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Nixon as Skeletor? 7 Great Actors in Movies Promoting Toys

Every actor may dream of winning an Oscar, but it's safe to say not quite as many aspire to someday portray an action figure or video game character on the silver screen. This doesn't mean that only hacks end up playing He-Man, though. Quite a few great actors have lent their faces or voices to these feature-length commercials. Have a look at a few of our favorite thespians' forays into the toy aisle:

1. Frank Langella as Skeletor

Stage and screen actor Frank Langella has enjoyed a sterling career that has included two Tony nominations and worldwide acclaim for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon. He's also played Skeletor! When the popular Masters of the Universe toy line became a feature film in 1987, Langella lined up as He-Man's nemesis.

Langella later told reporters that Skeletor was one of his favorite parts ever and explained that he accepted the role because his young son was obsessed with He-Man at the time. Have a look at Langella's performance, and be sure to enjoy the special effects. I think you'll agree the snappy script is every bit as good as the one for Frost/Nixon.

2. Orson Welles in The Transformers: The Movie

Talk about a sour note to go out on.

Orson Welles' last theatrical role was voicing the antagonistic planet-eating robot Unicron in 1986's The Transformers: The Movie. Welles was so sick during the recording sessions that the film's sound crew actually had to run the illustrious actor's voice through a synthesizer to get a usable sound out of it.

For his part, Welles seemed to realize the role was absurd. He described it to his biographer as, "I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I'm destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen." Here's a look at Welles' final theatrical line:

3. Mickey Rooney in Care Bears

Mickey Rooney is one of the select group of actors who have won Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes, but that doesn't mean he was above shilling for the Care Bears. When the world's children demanded an animated Care Bears feature in 1985, who better to play the kindly narrator/orphanage proprietor than the former vaudeville star? Check him out here:

4. Burgess Meredith in G.I. Joe: The Movie

Meredith was beloved for his performances in Rocky as well as strong showings in a number of Otto Preminger movies. Even his performance as the Penguin in the Batman TV series was nearly perfect in its campy way. His voice work in 1987's G.I. Joe: The Movie? Not so much. Not even Burgess' enthusiastic readings could save the character Golobulus, who could best be described as "farfetched even by G.I. Joe standards." If you ever wanted to hear Meredith say, "fungusoid," here's your chance! (See a clip here.)

5. Dennis Hopper as King Bowser Koopa

Just because Dennis Hopper is known for his work in movies like Easy Rider, Blue Velvet, and Hoosiers doesn't mean that he takes himself too seriously. He's not afraid to tackle a meatier role like, say, a germophobic T-Rex descendant in a movie adaptation of a video game. In 1993, Hopper brought his considerable chops to the role of King Bowser Koopa in the big-screen version of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Take a look for yourself; this scenery chewing makes Hopper's work in Waterworld feel like his turn in Apocalypse Now.

6. Jon Voight in Bratz

Voight's sterling resume speaks for itself: Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance, and a Best Actor Oscar for Coming Home. Something's telling me he doesn't get quite as excited when he talks about his role as Principal Dimly in 2007's Bratz. Yes, the Midnight Cowboy decided to try his hand at promoting dolls with massive noggins. A clip of Voight actually acting in the movie proved hard to come by, but skip to the 1:30 mark to hear his take on the film:

7. Drew Barrymore in Star Fairies

It wasn't all E.T. and partying for a young Drew Barrymore. She may not be in the same class as Frank Langella or Mickey Rooney, but she did voice a little girl in an animated movie to support Tonka's Star Fairies toy line in 1985. If you want to hear Barrymore, skip to about 1:20:

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
gutenberg.org
gutenberg.org

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
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Scarface is Returning to Theaters for Its 35th Anniversary
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures
Tribeca Film Festival/Screenvision Media/Universal Pictures

Pop culture history was forever altered on December 9, 1983, when Scarface arrived in movie theaters across America. A loose remake of Howard Hawks's classic 1932 gangster film, Brian De Palma's F-bomb-laden story of a Cuban immigrant who becomes the king of Miami's drug scene by murdering anyone in his path is still being endlessly dissected, and quoted, today. To celebrate the film's place in cinema history, the Tribeca Film Festival is teaming up with Screenvision Media and Universal Pictures to bring the film back into theaters next month.

Just last month, Scarface screened at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival as part of a 35th anniversary celebration. The film's main cast and crew—including De Palma and stars Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Steven Bauer—were on hand to discuss the making of the film and why it has endured as a contemporary classic. (Yes, that's the same conversation that left the panel momentarily speechless when moderator Jesse Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer how much she weighed during filming.) That post-screening Q&A will be part of the upcoming screenings.

"Scarface is a timeless film that has influenced pop culture in so many ways over the last 35 years. We're thrilled to partner with Universal Pictures and Tribeca Film Festival to bring it back to the big screen in celebration of its anniversary," Darryl Schaffer, executive vice president of operations and exhibitor relations at Screenvision Media, said in a press statement. "The Tribeca Film Festival talk was an important commemoration of the film. We're excited to extend it to the big screen and provide fans a behind-the-scenes insight into what production was like in the 1980s."

Scarface will screen at select theaters nationwide on June 10, June 11, and June 13, 2018. Visit Scarface35.com to find out if Tony Montana and his little friend will be coming back to a cinema near you.

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