5 WTF Final Roles From Comedy Legends
Some movie stars exit the world of cinema on a high note, wrapping up their on-screen careers with one triumphant final performance. Think Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, James Dean in Giant or Orson Welles in The Transformers: The Movie, aka the Citizen Kane of movies that only exist to trick children into buying small plastic robots.
Comedians, on the other hand, aren’t always quite so lucky. Even some of history’s most famous, unquestionably legendary comedic performers can end their cinematic careers with roles in some truly head-scratching projects, like how…
Groucho Marx Played ‘God’ in the ‘Acid Comedy’ Bomb ‘Skidoo’
The great Groucho Marx, along with his famous brothers, starred in some of the funniest comedies of all time. Where would the world be without classics like Animal Crackers, A Night at the Opera and Duck Soup? The latter featuring an iconic scene that likely prompted generations of paranoid moviegoers to become suspicious of their own reflections.
However, Groucho’s final film was a tad less iconic. In 1968, Marx had a brief appearance in Skidoo, a notoriously terrible “acid comedy” directed by acclaimed filmmaker Otto Preminger. It was about a retired crook (played by Jackie Gleason) being ordered by a mob boss named “God” (Marx) to bump off an old friend who’s locked up in Alcatraz. This requires breaking into the prison and, because this was the late 1960s, taking massive amounts of LSD.
Even though it was a bit part, Groucho, who by that point in time had become a countercultural hero, was a major selling point in the film’s marketing. And because the movie ends with God getting stoned after his yacht is stormed by nautical hippies (seriously), Groucho reportedly prepped for the role by trying LSD with writer Paul Krassner, who documented the experience for an article published in High Times. Despite all his prep work, Groucho clearly didn’t think much of Skidoo, later writing about the experience: “Both the picture and my role were God-awful.”
Rodney Dangerfield Briefly Showed Up in ‘The Onion Movie’ (Four Years After His Death)
Famously disrespected comedian Rodney Dangerfield made some hilarious movies in addition to his stand-up career: Back to School, Caddyshack, that one where he’s a cartoon dog for some reason. Not to mention when he showed up for two seconds in a Stanley Kubrick drama.
But his last screen credit is in The Onion Movie, which is odd, considering that it came out a full four years after Dangerfield’s death (don’t worry, no late-night trips to the cemetery with a wheelbarrow full of shovels were involved). The disappointingly dreadful, frequently casually racist, feature-length adaptation of the brilliant comedy website found Dangerfield showing up very briefly in the film’s awkward ending, sporting a captain’s hat and repeating his climactic Caddyshack line: “We’re all gonna get laid!”
The cameo was filmed way back in 2003, but the studio shelved the movie for five years following poor test screenings before eventually releasing it straight to DVD in 2008. But by then, Dangerfield had already died from complications following heart surgery (presumably performed by Dr. Vinnie Boombatz).
Bob Hope Cameoed in a Low-Budget Horror Film About a Monstrous Baby
While many of us grew up knowing Bob Hope mainly as the lame USO show/celebrity golf tournament guy, he was once a gigantic movie star. His early films, in which he routinely played a quippy weakling character (which later was blatantly ripped off by Woody Allen), are genuinely hilarious.
Hope’s last movie, however? That Little Monster, a low-budget 1994 black-and-white sci-fi horror film about a babysitter tasked with looking after an infant that makes the Eraserhead baby look like a Cabbage Patch Doll.
How does the star of My Favorite Brunette factor into this Twilight Zone-esque nightmare? Hope randomly pops up at the end to tell jokes during the film’s credits. This came about because director Paul Bunnell is also a comedian and considered Hope his “idol.” According to one account, a retired Hope initially turned down the film until the director, being a massive superfan, offered to donate his collection of memorabilia to the Bob Hope Museum in exchange for the cameo.
The Three Stooges’ Moe Howard’s Final Movie Was About an Axe-Wielding Magician
Aside from every parent who’s had to rush their kids to the emergency room due to Stooge-inspired corneal wounds, pretty much everybody loves The Three Stooges. Throughout their long career, the trio starred in six feature films, nearly 200 shorts and at least one commercial for Aqua Net hair spray.
The group’s ringleader, of course, was Moe Howard. But oddly enough, Moe didn’t end his movie career with a Three Stooges project or even a comedy. Howard’s final screen role was in 1973’s Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls, a low-budget horror flick about a homicidal magician who has the power to cheat death (and also the power to wear some truly groovy ’70s suits).
Howard shows up very briefly, playing an audience volunteer during one of Doctor Death’s shows, who (somewhat pervily) confirms that a beautiful young woman on stage is, in fact, dead — real corpses apparently being acceptable stage props in the 1970s.
Andy Kaufman Starred in a Rom-Com About Two Literal Robots
In terms of his acting career, Andy Kaufman is known primarily for his TV work on shows like Taxi, Saturday Night Live, and at least one Johnny Cash Christmas special, playing a pantsless Santa Claus.
Before his tragic death, Kaufman’s first and last starring role was in Heartbeeps. But a romantic comedy co-starring Bernadette Peters sounds like a fun ti— oh, no, wait, they’re both playing nightmarish robots.
Truly the strangest rom-com that doesn’t involve Hayden Christensen running a pizzeria, Heartbeeps was a total disaster, both critically and financially, so much so that Kaufman even went on Late Night with David Letterman to apologize for the film (“It didn’t come out right”) and offered to personally refund any disappointed moviegoers.
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