With new albums available from actors Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins -- who records with the colorfully named Rogues Gallery Band -- it's time to revisit the checkered history of actors dabbling in music. It's always hit or miss when Hollywood stars step in front of the microphone, and while Russell Crowe has taken plenty of gruff for his horribly named group, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, some thespians-turned-rockers have garnered more respect. What follows are our picks for the best and worst movie-star musicians. Notice the lack of Shatner jokes. That stuff is poetry, man.
The Best: Jeff Bridges
Forget Bad Blake, the down-and-out country singer that earned Bridges an Oscar from 'Crazy Heart.' If the Dude can't cut a record, who can? Released on Blue Note and produced by none other than T Bone Burnett, the self-titled effort makes good on the vague promise of Bridge's indie release from 2000 and the stalwart work he did on the 'Crazy Heart' soundtrack two years ago.
Evening Standard, Hulton Archive
In the mid-'50s, this legendary tough guy took a vacation in Trinidad, where he evidently soaked up enough local intoxicants to fancy himself a calypso singer. Sung in an affected yet oddly charming patois, Mitchum's calypso album is a real-gone artifact of its day. For good measure, Mitchum co-wrote the original 'Thunder Road' -- a country-Western-style ballad from the movie of the same name.
This platinum blonde never had a platinum hit, but let's just say we weren't looking at her chart figures.
The Middle of the Road: Scarlett Johansson
It was an intriguing proposition: the lovely Ms. Johansson, making her official singing debut with an album of Tom Waits covers, with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek manning the boards. Sadly, when 'Anywhere I Lay My Head' came out, the intrigue fizzled. However, she's much better on her 2009 album with Pete Yorn, the Serge Gainsbourg-inspired 'Break Up.' Her next acting project will be a role in the Judd Apatow-produced 'Can a Song Save Your Life?' The answer is "definitely" -- just not one from her first album.
The Worst: John Travolta
Ron Galella, WireImage
The former Vinnie Barbarino acquitted himself quite well with his lead role in 'Grease' and classic camp portrayal of Edna Turnblad in the 2007 movie version of 'Hairspray.' But Travolta's 1976 debut album, which featured the milk-curdling pop hit 'Let Her In' and a pseudo-disco track called 'Razzamatazz,' earned him a permanent spot among the best of the worst singing actors.
In the unfortunate guise of his 'My Cousin Vinny' character, this perennial wise guy cut a ludicrous, lounge-y LP that featured plenty of foul-mouthed blather, a tepid rip-off of Blondie's 'Rapture' and a version of 'What a Wonderful World' so nauseating, it thoroughly undermined the song's beautiful sentiment.
Koichi Kamoshida, Getty
On 'Songs From the Crystal Cave,' his 2005 album, the action hero titled one song 'Music.' It's identifiably music, what with the notes and tempo and all, but that's about all we'll say for it. Seagal can undeniably play some guitar, but there's no action in his singing. The movie martial artist couldn't settle on a style if a much bigger man threatened to cut off his ponytail.
The actor cut two albums in the late '80s -- for Motown. That tells you something about how far the mighty label had fallen.