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Then & Now: Kathleen Turner

Nov. 9, 2012by: Salacious Crumb
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Time: The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. Right off the bat you may be wondering why this week we're not looking back on a classic Bond babe. Well, as my pharmaceutical drug dealer once said, "Stop asking so many questions". I realized that many of the hotties featured here are tough to recognize by name (unless I'm calling them by their character name [Xena, Elvira, etc.]), so I thought now would be a good time to focus on a big name from the past, like Kathleen Turner. There's a name that stuck for years on after the actress herself seemed to vanish. Let us head off on a romantic voyage to discover the missing treasure that was once Kathleen Turner...

Kathleen was born in Springfield, Missouri, but she pin-balled all over the globe throughout her youth. She spent time in Canada, Venezuela, England, and she was living in Cuba at the time that Fidel Castro took over the government. Kathleen wanted to act at a young age, but her father did not encourage it. Kathleen says he was of missionary stock, "so theater and acting were just one step up from being a streetwalker, you know? So when I was performing in school, he would drive my mom [there] and sit in the car. She'd come out at intermissions and tell him, 'She's doing very well'." Wow, what a prick. Kathleen kicked a little sand in her dad's face when she earned a gig on the NBC daytime soap opera "The Doctors", but then she buried him in manure with her first role in film. The directorial debut from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, BODY HEAT got Kathleen immediate attention for her quality acting chops as well as her sui generis beauty.

Personally, one of my favorite roles of Kathleen's came a couple years later, in the Steve Martin sci-fi-com THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS. She plays Dolores Benedict, gold-digging, unfaithful wife whose life is surgically changed by Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Martin). That name is not misspelled, it's "Hfuhruhurr".

Of course, most sane people became fond of Kathleen in ROMANCING THE STONE, directed by Robert Zemeckis. When talking '80's movies, Zemeckis' name is a sweet one to hear. ROMANCING THE STONE works thanks largely to him, and I suppose Michael Douglas, who served as producer. It's a great action-adventure love story, which there aren't many of. At least not many with the chemistry pulled off between Turner and Douglas. I also love Danny DeVito as the antiquities smuggler/kidnapper, Ralph, just because he's so typically DeVito. It's hard to call it a "chick flick", due to all the impending doom and danger they encounter every 5 minutes. I'm betting when girls dragged their boyfriends by their mullets to go see it in 1984, they probably thought it was a decent substitute for repeat episodes of "T.J. Hooker". Oh, and Kathleen is stunning. In fact, the most unfathomable thing about the whole story is that she plays a hopeless romantic looking for love. She plays it well, though, so says her Golden Globe for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy).

So this is where things started kicking into hyperdrive and Kathleen's face was plastered all over movie posters and billboards in spite of her disapproving father (probably crying in the fetal position). First up, was a stint in A BREED APART, a drama film concerning the endangerment of the bald eagle. Check out this crazy Spanish poster for the film...

Yeeaaah! That's bad ass! Except for that weird overlay with the crossbow piercing through the bald eagle's wing. And is that eagle grabbing Kathleen Turner's breast?

Then, all within the same year as STONE's release, she appeared in CRIMES OF PASSION, and the hit-man meets hit-girl love story PRIZZI'S HONOR, with Jack Nicholson. She was on one hell of a role, at least as far as receiving critical acclaim. That is until it was time to sequelize her first blockbuster hit, with THE JEWEL OF THE NILE. It picked up where the Turner and Douglas duo left off in ROMANCING THE STONE; living "happily ever after". Danny DeVito returned, but this time he was more of the sidekick comic-relief, like Short Round in TEMPLE OF DOOM. I don't want to get into plot details here, because this movie kinda sucks barrels of ass. It doesn't possess the chemistry, or the sensual romantic novel feel that the first STONE brilliantly pulled off. This is with no doubt because Robert Zemeckis had his hands on another little project (BACK TO THE FUTURE) at the time, so Lewis Teague took over directing duties. Teague directed sewer-terror film ALLIGATORS and NAVY SEALS, so I don't see why JEWEL OF THE NILE didn't win a thousand Oscars.

Doesn't the Academy recognize beautiful legs?

Speak of the golden devil, Kathleen inevitably earned her first Oscar nomination for PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. I've never seen this movie myself, but I was amazed to see some of the names in the credits (Nicholas Cage, Jim Carrey, Helen Hunt, and Francis Ford Coppola in the director's chair). Despite caliber of those names today, Kathleen was the big name in that movie then. Next, she starred in the Italian film JULIA AND JULIA (also known as GIULIA E GIULIA) portraying, you guessed it, Julia (Guilia). Then she went on to star alongside Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve in SWITCHING CHANNELS. She and Reynolds supposedly had a heated feud during filming, and the film didn't wind up being a success. What a bummer (but we all know UHF is the one great '80's comedy about TV). What isn't a bummer is the part Kathleen played next. Can ya guess?

"Patty cake! Patty cake! Patty cake!!!"

Cartoon femme fatale Jessica Rabbit (WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?) is probably the first image from your memory that pops up when you combine the words "sexy" and "cartoon". She's like an extremely exaggerated Betty Boop (which is why that poor, colorless broad is in the audience serving cigars and cigarettes). But without Jessica's unique, strong feminine voice, how hot would that cartoon really be? Okay, still pretty hot, but nonetheless, Kathleen's vocals were pitch perfect for Jessica. I can see why Robert Zemeckis would put her behind a microphone to breath heavily and deliver lines like "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way", or my favorite, "Oh my God, it's DIPPPP!!!". I can't imagine any other hot actress putting a more convincing voice behind those animated bosoms. I'm not even going to get into the brilliant animation noir that is WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, cause I'm sure you're aware.

One film that I feel should be remembered as a true breakthrough in dark comedy is WAR OF THE ROSES. It uses the same successful formula of actors that'd worked so well in the past (Turner, Douglas, DeVito), while taking the chemistry in a completely reverse direction; to the point where they want to kill each other. It is of course, Danny DeVito's second project as a director (following THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN), and boy does he display a twisted cautionary tale of the dangers of romanticism in a way STONE or JEWEL couldn't dare. It follows the same lovable couple (this time as Barbara and Oliver Rose) attempting to settle a divorce while still living under the same roof, and a lot of bat shit crazy things happen. I always used to hate Kathleen's portrayal of Barbara Rose (as one should), but I feel her husband Oliver is also a major douche. You're not supposed to like either of them really, which is what makes the film so fun. You just love to see them one-up each other until it all come crumbling down at the end.

For the sake of getting to the damn point already, I'm going to quickly overview the remainder of Kathleen's '90's career. Things started to simmer down for our lovely Miss Turner after she starred in a poorly received, leggy detective flick V.I. WARSHAWSKI (1991). Most critics were okay with Turner's character and performance, but hated virtually everything else about the movie. Personally, I think it flopped because people were too embarrassed or lazy to pronounce "WARSHAWSKI" at a ticket booth. The next semi-successful turn for Turner was in John Waters' SERIAL MOM. To kids, that just sounds like a mom who loves breakfast, which isn't the case. However, she is coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs! As her career progressed, I think Kathleen realized how great she was at playing total wackos. She played an evil witch in 1997's A SIMPLE WISH, and continued to work at a lower volume in films like THE REAL BLONDE and THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. Obviously, I wouldn't be doing this if I had any idea where she went after that. So let's hop to it and get a look at the new Kathleen Turner...

Well, that's nothing short of disappointing. Okay, honestly, I'm not going to wag my finger at the woman who provided the voice of Jessica Rabbit, one of the sexiest voices/characters of all time. Especially when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the early '90's, which seriously restricted her activities. This explains why her acting career took a downfall as well (although we all knew it certainly wasn't due to her getting rusty). Then again, Kathleen blames her age for work slowing down. She tells, "When I was forty the roles started slowing down, I started getting offers to play mothers and grandmothers...". Hmmm, a forty-year-old playing a mother? That is pretty insulting.

Despite the limitations that came with her sickness, Kathleen remained active, particularly in voice acting and becoming an active supporter of the Democratic party. She actually has been stepping in front of the camera more over the last few years, with a part in MARLEY & ME and THE PERFECT FAMILY. She also did a hilariously awesome job as an aging nympho on "Californication" in several episodes.

Regardless of those extra lbs.'s, and insisting age is what ended her career, I will remember her as the seductive, ball-busting beauty queen we all know and love. She's still Jessica Rabbit, and she still rocked her legs better than just about any other actress in the '80's era. You can't take that away from her. Kathleen always gave an engaging performance and didn't put herself above the art. She embraced her roles and played them with depth the way true actors and actresses should. These young whippersnappers today could learn a thing or two from her. Here's to you, Kathleen Turner! And they lived happily ever after. The end.

Extra Tidbit: How does this outcome make you feel?
Tags: then & now

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5:39PM on 11/11/2012
I'm not sure what the point of showing so many unflattering photos of her is. It seems a bit mean spirited. Otherwise, nice that you gave her this write-up.
I'm not sure what the point of showing so many unflattering photos of her is. It seems a bit mean spirited. Otherwise, nice that you gave her this write-up.
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11:22AM on 11/10/2012
Even though I came of age just as her career was winding down, looking back at her work in the '80s and early '90s, she still feels like a misplaced diva from the 1940s. She's never been cookie-cutter in the looks department, but few actresses exude such sexuality in their every performance as she did in her heyday. To me she's still a legend even if her career and physique has suffered.
Even though I came of age just as her career was winding down, looking back at her work in the '80s and early '90s, she still feels like a misplaced diva from the 1940s. She's never been cookie-cutter in the looks department, but few actresses exude such sexuality in their every performance as she did in her heyday. To me she's still a legend even if her career and physique has suffered.
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+13
5:54PM on 11/09/2012
Her getting her ass pounded in BODY HEAT and begging for more was one of the hottest things that ever happened in mainstream movies.
Her getting her ass pounded in BODY HEAT and begging for more was one of the hottest things that ever happened in mainstream movies.
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+12
2:24PM on 11/09/2012

Give her a break!

Although regulary attractive, I never really thought of her as hot. That being said, having had a mother diagnosed with sever rheumatoid athritis as a younger woman, I've personally seen how the condition and medication can take a woman who looks youthful and good looking to heavy and aged in just a handful of years. I say back of those women whose health affects their looks which they have absolutely no control over!
Although regulary attractive, I never really thought of her as hot. That being said, having had a mother diagnosed with sever rheumatoid athritis as a younger woman, I've personally seen how the condition and medication can take a woman who looks youthful and good looking to heavy and aged in just a handful of years. I say back of those women whose health affects their looks which they have absolutely no control over!
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12:23PM on 11/09/2012
I never was a big fan of her in the looks department. Even when she was younger, I always found her slightly mannish and that isn't my thing.

But she always seemed kinda cool and she still does to this day.
I never was a big fan of her in the looks department. Even when she was younger, I always found her slightly mannish and that isn't my thing.

But she always seemed kinda cool and she still does to this day.
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10:52AM on 11/09/2012
Well, I'll say this. At least she looks her age. At least she isn't running to the plastic surgeon every 6 months slowly turning into a lizard creature like many others.
Well, I'll say this. At least she looks her age. At least she isn't running to the plastic surgeon every 6 months slowly turning into a lizard creature like many others.
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11:16AM on 11/10/2012
You don't know how happy I am to read that.
You don't know how happy I am to read that.
10:20AM on 11/09/2012
Everyone ages, but Kathleen Turner could use a personal trainer and a healthy diet plan. She could look better.
Everyone ages, but Kathleen Turner could use a personal trainer and a healthy diet plan. She could look better.
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+5
9:37AM on 11/09/2012

Took a Turner for the worse

You forgot to mention her playing Chandler's Transgender Father on Friends which thanks to her deep voice was believable. Kathleen was extremely sexy in her hay day but unfortunately time and jelly doughnuts wreak havoc on the physical form. Thankfully if they ever get their heads out of their asses and make a sequel to Roger Rabbit I bet she can still Rock the voice over.
You forgot to mention her playing Chandler's Transgender Father on Friends which thanks to her deep voice was believable. Kathleen was extremely sexy in her hay day but unfortunately time and jelly doughnuts wreak havoc on the physical form. Thankfully if they ever get their heads out of their asses and make a sequel to Roger Rabbit I bet she can still Rock the voice over.
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