The new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, beloved Pittsburgh icon, influential children’s television programmer and one of the best-loved American personalities of all-time.
Here are some of the startling facts depicted in the movie, which opens this week:
- “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” originally debuted on network radio as “The Johns-Mansville Asbestos Hour Starring Ed Wynn.”
- “Lady Elaine Fairchild” was not, as most people believe, a puppet, but an actress named Gladys Pryzebelich from Wilmerding who had a rare growth hormone deficiency. When she died in 2014 at age 94, she was buried in a New Balance shoe box.
- In a 2001 referendum, residents of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe rejected as “too expensive” a proposal from then-City Council candidate Bill Peduto to add bike lanes.
- Since retiring, X the Owl works occasionally as a docent at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side. In his spare time, he enjoys catching voles and other small rodents.
- For an April Fool’s Day prank in 1973, two PBS staples, Fred Rogers and William F. Buckley Jr., hosted each others’ shows. But the episodes never aired after PBS executives concluded that while Mr. Rogers vastly improved the quality of “Firing Line,” Buckley was easily outwitted by Daniel Striped Tiger.
- Until budget cuts during the Reagan administration, the Neighborhood Trolley ran along the Parkway East and U.S. 30 to Rogers’ hometown of Latrobe, making the round trip in 28 hours and 14 minutes.
- Fred Rogers’ red zip-up cardigan sweater, handmade for him by his mother, is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His sneakers were purchased by Dr. Scholl’s as a laboratory standard and are used to test all of that company’s various orthotic products.
- Stay seated until the closing credits to see scenes from the next thrilling installment in this new Marvel Comics franchise.