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The Tragic End of Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith Is Not a Cinderella Story

Rainbeaux Smith was an actress best known for her roles in multiple B movies and exploitation films. Though the actress never achieved mainstream fame, she had a fairly significant career in the entertainment industry before fading out in the 1980s as a result of heroin abuse. Some of the actress’s most iconic roles include her turn in the cult-classic 1974 women-in-prison film Caged Heat, as well as her turn in 1977’s X-rated Cinderella. Years after her disappearance from Hollywood, the former actress would meet her tragic end. Join Facts Verse as we explore how the tragic end of Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith was not a Cinderella story.

How Rainbeaux Smith Got Her Name

Rainbeaux Smith was born in Los Angeles, California, on June 6th, 1955. Growing up in close proximity to the entertainment industry made it seem as if the future star was destined for fame early on. At the time of her birth, Rainbeaux was given the name of Cheryl Lynn Smith. During her teenage years, she would become a notable frequenter of a popular local hangout that featured the word “rainbow” in it’s name. That would be the venerable Rainbow Bar and Grill. While the venue uses the traditional spelling of the word, Rainbeaux felt that her more unique spelling made her stand out. Rainbeaux spent most of her time hanging out within Los Angeles’ music scene, and her first brush with performing came via her time with an early band that was fronted by future rock star Joan Jett. Rainbeaux was the drummer of the group, though she would eventually break things off with Joan to venture into film work.

It was during Rainbeaux’s time working with Joan Jett in the latter’s early band that she was first inspired to try out acting. A mother of another girl in the Joan Jett-led group suggested to Rainbeaux that she’d be perfect for a role in a short film that was being shot by someone the mother knew. Rainbeaux would go on to appear in that short film in 1971, and it was called The Birth of Aphrodite. The young woman rather enjoyed the experience of being in front of the camera, and she would soon shift her career focus from the music industry to Hollywood.

Shortly after appearing in the short film named The Birth of Aphrodite, Rainbeaux could be seen performing in an uncredited role in the 1971 biopic Evil Knievel. Evil Knievel would end up being shown to the public first, although The Birth of Aphrodite had been shot prior. Both films were released in 1971, and Rainbeaux’s role was much bigger in The Birth of Aphrodite than Evil Knievel. Still, better things waited further down the line for Rainbeaux than either of these roles.

Rainbeaux’s Breakout Role

In 1973, Rainbeaux received her breakout role via the picture Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural. The picture stands today as a cult classic, as do several of the other films that the actress would go on to appear in over the course of her Hollywood career. In the film, Rainbeaux was cast as the character of Lila Lee, who is the innocent daughter of a gangster, played by William Whitton. Rainbeaux’s character of Lila becomes the victim of the film’s titular vampire, Lemora. An actress by the name of Lesley Gilb played the character of Lemora. Of the three aforementioned stars, Rainbeaux would be the one that would go on to receive the most recognition from the film.

While 1973’s Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural is recognized today as a modest cult classic, it’s cult-classic status is nothing compared to the film that Rainbeaux would go on to appear in next! That film would be the famous women-in-prison film Caged Heat, in which Rainbeaux was cast in the role of Lavelle. There were so many films about women in prison during the 1970s that it became it’s own exploitation subgenre, and Caged Heat is considered by the majority of exploitation-film fans to be the best that said subgenre has to offer. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the film was an early directorial effort from director Jonathan Demme, who has gone on to helm such classic features as The Silence of the Lambs. Rainbeaux even developed a positive working relationship with Jonathan over the course of Caged Heat’s filming, and she would go on to appear in another of the actor’s film’s later in her career.

While director Jonathan Demme would go on to become a critical darling thanks to his later pictures, Caged Heat was not entirely popular with film critics at the time of it’s 1974 release. However, it certainly made waves in the exploitation-film market! Alongside Rainbeaux, the film also featured such beautiful stars as Roberta Collins, Erica Gavin, and Barbara Steele. Following Caged Heat, the next film that Rainbeaux would appear in would be The Swinging Cheerleaders the very same year, and her role as the character of Andrea in that film would lead to her taking on roles in a variety of other cheerleader-themed productions over the next several years. A few of these included Revenge of the Cheerleaders and The Pom Pom Girls, both of which were released in 1976. That same year, the actress also appeared in the films Slumber Party ’57 and Massacre at Central High, featuring similar themes.

The actress may have felt as if she was getting typecast in teen flicks, but a change of pace would come her way with 1977’s X-rated Cinderella. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

Did Cinderella Really Deserve It’s X-Rated Classification?

Prior to featuring in 1977’s X-rated Cinderella, Rainbeaux Smith had already experienced her fair share of being naked in front of the cameras. However, the cult-classic X-rated fairy tale ended up taking things to the next level! Although the film has subsequently been given an R rating and is considered fairly soft by today’s standards, the feature was incredibly titillating at the time. This was especially true considering that the film was purporting to be an adaptation of the beloved fairly tale of the same name. The gimmick of being an X-rated fairy-tale adaptation certainly helped the film do numbers at the box office. The film was a directorial effort from a character actor named Michael Pataki.

In addition to verging on soft-core pornography, 1977’s X-rated Cinderella was also a musical! The film featured Rainbeaux singing a few songs, harkening back to her days in the Los Angeles music scene. Around the same time that Rainbeaux was taking the world by storm with her erotic appearance as the titular character in Cinderella, former bandmate Joan Jett was finding success with her new group, the Runaways. Besides Rainbeaux, Cinderella was also notable for featuring Sy Richardson. The film stands as an oddity to this day, though those looking for something graphic should look elsewhere.

Rainbeaux’s role in 1977’s X-rated Cinderella stands as her most iconic, and it would be a steady journey out from Hollywood over the next six years following the actress’s appearance in the film. Rainbeaux’s final appearance in front of the cameras came via the 1983 drama Independence Day, which only featured her in a minor role. Between Rainbeaux’s titular turn in the cult-classic Cinderella and her final film role in Independence Day, the actress had a few notable successes, and some misses.

Rainbeaux Tried Out for the Role of Iris in Taxi Driver

Is had been said that Rainbeaux auditioned for the role in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver that would end up going to Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster was a good deal younger than Rainbeaux, and much closer to the age that the character was supposed to be. That character, of course, would be the character of the 12-year-old prostitute named Iris. Taxi Driver ended up being released in 1978, though it wasn’t the only classic film to be released that year with the word “driver” in it’s title. 1978 also saw the release of Walter Hill’s The Driver. Though The Driver may not be the critically acclaimed masterpiece that Taxi Driver is now considered to be, it’s certainly a notable cult classic. Rainbeaux auditioned for The Driver around the same time that she auditioned for Taxi Driver, and ended up securing a role in the film! Sadly, her role in the feature was cut out before the film’s release. Walter Hill has since claimed that he regrets the decision.

Though it seems that Rainbeaux wasn’t having a whole lot of luck with her Hollywood roles around this time, former boss Jonathan Demme threw her a bone in 1980 when he cast her in his award-wining drama Melvin and Howard. It seemed as if hope might not have been lost for Rainbeaux, though the actress didn’t end up finding very much success after. Following the release of Melvin and Howard, Rainbeaux only appeared in a handful of roles before calling it quits. One of these roles was playing Golden Age noir actress Veronica Lake in the Steve Martin-led noir parody Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which was released in 1982. Rainbeaux was uncredited in the part.

Rainbeaux Found Herself in Dire Straits by the End

In 1981, Rainbeaux appeared in an episode of Hart to Hart, marking one of only two television roles that the actress took over the course of her career. The other television role had come in 1976, via the Kurt Russell-starring television series The Quest. In Hart to Hart, Rainbeaux was credited as the character of “Woman”. In The Quest, she had been credited as the character of “Blonde Girl”. All in all, despite her few iconic roles, it seems that Rainbeaux wasn’t treated with all that much respect by the industry during her career.

One of the big reasons that Rainbeaux’s roles in Hollywood started drying up was because she had become dependent on heroin. Around the time of her retirement from the entertainment industry, she was arrested several times and even wound up doing stints in jail on several occasions. She was hospitalized multiple times over the years leading up to her 2002 death, which saw her passing away from complications related to hepatitis.

Though Rainbeaux Smith’s life turned tragic, she left behind some iconic film performances to remember her by. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Rainbeaux Smith got her name from hanging out at Los Angeles’ Rainbow Bar and Grill, and that she was a bandmate of Joan Jett’s? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!

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