Home / The Films of Pia Zadora: Worst Actress Ever?

The Films of Pia Zadora: Worst Actress Ever?

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In the 1970s and 80s, Pia Zadora was everywhere. It seemed like you couldn’t go to a movie, look at an ad (she was the spokeswoman for Dubonnet), hear a song, turn on an awards show or even pick up a porn rag without seeing her scrunched-up little chipmunk face. She was a woman who did many things–and was good at none of them.

Pia Zadora was born in 1954 and made her first film as a child in the 1964 B-movie classic Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. You could blame her poor choice of a movie debut on her parents, but then, how do you explain her adult roles in such awful fare as Fake-Out, Butterfly and the Razzie-award winning classic The Lonely Lady? The Lonely Lady, based on the Harold Robbins novel, is an awful piece of trash in which Pia is raped by a garden hose (!), then saved by a man who ultimately leaves her, because she’s rewritten his work and he can’t handle being married to such a brilliant talent. (An aside: In my mind, Pia Zadora and Linda Blair are similar in the sense that they kinda look alike, have been in bad films of the 80s, appeared in porn mags and were both raped by inanimate objects on film. But I digress.)

When Pia’s husband leaves her, she is then forced–forced, I tell you–to sleep her way to the top of the Hollywood ladder. (Apparently, her writing talent is of the short-lived variety.) The film should have been a perfect role for Pia, as her husband, millionaire Meshulam Riklis, financially backed her own stardom–but even with this real-life experience, Pia still managed to louse the pic up.

After The Lonely Lady, she went to Canada to hide in her shame, and made a TV-movie, Pajama Tops, there. Not satisfied with inflicting her awful talent on adults of the 80s, she went for their children with Voyage of the Rock Aliens, a musical/sci-fi/comedy/whatever, and Mother Goose Rock n’ Rhyme. When she finally retired, in 1991, the movie going public breathed a collective sigh of relief.

For more cool film criticism on the WORST FILMS of all time, go to Bad Movies and Cult Films.

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About Gena

  • Buddy Bond

    I just remember in the mid 80’s on a plane from El Reno, Oklahoma to Denver flying Pacific International Airways and seeing it was PIA’s airline….. being leased to the Bureau of Prisons… a lovely memory of Pia…. or more appropriately her very wealthy husband.

  • lindsay

    i cant believe all the people attacking the writer of the article! the people saying that pia’s not relevant anymore and blah blah blah, whats your point? there are thousands of sites dedicated to old movies, old actors ect that wouldnt be considered “relevant” in todays day and age. as a matter of fact, one of my favorite sites is grindhouse database, which covers exploitation films of the 60s, 70s and 80s (which i collect) and its HUGELY popular! also, look at all of the old film trailers and music videos on youtube! this stuff wouldnt be around if there wasnt a demand for “old” stuff! and btw, how exactly did you come across a pia zadora article if you werent searching for the actress you say isnt relevant anymore?

  • onanboy

    Personally I love Pia. I think that she is a great beauty and not without talent. Yes her early career is stuff of legend but a lot of the hatred she garners comes from the shamelessness of her early marketing. It’s not hard to despise the Cannes/fountain/bathingsuit pics for being in really really poor taste for a legit actress. A decent manager instead of a rich husband and her career might never have happened but at least the roles would have been less garish. I saw her sing back in 1985 and she was entertaining and very talented.

    Strangely enough, I also have a thing for Linda Blair. Sez something about me I suppose. If Pia has Google alerts about her name (like I do) then maybe she will read these comments. Notice the comments start to ease off as time goes on. Time for a comeback?

  • MD

    Actually, Pia turned a corner in 1985 by recording a well-received album of standards and subsequently a very successful concert career and then doing stage musical work. She never did anything more than cameo roles in movies after her big ’80s vehicles flopped, but she did vindicate herself by earning critical respect as a singer and on the stage. She retired from showbiz after suffering a miscarriage while doing Broadway in the mid/late ’90s. So, yeah, her film career was a notorious flop, but she took those knocks with grace and humor (and has no delusions about the movies’ quality or lack thereof), and I’ve always found her story fascinating in how she managed to carve out a respectable career (and break free of the svengali husband) before retiring to quiet family life.

  • seany

    I work at a country club. Pia is a member. She’s kinda nice, but really needy.

  • Chris

    Yes her acting and movie’s were bad. She would have been great in porn! Beacuase she was grogeous she would have done well in that industry.

  • Pedro Rabie

    This is the classic column of somebody who has done nothing. I think we use to call this kind of people as critics, or parasites may be?.

    I couldn’t care less if you think if Pia or other actress is the worst, just get yourself a real life with a real outcome and then start a blog about yourself.


  • Fanny

    Hey, Pia was fantastic and a good singer too! She had a #1 Hit in Europe – When The Rain Begins To Fall, feat. Jermaine Jackson. She did that right! I think she should make a comeback!!

  • mr Jones

    Maybe she WAS a bad actress, but she is a nice lady these days…..i know because i climbed in her window day before yesterday and unlocked her front door (her housekeeper had locked her keys inside)at her flat in London. nice lady, very nice lady…

  • sharly farley

    Hasn’t this poor child ever heard of Lana Turner? Now THERE was a bad actress. Damn near sank every film she was in, including ‘the Bad and the Beautiful’… MGM handed her one high-powered role after another, all to no avail.

  • To Duane: Regarding Scarlet Johansson: She’s known for her good career choices in films like Ghost World and Lost In Translation. I didn’t even know she was in 8-Legged Freaks until you mentioned it. Whereas Pia has never made a Ghost World or a Lost in Translation. In fact, Pia may have been a great actress–notice in my article I did put a question mark after the word “ever.” My point was she acted in bad movies and was a bad actress in them. Had she been offerred good roles, who knows what would have been? It’s true everyone starts out in bad films, but eventually they prove their talent–or sleep with the right person–and get good movies. That never happened for Pia, and who’s to know whether it’s fair or not. I sense she was a mediocre actress though, who even with good roles wouldn’t have gotten far. Yes, I could have explained things more in depth in the review. You could probably write a whole book on Pia Zadora. But I just chose not to. The main point is she was given lousy roles and did a lousy job in them. That’s all I set out to say in the article, and I said it.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks and welcome Gena! I’d say Pia’s particular brand of thespiaomatic putrescence is timeless

  • It’s hard not to have sympathy for someone who had their career peak with Santa Claus Conquers The Martians but let’s admit the fact that she wasn’t the one making the stupid decisions about her career. That dubious distinction goes to Meshulam Rilkis. If there were ever a seminar about what you could do wrong in being a Svengali, he would be the prime example. From those movies, to putting his wife in Penthouse to ripping down Pickfair (the old Hollywood landmark that had been the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford) if there was amistake to be made, he made it.

  • Duane

    Her movie choices are a large part of what makes her a bad actress.

    I don’t agree with that comment. I’m guessing that she wasn’t being offered the lead for Sophie’s Choice and pretty much had to take what she could get. That’s true of most, if not all, inexperienced actors and actresses. For example, Scarlett Johansson was in Eight Legged Freaks. What do you think of that choice vs. the general opinions concerning her acting ability?

  • Her movie choices are a large part of what makes her a bad actress. How can anyone act well when a script is as poorly written as Lonely Lady is? Larry Olivier couldn’t save that piece of crap.

  • Duane

    That’s true. Maybe it was just the crappy scripts. Look what happened to Faye Dunaway.

  • El Bicho El Bitches wisely here…

  • Okay, then let’s forget timeliness. As I read your article, I don’t see what makes Pia the worst actress ever.

    You write that she was in “awful fare as Fake-Out, Butterfly and the Razzie-award winning classic The Lonely Lady,” the plot of which you detail, and it certainly sounds terrible, but what is it that makes Pia’s acting so bad?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong. I just don’t see any proof offered other than she picks horrible movies to be in.

  • One of the beautiful things about blogging is that you can write about whatever you want, whenever you like.

    And readers can do likewise on the reading front…

  • Duane

    Don’t worry about El Bicho, who reviews old TV shows like Cannon and Longstreet.

    I think a post about Pia Zadora is just swell. She was a fabulous babe, and those Dubonnet commercials were great.

  • Well, this was my first post and I appreciate everyone’s comments. To address those who mentioned the timeliness of the piece, I wasn’t aiming for timeliness. My blog reviews all bad films and cult movies, regardless of year. You know, there are other blogs outside of news and current affairs. And yes, I know Pia Zadora is not a current actress. And I’m very thankful she isn’t. And why would I review a Where’s The Beef commercial? That’s TV; not film.

  • “Can’t wait for your article about the “Where’s the Beef?” comercials.” — oh that was her?

  • I don’t recall who said it, for it was a long time ago, but I think it was at the Academy Awards in LA. The comic said something like “If they dropped a bomb on us all tonight, Pia Zadora would be the biggest star in Hollywood.” Maybe someone remembers it better than I.

    PS> Even as a little kid, I thought SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS was the most idiotic movie I ever saw. Still my sister and I sang the theme song for weeks after our father took us to see it: S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S! Hooray for Santy Claus!

  • I remember seeing her in a very small part in a movie once and always wondered who she was or what she did…now I know!

    Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with writing about something that’s not in the current mainstream spotlight. If everyone kept talking about the same thing (ie: Jessica Simpson and tom cruise) it would get awfully boring out there. 🙂

  • Fellas, hold your water. Shouldn’t an honest discussion of the “worst actress ever” include those who are part of our collective and filmic pasts?

  • Timely. She hasn’t been around for 10 years.

    Can’t wait for your article about the “Where’s the Beef?” comercials.

  • Nick Jones

    This might have been relevant 15 or more years ago, but now, who cares? Most of us have forgotten her and moved on. You also neglected to mention that she was in one good movie, John Waters’ Hairspray.