Myth Trivia: Joker’s Wild, Old King Cole, and Queen for a Day

Donald Trump is a loose cannon, but who was Old King Cole, and how did Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall miss out on being Mrs. Robinson?

Forget plastics. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) makes Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and offer he should refuse but doesn't. (PR still taken from YouTube video of the reissued version of the 1967 classic Mike Nichols film, "The Graduate," Embassy Pictures, MGM Home Entertainment)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 25, 2016 — We’ve got an ace in the hole in today’s trivia, which means it’s all in the cards for lovers of useless information.

1. Origin of a “Loose Cannon”: Presidential candidate Donald Trump has been referred to frequently as a “loose cannon.” Even his likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, has called him that. Which means that Myth Trivia had to look into the origin of the term just to set the record straight.

Sadly, it was not very exciting. Turns out that the expression means precisely what it says. The only twist would be that it refers to cannons aboard ships rather than those fired on the ground.

A “loose cannon” in contemporary terms refers to a person whose actions are unpredictable and uncontrollable. Trump is certainly unpredictable. Whether or not he is uncontrollable remains to be seen.

The metaphor arose in the late 1800s. A ship’s cannons needed to be mounted to prevent them from dislodging during a battle or a storm and causing severe damage to the ship. A renegade cannon could also endanger the lives of the crew, which might be another valid assessment of the presumed Republican candidate for president.

Victor Hugo is the first to have described a loose cannon, in his 1874 novel “Ninety Three.” The actual phrase was first used in English in 1875, by Harry Kingsley in his novel, “Number Seventeen.” He wrote, “At once, of course, the ship was in the trough of the sea, a more fearfully dangerous engine of destruction than Mr. Victor Hugo’s celebrated loose cannon.”

Come November when we play the political game of “Bridge over Troubled Waters” Americans will finally learn whether the bid is the “Joker is wild” or “One no Trump.”

2. Who was Old King Cole? Continuing our journey through royalty in our deck of cards, as we so frequently discover there are several possibilities to the origin of the famous nursery rhyme Old King Cole.

Most experts agree that Old King Cole is probably not a reference to any great historical figure, but one theory is that he could have been a 12th century cloth merchant from Reading, England with the name of Cole-brook.

Thomas Deloney told the story of Thomas Cole-brook in his Pleasant History of Thomas of Reading, which he wrote in 1598. Cole-brook later became a popular character in British plays of the early 17th century and the name “Old Cole” has a special meaning in Elizabethan theatrical presentations though it is not certain exactly what the meaning was.

Finally there was a legendary Welsh king named Coel Hen which has been translated into “Old Cole” or “Old King Cole.” The nursery rhyme was not written until the 18th century and Coel Hen was documented as far back as the fourth century.

Some observers speculate that Old King Cole is a reference to the town of Colchester which was supposedly named for Coel Hen. Documentation has proven that Colchester did not get its name from the fabled Welsh king, however.

Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott believed that “Auld King Coul” was the father of the folkloric giant Fyn M’Coule, or Finn McCool in American English. Legend has it that Finn McCool built the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland as stepping stones to Scotland so that he wouldn’t get his feet wet.

One side note: Sir Walter Scott’s image appears on the 20 pound Scottish bank note, despite the fact that he was bankrupt when he died.

At any rate, at least the name in the poem was worthwhile for popular 20th century singer Nat King Cole.

3. Casting for another Day: Anybody who remembers the conniving Mrs. Robinson from the 1967 movie The Graduate will enjoy these bits of trivia. Anne Bancroft, who was married to Mel Brooks, played the seductress who expertly manipulated a naïve Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) into her bed.

But it is the casting of the film that makes this trivia fun because it was none other than America’s sweetheart Doris Day who was first offered the role. Day turned it down because of the brief flashes of nudity which lasted only a few frames in the actual film.

Another unlikely candidate was Audrey Hepburn who actually wanted the part, as did Lauren Bacall. Also counted among the list were Angie Dickinson, Lana Turner, Jean Simmons, Judy Garland and Ava Gardner. Not only did Natalie Wood turn down the role of Mrs. Robinson but also that of her daughter Elaine.

According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, director Mike Nichols wanted Robert Redford for the role of Benjamin and Gene Hackman to play Mr. Robinson.

Both Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were considered but had conflicts because they were busy filming another 1967 classic, Bonnie and Clyde.

On a closing note, Benjamin says during the film, “I will be 21 next week” to which Mrs. Robinson states, “Benjamin, I am twice your age.”

In fact, Dustin Hoffman was 29 at the time the movie was shot, and Bancroft was 35, only a six year difference. Katherine Ross, who played Mrs. Robinson’s 19-year old daughter was 27 during shooting.

“Coo coo ca-choo Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know …”

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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