Four essential Jamie Lee Curtis performances

In 2018, Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her landmark role as Laurie Strode in a sequel to “Halloween” (1978), and director David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” (2018) (3/4 stars) assumes that none of the other sequels – “Halloween II” (1981), “Halloween: H2O” (1998), etc. – ever happened, in a scary and very worthy 40-year follow-up to the original.

With Curtis celebrating her first staring role again, let’s look back at four essential movies by the legendary actress.  Of course, one could pick from a list of horror films, like “The Fog” (1980), “Prom Night” (1980) and “Terror Train” (1980), but we are only including one scary movie in the bunch.

Helen Tasker, “True Lies” (1994) – Helen (Curtis) is a bit frustrated, because her husband Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a computer salesman, is always on the road.  In reality, he is living double life as a spy, and eventually, Helen catches on.  Director James Cameron lets Arnold be Arnold in an explosive action-comedy, but Curtis is the real surprise here!  Helen steps out of her element as a normal suburban housewife and inadvertently falls into Harry’s dangerous, covert schemes.  Helen is vulnerable, inquisitive, sexy, and determined, and although one particular dance scene can make a 2018-audience a bit uncomfortable, Curtis shows another side of her pragmatic on-screen courage.  Tom Arnold and Bill Paxton co-star in this admittedly silly, but very entertaining, popcorn film.

Laurie Strode, “Halloween” (1978) – No surprise here.  Nineteen-year-old Curtis’ made her feature film debut as virginal babysitter Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s seminal horror film that scared up 70 million dollars at the box office.  Is that three billion dollars in 2018-money?  In any event, Tony Curtis’ and Janet Leigh’s daughter instantly and rightfully made a name for herself, as Carpenter’s camera ominously followed Strode throughout the Haddonfield, Ill. neighborhoods and one particular house.  Whether Curtis knew it or not, she made the term Scream Queen a thing and forged her imprint on horror movies for the next forty years.

Ophelia, “Trading Places” (1983) – Curtis won a BAFTA Best Supporting Actress award in this hilarious tale of poverty, wealth, luck, and meddling intervention.  Duke Brothers Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) bet on the effects of heredity vs. environment, by playing with the lives of Billy Ray (Eddie Murphy) and Louis (Dan Aykroyd).  Once Billy Ray and Louis catch on, a prostitute Ophelia (Curtis) attempts to help the boys out of their jam.  Curtis’ Ophelia adds a needed female-perspective to help right the on-screen wrongs, and the actress reveals her natural comedic timing (for the first time on-screen) and hangs with two of the most talented comedians of the 1980s.  Yes, it’s true, Eddie Murphy was once funny!

Wanda Gershwitz, “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988) – Monty Python pals John Cleese and Michael Palin invite Americans Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline to a brilliant diamond heist film set in London, that truly is one of the decade’s very best comedies.  Ken (Palin), Wanda (Curtis), Otto (Kline), and George (Tom Georgeson) play a quartet of thieves, and Archie (Cleese), a barrister, becomes unwittingly entangled, when he falls in love with Wanda.  All the players contribute hilarious magic with quick wit, vulgarity and surreal visuals, including Archie hanging out of a five-story window and Ken having trouble breathing with chips stuck in his nostrils.  Even though Otto believes that he is completely brilliant, Curtis’ Wanda is the smartest person in every room throughout the 108-minute runtime.  Oh, we so want Wanda and Archie to run away together and be forever-happy.  Will they?

Image credits:  IMDB, MGM, Compass International Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures

Trailer credits:   Treeskate2, Bamban and Movieclips

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