When Geoffrey Rush stepped to the podium to accept his Best Actor Academy Award last March for “Shine,” he represented that noble category of Oscar winner - the overnight success.
Never mind that Rush is in his 40s and has acted both on the screen and stage for the better part of two decades. Most of that work was done in his native Australia.
And besides, this was his first chance to carry a big-screen feature on a successful international run.
Since then, Rush has done other movies - among them, the curious, yet-to-be-released comedy-drama “Children of the Revolution.” It remains to be seen, though, just how successful he will be at winning the kinds of roles to which Oscar winners should aspire.
Not every Oscar winner has been so lucky.
The classic story, of course, is Luise Rainier. An Austrian actress of the Greta Garbo school (Garbo, of course, was Swedish), Rainier won consecutive Oscars for “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936) and “The Good Earth” (1937). She never won another.
In fact, Rainier arguably never made another significant film. Some blame Rainier’s studio MGM for giving her second-rate roles. Others blame Rainer’s then-husband, the playwright Clifford Odets, for giving her bad advice. Whatever the reason, by 1940 she was through.
At least one Oscar winner, a woman with obvious talent, has been limited by her physical disability. Marlee Matlin, the Best Actress of 1986 for the film “Children of a Lesser God,” has starred in only a handful of films (and one television show) due to her hearing impairment.
But physical limitation wasn’t the reason for the failure of Louise Fletcher, Best Actress in 1975 for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” to ever again even snare a role as juicy as that of Nurse Ratched.
It’s far more likely that Fletcher’s win was a fluke - buttressed by “Cuckoo’s Nest” having taken all other four major awards.
And then there was the fact the rest of that year’s nominees - newcomer Isabelle Adjani (“The Story of Adelle H.”), Ann-Margret (“Tommy”), two-time winner Glenda Jackson (“Hedda”) and lightly regarded Carol Kane (“Hester Street”) - were so relatively weak.
Whatever the reason, Fletcher has extended her career - no doubt in part because she struck gold that one time - by condescending to perform in such movies as “Mama Dracula” (1980), “Flowers in the Attic” (1987), “Nightmare on the 13th Floor” (1990) and “Return to Two Moon Junction” (1993).
Fletcher’s male counterpart would be F. Murray Abraham, the classically trained actor who was all of 45 - and essentially unknown to mainstream audiences - when he won Best Actor honors in “Amadeus” (1983).
Abraham’s triumph was masterful, carrying him over the likes of Jeff Bridges (“Star Man”), Albert Finney (“Under the Volcano”), Sam Waterston (“The Killing Fields”) and even his co-star, Tom Hulce.
But it proved to be one of those roles that - so far for him - comes along once in a lifetime. Abraham has done good work since - “Mighty Aphrodite,” most recently, comes to mind - but most of his roles have been in movies that compare to Fletcher’s for their obscure nature.
“Shine,” which is available on video this week, indicates that Rush may have as good a chance as any to remain at the top of his profession.
Then again, he could be the next Art Carney.
This based-on-true-life study tells the story of classical pianist David Helfgott (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian child prodigy whose sensitive nature and troubled childhood led to an emotional breakdown but, eventually, to recovery and a measure of success as an adult. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Scott Hicks), Best Actor (Rush) and Best Supporting Actor (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Rush was the lucky, and deserving, winner. Rated PG-13
A creature that’s only partially human haunts the dark passageways of a big-city museum, killing anything it sees as a threat.
The only things that can stop it are a scientist (Penelope Ann Miller) and a homicide cop (Tom Sizemore) - and, of course a ridiculous formula of a script that ignores characterization in favor of blending voodoo myth with “Alien”-like scare sequences. Rated R
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available: “Substance of Fire” (Miramax), “Brother of Sleep (Columbia TriStar), “Ghosts of Mississippi” (Columbia TriStar), “Fun and Fancy Free” (Disney), “Shine” (New Line), “The Relic” (Paramount), “The 8th Day” (Polygram), “Metro” (Buena Vista). Available Tuesday: “Donnie Brasco” (Columbia TriStar), “Hamlet” (Columbia TriStar), “Mask of Death” (Buena Vista), “Private Parts” (Paramount), “The Second Jungle Book” (Columbia TriStar), “Sling Blade” (Buena Vista), “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” (Fox).