There's a new game afoot among video watchers that we'll call "Spot the Star."
It's easy enough to play. You rent an older movie and while watching it you spot a famous movie star - or even a prominent actor who may not actually be a star - in some minor supporting role, something he/she was cast in before achieving stardom.For example, a few years ago I watched "Cool Hand Luke," the Paul Newman film, which I had seen before. But during this viewing I was surprised to see so many actors I now recognize, actors who have since gone on to their own level of recognition - Wayne Rogers, Ralph Waite, Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper and Joe Don Baker.
Then there's "Francis in the Navy," which recently came out on video. Donald O'Connor stars in two roles, along with Francis the Talking Mule. But guess who plays one of O'Connor's goofy sailor buddies? Would you believe a very young Clint Eastwood? (In another of this series, "Francis Goes to West Point," Leonard Nimoy has a small role, but that's not on video yet.)
There are worse examples, however - movies that some actors probably wish would just go away. For example, during a recent interview with Kevin Bacon he said he had an early role in a film he considered embarrassing but declined to name the film. A little research dug it up, however. He was in "Friday the 13th." For that matter, Crispin Glover (the father in "Back to the Future") and teenybopper heartthrob Corey Feldman ("License to Drive," "Stand By Me") were in "Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter."
Sylvester Stallone can be spotted in pre-stardom tough-guy roles in "Bananas" (he mugs Woody Allen) and "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (he is mugged by Jack Lemmon).
Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave star in "Julia," which has a small role played by Meryl Streep in her film debut.
It's fairly well known that in his pre-007 days, Sean Connery had a prominent role in the Disney fantasy "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," but did you know that Michael Caine has a bit part in Peter Sellers' "The Wrong Arm of the Law," and Audrey Hepburn has an even smaller bit toward the end of Alec Guinness' "The Lavendar Hill Mob"?
And here are a few more you can look for if you decide to go video-hopping some evening:
"The Wedding Party," a meager comedy, marked the directing debut of Brian DePalma (with co-directors) and the film debuts of both Jill Clayburgh and Robert De Niro. (What's really worth noting here is that De Niro's name is misspelled in the credits - as DeNero!)
"Myra Breckinridge" features a walk-on by Tom Selleck, without his signature mustache.
Woody Allen's "Annie Hall" features bit roles played by Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken, and Sigourney Weaver can be glimpsed briefly toward the end of the film.
"Class of '44" has a small role played by John Candy.
"The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band," a Disney comedy that features Kurt Russell in a prominent role, also has a bit part played by Goldie Hawn in her film debut. (Russell and Hawn are together these days on and off-screen, having recently co-starred in "Overboard.")
And some movies seem like mini-launching pads all by themselves. "Ensign Pulver" had minor roles filled by Larry Hagman, James Farentino, James Coco and Jack Nicholson. And "American Graffiti" featured small parts played by Harrison Ford, Kathleen Quinlan, Suzanne Somers and Bo Hopkins.
There are many others, of course, and if you have any particular favorites or surprises that crop up while you're watching a video, nominations for future "Spot the Star" lists are welcome.
To my knowledge, the only current major star who has successfully kept his early film appearances out of his biographies is Bruce Willis. During interviews for "Die Hard" he admitted to having played some small roles in minor films but refused to name them, and no other reference material seems to contain them. If you spot him in anything that is pre-"Blind Date," let me know.
You can run, Bruce, but you can't hide.
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: David Lean, director of "Lawrence of Arabia," explaining to Philip Wuntch of the Dallas Morning News that Peter O'Toole was not the first choice for T.E. Lawrence:
"We toyed with a lot of actors for Lawrence, including Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Albert Finney. Brando was busy with `Mutiny on the Bounty,' which was going way over schedule. For some reason, (producer Sam) Spiegel did not want to use Burton. I think that was before the `Cleopatra' publicity, but I'm not sure. And Finney turned it down because he said he didn't want to become a movie star."