Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Guest Who! Passing the Baton

Today we peer at a notable television guest star combo that signifies a changing of the guard, an out with the old and in with the new, if you will. Here we see a baton-wielding ruler, Cyd Charisse, as she runs herd over a secret colony of women in a 1978 episode of Fantasy Island.

Charisse was an MGM dancer who rose from supporting parts in a variety of movies (such as Singin' in the Rain, 1952) to the status of leading lady in several legendary musicals from The Bandwagon (1953) to Brigadoon (1954) to Silk Stockings (1957), among others. When the hey day of movie musicals began to wane, she attempted to branch out into dramatic parts (as in Two Weeks in Another Town, 1962) as well as comic roles, but the demise of Marilyn Monroe and the subsequent cancellation of "Something's Got to Give" (1962), in which Charisse had a showy role, stalled things considerably.

By 1978, her roles in movies and on TV were sporadic and the films included campy, low-budget fare such as Warlords of the Deep (1978.) Thus, here she was playing another exotic, imperious, mysterious type in sequins and chiffon. She was not called upon to demonstrate a particularly wide variety of expressions!
She would work on TV less than ten times after this, mostly in cameo roles. Her Queen Delphia was part of the fantasy of Robert Morse, who sought the Island of Lost Women for its variety of pleasures. He thinks it's an honor to be selected as King of the Harvest because he gets to choose as many wives for the occasion as he wants, but soon discovers that he'll also be burned on a pyre the following morning!

Among his bevy of admirers is this blonde cupcake, making her on-screen debut. (And already flexing her acting muscles in finding the grating Robert Morse sexually appealing!)

In a wholly unnecessary and completely decorous role, it's the first credited part for Michelle Pfeiffer!
It's rather fascinating to watch a selection of other young actresses, none with the physical appeal or inner luminosity equivalent to Pfeiffer, take center stage in the episode while she is relegated to a line or two and the occasional reaction shot, knowing that she would one day emerge as a top leading lady in Hollywood films.

She was hardly idle after this, though. She immediately went into the short-lived series Delta House (1979), based upon the movie Animal House (1978), followed by another fizzle, 1980's B.A.D. Cats, about cops who investigate auto thefts. The high-profile bust Grease 2 (1982) was followed by Scarface (1983) and a run of hits that also gleaned her three Oscar nominations (for Dangerous Liaisons, 1988, The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989, and Love Field, 1992. She lost to Geena Davis in The Accidental Tourist, Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy and Emma Thompson in Howard's End.) She is, today, fifty-seven, one year older than Charisse was when she filmed this Island episode! However, she remains in demand for the occasional feature film, working only when she feels compelled to do so.


Gingerguy said...

Wow fab, I don't remember this episode and would have thought it was "Wonder Woman" from the pics. I remember a very late career Cyd dancing in a 90's Janet Jackson video. She looks great here. I love Michelle Pfieffer, and recently watched "Scarface" from this period, as well as "The Witches Of Eastwick", she was and is so gorgeous and really good. There are some actresses that are so much more interesting when they play "bad" and I have to say that Michelle is way more interesting to me now. "Stardust" is great and she is hilarious in "The Family" and my favorite of her roles, "Dark Shadows" I think I love her more now than ever. Great post.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

I think she was nominated for Supporting Actress for Dangerous Liaisons, no? Because no one was getting in the way of Glenn Close trying to get that Best Actress Oscar.

Michelle is so frustrating to me because she is just too lazy/picky and we never get to see enough of her.

Oh, and Cyd must have had the best plastic surgeon in town because she looked just like this for years. The best revenge!

Poseidon3 said...

Oh Gawd... Of course, Dave! I'll fix that lickety-split. I'm blaming the two prescriptions I'm on for a deadly sinus infection for this one. LOL I can barely breathe or focus on anything. Thanks for pointing that out!

Anonymous said...

I've always loved Michelle Pfeiffer, too bad she isn't in movies, good movies, more often.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

No big deal, I just wanted to know who she lost to in 1988. Looks like it was Geena Davis. I think at the time they made the correct choice, but it still means that Michelle is Oscar-less and she works so little that the opportunity to get one (and her age) means she's probably out of luck. Oh well, I don't think she really cares.

rico said...

Cyd combined the best of clean living with skilled cosmetic surgery...she "aged" beautifully, Hollywood style. Gorgeous and a great dancer, but no strong dramatic or comedic skills, which is why her star faded quickly after leaving her Shangri-la of MGM.

Michelle, on the other hand, developed into a strong actress, and even here, is an obvious standout in the beauty and charisma dept.!

John Gray said...

You forgot susan franklin from Towering Inferno!