Thursday, September 13, 2007

Random Top 10: Biggest Comebacks

After the failed Britney comeback (which I am still utterly depressed about), I decided to write about some of the most successful comebacks. Maybe this will show her that it can be done and not to give up hope (or offer up about a million excuses).

10. Robert Downey, Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Good Night, and Good Luck)

After a slew of impressive performances in Less Than Zero, Chaplin (for which he received an Academy Award nomination and should have won the damn thing), Natural Born Killers and Home for the Holidays, Downey succumbed to a drug addiction that lead to him being jailed a couple of times. He made a small comeback of sorts on the TV show Ally McBeal (for which he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy), but eventually he relapsed and was forced into drug rehab. A couple of years later, he re-emerged with a pair of opposite performances in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Good Night, and Good Luck that proved that he was back and better than ever.

9. Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia)

There was a time during the late 40's when Ingrid Bergman was probably the most hated woman in Hollywood. While shooting the film Stromboli, she fell in love with director Roberto Rossellini and eventually became pregnant with his child. The only problem was that she was already married and had a daughter. This lead to her being denounced by Senator Edwin C. Johnson on the floor of the Senate, who called Ingrid "a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil." This lead to her practically living in exile in Europe for the next 6 or so years, until she starred in her first post-scandal American film Anastasia in 1956. The film and performance proved to be a mega-success and, in the ultimate turn-around, Bergman was ultimately forgiven and awarded the Best Actress Oscar.

8. John Travolta (Pulp Fiction)

Saturday Night Fever and Grease made John Travolta one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but after a series of flops throughout the 80's and early 90's, he was considerably less in demand. But then Quentin Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction and, with a great performance and second Academy Award nomination, he quickly became the hottest name in town again. It seems as if he kind of squandered his fame again after some more flops towards the end of the decade, but after two huge hits in 2007 (the mind-blowingly awful Wild Hogs and the fabulous Hairspray) it seems as if he's on the rise again.

7. Ellen DeGeneres (The Ellen DeGeneres Show) and Rosie O'Donnell (The View)

At their peaks, Ellen had one of the most successful sitcoms on TV (Ellen) and Rosie had one of the most successful talk shows on TV (The Rosie O'Donnell Show). But then, they both came out of the closet and saw their careers go in steep decline. Both shows were ultimately canceled and the two women laid low for awhile. Then, Ellen delivered one of the greatest animated performances ever in Finding Nemo and found herself with her own talk show. Her quirkiness and sense of humor made for one hell of a good time and The Ellen DeGeneres Show is now one of the most popular talk shows on TV (probably right behind Oprah and Dr. Phil). Last year, Rosie joined the cast of The View and quickly became one of the most controversial hosts in the show's history. Her angry lesbian shtick made the show exciting again and The View saw a sharp increase in ratings.

6. The Ladies of Desperate Housewives

Who would have thought that the woman who played Lois on Lois and Clark, a former Melrose Place castmate, the wife of William H. Macy and an actress with no really impressive credits to her name would suddenly became the most adored women on the most popular show in the country?

5. Robert Altman (The Player)

The 80's were a tough time for Robert Altman. His 70's glory days long behind him, Altman was stuck doing horrible little films like O.C. and Stiggs, Fool for Love and HealtH that were nowhere near in the class of M*A*S*H, Nashville or 3 Women. Then in 1992, Altman did The Player, his satire of Hollywood and the film business, and suddenly he was once again the most adored director in Hollywood. He earned his first Oscar nomination since Nashville in 1975 and regained the clout he needed to pursue some of his most popular work: Short Cuts in 1993, Gosford Park in 2001 and A Prairie Home Companion in 2006.

4. Judy Garland (A Star is Born)

After getting fired from both Annie Get Your Gun and Royal Wedding for erratic behavior, Judy was dismissed from her MGM contract in September of 1950. She went on tour for awhile, but eventually she found herself back in Hollywood with this musical remake of A Star is Born. While still a little flaky, Judy put her heart and soul into her performance and gave what most people consider her finest performance of her career. The role thrust her back in to the limelight and she was nominated for a Best Actress in 1954. This comeback didn't last long though: She was widely expected to win, but was ultimately robbed by Grace Kelly in The Country Girl. With this disappointment, and the fact that the studio practically butchered the film and it was consequently a flop, Garland never fully recovered her legendary status and quietly slipped back into touring and dabbled in TV.

3. Mariah Carey (The Emancipation of Mimi CD)

You all know about Mariah's TRL meltdown, the bomb known as Glitter and a soundtrack and subsequent album (Charmbracelet) that ultimately went nowhere. The haters were ready to pronounce her career over, but then she released The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005 and it was suddenly as if she had never gone away. Not only was Mimi one of her freshest and most addictive albums in years, but it also spawned the biggest hit of her career, won her a ton of Grammy's and proved that this diva wasn't dead.

2. Marie Dressler (Anna Christie)

In 1914, legendary vaudeville star Marie Dressler starred in the first feature-length comedy Tillie's Punctured Romance with Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand. She eventually returned to vaudeville but was blacklisted in 1927 for supporting a union. For the next couple of years, Dressler was at a major low point in her life and even considered suicide. Then, writer Frances Marion urged legendary MGM producer Irving Thalberg to give Dressler the role of Marthy in Garbo's first talkie Anna Christie (1930) and Thalberg agreed. Dressler surprised critics and even Garbo herself with her fantastic performance. This soon led to more roles for Dressler and eventually, at the age of 62, she became the most popular star in Hollywood with her performances in Min and Bill (for which she won the Best Actress Oscar), Tugboat Annie, Dinner at Eight and Emma. She remained at the top until her death in 1933.

1. Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard)

The comeback performance of a lifetime. Gloria Swanson was a superstar during the silent era who's career eventually waned with the coming of the talkies. When Billy Wilder started casting for his upcoming film Sunset Boulevard, he originally wanted Mary Pickford, Pola Negri or Mae West for the role of forgotten silent movie queen Norma Desmond. When they didn't pan out, George Cukor suggested Gloria Swanson. She accepted and, consequently, gave one of the greatest performances of not only 1950 or the 50's in general, but of all time. She no-doubtedly understood the role, but she was one of the few silent actresses who could play it because she could act with her voice as well as her face. The performance brought her a Best Actress nomination and should have heralded a flood of new films for her. Unfortunately, most of what she was offered were cheap versions of Norma Desmond and she eventually lost interest in Hollywood.

1 comment:

J.D. said...

Wow, that's a great list. Good work!