All acting glory is fleeting. In older cultures (especially France) you can coast on your past accomplishments for years but here it’s “what have you done in the last few weeks or months?” And if you haven’t done anything noteworthy in the last few years, forget it. Especially if you’re a 50-plus female. You’re not just gone but forgotten. And then five or ten years later somebody like me comes along and asks, “Hey, whatever happened to…?” That’s the worst of it, I think. Some actors just blend into the fog.

Andie McDowell at a relatively recent occasion.

So here it is (and believe me when I say I’m trying to avoid sounding dismissive in any way, shape of form): whatever happened to Andie McDowell?

With Sundance ’14 right around the corner I was thinking this morning about McDowell, whom I’ll always recall as the Belle of the Ball at Sundance ’89 when Steven Soderbergh‘s sex, lies & videotape had its big premiere there. I also recall running into her at a Sundance filmmaker’s brunch in ’96, and watching her pow-wow with Robert Redford a few minutes later.

It’s fair to say that McDowell’s career was fairly aflame from her debut in Greystoke (’84) until her performance in Warren Beatty‘s Town and Country (’01) — a solid 17-year run. I’m not implying McDowell is out of the business or anything. She’s the star of Cedar Cove, a Hallmark TV series that has just been renewed for a second season, and her Wiki page says she’s been working steadily in various TV projects all through the ‘aughts. She’s fine. But I had to check her Wiki page.

I don’t know what happened exactly. You might presume that biology intervened around the turn of the century and by the standards demanded of many female actresses McDowell began to age out in terms of basic erotic appeal (she was born in ’58) and so she shifted into TV-based character parts. Except that’s a bit mystifying as McDowell looks really great these days — has kept in shape, kept her weight down, etc. Plus she’s always been a good actress. Go figure.

After Greystoke McDowell costarred in St. Elmo’s Fire (’85) and then kind of floundered until sex, likes and videotape, for which she was nominated for Best Actress awards by almost everyone. Then came Peter Weir‘s Green Card (mistake), Hudson Hawk (mistake), a cameo in Robert Altman‘s The Player, a significant supporting role in Altman’s Short Cuts, and then my favorite McDowell performance of all time — Rita, the TV producer who gradually falls for Bill Murray in Harold Ramis‘s Groundhog Day.

Then came Four Weddings and a Funeral — another triumph. And then Multiplicity, The End of Violence, The Muse, Harrison’s Flowers and Town & Country. And then she transitioned into TV work.