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A Cavalcade of Movie Cameos

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A well-executed movie cameo is a beautiful thing. It jump-starts an ordinary film and propels a good film to greatness. These are some of my favorites.

TOM CRUISE IN “TROPIC THUNDER” (2008)

Cruise is stunning in this cameo – and totally unrecognizable as studio mogul Les Grossman. His end-of-the-movie dance scene? Crazily hypnotic. I’m not kidding.

WILL FERRELL IN “WEDDING CRASHERS” (2005)

There’s a high degree of difficulty to Ferrell’s cameo in “Wedding Crashers.” His character is mentioned several times in larger-than-life terms, and you don’t really expect to see him. When we do see him at the end of the film, Ferrell makes him one notch wilder than anyone else. He’s the right guy for the job.

ALEC BALDWIN IN “GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS” (1992)

So here’s the Cameo King. Baldwin delivers an electrifying motivational speech from Hell in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” It’s the kind of performance that elevates an entire career. It’s also a performance I’ve quoted from for years. Just hope that Mitch & Murray from Downtown never send this guy to your office.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK IN “NORTH BY NORTHWEST” (1959)

As many fans are aware, Hitchcock loved to make a cameo appearance in films he directed. My favorite was in the title sequence of “North by Northwest,” where he is trying to catch a bus. Rather than just being funny or odd, these cameos added a sinister sense that things are not what they seem to be.

DREW BARRYMORE IN “SCREAM” (1996)

Barrymore sets a terrific tone for the movie. She’s having fun with the role AND she’s taking it seriously, by screaming her little heart out.

TIM ROBBINS, BEN STILLER, LUKE WILSON IN “ANCHORMAN” (2004)

I absolutely love this scene. A bunch of TV people from rival San Diego stations go all “Gangs of New York” on Will Ferrell in “Anchorman.” Watch out for Tim Robbins as a hoodlum from PBS.

THE THREE STOOGES IN “IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD” (1963)

This cameo is perfect because it understands you don’t even have to have the Three Stooges say anything. Just give the audience a chance to see them full-on and pause the camera a couple of seconds.

BILL MURRAY IN “ZOMBIELAND” (2009)

Murray is sheer heaven playing himself – playing a zombie. Like all great cameos, it comes straight out of the blue, like finding money in the street. And get this: Bill makes comments on his actual movie career, while playing a version of himself pretending to be a zombie.

GENE HACKMAN IN “YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN” (1974)

With his long gray beard, it’s hard to tell this is Hackman playing a blind man opposite Peter Boyle’s monster. Hackman handles the scene’s simple shtick with superb comic timing.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN “TERMINATOR: SALVATION” (2009)

Just when you think a “Terminator” movie can’t offer any more surprises, along comes a digital effect that places a young Arnold back into the futuristic saga. Truly amazing.

CLINT EASTWOOD IN “CASPER” (1995)

You mean you didn’t see the 1995 movie version of Casper the Friendly Ghost? Don’t worry – it’ll be on cable several times this month for Halloween. Look for Clint to pop up in a wonderfully silly scene in a mirror.

TOM CRUISE, GWYNETH PALTROW, DANNY DEVITO, JOHN TRAVOLTA IN “AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER” (2002)

Mike Myers cast his movie-within-a-movie brilliantly. It seems as if Cruise, Paltrow & company enjoyed themselves as much as the audience.

RICHARD BURTON IN “WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?” (1965)

Burton’s cameo is so fleeting I couldn’t even find a picture of it. This was a 60s hipster cameo in a hipster movie from a hipster era. Burton is on the screen only a moment, rubbing elbows with pal Peter O’Toole in a strip club. O’Toole yells out, “Say hello to what’s her name!” It’s a reference to Burton’s wife, Elizabeth Taylor.

MIKE TYSON IN “THE HANGOVER” (2009)

Casting Tyson was inspired. I think it works particularly well because Iron Mike isn’t even the second or third strangest twist in the plot. Events are so far out of control that Tyson is able to play it low-key, making it ever so cool.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IN “HIGH FIDELITY” (2000)

Springsteen’s appearance here is a classic, fantasy cameo. He shows up to offer John Cusack some soulful, sage advice.

BRUCE WILLIS IN “OCEANS TWELVE” (2004)

Willis has a tricky job to do in this cameo. He’s playing himself, while pretending the movie stars all around him are ordinary crooks. Some viewers found it too forced; I thought it worked.

SEAN CONNERY IN “ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES” (1991)

Some cameos, like this one, are intended to add a bit of pedigree to a movie. Connery rides in as King Richard to Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood here. The chemistry between them isn’t great (unlike “The Untouchables”), but I’m always happy to see Connery. He’s movie royalty.

BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE IN “THE PRINCESS BRIDE” (1987)

My favorite cameo ever. Crystal and Kane played an old wizard and his wife, bickering their way into film greatness in “The Princess Bride.” They are hilarious. Puts me in the mood for a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich – with the mutton nice and lean.

So many cameos, so little time. Please tell me your own favorites!

Things You Didn’t Know About The Three Stooges

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Friends, there is a new Three Stooges movie in theaters this weekend. It can mean one of only two things: Either it’s a vile desecration of something that’s good and true, or somehow comedy lightning has struck the same spot twice. Audiences will decide. In the meantime, here are some nuggets of Stooges Lore (none of which has been verified).

ONE STOOGES’ FEATURE, “LOBOTO-ME? LOBOTO-YOU!” HAD TO BE HALTED IN MID-PRODUCTION

THEY WERE ORIGINALLY KNOWN AS “THE THREE DOOFI”

LARRY FINE STARTED THE FIRST HAIR CLUB FOR MEN. IT USED ACTUAL CLUBS

MOE HOWARD’S FACE WAS REGISTERED AS A LETHAL WEAPON WITH THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

CURLY HOWARD LOST MILLIONS WITH AN ILL-CONCEIVED HEALTH FOOD PRODUCT CALLED “SOITENLY SOY”

SHEMP HOWARD WANTED TO BE CALLED “SHEP,” BUT THE STUDIO THOUGHT IT WOULD SOUND WEIRD

ANVIL RATIONING DURING WORLD WAR II NEARLY RUINED THEIR CAREERS

THE “CURLY SHUFFLE” BEGAN BY ACCIDENT WHEN SOMEONE LOST THE KEY TO THE SOUNDSTAGE BATHROOM

IN THE 1970s, MOE’S ESTATE REACHED AN OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT WITH DOROTHY HAMILL OVER THE RIGHTS TO THEIR HAIRSTYLE

DURING A DISASTROUS AUDITION, CURLY JOE DeRITA TRIED TO POKE HIS OWN EYE OUT

That’s all for now, Stooges Nation.

Pie Fights!

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Rupert Murdoch’s recent brush with a pie-tossing miscreant has me thinking about pie. Specifically, pies to the kisser. They’ve been a staple of entertainment (and protest) for generations. Here are a few of my favorites.

SOUPY SALES

Gotta start with the master of the pie-in-the-face gag. Watch for Frank Sinatra in this clip.

BLAZING SADDLES

Director Mel Brooks turned loose his zany talents in this pie war that bends all logic in a wonderful way.

LAUREL AND HARDY

Discerning movie fans delight in this epic pie squabble from “The Battle of the Century.”

BUGSY MALONE

Kid gangsters, music and pies that stand in for gunplay. Enjoy.

THE THREE STOOGES

Here we have the boys in the aptly named, “In the Sweet Pie and Pie.”

THE GREAT RACE

Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood – and a whole lot of pies.

7 Odd Men Out

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It’s got to be a little maddening, being the odd man out. You know, the person hanging around in the background who seems slightly out of place? Sure, we’ve all felt that way at times ourselves. But some guys take it to an entirely different level. Here’s my Mount Rushmore of Odd Men Out.

ZEPPO MARX

You mean to tell me they couldn’t toss this guy ONE decent gimmick? Harpo gets the blonde curly wig and doesn’t talk, Chico has the thick accent, Groucho’s working the glasses and greasepaint mustache, and Zeppo gets zippo? He should have at least asked for an eye patch.

SHEMP HOWARD


It’s not his fault that he’ll forever be compared with Curly, the greatest of the Three Stooges – but it is his fate. He’s essentially a bulkier, less angry version of Moe, and who wants that? Rule of thumb when buying a “best of” Stooges DVD: always check for Shemps.

STAR TREK REDSHIRTS

Classic, classic odd men out. Any redshirt beaming down to a planet with Kirk and Spock was asking for a phaser to the thorax before the first commercial. Don’t phase me, bro!

COOPER MANNING


By all accounts, a decent, gracious, inspiring human being, the older brother of Peyton and Eli Manning and son of Archie Manning also is an odd man out. He’s the only guy in his family who’s never been a starting quarterback in the NFL. What he HAS done is overcome a spinal problem that ended his football career in college.

GODFATHER III

You WANT to like it. You really WANT to. But do you? Come back to us, Don Corleone.

HARRY STEINFELDT

You’ve heard of  Tinker to Evers to Chance, the legendary Chicago Cubs double-play combination from the early 1900s? Well, Harry Steinfeldt was the Cubs infielder who wasn’t Tinker, Evers or Chance. He played third base.

JUSTIN BARTHA

Here’s our newest member. He’s the dude standing in the background of this photo who went AWOL during the first “Hangover” movie. Do they bring him back for the sequel? Yes. Do they let him join in all the raunchy mayhem? I think you know the answer.