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The Unexpected Final Film Roles of 10 Well-Known Actors

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Being a legend doesn’t necessarily mean you get to go out like one. Take Orson Welles, the mastermind behind Citizen Kane, who capped his big screen career as a voice in 1986’s Transformers: The Movie. Incidentally, Scatman Crothers can make the exact same claim (minus the Citizen Kane part). The point being: Neither is exactly alone in having last roles that weren’t exactly lasting roles. Take, for instance…

1. Marlon Brando – Big Bug Man (2004)

He could’ve been a contender. He made you an offer you can’t refuse. And before Brando was said and done, he was the voice of Mrs. (yes, Mrs.) Sour in this straight-to-nowhere animated feature. To help get in character, the 80-year-old Brando reportedly showed up to the one-day recording session in a blond wig, dress and make up.

2. Groucho Marx – Skidoo (1968)

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Speaking of preparing a role, Marx definitely walked the walk in his final film as well. Cast as “God” (a mob boss) in this gonzo drug comedy, the 80-year-old Marx went as far as to try LSD for the first time. Marx later described both the movie and his appearance in it as “God-awful.”  He reportedly enjoyed his trip a little bit more.

3. Joan Crawford – Trog (1970)

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In this British horror flick, the noted hater of wire hangers plays a scientist who discovers a primitive caveman and tries to domesticate him. After that, Crawford retired from acting and did some “cave dwelling” of her own, vanishing from the public eye for the last three years of her life.

4. John Belushi – Neighbors (1981)

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His unhinged persona made him a legend. But Belushi couldn’t have played more against type in his final role, as a straight man opposite Dan Aykroyd’s manic turn as his obnoxious neighbor.  Unsurprisingly, they were originally cast in each other’s roles, and the last-minute switch was their idea. It was not well-received by the film’s producers … and the film wasn’t all that well-received by much of anyone.

5. Ethel Merman – Airplane! (1980)

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The Broadway legend last appeared on the big screen in a brief cameo, playing a wounded soldier so shell-shocked, he thinks he’s, well, Ethel Merman. Leave it to Airplane! to give someone the most meta send-off possible.

6. Ernest Borgnine – The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez (2012)

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Here’s a truly ironic swan song: The 95-year-old Borgnine playing a dude stuck in a nursing home, wishing he’d been a famous actor. In real life, he was an Academy Award-winning actor with a varied career spanning more than six decades, stuck in a film that would end up making less money than the average orderly.

7. Jimmy Stewart – Fievel Goes West (1991)

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For a guy who once uttered the line “Zuzu’s petals” with heartbreaking poignancy, Stewart might have been the only man alive who could’ve given any dignity to a dog sheriff named Wylie Burp.  

8. Fred Astaire – Ghost Story (1981)

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The dancing legend played a member of the Chowder Society—a group of old men who love scary stories—in this obscure horror flick. Acting legends Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Melvyn Douglas and John Houseman played the Chowder Society’s fellow members. Only Houseman would go on to make another film. Scary!

9. Elizabeth Taylor – These Old Broads (2001)


After garnering her first and only Razzie nomination for her final film appearance (in 1994’s The Flintstones), the Oscar-winning, gossip-generating film legend quietly wound down her career on the small screen. This made her final film These Old Broads for ABC-TV in 2001. In it, a producer tries to reunite an aging, back-stabbing trio of legendary Hollywood actresses who can’t stand each other. Taylor played their agent.

10. Telly Savalas – Backfire! (1995)

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The “Kojak” star appeared alongside an impressive cast—including Robert Mitchum, Edie Falco, and Kathy Ireland—in this instantly-forgotten spoof of Backdraft. Telly’s role? A toilet bomber named “The Most Evil Man.”  What a way to… go.

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The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.


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