July 23, 2015 From Little Known Facts first Posted on LNO March 27, 2004
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. At one time, these two very talented people were considered “washed up”. The big brass at MGM considered these people old-timers and no longer star material. And this wasn’t the only time MGM had made such poor decisions. But since these two weren’t getting much work from the studio and they didn’t have contracts, they didn’t have much of a say in the matter. Which didn’t sit very well with these two. What performers do best is create and perform. And if you can’t perform, then what’s left is to create. So they did! Now this was an unlikely pair to begin with, so what they created seemed a bit unlikely too – like the cigarette lighter that they came up with. It was two feet high, had a miniature elevator that carried a ball up a slide and crashing down to spark a flint that set off the lighter like a cannon. It was actually used in a Lucky Strike commercial once. That’s the kind of thing they were doing, sitting in Edward Segwick’s office on the MGM lot and putting together funny machines and gadgets. The nutcracker was another one. It filled half the office and had a little crane that swung and hit a pile driver and cracked a walnut perfectly.
The great bandleader Tommy Dorcey sent over several 100-pound bags of walnuts to be cracked for his friends. Didn’t seem like much at the time, but the engineers at Consolidated Aircraft of Los Angeles came to see these inventions and it wasn’t long before General Nut Corporation had a new high speed nut cracker that was based on this silly gadget. Ed Segwick was a great star of the past, and he had always had a problem getting out of bed in time for early morning call, so these two washed-up performers starting thinking about ways to help him out. And they came up with a good one.
They invented a clock that would offer a snooze mode. You know, you hit a button and the alarm shuts off, but only for about five minutes, then it gives you another blast? Most people have one and use it on the occasion, maybe everyday! It’s a Little Known Fact that these two “washed-up has beens” invented the snooze alarm. They also went on to prove that they were not so “washed-up.” Both of them went on to even greater glory in the next few years. One became a master of physical comedy who made more than 120 movies and the other was one of the greatest television stars of all time. But you probably didn’t know about the clock thing. So, please, the next time you reach over and hit the snooze button, say thanks to the two “washed-up” actors who came up with the idea: Buster Keaton and Lucille Ball!