Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Guest Who: The Most with the Least

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!


petercox97 said...

plumb would know all about adopting a little lady of the evening persona from her breakout role in dawn: portrait of a teenaged runaway back from nbc's movie of the week glory days back in 1976. the only thing hooter than dawn serving it up for bucks was watching leigh mcckloskey be gay for pay in alexander: the other side of dawn.

Roberta Steve said...

Poseidon, this was hilarious. My sisters and I loved Fantasy Island! Such cheesy casting and acting. And when they did a "serious" story, it was absolutely cheesetastic! I mean Jan Brady as Nellie Olson's about-to-die mother from the past who is a now a hooker in the future? Huh? I miss Aaron Spelling's genius every day!

Since Jan was always the morose, flat liner Brady, I guess the Fantasy Island producers thought she was Meryl Streep next to Marcia and Jan.

My favorite "serious" Fantasy Island plot was when a wife had to tell her husband she was raped. What acting Titans did they cast? Markie Post and Larry Wilcox! Full disclosure: I had a huge crush on Wilcox. Despite my crush, I knew cheese when I saw it!

I can totally understand these "stars" wanting to show us they were trained actors and could be believable in roles outside of how they were typecast. But on Fantasy Island? Gosh, I guess in Hollywood you do what you have to do to pay the bills and pad the resume!

As for the other storyline, I vaguely remember it except I thought the girl was Cheryl Ladd not MIchele Pfeiffer. I get my 70s blondes mixed up. I loved how Ralph Malph is billed as "Donald" Most. Donald does drama; Donny does comedy. I guess Fantasy Island was a step up from Happy Days.

Pfeiffer was absolutely drop dead gorgeous and it's no wonder that her career took off like a rocket. I know we can all snark about how unbelievable it is for a guy who looks like Donny, oops, Donald Most could end up with a gal who looks like Pfeiffer. Let's not forget that in real life she dated dorky Fisher Stevens foe several years. Who knows, maybe Ralph Mslph could have scored!

Thanks again Poseidon!

Gingerguy said...

"Happy Days" was one of those shows I watched on automatic pilot, so Donny Most didn't do much for me (and 80's hair and moustache didn't do much for him), but I do remember thinking it was unique to have two redheads on one show that weren't brothers. Michelle was gorgeous, I never remember seeing her before "Grease 2". But that whole plot is easy to forget next to Jan Brady back in hooker gear! LOL, it's outrageous! I got bootlegs of "Dawn" and "Alexander" a while back and still marvel at how sleazy they were for the time, more exploitation than expose. You notice everything Poseidon and the purse is hilarious, who would time travel without a purse? I love Nellie Oleson as a satin lady. She does a cabaret act called "Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch" that plays around at least once a year, so she seems to have a great sense of humor still. I would love to hear her talk about this episode. I loved this posting. A show I always thought of as boring is seen anew through the lens of the underworld.

Poseidon3 said...

Peter, it's been ALTOGETHER too long since I saw "Dawn" and "Alexander." I haven't seen "Dawn" since it aired and I was a tyke and "Alexander" was on WTBS or TNT back in the early-90s or something! I need to revisit those badly.

Roberta, your comments were a hooty scream... Love the choices of adjectives and descriptions. I never even caught the Donald vs Don (or Donny!) thing... Gawd. And I definitely do recall Michelle with Fisher Stevens. It stood out as unbelievable to me at the time. And I really do get that true love isn't limited to such surface things as looks, but sometimes you just want great looking people to be together! Ha! Funny, though, how great looking people aren't knocking down my door. Maybe I'm not quite unattractive ENOUGH! I'll have to get to work on that, so I can land a hunk.

Gingerguy, Donny had his amusing moments on "Happy Days," particularly towards the beginning, but by the time of this episode of FI, with that mess of bushy hair and grody stache, he was really pretty annoying. I also recall the classic "Stewardess School" which he starred in. Lord help us all. Thank you for noticing my noticing. Ha! I had a female roomie for two years while in a career change and she was OBSESSED with purses. She got me to look at them for the first time ever. Her biggest pet peeve ever was the use of those huge, flat, envelope-like ones that were all over in the 80s & early-'90s. She swore there was never anything in them at all, they were so narrow... I REALLY liked Arngrim's autobiography of the same name as her show, too, though it was very sad to know some of the horrible things she endured, especially from her shitheel of a brother Stefan. She found a way to let humor help her heal. A great gal.

Gingerguy said...

Speak of the devil. Donny Most-Sings and Swings!