Minute 55 – You Want to Be a Part of This Frog’s Life – The Great Muppet Caper

Kermit sits alone on a park bench when up walks Peter Falk to deliver an inspiring monologue.

NOTES AND RESEARCH

Kermit sad on a bench

Jerry and Christine Nelson cameo

  • She was a frequent visitor to the sets of Sesame Street, Saturday Night Live and The Muppet Show. Her father, Jerry Nelson, took some time off during the first season of The Muppet Show to spend more time with his daughter due to her health problems.
  • She had a cameo in The Great Muppet Caper alongside her father. Her mother, Jacquie Gordon, wrote a book about Christine called Give Me One Wish, in which it is stated that Jim Henson gave Christine a speaking part so she would become a member of the actors’ union.
  • Christine died in 1982. Rye Country Day School, where she had attended, has an award named in her memory.

(read from Henson bio below)

Bears wear hats

Up walks Peter Faulk

I wish Peter Faulk would always walk up to me with a speech when I’m down

Peter Falk

  • Peter Falk (1927-2011) was an actor best remembered for playing the eponymous detective Lt. Columbo on the TV series Columbo and in numerous TV movies. In 1979, he appeared as himself in the TV special The Muppets Go Hollywood, trading jests about the food with Fozzie Bear. Two years later, he made an unbilled cameo in The Great Muppet Caper as the disheveled gentleman[1] on the park bench, valiantly attempting to predict what Kermit’s life story is. Falk’s gravelly voiced portrayal of Columbo was also the inspiration for the Sesame Street character Colambo.
  • Falk’s film credits included The Princess Bride (with Mandy Patinkin), Robin and the Seven Hoods (with Frank Sinatra), The Great Race, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (as a cab driver, opposite Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and countless others). In 2006, he published a memoir, Just One More Thing.
  • Columbo was a long running television series starring Peter Falk as casual police detective Lt. Columbo. A pilot film aired in 1968, and from 1971 to 1978, it aired as a rotating series on NBC Mystery Movie. It was picked up by ABC in 1989, with occasional TV movie installments airing as recently as 2003. The series was focused not on who did it, but how the murderer would be caught, and celebrities were often cast as the killers. The character of Columbo became such a pop culture phenomenon that he was ranked at number seven on Bravo’s 100 Greatest TV Characters.

https://www.henson.com/jimsredbook/2013/09/981980/

9/8/1980 – ‘Shooting Peter Falk.’

Going back to their earliest days on television, it was clear that the Muppets worked well bantering with celebrities as their expressive performances and human qualities made these interactions completely believable. Jim crammed his feature films with cameos, showcasing an array of stars alongside his characters. While most got billing in the credits, in The Great Muppet Caper, Peter Falk’s appearance as a “disheveled gentleman” went uncredited. The first week of shooting took place in Battersea Park and focused on action from the middle of the film. The seemingly arbitrary scene gives the audience a chance to enjoy Falk’s performance but does little to move the action along. It opens with a gratuitous conversation between a father and daughter (Jerry Nelson and his real daughter Christine) strolling along the path. Falk sits down with a disappointed Kermit who has learned that Miss Piggy is not who she said she was. In a sort of depressed version of his Columbo character, Falk proceeds to deliver a monologue about what he thinks is wrong with Kermit but is clearly describing his own sorry life story. Annoyed, Kermit tells him to get lost and that they are trying to make a movie. With that, they return to the action.

Shooting in London, Jim wrote regular updates to his staff in New York. After three weeks were finished, Jim described his progress, starting with:

“This is a note just to let you know what is happening on The Muppet Movie here in London. (We still have no title but we are working on it.) The first week of shooting involved the bicycle number which we shot in Battersea Park. The radio controlled puppets were terrific and all the new puppets look beautiful. We have a film crew of about 110 people, so when I say we went to Battersea Park I mean the whole crew of Muppet people, the film crew, various trucks and lots of equipment. It takes a lot to shoot a few puppets! On one day we also shot the scene with Peter Falk and Kermit on a park bench. He was a delight to work with. In his scene he plays a seedy character, starts talking to Kermit and Kermit has to ask him to leave because Kermit says they are making a movie.”

(These are mostly my thoughts and observations. I have occasionally added some of Annie’s thoughts after the recording. I have done my best to attribute info where needed. Many of the more common facts about the film and The Muppets are not directly attributed to any one source. It is not my intention to claim all of the above information as my own. If you find a place that needs attribution, please contact me with the source and I will be happy to add it.)