Possibly everything you’d want to know about Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell

In case you weren’t already feeling old, February 2 is the 30th anniversary of the release of Groundhog Day, the story of our favorite narcissistic, self-centered weatherman, who finds himself stuck in a time loop on Groundhog Day.

This is particularly meaningful to me because I worked on this classic film and it just keeps reappearing every year.

The film was directed by Harold Ramis and stars Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray, Marita Geraghty, Angela Paton, Rick Ducommun, Rick Overton, Robin Duke, and a group of background extras who may be among the most significant ever cast.

They say that familiar movies have the capacity to become our friends. Groundhog Day is my familiar old friend with a history of great memories. We get together once a year and it’s like we were never apart.

Thirty-something years ago, Chicago was filming features at a steady pace, keeping multiple crews busy without a break in between. I had the good fortune of working alongside a list of talented crew members and when a film wrapped, it was always a joy to see many of the same faces on the next one.

The Groundhog Day Chicago crew who stand out in my memory where John Roman, Second AD (7 titles together.) Rick LeFevour, Stunt Coordinator (37 titles together.) Stacy Logan, stunts (25 titles together.) James Fierro, stunts (18 titles together.) Mark Lindberg, Assistant Chief Lighting Technician (7 titles together). Bradley Matthys, Dolly Grip (8 titles together.) Paolo Cascio, First Assistant Camera (11 titles together.) Bob Huggins, Locations Manager (10 titles together.) Michele Landes, Extras Wrangler at Holzer Roche Casting (countless titles together.) Mark Ridge, Extras Casting at Holzer Roche (& Ridge) Casting (countless titles together.) Catherine J. Holzer, my extremely organized business partner at Holzer Roche Casting, the glass head who made everything seem easy (countless titles together, and an insane life experience.)

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen this film more than once. The number one challenge on the film? Continuity. If you’re like me, you may have an extremely annoying habit of pointing out continuity mistakes on every film you watch.

So is Groundhog Day flawless? After weeks of filming the same scenes, with the same cast and background extras you would think that something would go awry.

I challenge you to find a flaw. If, in celebration of the 30th anniversary, you plan to watch Groundhog Day on this Groundhog Day (February 2) see if you caught the mistakes on the list below.

I have found a few in the past but no one is better at this than Movie Mistakes. We, of course, cheated and pulled their list which clearly was comprised by a few obsessive compulsive individuals who live in their parent’s basement and take great joy in pointing out the flaws of others. Let us know if you found any that are not on the list, or better still, be a hero and let Movie Mistakes know they missed something.

Groundhog Day (obsessive compulsive) list of mistakes from MovieMistakes.com:

  • When Phil wakes up at 6 AM, it’s already bright outside. At 6 AM in February, it would still be pitch-dark.
  • When Phil has the groundhog in the truck at the quarry and is about to drive over the edge, Rita’s hair is disheveled and sticking out all around her head. But after Phil has driven off the cliff and she’s looking down, it’s all pinned neatly in place.
  • After Phil drives the truck off the cliff, and it explodes in a burst of flames, there is a shot of Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliot staring in shock at the disaster. The two actors are bathed in an orange glow supposedly coming from the flaming wreckage. But in the lens of the TV camera Elliot is holding, there is a noticeable reflection of the lighting equipment used to create the glow effect on the actors.
  • When Phil drives the truck off the cliff, you can see right through the grill of the truck (meaning there is no radiator or engine), and the transmission is also missing, as you can see when the truck is falling upside down. Without an engine or transmission it would be hard to drive off a cliff.
  • When Bill Murray first meets Ned Ryerson, there is a reflection of the film crew very briefly in the shop window behind them.
  • When Phil is playing the piano at the party, he is wearing a pair of RayBan Wayfarer sunglasses. When he takes them off and sets them on the piano, they have turned into RayBan Baloramas.
  • When Phil looks out the window on the first Groundhog Day, he sees the right-turning truck outside the window just as the radio people shout “Groundhog Day”, but on the first repeat of the day, the same scene outside the window occurs only after this exclamation is made. It couldn’t be altered by him because he had just woken up.
  • When Phil comes around the corner, just before meeting Ned, there are two women walking together in the background. The one in blue is holding a yellow sign upside down that says Phil (the groundhog, not the character). The first 3 days in a row they are together as they should be. On the fourth day and every day thereafter the woman in blue is by herself which does not follow the exact day sequences.
  • In the shot where Phil, Gus and Ralph exit the bowling alley, Gus is having trouble putting on his coat and leaves his tee shirt exposed in the back. After he takes Ralph’s keys, he walks away from the camera, his jacket is straight and his shirt pulled down.
  • When Phil escapes the police with his drunk friends in the car, their stunt doubles’ different faces are visible as they start driving on the tracks.
  • The second time Phil and Rita are building a snowman, the snowman’s head is a different size and shape in the wide shot, the reverse shot, and the closeup. (This mistake occurs in a single day, it is NOT about the difference between different days.)
  • When Bill Murray has stolen the Groundhog and is driving away with it in the red truck, the police car and the TV van chase it. There is a shot of the red truck going under a low bridge, and then a long shot of all 3 vehicles. There is no way the TV van could have gotten under that bridge with all the stuff on its roof, and yet in the very next shot it is seen continuing the chase.
  • When Phil first meets Ned, right as he asks ‘Did you turn pro with that belly button thing’ there’s a close shot of Phil where a man with a yellow hat and red collar walks behind him. In the very next shot, we can see the same man approaching from further down the street, then passing behind Phil again.
  • On the second day, Phil did his same tasks at about the same time as the previous day, so everything lining up the same made sense. However, on day 3, he quickly rushes out of his hotel, avoiding interacting with most of the people he did before and gets to the street with the beggar much sooner than he did before. Yet Ned still is there crossing the street and sees him exactly the same as before. However with Phil having skipped so much he would have gotten there and passed that spot a good while before Ned would have gotten there, and they should not have had the exchange again on day 3. Same thing for when he arrives at the Groundhog Festival, with Rita greeting him like he’s late. But he would have gotten there much sooner this time.
  • When Phil is playing the piano with the jazz group, we hear three glissandos (dragging of the fingers over the keys starting from high to low), yet we see his hands only do one. We hear the first two happen while we see his hands playing something different.
  • When Phil is dressed as an outlaw and pretending to be “Bronco” his Clint Eastwood impression voice is out of sync with his lips.
  • On Day 2, Phil makes a cup of coffee before leaving the hotel. He carries it out of the hotel in his bare hand. When he comes out of the hotel he has his gloves on.
  • Phil departs from the office right after the 5pm news. Punxsutawney is over 90 minutes’ drive from Pittsburgh. The sunset in Punxsutawney in early February is about 5:30pm, so by the time they get there it should be completely dark. But it’s bright daylight, without even a hint of twilight.
  • Focusing on the clock as it turns to 6:00, one clock has a visible gear in the middle of the numbers. At other times, no gear.
  • When Ned first calls out to Phil, the Gift Shoppe store behind him has a sign in the display window saying “OPEN SUNDAYS 12 to 4”, and a white poster in the door window. The remaining three times Ned calls out to Phil with that background, the Open Sunday sign is gone, and the poster in the door has changed to a smaller red sign. Also, vehicle positions have changed slightly, and the black truck’s tire sidewall on the left changes position between first and remaining scenes.
  • At the party when Phil is playing the piano, there are several shots of the other band members. Multiple times they are seen playing their instruments, but they are never heard. The most obvious example is right before Phil finishes up his set. The saxophone guy is playing but you never hear it.
  • When Phil is driving the truck towards the cliff, the wide angles show it leaving a thick cloud of dust. In the close-ups inside the car, the cloud is gone.
  • At the end of the movie when Rita reaches over Phil to turn off the alarm clock, we know the clock always goes off at 6:00 AM. After turning off the alarm 2 1/2 minutes go by while they are talking and the clock should read 6:02, but when the camera pans to the clock it only reads 6:01.
  • In the opening scene as Phil is walking from the blue screen to the desk, a clock is visible over the top of the camera and it reads either 12:20 or 1:20 (the hour hand is too motion blurred to tell which). The broadcast is supposed to be at 5pm.
  • When Phil is driving the car against the train he ultimately swerves out into a railroad crossing. However when the approaching train is shown from within the car in the last seconds before the two vehicles would collide, there is no crossing to be seen on the remaining track stage between them.
  • A green BIC lighter can be seen standing on end to the right of Phil’s plate in the diner, between the plate of flapjacks and plate of eggs. In the next shot, in which Phil drinks directly from the coffee pot, the lighter has vanished.
  • Towards the end of day 3 when Phil is drinking at the bowling ally, Gus says he pegs Phil as a glass half empty kind of guy. Phil is looking partly in his direction to his own left when he’s saying this. When the camera cuts to a close up, Phil is looking straight ahead and then turns his head.
  • After Phil gets done with the weather report and then talking about his plans for the next day, he goes off to the side talking to some other men. He looks back and sees Rita playing with the blue screen. She looks over to her right at the TV which turns her head to the left of the camera. But then it suddenly cuts to what the TV is seeing and she’s looking straight ahead, which means she’d be looking directly at the camera, and not the TV.
  • When the truck goes off the cliff in the quarry, we see it falling in a close shot, then it changes to a wider shot, except the driver’s side mirror in the close shot is folded out, while in the wider shot it is folded in. The powder on the tires is also different.
  • In the opening scene Phil is doing a weather report and is wearing a wireless mic on his vest. When they go off-air he jumps up and two seconds later the wireless mic is gone, neither on his vest or in his hands. Taking off both the mic and the transmitter would take longer than two seconds.
  • When Phil kidnaps the groundhog the TV van has two intact headlights as it begins to chase Phil. When the van skids to a stop at the quarry, the right headlight is missing as if it had an accident.
  • Two chocolates are shown next to the alarm clock each time the clock is switched off or destroyed. They are in slightly different positions in every shot throughout the movie.
  • When Phil wakes up for the third time he immediately runs out of the hotel without speaking to anyone in order to get to Gobbler’s Knob faster but when gets outside the piano teacher is already walking across the street. She shouldn’t already be there if Phil went straight from his room to the street.

Tidbits of folklore and interesting trivia:

  • A family of groundhogs was raised for the production.
  • Bill Murray was bitten by the groundhog twice during filming.
  • There are exactly 38 days depicted in this film, either partially, or in full.
  • Director Harold Ramis said that Phil probably lived the same day for about ten years.
  • All the clocks in the diner are stopped, mirroring Phil Connors’s predicament.
  • The interiors of Bill Murray’s room, at the bed and breakfast, were filmed in an empty warehouse in Cary, Illinois.
  • 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, Illinois. You can see the Waukegan business district in some of the shots.
  • Shaun Chaiyabhat, who played the boy in the tree, grew up to become a local television news reporter.
  • This was Michael Shannon’s debut cinematic appearance.
  • Cher stated in an interview that fans would send her letters saying they loved the song she made for the movie Groundhog Day (1993), not realizing that the song was actually recorded in 1965.
  • In the penultimate encounter between Phil Connors and annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson, Bill Murray was ad-libbing when he tells Ned, “I don’t know where you’re headed, but can you call in sick?” and causes Ned to run away.
  • In the course of the film, Phil Connors endures Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Harold Ramis: “Danny Rubin actually took Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as a model – her five stages of death and dying – and we used that as a template for Bill Murray’s progress.”
  • When filming the Ned scene, Bill Murray noticed the hundreds of spectators who were viewing the activities. He then went to the nearby bakery, ordered 500 danishes and paid for them himself. He and Stephen Tobolowsky then distributed them to the grateful onlookers.
  • The movie was selected in 2006 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
  • Bill Murray’s vision for the film was in stark contrast to the vision Ramis had in mind. After the film was complete, the bond between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray was shattered, and the two did not speak again for 21 years.

And last but not least, the filming locations.

Filming Locations:

  • 344 Fremont St, Woodstock, Illinois, USA (Bed & Breakfast)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Blairsville, Pennsylvania, USA (Opening credits; sign for Marchand and Punxsutawney)
  • Algonquin, Illinois, USA (opening scene, Punxsutawney sign)
  • Backlot, Universal Studios – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA
  • Cary, Illinois, USA (interiors)
  • Illinois, USA
  • Old Courthouse, Woodstock, Illinois, USA
  • Old Jail, Woodstock, Illinois, USA
  • Opera House, Woodstock, Illinois, USA
  • Rockford, Illinois, USA (Quarry)
  • Town Square, Woodstock, Illinois, USA
  • Waukegan, Illinois, USA
  • Wayne’s City Lanes, Woodstock, Illinois, USA (bowling scenes)
  • Woodstock, Illinois, USA (Punxsutawney)

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