Mark Harmon was one of the hottest stars in the country in the mid-1980s. He usually played smart, but flawed guys. He also sizzled on screen. That’s why People magazine named him Sexiest Man Alive.
So Harmon decided to try his success at movies. He was in his mid-30s and ready to test whether he should stick with serialized television programs or one-off movies.
In two of his movies, Mark Harmon shared terrific romantic chemistry with Kirstie Alley. She was mainly known then as a Vulcan Star Fleet officer in a Star Trek movie and as Virgilia Hazard in the sweeping miniseries North and South. After her second movie with Mark Harmon, Alley was a few months away from landing the part of Rebecca Howe on Cheers.
Mark Harmon Played Womanizing Pool Cleaner in ‘Prince of Bel Air’
The first movie was Prince of Bel Air. And get this, Harmon played a pool cleaner named Robin Prince. He liked to sleep with his rich, female clients. The movie appeared on ABC in January, 1986. And critics didn’t like it at all.
People magazine, which named Mark Harmon as Sexiest Man Alive later that year, panned the movie.
“In this ersatz version of Shampoo without the redeeming social importance, Mark (St. Elsewhere) Harmon plays a stud, a Warren Beatty retread, a lite Don Johnson. He clears the leaves out of rich matrons’ pools and the cobwebs off their pillows. He jocks around with his buddies. Even he knows what an empty life he leads.
“Then he meets Kirstie (North and South) Alley, as an artist who produces stuff I wouldn’t hang in my bathroom. They fall into the sack, then in love, and they do have their brief moments of charm, as when Alley says to Harmon: “So you’re the one who writes all those letters to Penthouse.” But Harmon feels trapped by The Relationship—”I don’t like feeling responsible for your happiness.” He undergoes an agonizing but scenic reappraisal on a rocky beach. He returns to Alley. A happy ending. A not-so-happy critic.”
Most of Cast Reunited for Charming ‘Summer School’
Most of the Prince of Bel Air cast reunites for Summer School the following year. And this big-screen movie was a better starring vehicle for both Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley. Harmon played a high school gym teacher named Freddie Shoop. He thought he was headed to Hawaii for summer break. Instead, like the title of the movie suggests, he was forced into teaching remedial English in summer school. Alley taught history in the classroom next door.
Carl Reiner directed the movie. And it grossed nearly $36 million. That’s about $85 million in today’s dollars.
Thankfully, Mark Harmon decided to stick with TV. He’s dominated our TV screens since 2003, when he first became Gibbs on NCIS. As Gibbs, he probably wouldn’t have tolerated either of the movie characters.