Origins of Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil, and Other Famous Groundhogs By Albrecht Powell, About.com Guide
German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, the precursor to Groundhog Day, the hedgehog (or badger) will see its shadow and six more weeks of winter will follow. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of hedgehogs to predict the weather.
The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper's editor, Clymer Freas: "Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow." The legendary first Groundhog Day trip to Gobbler's Knob was made the following year by a group of spirited groundhog hunters who dubbed themselves "The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club." Clymer, a member of the club, used his editorial clout to proclaim that Phil, the Punxsutawney Groundhog, was the one and only official weather prognosticating groundhog.
Phil's fame began to spread and newspapers from around the world began to report his predictions. Growing legions of fans started making the trek to Punxsutawney every February 2, and with the release of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, the crowds began to number in the tens of thousands. Phil's yearly Groundhog Day predictions are actually even entered into the Congressional Record!
Questions and Answers About Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney:
Where does the name Punxsutawney come from? Punxsutawney was first settled by the Delaware Indians in 1723 and its name comes from the Indian name for the location "ponksad-uteney" which means the "town of the sandflies." The name woodchuck also has Indian origins, coming from the legend of "Wojak, the groundhog."
Where exactly is Punxsutawney? Punxsutawney is located in Western Pennsylvania, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
How did Phil get his name? The groundhog's full name is actually "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary." It was so proclaimed by the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" in 1887, the same year they declared Punxsutawney to be the weather capital of the world.
How do you know it is really Phil at Gobbler's Knob? For most of the year, Phil lives in a climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library. He is taken to Gobbler's Knob and placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 am on Groundhog Day, February 2, to make his prediction.
How old is Phil anyway? Phil is reputed by townspeople to be more than 100 years old, surviving beyond a marmot's normal life span thanks to the strong constitution of his wife, Phyllis, and a steady diet of Groundhog Punch.
Was the 1993 film Groundhog Day really filmed in Punxsutawney? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Columbia Pictures decided to film the movie in a location more accessible to a major metropolitan center. Punxsutawney is located in a very rural area with few highways, so Woodstock, Illinois was chosen as the site for the movie. As a result adjustments had to be made for the production. The actual Gobbler's Knob is a wooded hill with a beautiful view; the Gobbler's Knob in the movie is moved to the town square though it is recreated to scale based on detailed notes and videos the crew made on its visit to Punxsutawney.
I can't make it to Gobbler's Knob this year? Is the ceremony going to be on TV? Most major television stations across the country, as well as the big screen in Times Square, broadcast the official Groundhog Day ceremony.
What can I expect at the Punxutawney Groundhog Day celebration? Plan to arrive in Punxutawney no later than 6am in time to catch one of several shuttles providing transportation to Gobbler's Knob (there is no parking at the Knob). Or, arrive a day or two earlier for a weekend of action-packed events including a chili cook-off, ice carving exhibitions, trivia contests, a Prognosticators Ball, groundhog day weddings, sleigh rides, woodchuck whittling, the Phil Phind Scavenger Hunt, music, food, fun and games. If you happen to be celebrating a birthday on February 2nd, then you are invited to join others who share the special day for Phil's Birthday Celebration and a free souvenir.
What about all of those other weather predicting groundhogs out there? Alan Freed, Webmaster for Punxsutawneyphil.comand Groundhog.org, says "We'll take 'em seriously just as soon as a major motion picture is created in their honor!"
In one scene, Connors throws himself from the bell tower of a high building. This building is actually an opera house in Woodstock, Illinois. Local legend has it that a ghost of a young girl haunts the building since a girl once fell off of the balcony section inside the opera house and died.
Not filmed in Punxsutawney, but actually in Woodstock, Illinois (just 45 miles from "Bill Murray's hometown of Wilmette). There is a small plaque that reads "Bill Murray stepped here" on the curb where Murray continually steps into a puddle. There is another plaque on the building wall at the corner that says "Ned's Corner" where Bill Murray was continually accosted by insurance salesman Ned Ryerson.
The interiors of Bill Murray's room at the bed and breakfast were filmed in an empty warehouse in Cary, Illinois.
The scene where Phil picks up the alarm clock and slams it onto the floor didn't go as planned. Bill Murray slammed down the clock but it barely broke, so the crew bashed it with a hammer to give it the really smashed look. The clock actually continued playing the song like in the movie.
Debbie and Fred's last names are given briefly as "Kleiser".
The lines Andie MacDowell quotes in the café - "unwept, unhonoured, and unsung" - are from Sir Walter Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel", Canto vi, Stanza 1, which begins with the famous line, "Breathes there a man with soul so dead..."
Early drafts of the script explained the cause of Phil Connors' weird experience: a disaffected ex-lover called Stephanie cast a spell on him to teach him a lesson.
The French poem Phil recites in the German restaurant was written by Danny Rubin, based on the lyrics of Jacques Brel's "Bachelor's Dance". Translated into English the poem reads: The girl I will love / is like a fine wine / that gets a little better / every morning.
In the penultimate encounter between Connors and annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson, Bill Murray was ad-libbing when he tells Ned, "I don't where you're headed, but can you call in sick?" and causes Ned to run away.
Tori Amos was considered for the role of Rita.
Premiere voted this movie as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time" in 2006.
Bill Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice during shooting.
Bill Murray and Harold Ramis have both been honorary grand marshals for the Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsatawney, PA.
Phil at the piano teacher's house, when he is fumblingly playing Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini", is actually Bill Murray playing. He does not read music, but he learned that much of the song by ear. Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini", specifically its 18th Variation, was also used in another time fantasy movie, Somewhere in Time.
At one point in chase scene involving the red Cadillac Eldorado, Bill Murray and friends were to race along the sidewalk in front of the movie theater, barely missing the ticket booth, which was still occupied. The scene was filmed, but left on the cutting room floor.
Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the lead role, but decided against it, saying that Hanks was "too nice".
Bill Murray quotes lines from a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Work Without Hope": "All Nature seems at work; slugs leave their lair, The bees are stirring; birds are on the wing, And winter, slumbering in the open air, Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring; And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing, Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing."
On the DVD, Harold Ramis states that the original idea was for him to live February 2nd for about 10,000 years. Later he says that Phil probably lived the same day for about 10 years.
In the original version of the script by Danny Rubin, Phil Connors was already trapped inside Groundhog Day at the start of the story. We joined him on a typical day, with the audience wondering how he knew everything that was going to happen. Harold Ramis promised not to change this aspect of the script, but ultimately decided to do so.
According to director Harold Ramis, most of the times when he tried to explain a scene to Bill Murray, Murray would interrupt and ask, "Just tell me - good Phil or bad Phil?"
When Phil is explaining to Rita his experiences he first says "I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen" and so on. Those were all methods used by the assassins of Russian mystic Grigory Rasputin, but (with the exception of electrocution) were not seen done to Phil.
Originally, Phil was supposed to murder the groundhog in his lair. This was changed, however, since it seemed too much like Caddyshack.
The scene where Bill Murray gets out of the news van and talks to the state trooper was filmed on the Amstutz Expressway under the Grand Avenue overpass just outside of downtown Waukegan, IL. You can see the Waukegan business district in some of the shots. The Amstutz Expressway was also used for the filming of the big chase scene in the The Blues Brothers.
In the Jeopardy! sequence, the second player we see is Jim Scott, a five-time "Jeopardy!" Champion who won his fifth game on the October 1, 1990 broadcast. He went on to win the Tournament of Champions contest that season.
The song that plays over parts of the opening and closing credits is "Weatherman", co-written by 'George Fenton (I)' and director Harold Ramis.
Harold Ramis has stated that the inspiration for this movie was NOT the 1905 novel "The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin" by P.D. Ouspensky, but many others think that it was. Ramis made this denial within his contributions to a jacket blurb for one edition of the Ouspensky book. In the book, Osokin is given the opportunity to live his life over again by a magician... and Osokin takes him up on the offer, only to make the same mistakes all over again. Eventually he reaches the point in time where he met the magician, who explains to Osokin that he cannot change the recurring wheel that is "this trap called life"... and that Osokin must learn to sacrifice in order to escape it, to find his salvation.
The idea comes from 'The Gay Science', a famous book by Friedrich Nietzsche. In his book, Nietzsche gives a description of a man who is living the same day over and over again.
Among Phil's books in the coffee shop are "Treasury of the Theatre: From Agamemnon to A Month in the Country" by John Gassner (Simon & Schuster, 1964), and "Johann Strauss: Father and Son, a Century of Light Music" by H.E. Jacob (Greystone Press, 1939). The classical piano piece that draws his attention in the same scene is Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545.
Writer Danny Rubin said that one of the inspirational moments in the creation of the story came after reading "Interview with the Vampire," which got him thinking about what it would be like to live forever.
Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis both said that they avoided exploring the truly dark side of Phil's time lapsing in which he could do truly horrible things without consequence (i.e. murder, torture, etc.).
Supposedly Paul Lynde was the inspiration for one of the film's more famous lines. After a high-speed chase through the San Fernando Valley one night when he was driving recklessly while intoxicated, Lynde crashed his car into a mailbox. The police came to the car, guns drawn, and he lowered his window and said, "I'll have a cheeseburger, hold the onions, and a large Sprite." Another account has the scene inspired by an incident involving comedian Shecky Greene in Las Vegas. One night, while intoxicated, he drove his car into the big fountain in front of Caesar's Palace. As bystanders pulled him out, with water from the fountain raining down onto his car, he shouted, "Clean the floor mats and no hot wax!"
According to an interview with Harold Ramis, he and Bill Murray argued over the tone of the film. Murray wanted the film to be more philosophical while Ramis wanted it to be more comedic. The two argued throughout the production and have not spoken to each other since.
Ranked #8 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Fantasy" in June 2008.
Harold Ramis considered Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and John Travolta for the role of Phil Connors, but he considered them as "far too nice" compared to Bill Murray.
The interior scenes of the Cherry Street bed and breakfast were not filmed inside the actual house. The only times the crew entered the house at all were to turn on lamps for the proper lighting effects needed for the exterior shots.
Unlike the scenes for the bed and breakfast, the scenes at the piano teacher's home were indeed filmed inside the actual house, right in the front room as it appears in the film.
The house that was used for the piano teacher's home is less than a block away from the house used for the bed and breakfast. Though not visible in the film, it is actually located on the street that Phil sees directly proceeding from his room window just a few houses down on the left-hand side.
Chosen to be preserved by the National Film Registry in 2007.
The "clocks" restaurant in Woodstock, IL is now a Starbucks.
There are exactly 38 days depicted in this film either partially or in full.
Stephen Tobolowsky, who played Ned "the head" Reyerson the insurance agent was the honorary grand marshal in Punxsutawney, PA on Feb. 2nd, 2010. During his speech on stage he performed the "whistling belly button" act he refers to in the film.
After its release, several writers emerged, claiming that the story was stolen from their idea. Science-fiction author Richard Lupoff claimed that it was a rip-off from his short story '12:01pm', whilst Ken Grimwood - author of 'Replay' - was another.
Following the film's success, the term Groundhog Day has now entered into common parlance.
Since the film's release, the town of Punxatawney has now become a major tourist attraction.
According to the website Wolf Gnards, Bill Murray spends 8 years, 8 months and 16 days trapped in Groundhog Day. The website Obsessed With Film claims he was trapped 12,403 days, just under 34 years, in order to account for becoming a master piano player, ice sculptor, etc.
The concept has since been borrowed in other films, including the Disney cartoon Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, the TV show Day Break and the Adam Sandler comedy, 50 First Dates.
Director Harold Ramis was surprised to find that his film was attracting a lot of attention from various religious groups, meditative gurus and other parties who were into metaphysics. Ramis was particularly surprised as he was expecting a backlash against him.
Bill Murray was undergoing a divorce at the time of filming and was obsessing about the film. He would ring Harold Ramis constantly, often in the early hours of the morning. Ramis eventually sent writer Danny Rubin to sit with Murray and iron out all his anxieties, one of the reasons why Murray stopped speaking to Ramis for several years.
On February 2 1993 the sun did not rise until 7:25am in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania so the film is technically inaccurate - it would still have been dark at 6am.
Andie MacDowell was hired on the basis of her performance in Michael Lindsay-Hogg's film, The Object of Beauty.
George Fenton's music brief was to come up with a Nino Rota type score.
The song that greets Bill Murray every morning - "I've Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher - was in Danny Rubin's original script from the very beginning.
The store Lloyds - always seen in the background in the scenes where Bill Murray encounters Stephen Tobolowsky - tried to sue the production for several thousand dollars for lost business, a rather spurious claim seeing as their suit exceeded the store's average earnings.
A family of groundhogs was actually raised for the production.
One of the groundhog officials is Brian Doyle-Murray, one of Bill Murray's five brothers.
Andie MacDowell asked Harold Ramis if she could speak with her normal (and rather heavy) South Carolina accent.
Harold Ramis kept Bill Murray's overcoat.
Despite the fact that this was filmed in the standard spherical format, "Filmed in Panavision" is listed in the end credits.
One of Roger Ebert's Great Movies.
In the scene just before Phil avoids stepping in the puddle, you can see a lady walk past him in the background holding a sign that says, "Phil".
In 2003, this movie was the opening night film in the Museum of Modern Art's "The Hidden God: Film and Faith" series. A December 7, 2003, New York Times article called "Groundhog Almighty" discussed both the seeming incongruity of Groundhog Day being curated alongside such "serious" films as Luis Buñuel's _Nazarin (1959)_, Federico Fellini's 8½, Ingmar Bergman's Nattvardsgästerna, and Andrei Tarkovsky's _Andrei Rublev_ and the opinions of different clergy-people and religious adherents (including rabbis, Jesuit priests, Buddhists, practitioners of Falun Dafa, and Wiccans) about how the movie is applicable to or actually about their respective religion.
They shot 25 takes of the closing scene when Bill Murray wakes up next Andie MacDowell as they were unsure of the tonality of the scene. Rita slaps Phil ten times during the course of the film.