When Musicians Become Actors

David Bowie is one of my favorite entertainers. From Ziggy Stardust to 80s pop to his transformation to the stage in The Elephant Man to his films—The Labyrinth or Prestige, the chameleon is champs in my book.

Barbara Streisand is my favorite belt-it-like-you-mean-it singers. Judy Garland is close, but I’ve always loved Babs in films. Even Yentel. They maybe corny, but her talent is undeniable. Dustin Hoffman and she added a hilarious dimension in Meet the Fockers II (2004). Of course, she not only sings and acts, she directs and produces. She’s a one woman show and a personal role model for me.

Justin Timberlake had my respect when he starred in The Social Network. He managed to evolve from his boy-toy days in N’Sync to become a multi-faceted actor, musician and when he’s in a film, I sit up and pay attention. Loved his minor role in Inside Llewyn Davis.

I like Queen Latifa. I think she has a lot of talent and can easily slide from singer to actress gracefully. She won my respect in the film Chicago. I wish she’d pick better films to showcase her talent!

Frank Sinatra is such a musical icon still symbolizing everything cool in NYC or Chicago. You can’t escape him if you dine in an Italian restaurant or think of classic Las Vegas. He was a surprisingly good actor when he wasn’t making girls drop to their knees. I loved him in The Manchurian Candidate. He won Best Supporting Actor in 1953 for From Here to Eternity. In the 1950s, the term “Rat Pack” began supposedly by Lauren Bacall who lovingly chastised her husband Humphrey Bogart and his friends after the boys had a night of boozing. By the 60s, the press took the term and applied it to David Niven, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The Rat Pack for which Frank Sinatra was the leader was an incredibly influential bunch making several films and records together.  Who could beat Frank and Marlon Brando together? Guys and Dolls (1955)

Better yet, I loved Ocean 11, 12, 13. You probably know the redux is from the 1960 version starring the Rat Pack.

These are my favorites—there are big names I didn’t choose. Who is your favorite musician turned actor? Will Smith? Ice Cube? Dolly Parton?

24 thoughts on “When Musicians Become Actors

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  1. What an interesting post. Brought back a lot of memories. I like all these people on your list. I watched ‘The Way We Were’ as a teen, loved it and watched it a zillion times back then. 500 miles is a song i liked ever since I was knee high (My mum use to love that song).
    I couldn’t open the ‘Labyrinth’ clip, I liked David Bowie in ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’.
    Speaking of singers who turned actors, I liked Madonna in ‘Evita’, but besides that she’s not much of an actress. Yet my favourite pop star since childhood.
    Like the Rat Pack too, but haven’t seen the original ‘Oceans 11’ yet.


    1. Hi Nuwansen. I just tried the Labyrinth trailer and it worked for me. Hmm. Anyway, Madonna tried to cross over–she was irrelavent in Field of Dreams, but I thought she did a marvelous job in Evita. David Bowie is awesome; I liked The Man Who Fell to Earth, too. 🙂


      1. Oh no, it’s not your fault. It just says, ‘The uploader has not made this video available in your country’, like many things related to this country. I’m not surprised. I re-tried it just now.
        Nuwan 🙂


  2. Hi, Cindy:

    Great catch on the original Rat pack ‘Ocean’s 11’!

    Some musicians can make it in the acting milieu. Others, not so much.

    Worked with:

    Frank Sinatra
    Dean Martin
    Sammy Davis, Jr.
    Art Garfunkel
    Frank Zappa
    David Bowie (nee Jones)
    Debra Harry (Yes, even in ‘Videodrome’)

    Didn’t work for:
    Neil Diamond
    Paul Simon
    Olivia Newton John


  3. I enjoyed your article and I’ve been thinking about musicians turned actors whilst I was at work today. For some reason most of the people I came up with are from a country music background. Here are a few of my favourites.
    Kris Kristofferson in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Flashpoint and John Sayles’ Lone Star.
    Willie Nelson in The Electric Horseman. Johnny Cash in A Gunfight. James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as The Driver and The Mechanic in Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop.
    I also thought Jewel Kilcher wasn’t half bad in her only motion picture acting role in Ang Lee’s Civil War epic Ride With the Devil.


  4. All of these are great choices, each of them exemplifying multi-talented individuals. Because I have only seen her in one movie (Thanks for Sharing), I won’t yet put her on this list … But I think Pink shows some serious potential.

    And I’m with you on Timberlake. Especially when he’s doing comedy.


    1. Thanks, Josh, for contributing. I think Pink is pretty talented, too. I liked her singing at the Oscars this year. I forgot what a singer she was. Don’t know the film she was in.


      1. The movie isn’t great. (I gave it a C.) It’s about sex addicts, of which she’s one. She forms an easy friendship with Josh Gad’s character.

        While the flick isn’t great, the cast is. Especially Pink.


  5. Awesome post as always Cindy! Bowie is awesome in The Prestige. I like Timberlake in supporting roles but he’s lousy in lead roles like In Time. I don’t know who’d be my favorite though, hmmm I might have to get back to you on that.


    1. Please do! I know how you love music in films. HHHmm. Not a Madona fan. Maybe a Cher fan but that’s before your time. Perhaps Mandy Moore for her efforts in animation? Maybe Jennifer Hudson? 😉


  6. Listening to B. B. King’s Into the Night on Spotify this morning, I was reminded of the movie of the same name. That led to my thinking of the role David Bowie played in that movie. It was always a pleasure to see him on the screen. I think it is a pity that he did not play in more films. . . . just random thoughts on a rainy winter morning.


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