The Comeback Kid always gets work in Hollywood

  • Follow Steven Uhles

Here's to Jackie Earle Haley.

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Ulee's Gold  Special
Special
Ulee's Gold

Who's that, you ask?

Jackie Earl Haley, who was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar last year, is best known for the films he made in the 1970s. He was the delinquent slugger in The Bad News Bears, the diminutive townie in Breaking Away and an apocalypse-tough survivor in Damnation Alley . For 25 years, though, Mr. Haley disappeared from the Hollywood radar.

Until he made his comeback.

The film industry loves stories about unlikely comebacks, but is far less likely to embrace them in real life. For every Jackie Earle Haley, there are a dozen talented people who fade from view.

There are, of course, exceptions. Below are five films that feature notable comebacks:

THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989): During the 1980s, the animated features Disney had become famous for fell on hard times. After several critical and commercial flops, it was beginning to look as though the Mouse House might fold up its cartoon camp. The Little Mermaid changed all that. It not only saved the lagging animation works, but also ushered in what many consider the second golden age of Disney animation.

PULP FICTION (1994): By the early 1990s, the highest-profile gig that John Travolta seemed capable of landing was playing second banana to talking babies and animals in the Look Who's Talking films. Pulp Fiction made him a star, for the second time. His electric performance as the smack-addled assassin Vincent Vega made him one of Hollywood's hottest, and highest-paid, talents.

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950): Before emerging to play a forgotten star yearning to make a comeback, Gloria Swanson had not made a film in nine years and hadn't been active in the film industry for nearly 20. Perhaps because of the parallels between herself and the neurotic Norma Desmond, Ms. Swanson not only made a comeback but also gave one of cinema's great performances.

ULEE'S GOLD (1997): Peter Fonda never stopped working after the success of Easy Rider; he just made movies that nobody saw. By the early 1990s, his bread-and-butter had become direct-to-video exploitation flicks and cameos that played off his Easy Rider persona. It made his quiet, subtle performance as a introspective beekeeper that much more surprising. This lovely little film gave Mr. Fonda a second chance at a career as an actor of significance.

THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1975): Nearly 35 years passed between films for master comedian George Burns. Before stepping in to take the role originally intended for an ailing Jack Benny, Burns hadn't made a movie since the 1939 comedy Honolulu . He went on to make a several more films, with varying degrees of success, until his death in 1996 at the age of 100.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.


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