Reviewing Ed McMahon’s acting
Ed McMahon, actor? You are correct, sir! Over the years, Johnny Carson’s sidekick has lent his subtle talents to Hollywood, appearing in six movies, all on video. Heeere’s a look at his big screen performances:
The Incident (1967, FoxVideo) His first big role — as a wimpy husband who, along with his wife, child, and 12 other passengers, is terrorized by two toughs on a New York subway — actually earned McMahon some respect at the time. His overwrought acting is thankfully overshadowed by the more charismatic turns by Martin Sheen and Tony Musante as the hoods.
Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off (1973, FoxVideo) McMahon tossed his affable TV persona aside to portray a merciless mobster in this blaxploitation actioner. Memorable moment: Ed as Mr. Big barks, ”I got half this town on payroll!” while dressed in a robe that poignantly displays toothpick-thin legs.
The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977, MCA/Universal) Ed looks like he barely got off the Tonight Show couch for his 13-second cameo in this sporadically funny spoof. Commenting on the movie’s action, he announces a commercial break, obviously gliding on a wealth of experience.
Fun With Dick and Jane (1977, Columbia TriStar) His best role — and performance. McMahon, as a sleazy boss, sets the plot going in one of the movie’s funnier scenes when he drunkenly fires George Segal. For once, you forget he’s Ed.
Butterfly (1981, Vestron) What a cast: Orson Welles, Stacy Keach, and Pia Zadora, among others, acting like mad in the parched desert locale. What a plot: a convoluted mess about buried silver and incest. Poor Ed, as Edward Albert’s dad, plays it relatively straight, while Welles emotes at his flamboyantly corniest.
Full Moon High (1981, HBO) An irritating comedy in which McMahon gamely plays the father of a football hero-turned-werewolf. He seems most at ease when lecherously telling two Eastern bloc prostitutes, ”All right now, my lovelies, let’s find out what Communist infiltration is all about!” Yessssss!