8 famous actors who had some surprising final film roles

They would probably like us to forget these movies.

Images: Right, Universal Studios; left, Warner Bros. 

An actor has to have several memorable performances, and maybe an Academy Award or two, to become a bona fide screen legend. No time produced more legends than the golden age of Hollywood. Movie theater marquees flashed the names "Kelly," "Brando" and "Monroe" in order to draw audiences away from their television sets and into the theater. 

But the end of the studio era left some movie stars pining for good roles in their old age. While some were successful, others settled for roles far beneath their level of expertise. A hit was hard to come by, and misses started to become more common. 

In the case of these eight actors, those career misses happened at the end of their film careers. They were definitely memorable performances, but for all the wrong reasons. Here's a look at the shocking last roles of some of Hollywood's biggest legends.

1. Gene Kelly

He could sing, he could act, and he could tap dance like no other. Gene Kelly was the biggest triple threat of the 1950s, charming audiences in Singing in the Rain and An American in Paris. But the heyday of the Hollywood musical didn't last, and Kelly's last film appearance was much more underwhelming. Kelly starred as the has-been big band leader and construction mogul Danny McGuire in the notorious flop Xanadu in 1980. 

Image: Universal Studios

2. Marlon Brando

A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now... Those films barely begin to scratch the surface of Brando's illustrious acting career. But there's one movie Brando would have probably liked to bury: 2004's unreleased animated feature Big Bug Man. The screen legend lent his voice to Mrs. Sour, and during the single day he worked on the film, he reportedly showed up to the recording booth in a blonde wig, dress, white gloves and full makeup. Whether the film was good or not, we've got to appreciate his commitment. 

Image: Studio-Free Studio

3. Elizabeth Taylor

By the 1990s, Elizabeth Taylor had taken a step back from acting to focus more on HIV/AIDS activism. But that didn't mean she completely stopped accepting roles. In addition to making cameo appearances on sitcoms and soap operas, Taylor played Pearl Slaghoople in 1994's live-action feature film The Flintstones

What's even better, Taylor's last acting performance was in the 2001 TV movie These Old Broads, which also starred one-time rival Debbie Reynolds, Shirley McClaine and Joan Collins. 

Image: Universal Studios

4. Ethel Merman

One of the most unusual roles of Merman's career is also one of her funniest. In 1980, the actress made a cameo appearance in Airplane! as a shell-shocked solider who believes he's Ethel Merman. The soldier busts out singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" until he's restrained and sedated, thereby putting a close to Merman's film career. 

Image: Paramount Pictures

5. Joan Crawford

With a name like Troga movie can only be so good. In her final film role, Crawford plays a scientist who tries to domesticate a primitive caveman that she discovers. Unfortunately, the movie was universally panned by critics, and Crawford retired from acting shortly after this disaster. 

Image: Warner Bros. 

6. Groucho Marx

In his late 70s, Marx decided to accept the role of "God," a mob boss, in the 1968 film Skidoo. He later regretted the decision, saying he looked like he was embalmed when he saw himself onscreen. Despite it being his final film role, Marx went on to say, "Both my performance and the film were God-awful."

Image: Paramount Pictures

7. Lauren Bacall

It doesn't feel right that Lauren Bacall was in the presence of teen sensations Josh Hutcherson and Hayden Panettiere for her final film role, but that's how the screen siren's career came to a close in 2012. Hopefully Bacall taught the young actors a thing or two in The Forger, a film about art forgery.

Image: Experience Media Studios

8. Fred Astaire

Maybe Astaire was secretly a horror fan? His last film role was 1981's Ghost Story, which features a group of old men who love a good spook. The film also featured Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Melvyn Douglas and John Houseman. Ghost Story wasn't just Astaire's final film either. Only Houseman went on to make more movies. Now that's scary. 

Image: Universal Pictures

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