December 25, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

You thought they were headed for the third circle of show-biz hell: dinner theaters, infomercials, The Joe Franklin Show. Boy, were you wrong.

DE MORNAY BECOMES ELECTRIC After 1983’s Risky Business, Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay were equally hot. Their offscreen relationship crumbled as his star went supernova and hers flamed out, thanks to bombs like The Slugger’s Wife and Feds. But De Mornay didn’t get mad — she got evil. As a killer nanny in the smash thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, De Mornay rocked the box office.

BOB’S NEW HEART Robert Redford won an Oscar for directing 1980’s Ordinary People, but after listless performances in Legal Eagles, Out of Africa, and Havana and a lukewarm second directing effort, The Milagro Beanfield War, the Sundance Kid seemed eclipsed. This fall Redford rose again with a charming star turn in the computer thriller Sneakers and with his acclaimed film of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It. The Kid is back.

STILL SMOKIN’ When America just said no to drug humor in the ’80s, pothead comedian Cheech Marin (half of Cheech and Chong) saw his career burn out. This year marked the return of a kinder, gentler Cheech, with a record album for children (My Name Is Cheech, the School Bus Driver), a supporting role as a wacky chef on the Golden Girls revamp, The Golden Palace, and a championship performance on Celebrity Jeopardy! Any questions?

S*M*A*S*H With ’70s classics like M*A*S*H and Nashville, director Robert Altman could do no wrong. But then a series of high-profile duds (including Health and Popeye) sent him into retreat. After making small stage-oriented films for a decade, Altman finally came roaring back with his gleeful Hollywood satire The Player. And industry players and audiences alike loved him for it.

STAND BY YOUR TAM The First Lady of Country Music came out swinging when First Lady wannabe Hillary Clinton told 60 Minutes in January that she wasn’t ”some little woman standing by her man like Tammy Wynette.” The 50-year-old diva reportedly responded, ”How dare that bitch say that about me?” Then she proved her independence with the release of the dance-club hit ”Justified and Ancient” with the British band the KLF and a trippy video follow-up. Rave on, Tammy.

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