Oprah, Jay Leno and more TV talk show hosts on the big screen
Oprah Winfrey is getting good reviews as the alcoholic wife of a White House servant (Forest Whitaker) in "Lee Daniels' The Butler," another big-screen triumph ("The Color Purple," "Beloved") for the talk-show host. Other talk-show hosts have tried their luck on the big screen, with mixed results. Take these 5:
STEVE ALLEN The first "Tonight Show" host starred in the grade-Z melodrama "College Confidential" (1960) as a sociology professor investigating the sexual habits of his students (especially one played by the estimable Mamie Van Doren).
JIMMY FALLON The current "Late Night" and future "Tonight Show" host had a starring role as a teacher/Red Sox fanatic in "Fever Pitch" (2005), an appealing comedy from the Farrelly Brothers.
ARSENIO HALL The pioneering late-'80s/early-'90s host (who returns to the late-night wars next month) co-starred in the hit "Coming to America" (1988). He played Sammi, who accompanies his best friend, the African prince played by Eddie Murphy, to our shores in search of a royal bride.
JAY LENO The current "Tonight Show" host actually starred in a movie back in the day when he was better known as a stand-up. In the comedy "Collision Course" (1987), he played a cop from Detroit who teamed with a Japanese cop (Pat Morita). Leno also had a small role in "American Hot Wax," the 1978 biopic of 1950s DJ Alan Freed.
DAVID LETTERMAN In "Cabin Boy" (2004), the character of an "Old Salt in a Fishing Village" is credited to one "Earl Hofert." But he, of course, was played by the "Late Show" host (Earl Hofert is Letterman's uncle). This comedy, which has achieved minor cult status, stars Letterman's former writer Chris Elliott as a spoiled rich kid who mistakenly sets sail on a run-down fishing boat instead of bis father's yacht. In his one scene, the Old Salt shows a sock-puppet monkey to Elliott's character and asks him, "Hey, would you like to buy a monkey?"