Fame is a fickle mistress and as they say in the adverts; “past performance is no guarantee of future success.” While many of those, who hit the big time in the glamour filled world of Hollywood, are guaranteed a permanent slot among the stars; there are others who only light up the sky briefly before disappearing into obscurity.
So let’s take a look at 10 Hollywood heroes whose stars burned brightly and then seemed to disappear over the horizon forever.
Timothy Hutton (Major Hit – Ordinary People, 1980)
The son of the actor Jim Hutton, Timothy Hutton seemed as though he was on his way to have it all. His role in the 1980 film Ordinary People propelled him to Oscar glory in 1981. Peculiarly on The Today Show, in the run up to the Oscars, he was asked whether he’d heard of The Oscar Curse and he smiled and said he hadn’t. A year later he’d starred in Sidney Lumiet’s Daniel which was a major flop and since then he’s only been seen in TV roles and the occasional supporting role in minor films.
Melanie Griffith (Major Hit – Working Girl, 1998)
Melanie Griffith’s story is pretty strange not only did her star rise and fall pretty quickly – so did her mother’s. Her mother was Tippi Hedren and despite the success of her movie The Birds, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, she never starred in another major role. Melanie Griffith had multiple parts leading up to Working Girl, a film about the success of a woman from an ordinary background using her talent to rise up the corporate ladder, and each had been better received than the last. Sadly, nothing that has followed has been well received at all and Melanie has been generally anonymous since.
Kate Hudson (Major Hit – Almost Famous, 2000)
Another Oscar curse loomed ironically for Kate Hudson who starred in the 2000 hit Almost Famous which was based on Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical work as a rock scene correspondent. Except Hudson lost out on her Oscar to her on-screen mother Frances McDormand and despite the enthusiastic support of the press following the loss – she’s never come close to hitting the big time again. She’s still out there with performances on TV’s Glee and in movies such as “How to Lose a Guy in 30 Days” but there’s no sign that her star is on the rise again. Strangely Kate Hudson is also the daughter of a famous actress – Goldie Hawn.
Diane Varsi (Major Hit – Peyton Place, 1957)
Diane’s story is a tragic one. Her role in Peyton Place was incredibly popular and brought her an Oscar nomination and deservedly so. Sadly, things didn’t go well from that moment on and her own emotional instability and insecurity quickly led to her downfall. She starred once more in the 1959 movie Compulsion and then begged her studio, Fox, to let her quit her contract as she felt she had to run away. She followed that with a stint picking fruit in fields before returning to the cinema in the late 60s but she never found anything more than bit parts in B-movies again.
Bo Derek (Major Hit – 10, 1979)
There are few roles both as memorable and as forgettable as Bo Derek’s performance in the romantic comedy 10. Prior to this role Bo Derek had no acting education and no training at all and it showed. Her tiny role in this movie, however, caught the world’s imagination and Bo Derek quickly became a major sex symbol and the movie shot to the top of the charts for it. She would star in three more movies after 10; A Change of Seasons, Tarzan (The Ape Man) and Bolero – the first a “serious” film crashed completely, the second two were simply soft core porn and were more vehicles for selling photos to Playboy than putting bums on seats in the cinema. Since then nothing of note has been heard of Bo Derek.
Clevon Little (Major Hit – Blazing Saddles, 1974)
Clevon Little’s performance in Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks’ first hit movie, is generally considered to be a classic comedy performance. However, the role wasn’t written for him – it was written for Richard Pryor and the jokes he performed were more in line with Richard Pryor’s stage presence than his own, much more clean cut, routines. In less than a year after the film hit blockbuster status, Little was found to be complaining that no-one would hire him because they assumed he’d be too expensive. As a consummate professional he went on to do plenty of TV, supporting roles and the like but he never made it into another hit lead role again.
Macaulay Caulkin (Major Hit – Home Alone, 1990)
It would be easy to fill out this list entirely with child actors because it’s hard to make the transition from childhood superstar to adult superstar. However, Macaulay Caulkin’s childhood career petered out much faster than expected – his role in Home Alone wowing global audiences but sadly he never managed to repeat that fact. Some more minor movies would follow but none coming close to the fervor of Home Alone and then nothing at all. He reprised his career as an adult, briefly, with a supporting role in Uncle Buck but then moved on to music and voice over work. Most of his work today is in TV adverts.
Ron Moody (Major Hit – Oliver!, 1968)
Ron Moody wasn’t the only actor to be sunk by Oliver! The 1968 movie also introduced the audiences to Jack Wild and Mark Lester. All three put in high quality performances and despite critical derision the movie did very well at the box office. None would ever be heard from again, in major roles, though Jack Wild and Ron Moody were nominated for Oscars for their parts. The only actor from the cast of Oliver! to escape the film’s curse was the already well-known Oliver Reed.
Frances Famer (Major Hit – Come and Get It, 1936)
Frances Farmer’s lot in life hadn’t been easy before her arrival in Hollywood; she’d come from an abusive upbringing and grown to loathe the cinema in her job working as an usherette. She’s always said she wanted to be on the stage but in the end – auditions propelled her onto the silver screen. Her first movie, co-starring with Bing Crosby, Rhythm on the Range did well and the studio pushed her into their next big project – Come and Get It. Things didn’t go so well there. Samuel Goldwyn the producer and Howard Hawks the director fell out and Hawks was fired. Hawks had been Farmer’s cheering section and Goldwyn enabled William Wyler who loathed Farmer to bad mouth her at every turn. Then she had an affair with Clifford Odets and her lack of subtlety about it ruined her Hollywood reputation. She was never offered another decent role again.
Michael J Pollard (Major Hit – Bonnie and Clyde, 1967)
Last and unfairly probably least of our follow flops is Michael J Pollard. Michael’s role as the evil henchman in Bonnie and Clyde, 1967’s big hit, was supposed to propel him onto bigger and better things. Unfortunately, despite his Oscar nomination – Hollywood quickly came to realize there’s not much you can do with a very short actor with a non-traditional face. He did pick up a couple of starring roles in the next two years but neither film did very well and Michael J Pollard quickly became a footnote in cinema history.