What the Hell Happened to Michelle Pfeiffer?

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer was one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood.  She starred opposite Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson.  The image of Pfeiffer cracking a whip as Catwoman is iconic.  And then, she disappeared for seveal years.  Recently, Pfeiffer has resurfaced.  But her days on the A-list appear to be behind her.

So, what the hell happened?

Michelle Pfeiffer - 1978 Miss California Beauty Pageant

Michelle Pfeiffer – 1978 Miss California Beauty Pageant

Pfeiffer started out as a pageant girl before moving into TV and movies. Pfeiffer was Ms. Orange County in 1978 and competed in the Miss California Beauty Pageant where she placed sixth.

After her sixth-place finish, Pfeiffer hired an agent and got into acting.

Michelle Pfeiffer - Fantasy Island - 1978

Michelle Pfeiffer – Fantasy Island – 1978

One of Pfeiffer’s earliest TV appearances was on the TV show, Fantasy Island.  Guest star Robert Morse played a sailor who visits an island populated by beautiful women.  Pfeiffer played one of the island’s inhabitants.

Pfieffer would return to the show a few years later.

Pfeiffer - Delta House

Michelle Pfeiffer – Delta House – 1979

In 1979, Pfeiffer landed a recurring role on the short-lived Animal House TV show, Delta House.  The show recast some roles while maintaining original cast members Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, James Widdoes and John Vernon. Pfeiffer’s character was named “The Bombshell”.

Pfeiffer wasn’t impressed by the show’s scripts, but she needed the work:

It was a no-brainer, and I detested it. But it was exposure so I did the best I could with terrible scripts. I told myself: “There are so many unemployed actors around, you should be glad you’re working at all.”

Delta House got good ratings initially.  But after fights over content, the show was cancelled after only 13 episodes.

Michelle Pfeiffer - B.A.D. Cats - 1980

Michelle Pfeiffer – B.A.D. Cats – 1980

In 1980, Pfieffer landed a regular role on the car-themed cop show, B.A.D. Cats.  Asher Brauner and Steve Hanks starred as a couple of former race-car drivers who join the Los Angeles Police Department.

B.A.D. Cats lasted 10 episodes on ABC.

Next: Hollywood Knights and Falling in Love Again

Posted on October 7, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 136 Comments.

  1. i thought dark shaodws would be a hit it had her team up with burton but came up short. depp wasnt in the slump he was then dark shaodws was kind of the beginning of it. if keaton can make a comeback so can she


  2. I re-watched Frankie and Johnny the other day. The 1991 movie holds up surprisingly well and is probably a good representative of Garry Marshall’s better works. He does more with less here – however did this director let himself get lost in the NYE 40-star cast stuff? He does a really great job building the intensity at a nice slow pace, but of course he has Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer to help that along. For those who don’t care for his later performances, I think you’ll find Pacino is more understated as Johnny. There was critical drama at the time about how they were both too impossibly gorgeous to play the lead characters but I never thought this criticism made any sense. Some of the buzz came about because Kathy Bates wanted to reprise her Broadway role on film, and it’s understandable she was disappointed. But the movie works. Of course, I love Pacino and Pfeiffer anyway, so for me this is an easy sell.


    • It’s been a while since I have seen Frankie and Johnny. This may surprise you but I liked the movie. I just feel a little guilty about it.

      I agree that Frankie and Johnny is representative of Gary Marshall for better or worse. I am actually not a fan of Marshall. But as much as I would like to use the word “hack” I have to stop short. What Marshall excels at is taking the rough edges off of entertainment. He has said before that when he casts his leads, he casts pretty people he thinks the audience will want to see kiss. This worked very well for him when he turned a story about a prostitute into the fairy tale Pretty Woman. But most of the time, it’s less successful.

      I have seen local productions of Frankie and Johnny. In fact, I wrote a play that was my 20-something take on it. Mine involved a lot less nudity. But the actual play was about middle-aged people taking a last chance at something. The characters were flawed and not at all glamorous. Casting the most beautiful actors you can find is to completely miss the point of the play. A faithful adaptation would have starred Bates.

      Instead, Marshall takes away a lot of what made the stage play special. I still think there is some of the play’s DNA left in the movie and that is what raises it above the average Gary Marshall movie (along with a killer cast). But an adaptation of Frankie and Johnny could have been more than that.


  3. Katie Couric pitching a morning news show comedy starring Michelle Pfeiffer:

    Couric is teaming with Murphy Brown creator Diane English on a comedy going behind-the-scenes comedy of a morning news show, with Pfeiffer playing the lead anchor. Couric is expected to serve as executive producer.


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