Every weekend the Spectator brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …
In 1964 the former Belgian Congo was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When George Foreman visited the country (by then called Zaire) in 1974, for the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, he was accompanied by his German Shepherd. The dog looked exactly like the Belgian Shepherds favoured by the former colonial police – so everybody automatically supported Foreman’s opponent, Muhammad Ali.
Sam Mendes (born 1965). During the filming of Skyfall, Daniel Craig treated himself to some expensive leather gloves. He suggested to Mendes that he should wear them in a scene where 007 fights the villain’s henchmen. The director agreed. It wasn’t until several months later, during editing, that Mendes realised the gloves made a mockery of Bond’s gun, whose trigger is activated by his fingerprint. Craig’s hands had to be digitally painted into every single frame of the scene.
Peter O’Toole (born 1932). There are no female speaking parts in Lawrence of Arabia. The only female that makes a noise is a camel called Gladys.
Stanley Baldwin (born 1867). He remains the only British Prime Minister ever to serve under three monarchs.
Henri Cornet (born 1884). The cyclist remains the youngest ever winner of the Tour de France (in 1904, aged 19). His victory came despite an official warning for travelling part of the course in a car.
Barack Obama (born 1961). In the final months of his presidency, Obama told a US talk show host that he was looking forward to working in an office that had corners.
Alec Guinness (died 2000). Filming Star Wars, the actor agreed to work an extra day in return for a small royalty, as George Lucas couldn’t afford to pay him. The percentage went on to make Guinness £12,000 a week for the rest of his life.
Norman Gordon (born 1911). The South African didn’t die until 2014, making him the only male Test cricketer ever to live beyond 100.
Barbara Windsor (born 1937). The star’s famous ‘bra flying off’ scene in Carry on Camping was achieved with the aid of a fishing line attached to the garment in question. The rod was operated by a crew member standing off-camera.
Alexei Sayle (born 1952). The comedian once witnessed his editor at Faber and Faber punch in the code 1713 to get through a door. ‘Of course it’s perfectly simple to remember,’ said the editor. ‘Treaty of Utrecht.’