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Manchurian Candidate to Melrose Place: Too Real

Stories of when fact and fiction collided

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Not surprisingly, Hollywood analysts spent much of last week deconstructing what effect the White House sex scandal might have on the current political comedy Wag the Dog and the upcoming presidential takedown Primary Colors. (For the record, the general consensus seems to be, Not much.) Perhaps the key is to look to the past and see what happened previously when fact and fiction collided.

FICTION: The Manchurian Candidate (released Oct. 25, 1962). A brainwashed Korean War vet is sent to assassinate a presidential hopeful. FACT: President Kennedy is shot Nov. 22, 1963. UPSHOT: United Artists shamelessly tries to rerelease the film after the assassination. Distraught star Frank Sinatra, director John Frankenheimer, and producer George Axelrod refuse. The movie is taken out of theatrical circulation until 1988.

FICTION: Marooned (released Dec. 19, 1969). Three astronauts are stranded in space after their spacecraft malfunctions. FACT: Three astronauts are almost stranded in space after their Apollo 13 craft malfunctions April 13, 1970. UPSHOT: The lukewarmly reviewed movie still wins an Oscar…for Special Visual Effects.

FICTION: The China Syndrome (released March 16, 1979). Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas, and Jane Fonda expose an accident at a nuclear power plant. FACT: An accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island plant on March 29, 1979, forces the evacuation of children and pregnant women from surrounding towns. UPSHOT: The synchronicity helps Syndrome scare up $65 million at the box office.

FICTION: SpaceCamp (released June 6, 1986). A group of kids are accidentally launched into orbit aboard a space shuttle. FACT: The space shuttle Challenger explodes Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. UPSHOT: The movie’s release is scaled back to 950 screens nationwide. It earns a weak $9.1 million.

FICTION: Melrose Place‘s season finale (broadcast May 22, 1995). The titular apartment complex is destroyed in a bombing and one minor character dies. FACT: 168 people are killed when the Oklahoma City federal building is bombed April 19, 1995. UPSHOT: MP still gets bombed, although graphic scenes of the explosions are cut from the episode, which placed in the top 20 for the week.