A while ago, I wrote a list about nine character actors given solitary shots at leading man/lady status. This a companion piece looks at the various singers, comedians, and TV personalities who couldn't resist the lure of the silver screen... but were never given a second chance.
- LIBERACE, Sincerely Yours. The IMDb displays a grand total of ten acting credits for Mr. Showmanship, and in four of them he plays "Liberace". I can't discount his bit part (as "Mr. Starker") in the 1965 cult comedy The Loved One, but 1955's Sincerely Yours was the only genuine attempt to turn the popular TV pianist into a bona fide movie star. Lee's awkward performance – as a pianist, naturally – has made this melodrama a cult item itself.
- ROY ORBISON, The Fastest Guitar Alive. Did someone say awkward? The great '60s crooner doffed his trademark sunglasses to play a singing gunslinger (with a bullet-shooting guitar!) in this 1967 turkey. Orbison never made another movie, unlike his contemporary Johnny Cash, who was allotted a whopping two starring vehicles. A song from this film's nifty soundtrack was used in The Hateful Eight's end credits.
- "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC, UHF. The curly-haired parodist has long been a fixture on television, but on the big screen? Not so much. You'd have to look hard for his handful of movie cameos, but 1989's UHF remains Yankovic's only outing as a leading man. He cowrote the screenplay, too.
- SCOTT "CARROT TOP" THOMPSON, Chairman of the Board. Unlike other movies on this list, this wasn't a major studio production – low-rent (and now defunct) distributor Trimark Pictures released it – but Hollywood is Hollywood! Now, I can understand why this stinker currently ranks 57th out of IMDb's 100 Worst Movies. What I can't understand is how Carrot Top became popular in the first place.
- BRITNEY SPEARS, Crossroads. The Britster's dippy teen movie performed relatively well at the box office, but all agreed that the singer wasn't cut out to be an actress, although she reportedly acquitted herself well on the sitcoms How I Met Your Mother and Will & Grace. Maybe there's hope for her yet.
- ANDY KAUFMAN, Heartbeeps. In 1981, in the middle of Taxi fame, the inscrutable comedian/prankster starred in this creepy robot love story opposite Bernadette Peters. Music by John Williams!
- EMINEM, 8 Mile. Is it too early to write off Marshall Mathers' acting career? After wowing audiences and critics with his solid work in the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile, the rapper has since limited himself to a few well-placed cameos. Who knows what the future holds, but 14 years after 8 Mile, it looks like Eminem quit while he was ahead. (By the way, if you've been wondering why Björk didn't make this list, it's because Dancer in the Dark was not a Hollywood film by any means.)
- JERRY SPRINGER, Ringmaster. Talk show hosts are such hams that I'm surprised so few of them have made successful acting bids. Springer, then at the peak of his tabloid show's 1990s popularity, took the bait and starred in this dismal comedy as a thinly veiled version of himself, the host of a show similar to Springer's own.
- ROSEANNE BARR, She-Devil. Even though her long-running sitcom Roseanne proved that the standup comic could act – sort of – Barr was entrusted to headline a movie only once, sharing top billing with Meryl Streep, of all people. (Sticklers may note that Barr also had a lead voiceover role in Look Who's Talking Too. But do we really have to count that? Let's not count that.)