The Quick 10: 10 Amazing Actresses in 10 Awful Movies

This whole post started a couple of weeks ago when I was researching terrible movie moms. I came across the #1 spot on our list and was stunned that Bette Davis had stooped to such a movie. I guess it just goes to show how fickle Hollywood can be. Watch out, Julia Roberts!

bette1. Bette Davis in Wicked Stepmother. Even Bette knew this 1989 movie was a total disaster "“ she dropped out halfway through filming with only part of her scenes filmed. The plot goes something like this: evil stepmother who is secretly a witch marries a nice man while his kids are away. She does terrible things like fill their refrigerator with meat (they are vegetarians). The shock! The horror!! Bette's sudden departure was dealt with in a totally believable manner "“ the script was rewritten to make the evil stepmother a mother/daughter duo who had to share the same body; whoever isn't in the body has to occupy the body of a cat. Duh. This thing practically writes itself. Bette said she dropped out of the film due to script problems, but writer/producer/director Larry Cohen said it was really due to her declining health. Although she did die just a few months after the movie came out, I'm inclined to believe Miss Davis on this one.

2. Joan Crawford in Trog. An ape-like creature is discovered in a cave and an anthropologist "“ Mommie Dearest, of course "“ wants to study him. She gets him back to her lab and starts her research, but some locals think Trog is a menace and break into the lab to kill the poor thing. Of course, Trog is the one who ends up killing the murderous mob and then goes on a misunderstood killing spree throughout town, but mostly it's self defense. Trog ends up getting gunned down and Joan Crawford is supremely saddened. As am I. As was Joan, actually. According to IMDB, she once joked that if it hadn't been against her religion, she would have committed suicide after seeing how awful the film was.

3. Myrna Loy in Ants, AKA It Happened at Lakewood Manor. Oddly, I think I've seen this film. Hopped up on insecticide, a bunch of rampaging ants attack. This 1977 made-for-TV movie is a long cry from The Thin Man series that made Loy a star.

4. Ann Margret in The Santa Clause 3. Maybe this one isn't so bad, but I have a personal distaste for the second and third Santa Clause movies.

bees5. Gloria Swanson in Killer Bees. For someone whose most famous movie quote is (arguably) "I am big. It's the pictures that got small," this is a little painful. Gloria plays Madame Maria von Bohlen, the head of a family who can psychically command a swarm of killer bees to do her bidding. Yep. It was Swanson's last film (also made for TV).
6. Olivia de Havilland in The Swarm. Apparently Hollywood couldn't get enough of enraged insects in the "˜70s, because it was 1978 that saw Olivia de Havilland, Miss Melanie Wilkes herself, in one of the worst disaster movies of all time. But she was in good company "“ it also starred Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray. All of these big names were busy fighting off a swarm of African killer bees before they wipe out the U.S. completely. It was in theaters just two weeks before it was pulled and was so terrible that director Irwin Allen has forbidden anyone from mentioning it to him ever again. He even stopped an interview when the reported dared breathe the title.

glove7. Joan Blondell in The Glove. Almost 30 years after being nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in The Blue Veil, Joan took a part in another apparel-based movie. This one, however, was about an ex-con who hunted down former prison guards and killed them with a big steel glove. But it was a Troma film, so it's not like anyone should have expected cinematic genius (sorry, Troma fans).
8. Jennifer Jones in Angel, Angel, Down We Go. An Oscar, a Golden Globe and a bunch of nominations don't necessarily mean that an actress won't end up in a B-Movie later in life. Jennifer Jones, for instance, found herself in The Cult of the Damned, AKA Angel, Angel, in 1969. The plot, according to IMDB: "The overweight debutante daughter of the world's wealthiest couple falls in with a gang of tripped out, skydiving pseudo-reactionary pop stars, who take their beliefs of the American ideal to profoundly impossible heights."

9. Teresa Wright in Flood! You might not know the name, but Teresa Wright won an Oscar for Mrs. Miniver and was nominated for The Pride of the Yankees. But for 1976's Flood!, another Irwin Allen movie, she wasn't nominated for anything.

10. Tippi Hedren in Satan's Harvest. As one of Hitchcock's favorite blondes, Melanie Griffith's mom could do no wrong for a few years "“ she won a Golden Globe for "best newcomer" for her role in The Birds and got rave reviews for Marnie. But starring in Satan's Harvest in 1970 didn't really continue her streak. One of the movie's tagline was "She's a good girl "“ until she smokes R-E-E-F-E-R!" if that tells you anything. It's about a man who inherits his uncle's ranch in South Africa and has to deal with attempts on his life all of the time; he can't figure out why until he discovers that the ranch is actually a marijuana goldmine. And to be fair to Tippi, I think it's not her fault that she had to stoop so low "“ when she declined to work with Alfred Hitchcock again after they had some personal problems, he told her that he would ruin her career. "And he did," Tippi has said.

Also, pretty much every actress from the "˜30s and "˜40s who was still alive in the "˜80s appeared on either The Love Boat, Falcon Crest or both.

I'm positive you guys have more to add "“ and why limit it to older actresses? If you want to talk about the flops that present-day movie stars have been in, feel free to throw those in as well. I mean, seriously, Jamie Foxx went from Ray to Stealth? Meh.

job secrets
10 Secrets of Hotel Room Service

Guests visiting New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel in the 1930s enjoyed an amenity that was unheard of at the time: waiters delivering meals directly to their rooms. While the Astoria’s reputation for luxury has endured, room service is no longer exclusive to five-star stays. Roughly 22 percent of the country’s 54,000 hotels [PDF] are willing and able to bring breakfast, lunch, or dinner to people who prefer to eat while splayed out on a large and strange bed.

To get the scoop on what goes into getting food from the kitchen to your floor, Mental Floss spoke with Matt, a hospitality specialist who spent a total of 10 years working in and around room service for a major San Francisco hotel. Matt preferred not to use his last name; since his stories sometimes involved naked people, undercooked chicken, and Oprah, you can understand why. Below, check out a few things you should know before you dig into that tray.


When a room service delivery employee takes a tray from the kitchen to your room, it’s typically covered in a metal lid to retain heat and to prevent other guests from sneezing on it. The higher up you are, the longer it has to travel—and the more that lid traps steam, soaking your food in moisture. “Food sweats in there,” Matt says. “Instead of having crispy, toasted bread, you get wet toast. The longer it stays in there, the worse it gets.” If you want crunchy fries, you’d better be on the first couple of floors.


A seafood dinner is presented on a plate

That lid is a nuisance in other ways. Because it traps heat, it’s effectively cooking your food in the time it takes to get from the chef’s hands to yours. “If you order a steak medium, it will probably be medium well by the time it gets to you,” Matt says. While you can try to outsmart the lid by requesting meat be cooked a notch lower than your preference, it's not so easy to avoid overcooked fish—which will probably also stink up your room. Instead, stick with burgers, club sandwiches, or salads. According to Matt, it’s hard to mess any of them up.


Just because you see a menu in your room, it doesn’t mean the hotel has a kitchen or chef on-site. To cut costs, more hotels are opting to out-source their room service to local eateries. “It might be ‘presented’ by the hotel, but it’s from a restaurant down the street,” Matt says. Alternately, hotels might try to save money by eliminating an overnight chef and having food pre-prepped so a desk clerk or other employee can just heat it up. That’s more likely if sandwiches or salads are the only thing available after certain hours.


Two coffee cups sit on a hotel bed

No, not for the reason you’re thinking. Because so many hotel guests are business travelers who are away from home for weeks or months at a time, some of them get tired of eating alone. When that happens, they turn to the first—and maybe only—person who could offer company: the room service waiter. “People are usually traveling alone, so they’ll offer you food,” Matt explains. Sometimes the traveler is a familiar face: According to Matt, he once sat down to eat with Oprah Winfrey, who was eating by herself despite her suite being filled with her own employees. He also says he had a bite with John F. Kennedy Junior, who wanted to finish watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High before heading for his limo.


Busy hotel kitchens aren’t always paying attention to whether the chicken wings they buy in bulk are frozen raw, frozen cooked, or somewhere in between. “Ask for them extra crispy,” Matt says. That way, they’ll be cooked thoroughly regardless of their freezer status. “I recommend that to everyone.”


A hotel guest pours milk into a bowl of cereal

Breakfast is undoubtedly the busiest time for room service, and those little cards that allow you to check off your menu items the night before are a huge help. “It’s great for everybody involved,” Matt says. “The kitchen can pace themselves and you can get your food on time.”


Yes, guests answer the door barely clothed. No, this is not optimal. “We don’t want to see it,” Matt says. “It's something we dealt with numerous times.” While it's likely your waiter will use discretion, any combination of genitalia, drugs, or illicit activity is best kept out of their sight.


A hotel room service tray sits in a hallway

That move where you stick your soggy fries outside your door? It can lead to some awkward encounters. Matt says he’s seen other guests stop, examine trays, and then pick up discarded food from them. Other times, people leave unimaginably gross items on the trays. “I’ve found condoms on there. Divorce paperwork. All kinds of things.”


Weird people aside, “We don’t really want it out there,” Matt says. “It stinks.” Instead, dial 0 for the front desk and let them know you’re done eating. They’ll dispatch someone to come and get it.


A tip is placed near a hotel check

People pay out the nose for room service, with hotels adding surcharges for “service” and “in-room” dining that can turn a $5 club sandwich into a $15 expense. That’s not great news for guests, but it does mean you don’t need to feel bad about not offering a cash tip. Those service fees usually go straight to the employees who got your food to your room. “I never tip,” Matt says. “Most of the time, the service and delivery charges are given to the waiter or split between the people who answered the phone and pick up the tray. It’s better to leave it all on paper to make sure it gets divided up.”

Big Questions
What is Mercury in Retrograde, and Why Do We Blame Things On It?

Crashed computers, missed flights, tensions in your workplace—a person who subscribes to astrology would tell you to expect all this chaos and more when Mercury starts retrograding for the first time this year on Friday, March 23. But according to an astronomer, this common celestial phenomenon is no reason to stay cooped up at home for weeks at a time.

"We don't know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people," Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells Mental Floss. So if Mercury doesn’t throw business dealings and relationships out of whack when it appears to change direction in the sky, why are so many people convinced that it does?


Mercury retrograde—as it's technically called—was being written about in astrology circles as far back as the mid-18th century. The event was noted in British agricultural almanacs of the time, which farmers would read to sync their planting schedules to the patterns of the stars. During the spiritualism craze of the Victorian era, interest in astrology boomed, with many believing that the stars affected the Earth in a variety of (often inconvenient) ways. Late 19th-century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall. Characterizations of the happening as an "ill omen" also appeared in a handful of articles during that period, but its association with outright disaster wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today.

While other spiritualist hobbies like séances and crystal gazing gradually faded, astrology grew even more popular. By the 1970s, horoscopes were a newspaper mainstay and Mercury retrograde was a recurring player. Because the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth, and communication, in astrological circles, Mercury the planet became linked to those matters as well.

"Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde," an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers. "A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backwards. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication." The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it's blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.


Though hysteria around Mercury retrograde is stronger than ever, there's still zero evidence that it's something we should worry about. Even the flimsiest explanations, like the idea that the gravitational pull from Mercury influences the water in our bodies in the same way that the moon controls the tides, are easily deflated by science. "A car 20 feet away from you will exert a stronger pull of gravity than the planet Mercury does," Dr. Hammergren says.

To understand how little Mercury retrograde impacts life on Earth, it helps to learn the physical process behind the phenomenon. When the planet nearest to the Sun is retrograde, it appears to move "backwards" (east to west rather than west to east) across the sky. This apparent reversal in Mercury's orbit is actually just an illusion to the people viewing it from Earth. Picture Mercury and Earth circling the Sun like cars on a racetrack. A year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth (88 Earth days compared to 365), which means Mercury experiences four years in the time it takes us to finish one solar loop.

When the planets are next to one another on the same side of the Sun, Mercury looks like it's moving east to those of us on Earth. But when Mercury overtakes Earth and continues its orbit, its straight trajectory seems to change course. According to Dr. Hammergren, it's just a trick of perspective. "Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are," he says. "They're not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion."

Embedded from GIFY

Earth's orbit isn't identical to that of any other planet in the solar system, which means that all the planets appear to move backwards at varying points in time. Planets farther from the Sun than Earth have even more noticeable retrograde patterns because they're visible at night. But thanks to astrology, it's Mercury's retrograde motion that incites dread every few months.

Dr. Hammergren blames the superstition attached to Mercury, and astrology as a whole, on confirmation bias: "[Believers] will say, 'Aha! See, there's a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury's retrograde.'" He urges people to review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic. They'll likely find that misinterpreted messages and technical problems are fairly common throughout the year. But as Dr. Hammergren says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn't retrograde, "we don't get that hashtag. It's called Monday."

This story originally ran in 2017.


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