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Origin Of The Term "Sleeper" (1 Viewer)

Kelly W

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I'm pretty sure that most people have heard the term "sleeper" as in, "My Best Friend's Wedding is the sleeper hit of the summer." In this context, it means that said movie was a "little" film that wasn't expected to generate much business, but instead, went on to become somewhat of a hit.

I am kinda curious as to the origin of this term. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that it refers to the Woody Allen film "Sleeper" from 1973. Apparently, it was a movie that wasn't expected to do as well as it did. After that, similarly-performing movies were referred to as "this year's Sleeper" which eventually transformed into the "sleeper" term we hear today.

Is there any truth to this? Thanks!!!

-Kelly
 

Dennis Nicholls

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I doubt that story. The term "sleeper" as an item or object with "hidden powers" dates at least to the 1950's, when a hot rod in disguise was called a sleeper. Pre-positioned intelligence operatives, aka "5th columnists", were also IIRC called sleepers. I have an old dictionary that gives one definition as "a race horse, book, etc. that unexpectedly achieves a striking success".
 

Kelly W

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Huh! I didn't realize that the term dated back quite that far.
Now I can stop repeating the story to my friends and family. ;) But I really don't think I would have just made that up out of the blue. I wonder where I picked it up. Oh, well.
Thank you, Dennis!
-Kelly
 

Jay E

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Dennis (or anyone else)

Since you mentioned the term, and I always wanted to know how it came about, why were they called "5th columnists"?

Sorry for this sidetrack
 

Dennis Nicholls

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Darn you Jay, you piqued my curiosity so I had to go look it up....
"A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy's military and political aims. First applied in 1936 to rebel sympathizers inside Madrid when four columns of rebel troops were attacking that city."
 

Jay E

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"A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy's military and political aims. First applied in 1936 to rebel sympathizers inside Madrid when four columns of rebel troops were attacking that city."
Thanks Dennis!

And all this time I thought it had something to do with columns in a newspaper:b
 

Patrick McCart

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The first notable sleeper was It Happened One Night.

It didn't do very well when it first came out, but as soon as word got out about how good it was, it suddenly became very popular. Of course, it also went on to win 5 Oscars (One of the few films I feel was worthy of all of them.)

The term came from the obvious occurance of it being kind of a flat premire and then wakes up the public.
 

Holadem

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What are the sleeper hits of the last few years? I am wondering if the Matrix qualifies: I had never heard of this movie until a couple of weeks before release, during which we were bombarded with commercials, then BOOOMMM!!! Birth of a future Classic.

--

Holadem
 

Chris

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Four Weddings and a Funeral would be seen as a sleeper..

Ghost was a sleeper..

IE, these were films that were predicted either to do mediocre business (Four Weddings) or fair to mixed business (Ghost) and then turned into a good earner (Four Weddings) or a downright blockbuster (Ghost)
 

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