Having journeyed from fresh-scrubbed teen stardom to virtual nonentity and then into a full-bodied critical embrace with her portrayal of a hooker with a heart of gold, the blonde, blue-eyed and impossibly wholesome-looking Elisabeth Shue can truly be said to have had one of Hollywood's more unpredictable careers.
The descendent of a blue-blooded, Mayflower-imported East Coast family, Shue was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 6, 1963. Raised in the company of three brothers (one of whom, Andrew, would go on to star on Fox's Melrose Place), she excelled in gymnastics, and on the basis of her athletic abilities, she was encouraged by a friend to audition for television commercials. Shue promptly landed a number of jobs pushing everything from Hellmann's Mayonnaise to Burger King, and she managed to keep working as an actor during her college studies at Wellesley and Harvard. In 1984, she won a role on the TV series Call to Glory, and that same year, she made her film debut as Ralph Macchio's girlfriend in the blockbuster The Karate Kid. Starring roles in Adventures in Babysitting (1987) and Cocktail (1988) followed, but Shue quickly found herself being relegated to playing the disposable girlfriend in any number of films. Things went from bad to worse to just flat-out embarrassing, and by the time she was in her late 20s, the actress was in what could charitably be described as the career doldrums.