Many people may know that the movie “Catch-22” is about a group of pilots who are forced to continue working after being shot down over enemy territory during World War II. However, most people don’t know much else about the film. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about “Catch-22.”
1. It Was Based On A True Story.
The novel “Catch-22” was written by American author and military aviator Joseph Heller in the late 1940s. The novel’s setting is the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. The Pentagon reviewed the manuscript in the early 1950s and commissioned Heller to write a screenplay. After several rewrites, the movie was released in 1975. Though not a documentary, the film does feature actual aircraft and pilots from the era, including the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the North American P-51 Mustang.
2. The Main Characters In The Movie Aren’t Real People.
The main characters in the movie aren’t real people. Heller based the characters on himself, his fellow aviators, and other people he knew from his time in the military. Some of the characters, such as Captain John Yossarian, were inspired by real people. However, the rest were made up by Heller.
Yossarian is a war veteran who has just returned from service in the Mediterranean. Upon his return, he is troubled by the rigid and outdated rules of the military. For example, he points out that the rule against joking about the war — known as “Catch-22” — doesn’t make sense. In fact, Yossarian breaks the rule regularly, which makes him increasingly unpopular with his fellow officers. Nevertheless, Yossarian continues to fly and even wins the respect of some of his more cynical comrades. Yossarian is the protagonist of the novel and the movie.
3. The Plot Is Complicated.
The plot of “Catch-22” is a lot more complicated than it seems at first blush. Though it was first published in the 1940s, the novel was actually written several years earlier. Heller delayed releasing it because he wanted to add more details and make it more intriguing. The plot is also complicated by the fact that Heller wrote it while he was still working on the screenplay for the movie. The novel is broken down into 7 act-like chapters, which are then further subdivided into scenes.
Act 1 begins with a prologue that gives an overview of the story’s events. In this section, we learn that Major Major Major Major Major (Maj. Mag. Mig. Maff.) David K. Kessler is organizing a war bond rally at a New York City auditorium. The organizers of the rally, including Major Major, hope to draw attention to the war effort and build morale for the men fighting overseas. In the last war bond rally of the year 1944, Major Major asks a question: “What is there that just isn’t fair about war?” The answer is “Catch-22,” which starts the story proper.
4. The Film Is Structured Like A Play.
The screenplay for “Catch-22” was originally written in a two-act format. The second act was dropped from the final version, resulting in a one-act film. However, certain scenes in the first act were retained in the final cut. For example, when Milo tells Oddball he wants to get to the bottom of Yossarian’s hostility, they end up in a fight that briefly turns into a wrestling match.
The script was originally titled “Death To The Warhorse,” which was changed to “Catch-22” after being approved by the office of the United States Strategic Air Command, which would later become the Office of Defense Cooperation. The Pentagon wanted a title that was “less inflammatory,” as the website Blu-ray.com points out. The one-act film premiered in theaters on August 6, 1975, and was released on DVD on August 5, 2012.
5. It Wasn’t Always An Easy Production.
The production for “Catch-22” was a lengthy and difficult process. Heller wrote the screenplay in the early 1950s and spent the rest of the decade trying to get it made. The film finally premiered in theaters on August 6, 1975, and was released on DVD on August 5, 2012. In the meantime, Heller worked on the novelization of the screenplay. Though he delivered the novelization in 1958, he didn’t see the final product until years later.
The production of the film was troubled by several problems. One of the main issues was that the studio, 20th Century Fox, wasn’t interested in making the film. They finally agreed to do it after receiving an offer of $125,000, which was ten times what they were initially asked to spend on the project. The film’s budget was originally $2.85 million but eventually ballooned to $4 million. In 1968, Heller sued the studio for breach of contract, claiming they failed to pay him for additional drafts of the screenplay. The court ruled in favor of the studio, and Heller was awarded $400,000. The studio appealed the case but eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
6. Many Of The Scenes In The Film Were Added After The Fact.
The vast majority of the scenes in the film were added after the fact. Heller wrote the novel several years before he started working on the screenplay, and many of the characters, settings, and incidents are unique to the novel. As a result, many scenes had to be altered to fit the format of a movie.
One of the earliest drafts of the screenplay did not include any scenes at all. Instead, it was formatted like a stage play with acts and intermissions. During the writing process, Heller realized that the story needed more of a cinematic feel. Many of the scenes were subsequently rewritten and moved around, resulting in a film that is very different from the original novel. For example, the original ending of the film was completely different and ended with Major Major, Yossarian, and the other characters getting medals, as opposed to what happened in the final cut, where they all died.
7. The Film Was Inspired By Real-Life Events.
The events that inspire the story of “Catch-22” are loosely based on incidents that occurred during World War II. In particular, the story is based on what happened to Heller and a number of other pilots who were stationed at Syracuse University during the war. For example, Heller’s roommate at Syracuse was killed in action during the war, which probably helped inspire the novel. It is also believed that the character of Captain Scheisskopf was inspired by Captain Al Ulman, who was a pilot in the 332nd Fighter Group, and who later became a commercial airline pilot and captain.
Besides being based on real events, the story of “Catch-22” also draws from Heller’s experiences as a fighter pilot and military officer during World War II. While stationed in Europe during the war, Heller was shot down 5 times and received a Military Cross, Silver Star, and Distinguished Flying Cross. As a fighter pilot, he was credited with shooting down 13 enemy planes and receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross. It is believed that Heller drew from his own experiences as a fighter pilot in order to craft a story about the dangers and rigors of combat.
Though he didn’t intend to, Heller put himself into the story by creating a character who is an amalgamation of himself and his fellow airmen from World War II. According to Heller, “Catch-22” isn’t really about the war as much as it is “an attack on something that is largely personal to me.” In the novel, the main character is a satire of the military, and Heller himself, in particular, the Army Air Forces, which he referred to as “the Nut Club.” Though it was not the intention of the author, “Catch-22” is often cited as one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time. The novel continues to be a bestseller, proving that Heller’s scathing satire still stings almost 70 years later.