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Movie Stars You Forgot Were in a TV Series

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Oh, how quickly we forget. A good many of the actors we’ve come to love on the big screen spent at least part of their career on the little screen. Sometimes it was when they were just starting out, and other times it came much later. Either way, it’s entertaining to see these stars in a different setting.

JIMMY STEWART

It’s hard to picture the great Jimmy Stewart in a TV series, but he actually did two of them! First came “The Jimmy Stewart Show,” 1971-72, in which he played a college professor. Despite tons of publicity, it lasted only one season. He tried again in “Hawkins,” a 1973-74 series about a country lawyer. It fared no better.

SANDRA BULLOCK

Many years before winning her Oscar, Bullock starred in 1990’s TV version of the hit movie “Working Girl.” The show was pulled after a dozen episodes.

CLINT EASTWOOD

Clint, on the other hand, was a TV success story. He played Rowdy Yates on the hit western, “Rawhide.” The show, about the adventures of the longest cattle drive in history, ran from 1959-65. Clint, it should be noted, was not the main character – a situation he would rectify in his subsequent film career.

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO

Leo has been in two series: “Growing Pains,” in 1991; and “Parenthood,” in 1990. It’s unlikely we’ll see him again as a TV regular until his movie success winds down. Which brings us to …

TONY CURTIS

Curtis tried TV twice. He was the star of “McCoy,” a mercifully short-lived drama from 1975-76, and “The Persuaders,” an absolute guilty pleasure from 1971-72. In “The Persuaders,” Tony played a very cool, very American adventurer in England. His co-star was Roger Moore, pre-007.

HALLE BERRY

In 1989, a young Halle Berry was part of “Living Dolls,” a show about a teen modeling agency. That’s a young Leah Remini in the photo, lower right.

BING CROSBY

Yep, Der Bingle did a TV series. But, in keeping with his cool, unruffled image, he didn’t stray far from his comfort zone. In “The Bing Crosby Show,” 1964-65, he played an ex-entertainer who was attempting to lead an ordinary, domestic life with his wife and two kids. As you would expect, his answer to most problems involved singing.

TOM HANKS

Lots of people will remember Hanks from his TV series days, but it’s still amazing to think that a two-time Academy Award winner once starred in a 1980-82 sitcom in which he played a guy named Kip who pretended to be a woman named Buffy – in order to get a decent apartment.

CHARLES BRONSON

Classic movie tough-guy Bronson did multiple tours of duty in TV series. He played an adventurous photographer in “Man With A Camera,” 1958-60; a ranch hand in “Empire,” 1962-63; and leader of a wagon train in “The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters,” 1963-64. In that last one, his character was Linc Murdock, a much more suitable name for him than Jaimie McPheeters (a young Kurt Russell).

DENZEL WASHINGTON

Mr. Washington was an excellent part of the ensemble in one of my favorite shows, “St. Elsewhere,” from 1982-88. The incredible cast also included David Morse, Ed Flanders and, yes, Howie Mandel.

SHIRLEY MacLAINE

“Shirley’s World,” featuring MacLaine as a magazine photographer and writer, had one season only, 1971-72. But it had a real international flavor, with much of the show set in England.

GEORGE C. SCOTT

By far the most interesting TV series work the great Scott did was “East Side/West Side,” 1963-64, in which he played a crusading social worker in New York City. One of his co-stars was Cicely Tyson. Later, Scott did some uneven series work: “Mr. President,” 1987-88, a comedy about a U.S. president; “Traps,” 1994, in which he played a retired cop; and “New York News,” 1995, set at a newspaper.

HENRY FONDA

It was something of a big deal when Fonda starred in “The Smith Family,” a 1971-72 drama about a police detective. What many viewers had forgotten was that Fonda played a marshal in “The Deputy,” from 1959-61.

MICKEY ROONEY

Mickey has done tons of TV during his long career, including at least five series. I’m only going to mention one of them: a 1982 comedy called “One of the Boys,” in which his co-stars were Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane. Now that’s entertainment!

MORGAN FREEMAN

This one’s my favorite. Morgan Freeman, an actor whose work I dearly love in films, also has a place in TV history as a member of “The Electric Company.” This kids’ show from 1971-77 afforded him the chance to play such characters as Dracula and the utterly sublime Easy Reader. Well done, sir.

Well, that gets things started. Which great examples did I forget?

Classic Oscar Make-Goods

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Now that the Oscar nominations are out, we all have an excuse to rummage through our vast knowledge of Academy Awards minutiae. For instance, what are the most blatant cases of Oscar make-goods? You know, instances where the Academy tried to make up for a previous error in judgement. It never works, as you’ll see.

JAMES STEWART IN “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY” (1940)

Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors, but he just didn’t deserve the Oscar for lead actor in 1940. He was great in the part, as a news reporter sent to cover a society wedding and getting in over his head, but he wasn’t even the lead actor in his own film – Cary Grant was. Plus, Henry Fonda gave a terrific performance in “The Grapes of Wrath” the same year. Most likely, Jimmy got the nod because of the previous year, when he didn’t win for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Shucks.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR IN “BUTTERFIELD 8” (1960)

By most accounts, Liz was a lock for the best actress Oscar in 1960 because she’d taken seriously ill just before Academy members did their voting and she got lots of sympathy support. She’d certainly been in better movies than this one, about a woman who sleeps around and pays emotional consequences. In particular, there was “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1958.

PAUL NEWMAN IN “THE COLOR OF MONEY” (1986)

It bordered on criminal that Newman hadn’t won an acting Oscar before “The Color of Money,” where he revisited the character of Fast Eddie Felson from “The Hustler.” You had “HUD,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Verdict” and “The Hustler” itself in previous years. Not only that, but just one year earlier, Newman had received an honorary Oscar for his body of work. When it came to Paul Newman, the Academy never got the timing right.

AL PACINO IN “SCENT OF A WOMAN” (1992)

This is the example most people remember, because it was so ridiculous. Seriously? Pacino gets best actor for his blind Army officer in “Scent of a Woman,” rather than for “Godfather II” or “Dog Day Afternoon”? Clearly, this was a bid to honor Pacino’s entire career. The problem is, it robbed another fine actor, who would need a make-good Oscar of his own in our next example…

DENZEL WASHINGTON IN “TRAINING DAY” (2001)

Back in 1992, when Pacino was chewing up the scenery in “Scent of a Woman,” Washington was earning raves as the lead in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X.” Washington lost that Oscar race, obviously. Several years later, he lost again despite a great performance in “The Hurricane.” So along comes the less ambitious “Training Day,” and he wins. Although I liked “Training Day” very much, I thought the Oscar here was a sentimental choice.

MARTIN SCORSESE FOR “THE DEPARTED” (2006)

Don’t get me wrong. “The Departed” is a good film and Scorsese deserves to have a directing Oscar. But no one in their right mind believes “The Departed” is a better film than “Raging Bull” or “GoodFellas.” This was just a matter of course correction.

So those are my Oscar make-goods. What are yours?