One of these days I'm going to let up with my recent fixation on visitors to Fantasy Island (1977- 1984.) But not just yet... Last fall, I had a post which documented MGM leading lady Cyd Charisse guest-starring alongside acting neophyte Michelle Pfeiffer, who had a teensy role in her TV debut. Now we're back once more, but this time our Michelle, who has costarred in movies opposite such actors as Al Pacino, Jeff Bridges, Daniel Day Lewis, Harrison Ford and others, is paired with... wait for it... "Ralph Malph" of Happy Days (1974-1983)! Yes, Donny Most is checking into Fantasy Island and his fantasy isn't even to land a hot chick.
Most, who plays an art teacher of dubious talent, is there to become - just for once in his life - a great painter! For reasons known only to the screenwriters of the series, he proceeds to go about this by painting a large mural of a semi-nude woman on the side of a white shack. (Because all "great" artists are on the level of advertisements for sunscreen or shaving lotion, not painting something on canvas that might have some sort of everlasting impact...) He has also, for reasons unknown, given his subject not one, but two beauty marks on her backside. Two female guests on the island happen to have one of these apiece, which raises no small amount of ruckus for their boyfriends.
One of them is Michelle Pfeiffer, there for a visit with ex-movie Tarzan Mike Henry (whose fluffy, dyed hair is making him look older instead of younger.) He is mystified as to how Most could know about Pfeiffer's birthmark when they only arrived the day before and starts to blame her for fooling around (and punches Most in the face, as well.)
For her part, she's utterly captivated by the artwork and stares at it in amazement, claiming that "it could be me," even though the naked lady in question has huge, pendulous boobs and, well, our Michelle does not. Unlike Pfeiffer's prior appearance on the show, when you had to look quick to spot her, this episode features several loving close-ups of her dewy-fresh beauty. No wonder that this same year, 1981, she began to work regularly in feature films and scarcely looked back to the small screen.
Feeling that she just has to meet the artist who rendered this portrait of "her," she heads to Most's bungalow and before long has fallen head over heels for him. (They don't call it Fantasy Island for nothin', folks.)
There's more to the story, including how Most used a special paintbrush on loan from a resident artist (played with a dazzlingly bad Irish broague by Peter Brown) and so he doesn't actually possess the talent that Pfeiffer admires so much. But somehow she remains incredibly attracted to the utterly-resistable Most.
By the time they're ready to leave, Henry has been all but forgotten and Most and Pfeiffer are ready to fly off into the sunset and live happily ever after!
Considering the caliber of leading men we're used to seeing her with, it is positively jarring to see her canoodling with someone like this. But it was all uphill from here. Not only was her movie career beginning in earnest, but within a decade she'd be an Oscar nominee (for 1988's Dangerous Liaisons, losing to Geena Davis - who also appeared on Island in 1984! - for The Accidental Tourist.) Two more noms would follow: 1989's The Fabulous Baker Boys (with the award going to Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy) and 1992's Love Field (this time with Emma Thompson taking home the golden boy for Howard's End.)
And now a bonus guest star featurette. The other story from this episode features on Eve Plumb of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) and the more recent The Brady Brides (1981.) She plays a woman eight months pregnant who is fully aware that she will die upon the baby's birth. Her fantasy is to take a glimpse into the future and see how her child's life will emerge after she's gone.
Mr. Rourke (Ricardo Montalban) shows her one of three stages in her soon-to-be-born child's life. First up, she sees her husband teaching their little blonde daughter how to ride a bike. (Astonishingly, for this very brief, Christmas Carol-like trip, in which no one can see Plumb or speak to her, she feels the need to bring along her PURSE!)
On closer inspection, we find that Plumb's five year-old daughter is being enacted by none other than Heather O'Rourke, making her very first acting appearance! The very next year, O'Rourke would become a world-wide sensation for her role as "Carol Anne" in Poltergeist, entering the cultural zeitgeist for all time with her mysterious remark in front of a snowy TV screen, "They're here..."
O'Rourke would also proceed to appear on Happy Days from 1982-1983 as the daughter of Fonzie's love interest. There were other TV appearances and two Poltergeist sequels. However, in a saddening event that shocked the world, O'Rourke died at only age twelve from complications related to a bowel obstruction. The complicated circumstances of her illness and death led to a malpractice suit (settled out of court) and rumors of a curse upon the movie series.
After a brief visit with Plumb's daughter at age twelve (by an actress whose career was very short-lived), we check in again with her as a young lady. Um... lady of the evening, that is! It seems our little blonde beauty has grown up to become a runaway, street-walking prostitute! As if we weren't sure what was up with her reporting to a pimp (and it's nice to see that almost two decades into the future at this point, pimps are still wearing tight polyester pants, open shirts and gold chains!), there's even a red light in the frame so we know what sort of district this is!
But who's playing the daughter now? Why, it's Alison Arngrim, "Nellie Oleson" of Little House on the Prairie (1974-1982), clearly trying to break out of her ringlet and petticoat mold. It seems that the girl felt closed off from her father after he remarried and, with no real mother to turn to, ran away and eventually turned to hooking in order to get by.
Plumb, desperate to help her daughter, begs Mr. Rourke to allow her to become visible in the flesh so that she can rectify the situation. He relents and she instantaneously becomes un-pregnant and, in a hooty twist, dresses up like a prostitute herself in order to get to Arngrim and convince her to reach out to her father for help, all the while unable to reveal to the young girl just who she really is.
Plumb does succeed in getting Arngrim out of there and back to her father, but, in a rare unhappy ending for this series, she is still going to die once she's back in the real world and giving birth. In order to soothe her angst about it, she's given a 5x7 glossy by Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize) of the grown Arngrim, her handsome husband and their young son, signifying that all will be well in the future! Lord knows how she's going to explain this picture to her husband once she gets back from the trip and unpacks. In true "Marsha, Marsha, MARSHA!" form, Maureen McCormick had guest-starred on the episode just prior to this one and left the island in love!
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