The hardest working actor in Hollywood is only 12 inches tall.
Soon after his debut in 1964, GIjOE quickly became a “media opportunist,” and for 40+ years he’s been appearing regularly on both television programs and in motion pictures. compiling an acting performance record that would rival any current screen star. Clearly, in addition to fighting the world’s evildoers, Hasbro’s action figure also enjoys sneaking onto soundstages and backlots (maybe he’s just a ham) and making unannounced cameo appearances whenever and wherever possible.
Fans enjoy reporting “sightings” of GIjOE’s performances as well. Similar to spotting a UFO, a genuine sighting is considered to be quite the coup and is always a pleasant surprise. Such discoveries are a matter of personal pride among GIjOE and Action Man fans and it’s considered somewhat of a badge of honor to be the first fan to “report in” when a new sighting is made.
Typically, our hero is spotted lurking somewhere in the background, acting as if he was merely a decorative prop in some kid’s bedroom. But Joe has also managed to actually land parts, becoming a legitimate character in a production. On these rare occasions, fans get REALLY excited.
For example, in the 1990s TV series, Seinfeld, there’s an episode in which Jerry discovers a vintage GIjOE Action Marine standing on a shelf full of toys in his girlfriend’s apartment. Despite her repeated refusals, Jerry goes to extreme lengths in order to play with the figure (natch!). Later, Jerry, George and Elaine end up playing with all of the toys, primarily the Action Marine and an Action Sailor (outfitted in full SCUBA gear). It’s hilarious!
Watch those scenes HERE.
Similarly, on an episode of the TV series Friends, there’s a funny scene where Ross urges toddler Ben to just “drop the Barbie” and play with a GIjOE instead, to help “protect American oil interests overseas.” Ross even sings part of the 1980’s GIjOE cartoon theme song. Watch that scene HERE.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The story of Joe’s acting career actually began almost almost 50 years ago, in a western town far, far away from his East Coast origins—Hollywood.
At the beginning of GIjOE’s budding show business career, in his first-ever cameo appearance on TV, our hero was cast to portray a handsome, if slightly oversized chess piece, in an evocative episode of the 1960’s TV series, The Wild, Wild West. In that episode, a vintage GIjOE was required for a scene and customized to resemble the show’s 1:1 star, Robert Conrad.
First, a miniature blue western suit was created, perfectly tailored to fit Joe’s 1/6th scale physique. The show’s propmasters also decided to add hair to the figure, making him—think about this now—the first-ever “Fuzzhead!” (Personal note: Wouldn’t that be a cool Joe to own today? Talk about RARE. Maybe someone in Hollywood still knows where it is. Probably stored in a box in a dark, old warehouse somewhere. What a “Holy Grail Search” that would be for some west coast collector!)
Reviews of Joe’s debut performance on The Wild Wild West were glowing and signaled the beginning one of the longest runs of any performer, of any size, to EVER work in show business.
A few years later, Joe landed another cameo appearance on an episode of The Partridge Family. In that show, he portrayed the mysterious “Iced Adventurer” who was being held prisoner in David Cassidy’s room. For some reason, poor Joe had been encased in a clear plexiglass box, which was custom-weathered to resemble a block of ice.
By this point in his career, Joe’s talent for remaining motionless had clearly preceded him. As before, he was asked to stand perfectly still, this time to help create the illusion of being frozen solid. He succeeded masterfully, and the show’s producers were thrilled with the performance. Watch that scene HERE (starting at 8:58).
Die-hard GIjOE fans however, can’t stop speculating on the odd mission that must’ve taken place for a GIjOE to have ended up frozen in a block of ice. Collector Buzz Mooney commented on the weird, Partridge Family “Ice Prison” by saying…
“There’s the question of what it’s doing there, in the first place. You’d think that if a GIjOE appeared in The Partridge Family, Chris would be hitting Tracy over the head with it. Or Danny would be trying to get as much cash out of it as possible. Of course, if it were ever in a scene with Lori (actress Susan Dey), none of us would have even noticed the Joe.” (HA! Good point, Buzz.)
The reasons behind the show’s strange prop device were never made clear, and to a confused fandom, the episode remains one of Joe’s most puzzling television appearances. Nevertheless, requests for additional television cameos continued to pour in, one after the other. GIjOE had obviously found his on-screen niche as the “Go to Guy” for scenes that required someone who could stand very still. And fans were lovin’ every minute of it!
Soon thereafter, GijOE’s cousin, Action Man, also decided to get in on the acting biz, and began appearing in numerous British productions. One of the most popular was UFO, a 60’s sci-fi series that often required its 1/6th scale performers to work in miniature space ship models and sets.
For these roles, GIjOE and Action Man Astronauts were clearly preferred, and their spacesuits would receive significant upgrades and customizations from the shows talented propmasters. In one dramatic episode, Action Man goes on a spacewalk, has his oxygen line and tether cut, sending him floating away into space. WOW!
UFO is a hoot to watch today, and opportunities for fans to make additional “Joe sightings” abound. Keep a keen eye out for Joe-related props in the show as well. In many scenes, a GIjOE Space Capsule or Panther Jet can be seen. Clearly, show creator Gerry Anderson wasn’t hesitant to use GIjOEs in his productions.
GIjOE’s performance resume continued to grow over the years. He’s also appeared on Third Rock From the Sun, Home Improvement, From the Earth to the Moon, MadTV, Emergency, Ghost Whisperer and animated programs such as South Park, King of the Hill and many others. In an episode of That 70’s Show, Joe is rescued from a terrible fate—trapped beneath a mountain of human blubber! Watch that ridiculous clip HERE.
Eventually, Joe decided to “up his game” and pursue appearances in motion pictures. In the past, such sightings were much more elusive than those on television, requiring greater vigilance from fans. But nowadays, with the advent of DVDs, sightings in movies are becoming more common. In one such sighting, Joe can be seen in the 2005 film, Amityville Horror.
During the opening scene, lightning is flashing on and off while the camera pans slowly around a darkened room. Ever so briefly, sharp-eyed fans will notice GIjOE sitting on the shelf, once again portraying his famous role of the “Silent Sitter.” One fan describes the scene thusly..
“At the very beginning of the new Amityville Horror movie, when the guy is loading the gun, it flashes to GIjOE for a couple of seconds. At this point, the movie is in black and white and lightning is flashing. He appears to be a hard-handed Land Adventurer wearing camo with a round AT dog tag and a cartridge belt. I really am glad to see moviemakers use props like this.” —Mike
You can watch Joe’s Amityville scene HERE. (Start watching carefully at about the 45 second mark.)
As mentioned previously, GIjOE’s cousin, Action Man, has also seen his fair share of screen time. For example, Action Man appeared in the AWFUL sci-fi flick, X-TRO. A fan described it this way…
“Just saw an Action Man soldier on Sci Fi’s showing of X-TRO, a pretty bad movie that has a woman giving birth to a full-grown man who is an alien that kills people.”
Sounds great. <cough> I looked for this flick for a long time, and sadly—I found it. If you’d like to see it, you can watch Joe’s scene HERE. (Starting around the 4:45 mark.)
By contrast, one of GIjOE’s most subtle and touching performances is in the film, My Life, starring Michael Keaton. In this particular movie…well, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Let’s just say the scene is something all fans can relate to, deep within their hearts. If you haven’t seen this special “sighting” yet, do yourself a big favor and watch it now HERE.
Just a few thoughts before closing this rather lengthy post. Please leave a comment if you know of any additional “Joe sightings” on TV or in films. I know fans around the world would all LOVE to see them. In gratitude, I hereby award all such past and future “Joe Sighters” an unofficial, GIjOE “Eagle Eye Award” for superb service and support in our noble cause. Salute!
(Photo notes: All screenshots were captured from YouTube videos available for public viewing online or DVDs. No copyright to these images is claimed. All rights remain the property of their respective copyright holders.)
NOW. Here’s your homework, Joeheads:
1) Track down these additional sightings from other collectors.
2) When you find one—and you WILL—return here and leave a comment letting us know all about it!
JOE SIGHTINGS TO LOCATE:
“I know its a chick show but I happened to see Ghost Whisperer last night and a young boy character was playing with a full set of 12-inch figures from the movie in several scenes. Of course, he was channeling ghosts at the time which is a creepy thought.” —William
“I just watched the new episode of South Park. Terrorists take over Imagination land. During the attack, the crowd of imaginary figures scatters. Across the front of the screen runs…. BULLETMAN! Helmet, chrome arms and all. (even the cheesy elastic belt).” —Doug Gamble
“In a Superman cartoon, the villain ToyMan sent some life-size action figures to wreak havoc for him, including two that were obviously based on Best of the West and an original Joe in a Vintage Mercury space suit, complete with out-of-scale zippers. The “Joe” even had a scar in a close-up, although on the wrong side to avoid any legal problems.” —Colin
“I saw an astronaut on one of the early episodes of “Emergency” yesterday. While Gage and De Soto were working on the drunk Daddy, a little girl was shown several times holding/playing with an astronaut figure. Joe had on all the equipment, so I couldn’t see how many zippers were on the suit. The best part was as they took the father to the ambulance, the little girl dropped Joe on the steps and as the scene ended, the camera moved in for a great close-up on the astronaut by itself. I think this episode was from 1972 or 73.” —Chris
“I did make a ‘Joe sighting’ over the weekend. In the movie My Little Eye, there’s a scene where some of the characters are making a TC Joe get it on with a Barbie.I have no idea what the context was, I was just channel surfing. But it was a Joe sighting nonetheless.” —Rudy
“On Frasier, Joe is mentioned as Martin (Frasier’s dad) attempts to get the dog to switch from chewing on a Barbie found in the park to chewing on a Joe. He wants him to be more of a DOG, after having been fixed. Joe is seen at the end credits being chewed on.”—Unknown
“On the Jeff Foxworthy Show – NBC version – GIjOE is “on a mission” exploring the couch. Jeff finds him in the cushions. He is carried around by Jeff for 3-5 minutes and used as a sight gag.”—Desert Duke
“There’s a scene in Thunderheart, (that movie with Val Kilmer as a FBI agent doing an investigation on the Sioux Indian reservation), where one of the Native-American children has a vintage GIjOE.” —Charles Digman
“I just remembered another one – on the HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” there is a scene w/an astronaut about to give a lecture to some kids and he’s holding a GIjOE astronaut.”—Ray Alma