Friday, June 16

More Odd Careers

Here we have 10 more actors who indeed had some odd careers.  Some had a famous role... and then nothing.  There are even a couple of Oscar nominees.  Several were young and simply never graduated to adult roles.  Some come from acting families and didn't make the cut.  Some were very talented.  Let's see who they are.

Linda Blair, of course, played Regan in one of the most famous movies ever made, The Exorcist (1973).  No one could ever forget her head-turning, vomit-spewing, obscenity-laden performance as a possessed young girl at odds with the devil. Whether one considers it a good or great performance or a gimmicky one, it provided her, at age 14, with an Oscar-nomination and ever-lasting, worldwide fame. 

She received some bad press because it was learned she didn't perform certain parts of the movie.  (Like that never happens...!) She performed well in a couple of TV movies that got some mention but then forever more appeared in some just plain silly films, including the unsurprising Exorcist sequel in 1977, and a bit of lunacy passing as one of those Airport sequels.  Her very public bust for cocaine at age 18 seemed to spell the end for any hopes of an A-list career.

I wonder who managed her career.  Either someone didn't have high hopes for her or they didn't give her career the attention any hopeful would need.  Regardless, she certainly turned her back on Hollywood as they had done to her when her passion and compassion for animals was turned into the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation which is dedicated to abused, neglected and abandoned animals.

Susan Blakely, like many others, I suspect, got into the movies because she was good-looking.  I also suspect that her heart was never really into it and without that, there's not much of a chance of longevity in the movie business. She would never really have a great movie role although she staked a little claim in television.

Born into a U.S. military family in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1948, she lived all over the world and she was able to add sophistication and education to her beauty perks.  She left college to move to New York to become a model and she became a successful one. Someone suggested she try acting and soon she and a new husband moved to California to see what was there for them.

She was a little too antiseptic in film roles such as The Lords of Flatbush and The Towering Inferno, both 1974, and the excellent Capone (1975).  Her television career was a little shinier in the lead female role in the popular miniseries, Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), and as mentally ill actress, Frances Farmer, in Will There Really Be a Morning? (1983).  She continued working on television for years and then became a jewelry designer.

Lois Chiles had a smoldering sexuality, was well-spoken, poised and usually appeared as characters who thought well of themselves and were often murder victims,  Her acting style, on the other hand, was a little too low-key to register the kind of excitement many might have expected of her.  Despite never having much of a film career, she will always be a trivia question due to her being one of the Bond girls. 

She was born into a wealthy family in Houston, Texas, in 1947. She studied at the University of Texas at Austin and finished up at the veddy, veddy prominent Finch College in New York.  Her striking looks attracted Glamour Magazine and she became a top model. She easily segued into movies and had the great fortune to appear in two Robert Redford movies... as his college sweetheart in The Way We Were (1973) and a bitchy golf pro in The Great Gatsby the following year.  In 1978 she was a murder victim in both Coma and Death on the Nile.

Then came her date with James Bond in Moonraker (1979) as NASA astronaut scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead.  When her beloved brother died, she took off three years from her fledgling career and it never recovered its momentum.  She slipped into the great Hollywood wasteland of small roles in a couple of bigger flicks, bigger roles in smaller movies and TV guest shots.  She didn't marry until her 50s and apparently decided making it a success was more important that being an actress.

Lisa Eichhorn appeared burnt from a white diamond talent when first seen by most of us in John Schlesinger's WWII drama Yanks (1979).  She played the perfect English rose opposite Richard Gere as one of the brash Americans occupying her country for a spell.  I quickly spotted her in a smaller role in James Ivory's The Europeans (1979) and was so sure she was on her way to the top of the stardom pole.  But it never happened.

She wasn't an English rose after all.  Born in New York in 1952, she spent a school term in Norway as an exchange student and then enrolled in college in Ontario where she discovered a passion for English and acting. Then she transferred to a university in Oxford where Alan Rickman spotted her and recommend that she attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  Upon graduation she embarked on a great deal of work on the stage and the telly.

In 1981 she had a showy part as John Heard's alcoholic wife in Cutter's Way but she continued to languish in small roles in films and more interesting ones on the stage. In 2003 she returned to live in England where she continues to act and also teaches.

Kay Lenz seemed like a good actress back in the day. She always reminded me a bit of Raquel Welch in facial looks and a sometimes fiery temperament.  Born in 1953 in Los Angeles to a showbiz family, she started out in local television shows and graduated to network shows.  Her first movie role in American Graffiti (1973) was as a girl at a dance and didn't amount to much but it must have gotten her noticed by Clint Eastwood. 

He hired her as the flower child drifter who becomes infatuated with a lonely, older man (William Holden) in a 1973 piece of whimsy called Breezy.  It remains her most prominent role but unfortunately no one went to see it.  Had it been more successful, she might have become a big star but it didn't and she isn't.

She managed some leading roles in the films White Line Fever (1975), The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday (1976) and The Passage (1979), but has clearly remained what she's really always been, a television actress.

Glynnis O'Connor is another actress from a showbiz family.  She was born to a producer and an actress in 1955 Long Island.  Her brother is also an actor.  She has acted since childhood and one could say she nailed down the sensitive, good-mannered but usually frustrated teenage girl roles.  

She was adorable opposite Robby Benson in the teen romance drama, Jeremy (1973), and soon they were an item and fodder for the showbiz newshawks.  It didn't hurt their press that they appeared in a movie version of singer Bobbie Gentry's popular song, Ode to Billy Joe (1976) and then again as the romantic young couple of a TV version of Our Town (1979).  She has done a lot of good television work.

In 1980 she made what I consider to be her best film, the little-seen but utterly delightful Those Lips, Those Eyes, with Tom Hulce and Frank Langella, about a traveling summer stock company and the often painstaking process of putting on a show.  I would so recommend you get a look.  I don't know why her star diminished but I am saddened that it did.

Steve Railsback 
has commanded my complete attention in the three things I have seen him in.  His intense, completely mesmerizing performances are simply unforgettable.  He wanted to go into acting ever since appearing in Cinderella on stage in his native Texas when he was a child.  He managed to get himself to Manhattan and into the famed Actors Studio and he performed in a number of plays.

His most acclaimed work is most certainly in the three movies I have seen.  They all came between 1976 and 1980.  The first two are both television movies and as a rule I skim over most television work in these pages but that is not possible when discussing Railsback.  No one would ever be able to forget his chilling turn as Charles Manson in Helter Skelter (1976).  The performance is emblazoned in my brain and that fact may be why his career never accelerated in the way he may have wished.  Think Linda Blair.  In a complete change of pace, he played the former Montgomery Clift role in the TV adaptation of the magnificent From Here to Eternity (1979).  His thoughtful, heartbreaking performance helped make the miniseries all it was.

In 1980 he went blond and played a drifter who ambles onto an outdoor movie set and accidentally becomes The Stunt Man (1980). While avoiding the law, he falls for the leading lady.  An absolutely delicious black comedy, it costars Peter O'Toole and Barbara Hershey.  I've never seen Railsback in another film and most of you haven't either... and he still works.  Most of his roles are in one way or another weirdos, and then thinking back to Helter Skelter, perhaps we're onto something in his lack of great opportunity.  Too bad because he is a very fine actor.

Brandon Routh has been enveloped in one of the great Hollywood plagues.  Like child actors who don't have adult careers or famous singers who can't make it as actors, Routh has played a famous role and has never been able to find his mojo in the movies since. That role, of course, was Superman.

Born in 1979 he attended his home state's the University of Iowa and appeared in a number of plays at the state's Norwalk Theater of Performing Arts.  He modeled to make ends meet.  Unlike other actors who played Superman, Christopher Reeve, Tom Welling and Henry Cavill, Routh, as a child, was crazy about the character and dressed like him, collected comic books and saw all the movies and TV shows.

He'd been hanging around Hollywood for awhile, auditioning for work all the time when in 2006 he was tapped for the lead role in Superman Returns.  He had the looks... a handsome face, a muscular bod and a nice set of locks... but he lacked charisma. The movie was not a success nor could the rest of his career make that claim.  He has done much television and a few utterly forgettable movies.  The only one I've ever seen other than Superman Returns is Flings (2008), a thriller about open relationships.  It costars Courtney Ford, who became Mrs. Routh.

John Savage has likely made more films and had a greater brush with fame than most anyone included here.  Early in his career he appeared in a few famous and even Oscar-winning pictures, but then what happened?  The answer to that... and I don't really have one... is why he is included among those who've had odd careers.  One might think he's not been working but he has an astonishing (!) 24 movies awaiting release, in post production or filming.  On the other hand, few of us will see any of them because they won't likely be playing in your local cinemas.

Born in New York in 1949, he developed performing instincts very early and as a result attended the American Academy of Performing Arts where they were honed.  He appeared in a number of Broadway productions and then moved to Hollywood in the early 70s and made a number of B films and TV movies. From 1978-80, he had impressive leads in four good films.  He was the soldier who returned home with no legs in The Deer Hunter, the corn-fed visitor to New York's Central Park who tunes in and drops out in the rock-musical Hair, one of two kidnapped cops in The Onion Field and as a failed suicide victim in Inside Moves.  He seemed poised for the big time.

It never happened.  Along the way he became an activist (anti-apartheid was his passion) and perhaps his attention on acting had taken a back seat.   He managed some smaller roles in a few bigger films over the years (Salvador, Do the Right Thing, The Crossing Guard, White Squall, Little Boy Blue) but it is odd indeed that this once promising actor drifted into the great movie abyss.

Daniel Truhitte may not be a name you know but you have most likely seen him in the only movie he ever made... The Sound of Music (1965).  He played Rolf, the young Nazi, who dances and romances Leisl as they sing Sixteen Going on Seventeen in and around that glass gazebo. He was originally turned down for the role because he is a brunette but he bleached his hair, belted out a few chords to the song and the rest, as they say, is history.

I never knew anything about him but was sure he must have been snatched out of some picturesque Austrian village for his big chance but nooooo.  He was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California.  He began dance training at age six and voice lessons at 10.  He eventually won scholarships to the Sacramento Ballet and later to the famed Pasadena Playhouse.

Most of his life he has lived in North Carolina teaching young performers.  He has appeared in a number of musical plays, including a turn as Captain von Trapp in a local North Carolina production.  I have always wondered why he was never included in any of the tributes or reunions of TSOM cast over the past 50 years.

Did you miss the first posting on odd careers? 

Next posting:
The Great Kahn

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