Tell me if you’ve had this experience. You’re watching a classic film, really enjoying it, when suddenly – BAM! – some celeb pops up completely at random, in a minor role. Throws you off a bit, doesn’t it? In that spirit, here are 11 examples of folks who have no business distracting us from our viewing pleasure.
JOHN RATZENBERGER IN “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”
I have to say, seeing Cliff from “Cheers” in the best film of the “Star Wars” saga doesn’t leave me with a good feeling about the Rebel Alliance, upon repeat viewings. His big line has to do with closing the Hoth base shield doors, I believe. Here’s something even more surprising: Mr. Ratzenberger also appeared in “Gandhi.” How do you go from India and a galaxy far, far away to a barstool in Boston? Gotta be the ‘stache!
CARL ‘ALFALFA’ SWITZER IN “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”
Any fan of “The Little Rascals” has to raise an eyebrow at the classic “swimming pool” scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There’s good, old Alfalfa, causing trouble by opening up the indoor swimming pool underneath the high school gym, as a way to get back at Jimmy Stewart. You half expect to see Spanky and Buckwheat crash the party in a homemade go-kart. Say, what’s the big idea?
SAMUEL L. JACKSON IN “GOODFELLAS”
You KNOW something is amiss when gangster Joe Pesci pays a call on a low-level hood and Samuel L. Jackson opens the apartment door! What happens next is an even clearer indication that this classic Scorsese flick was shot before Jackson became a big star.
DON RICKLES IN “RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP”
This photo says it all. Burt Lancaster! Clark Gable! Don Rickles! Wait, what? Rickles has always dabbled in drama, but it was never so jarring as his turn in the great submarine war story, “Run Silent, Run Deep.” It’s a good part for comedy’s “Mr. Warmth,” but he didn’t get to call anyone a hockey puck even once.
ROBERT DUVALL IN “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”
Duvall never has a problem with the occasional bit part. Yet his appearance as Boo Radley in “To Kill A Mockingbird” remains truly memorable, decades after the fact. He does as much with this haunted, halting shadow of a man as he later would do with swaggering soldiers, singers and cowboys.
KATHY GRIFFIN IN “PULP FICTION”
Luckily, the oddity of seeing comic Kathy Griffin show up as a bystander in “Pulp Fiction” seems to fit right in with the edgy vibe of the movie. The only thing that would make it better is if she started riffing on John Travolta’s hair or Uma Thurman’s outfit.
WILLIAM SHATNER IN “JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG”
You may have asked yourself, “Did the Shat ever work with Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich?” Well, he did. Long before “Star Trek” and Priceline.com came along, Shatner emoted alongside those Hollywood Giants in “Judgment at Nuremberg,” a 1961 movie about a military tribunal in Germany after World War II. And! He! Didn’t! Overact!
RICHARD DREYFUSS IN “THE GRADUATE”
Tiny part here, but Dreyfuss gets some decent face time in the second half of “The Graduate.” He plays a student living in the same rooming house as Dustin Hoffman, when landlord Norman Fell begins to suspect that Hoffman is one of those “outside agitators.”
MARILYN MONROE IN “ALL ABOUT EVE”
Here’s an amazing, 1950 film about an ambitious young actress trying to supplant an older, highly successful actress, played by Bette Davis. But is the iconic Marilyn Monroe playing the ruthless young woman? No. She’s a side character, totally irrelevant to the plot. It’s amazing how Monroe’s later status completely changes the way you take in the movie now.
GEORGE REEVES IN “GONE WITH THE WIND”
Folks of a certain age will understand how utterly distracting it is to watch the first part of “Gone With the Wind” and discover that one of Scarlet O’Hara’s suitors is none other than Superman! George Reeves, the tragically typecast star of TV’s “Superman” in the 1950s, also appeared in “Knute Rockne All American” and “Rancho Notorious,” before Metropolis consumed him.
TED KNIGHT IN “PSYCHO”
This one is my absolute favorite. Here, you’ve been on the edge of your seat through all the visceral, creepy shenanigans of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” – including the shower scene – and you’re ready for the big finish. Anthony Perkins is cooling his heels in the local lock-up, waiting to give you one last surprise. But then, who steps out of the doorway? Ted Baxter from the “Mary Tyler Moore Show”!? Wow. Didn’t see that one coming.
I’m sure there are some other great examples. I’m all ears.