamers (1983)
b) Short Cuts (1993)
c) The Caine Mutiny (1954)

David Alan Grier

Detroit native David Alan Grier. (Image: CultureSource.)

20.  This Israeli-born filmmaker (U-M 1975) won the 1987 Israeli Best Picture award for Tel Aviv — Berlin, a film she wrote and directed. She also scored the music track. Who is she?

a) Gloria Arzooni
b) Vered Schact
c) Zipora Trope

21.  John Nelson (U-M 1976), of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., recently won the Best Visual Effects Oscar for Blade Runner 2049. Nelson earlier won the Visual Effects Oscar for what film?

a) Iron Man
b) I, Robot
c) Gladiator

22. Owen Gleiberman (U-M 1980), is chief film critic for what publication?

a) Variety
b) Rolling Stone
c) The Wall Street Journal

23. Lucy Liu (U-M 1989), actor/singer/producer/director/artist, portrayed O-Ren Ishii (“Cottonmouth) in what wildly inventive multi-genre inspired film?

a) A Mighty Wind
b) Kill Bill
c) Long Time Dead

Gerald Ford with Bo Schembechler, 1988. (Image: Bentley Historical Library.)

Gerald Ford with Bo Schembechler, 1988. (Image: Bentley Historical Library.)

24. Sheena Sippy (U-M 1990) granddaughter of G.P. Sippy (the founder of the renowned Sippy Film Production House) is an internationally known photographer and  publicist for Sippy Productions, and a film historian/author. Where is Sippy Productions located?

a) Sri Lanka
b) Thailand
c) India

25.  What Wolverine football placekicker under Bo Schembechler made fans scream (myself, included) when he kicked off without a shoe on his right foot.  This player is now a film cinematographer who, among his many other screen credits, was a steadicam operator on the suspense thriller Air Force One (1997).

a) Ty Law
b) Todd Schlopy
c) Don Bracken

26.  With what Hollywood figure did Bo Schembechler strike up a brief friendship?

a) Bo Duke
b) Bo Hopkins
c) Bo Derek

27.  In Air Force One (1997), the President of the United States, played by Harrison Ford, is on a return flight from Moscow and is watching what 1992 football game when the terrorists on board strike?

a) U-M vs. Notre Dame
b) U-M vs. Michigan State
c) U-M vs. Ohio State

Songwriting team Benj Pasek and Jason Paul.

SMTD grads and songwriting team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. (Image: Michigan Photography.)

28.  Adam Herz (U-M 1996), a screenwriter/producer from East Grand Rapids, Mich., created what gross-out National Lampoon/Animal House-styled movie series that began in 1999.

a) American Pie
b) Superbad
c) Porky’s

29. Darren Criss (U-M 2009) made his Hollywood film debut in A Girl Most Likely (2012), co-starring Kristin Wiig, Annette Bening, and Matt Dillon. In what hit television television series did Criss portray Blaine Anderson?

a) “Big Time Rush”
b) “The Get Down”
c) “Glee”

30. Justin Paul and Benj Pasek (2006 School of Music, Theater & Dance grads) won a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song for “City of Stars” in La La Land (2016). At this year’s Golden Globes ceremony the two composers won the Best Original Song award for “This Is Me.” For what musical drama film was this song written?

a) Dear Evan Hansen
b) A Christmas Story: The Musical
c) The Greatest Showman

31. What is the source of the on-screen action in the flashback scene in The Big Chill (1983)?

a) A touch football game
b) A roundtable discussion about an upcoming campus protest rally
c) Preparation for a Thanksgiving Day dinner

32.  What prominent film actor’s role was edited out of The Big Chill’s flashback scene?

a) Sean Penn
b) Mickey Rourke
c) Kevin Costner

The Answers

Bringing Up Baby movie poster

(RKO PIctures, 1938.)

1. [c] Bringing up Baby was one of director Howard Hawks’ many screwball comedies. In addition to The Informer, Dudley Nichols wrote seven other screenplays for John Ford, including my favorite western, Stagecoach (1939).

2. [b] Davies won for Miracle on 34th Street. He also wrote the screenplay for and directed The Benny Goodman Story (1956) with Steve Allen and Donna Reed.

3. [b] Voelker, born and raised in the Upper Peninsula, was appointed to the state’s highest court by Governor G. Mennen Williams, a Traverse City, Mich., native, who thought there should be a justice from “Up North.” Voelker also was noted for writing several books on fly fishing.

4. [c] The Crucible was an allegory about McCarthyism. Arthur Miller himself went before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities but refused to “name names” of others who may have attended Communist party meetings.

5. [c] Harmon attained the rank of Captain as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and after his military duty he did become a sports broadcaster. A film was based on his life, Harmon of Michigan (1941).

6. [b] The Brady Bunch ran from 1969-74. Davis’ U-M degree was in Drama and Speech. Rich graduated with an English major and a Russian minor.

7. [a] Briley won for Gandhi. Now 92 years old, Briley was especially drawn to screen stories about men and women of unusual courage. He also wrote Sandino (1991), about the 1920’s Nicaraguan general, and Molokai (1999), about a 19th-century priest who moves to a distant island to care for lepers.

8. [b] Jones’ first role was in Dr. Strangelove. Noted for his basso profundo acting voice, Jones had to overcome childhood stuttering that at times left him totally mute.

9. [c] This Superman film was often referred to as Superman: The Movie. Robert Benton and Mario Puzo (of The Godfather) were the other two writers who worked with the Newmans. David Newman was also one of the screenwriters of Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

Adaptation movie poster

(Columbia PIctures, 2002.)

10. [a] In Adaptation, Nicolas Cage played a writer, unsuccessfully, attempting an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s (U-M 1976) The Orchid Thief. McKee was portrayed on screen by Brian Cox.

11. [c] Art Carney won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harry. All three of the actors listed have played men in their 70s in seriously comic road pictures: Bruce Dern in Nebraska (2013) and Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story (1999).

12. [c] Friedenberg adapted A River Runs Through It and also wrote the screenplay for Dying Young (1991), a romantic drama starring Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott.

13. [a] Roseanne Roseannadanna was the character who originated the catchphrase. Radner and Wilder made three films together before her 1989 death at age 42: Hanky Panky (1982), The Woman in Red (1984), and Haunted Honeymoon (1986).

14. [a] Kaczynski earned his U-M degrees in the Mathematics Department. He mailed bombs to 16 unsuspecting targets, killing three and injuring 23 between 1978-95. His papers, mostly unpurged, were donated to U-M in 1999.

15. [b] This alum is Neal Gabler who was The Michigan Daily film critic in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He is the author of the much acclaimed history book, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (1988).

16. [c] Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a spinoff of Jumanji (1995), a film adapted from the 1981 book written by Chris Van Allsburg (UM 1974 ). The 2017 spin-off had an international box-office total of  $950.7 million dollars.

17. [c] Lieberman in Love received an Oscar for Best Short Subject Live Action Film of 1995. Lahti directed and also starred in the film with Danny Aiello as Lieberman, a widowed man seeking new female relationships. Lahti portrayed an accommodating prostitute.

18. [a] Burnstein wrote Renaissance Man. He directs the Screenwriting Program in Screen Arts and Cultures and is a member of Michigan’s prestigious Hopwood Writing Awards committee.

Gladiator movie poster

(DreamWorks Pictures, 2000.)

19. [a] Streamers was an ensemble film set in an army barracks during the Vietnam War. For his role as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, Grier received a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a musical.

20. [c] Zipora Trope, who won the award, is now a professor at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Arzooni and Schacta also received degrees from U-M. Schacta became an Israeli television director and Arzooni a film lecturer in Israel.

21. [c] Nelson won the award for Gladiator in 2000. He also was nominated for Iron Man (2008) and I, Robot (2004).22. [a] Gleiberman, Variety’s chief film critic, is an Ann Arbor native and was a film reviewer for The Michigan Daily. His memoir is titled Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies (Hatchette, 2016).

23. [b] Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003) was an admixture of cinema genre traditions: martial arts, noir, westerns, samurai, Kung Fu, and Japanese anime. Since her film career began in 1992, Liu has appeared in more than 50 motion pictures as well as dozens of television programs. At Michigan, Liu earned a bachelors degree in Asian languages and cultures.

24. [c] Sippy Productions of Mumbai in India is known for its highly successful Bollywood musicals, genre films (crime, westerns, romance). Sheena Sippy is the author of a recent pictorial/historical Bollywood overview titled Lights, Camera, Masala, Making Movies In Mumbai (India Book House, 2017). Her father, producer/director Ramesh Sippy, now heads the production house.

25. [b] Schlopy (U-M 1985), who thrilled fans with his barefoot kick,was born in Bradford, Pa., my wife, Gail’s, hometown.

26. [c] In 1985, Bo Derek visited Michigan to pick up a custom-made automobile. Having met her earlier, the Schembechlers invited the beautiful Bo to their house for dinner. Later, she dropped in on the Thursday football practice three days before the big game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor. Jim Harbaugh, U-M quarterback at the time, must have felt the impact. During the game, he threw three touchdown passes, defeating OSU 27-17, Michigan’s biggest victory margin over the rival since 1946.

27. [a] The game, U-M vs. Notre Dame, was played in South Bend on Sept. 12, 1992. Air Force One had Michigan winning 14-13, but in reality the game ended in a rare 17-17 tie.

28. [a] Altogether there have been four feature-release American Pie movies and five direct-to-DVD productions.

The Greatest Showman

(20th Century Fox, 2017.)

29. [c] The finale of the “Glee” series included the song “This Time,” written by Criss and for which he received a 2015 Emmy nomination. In January 2013, Criss performed at the inaugural balls for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

30. [c] All the songs in The Greatest Showman, a film about circus man P.T. Barnum with Hugh Jackman, were composed by Pasek and Paul. Dear Evan Hansen (2015) and A Christmas Story (2013) were Broadway musicals for which Pasek and Paul wrote music and lyrics.

31. [c] A late 1960s Thanksgiving dinner flashback scene, which takes place in an off-campus co-op house where the members were U-M undergrads. It was the first scene shot for The Big Chill (in Atlanta) before the cast moved north to Beaufort, S.C., to shoot the extended reunion at the heart of the film.

32. [c] Kevin Costner, as Alex Marshall, whose death by suicide brings the Michigan grads to South Carolina for the funeral, was edited out of the Ann Arbor flashback scene. To appease Costner, Kasdan promised him a major role in his upcoming western film, Silverado (1985). Rourke and Penn were considered for roles.

Final thoughts

Regular watchers of the TV quiz show “Jeopardy” often fret over the “final Jeopardy answer.” The wording was too vague, they say, or the range of clues was confusingly broad. As a case in point, here is the final “Jeopardy” answer from the May 3, 2018, episode. The category was “War and film.” Can you figure out the question?

“The New York premiere of this film was on Thanksgiving, 15 days after the liberation of this title place.”

Guessing that the question related to the end of World War II, my wife, Gail, and I thought it could be Rome (“What is Rome: Open City, 1945”) or Burma (“What is Operation Burma, 1945”).

No, Alex Trebek was looking for: “What is Casablanca,” the iconic 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Gail and I missed it, as did all three of the “Jeopardy” contestants.

If you found some of my Wolverine movie quiz questions similarly befuddling, I hope you still had some fun and learned a bit about our alma mater’s presence on the big screen. And if you think of someone who should have been included in the quiz, please let us know in the comments section below.


  1. Andrew Helber - 2007

    Dear Prof. Beaver, really enjoyed the Quiz Show piece from 5/15. I’ve always yearned to see a compilation of U-M “mentions” or portrayals in popular TV/film. For that reason, I was particularly drawn to inclusion of “The Big Chill” on this list. My interest recently piqued when I finally got around to watching The Sopranos on HBO GO. I was pleasantly surprised to hear our alma mater come up on at least three different occasions that I can remember. Excellent exposure forever cemented in one of TV’s truly all-time great series. Would you consider taking on such an audacious project yourself? I can think of nobody more capable! Respectfully, Andrew Helber (BA ’07)


  2. Barbara Payne - 1963

    What about the movie “Answer This” as well as Max Apple, Bob James, and Jack O’Brien ?


  3. Cynthia Vorwerck - 1980

    #31 Which co-op House was featured? I am interested because I lived in co-op housing (Joint House) during my Jr and Sr student years. I can see how such strong lifelong friendships were formed during the co-op living experience.


    • Jeremiah Devlin-Ruelle - 2011

      Its been awhile since I’ve seen the film so I don’t know if they actually name the house but Lawrence Kasdan lived in Debs House in the late 1960s.


  4. Pat Fox - 1975

    It is always great to read your columns, and this quiz was great fun. You were a wonderful teacher and mentor. Keep up the good work.


  5. Lois Gorrell - 1967

    Whatever happened to “The Square Root of Zero,” which had its world premiere in Ann Arbor in 1966? The zany comedy was the work of a U-M grad. Was this his only film?


  6. Frank Beaver

    As writer of this column, I must admit to my own “omissions” entry. Yesterday as a birthday treat for Gail, I took her to Harbor Springs’ beautiful Lyric Theater to see the delightful senior ladies comedy Book Club. Alan Blomquist (BGS ’75) is the film’s executive producer, a man with a remarkable record as a film producer and director that includes such renowned works as The Cider House Rules and Chocolat, altogether more than 50 productions between 1985 and the present. I had a quiz question all set about The Cider House Rules (1999) — a truly memorable and important film adaptation of John Irving’s novel. An editing slip on my part, Alan. Forgive me.
    Meanwhile, anyone looking for 144 minutes of total diversion should visit a theater showing Book Club. And if you love a beautiful movie-going experience, definitely visit the Lyric, which I wrote about for Michigan Today in 2016!


    • Joe Keenan - 1985

      Dear Professor Beaver
      I found this quiz both interesting and illuminating. You were my professor in the early 80’s and were kind enough to write me a recommendation in my pursuit of a media career in the Big Apple. Alas my career path took a different turn as I chose to pursue one on Wall Street instead of West 57th or The Rock. Happily my son, Joe III, just finished his freshman year at UofM and this has enabled me to renew my love affair with one of the greatest cities in America and “The Best University in The World” (all credit to James Earl Jones lest I be accused of plagiarism). Thanks again for playing such a large role in my, and I am sure many others’, collegiate experience! Warmest regards, Joe Keenan LS&A ‘85


  7. Mary Ellen Mulcrone - 1977, 1983

    “Answer This!” was set entirely in Ann Arbor and featured a real life U-M professor who was apparently well loved by students. Interesting and fun film for trivia buffs.
    Another Michigan movie that probably was not well known is “In the Land of Women” written and directed by Jonathan Kasdan.


    • Deborah Holdship

      Yes! “Answer This” featured U-M professor Ralph Williams, featured in this 2016 Michigan Today piece, The Wind is Very Much Up.


  8. Fred Simmons - '00

    Great stuff, Prof Beaver. Hope you are well.


  9. Bruce Rubinstein - 1975

    Enjoyable quiz, Prof. Beaver. Glad to see you are well and still sharing your vast movie knowledge!


  10. Richard Lerner - 1977

    Dwight Hicks ’78 All-American defensive back and Super Bowl winner with the 49ers has had a film career and appeared in several movies.


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