For Your Consideration, Best Supporting Actress: Patrika Darbo!

Who?Darbo easily qualifies - so far - as the most obscure performer trying to generate support for an Academy Award nomination.

The determined actress is paying for a series of trade paper ads out of her own pocket, plugging her supporting work as Beau Bridges' put-upon wife in MGM's little-seen "Daddy's Dyin' . . . Who's Got the Will?"

Her initial ad - a full, black-and-white page in Daily Variety costing $2,250 - includes favorable critic's blurbs from the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, North Texas Daily and Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal.

Darbo's publicist, Stan Rosenfield, says that she mounted the campaign because MGM didn't.

"It's pretentious for anyone to campaign for an Oscar, if that's their only intent," Rosenfield says. "But when you have a body of work and a small picture the studio doesn't get behind, you have very little choice."

A credit manager until 1984, Darbo has amassed a solid list of stage, film and TV credits, and - thanks to "Daddy's Dyin' " - is now under contract to ABC.

"I'm investing in myself," she says of her Oscar push. "I feel I have as good a chance as anybody else. Look at last year - who would have thought (Brenda Fricker) would win? Of course, she had a studio behind her."

With nominations to be announced Feb. 10, Darbo is hardly alone in vying for the attention of Academy voters.

Leading the hopefuls - with 19 full pages of ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter - is "The Russia House." Along with plugging the film for best picture, there have been four pages each hyping Sean Connery as best actor and Michelle Pfeiffer as best actress.

Other big advertisers include:

"Home Alone" (17 pages); "Edward Scissorhands" ; "Dances With Wolves" and "Dick Tracy" (14 each); "Green Card" and "White Hunter, Black Heart" (13 each, with an especially strong push for Clint Eastwood as best actor-director for "White Hunter"); "Come See the Paradise" and "Miller's Crossing" (12 each); "GoodFellas" and - with 10 pages each - "Avalon," "Mermaids" and "Presumed Innocent."

Among the longer-shots - with two pages each - are the box-office disappointments "Bonfire of the Vanities" (touting both Bruce Willis and Tom Hanks as best actor), "Havana" and "Rocky V." - PAT H. BROESKE and JOHN M. WILSON

- The Beat Goes On:

HOLLYWOOD - Buoyed by recent sneak previews of "The Five Heartbeats" in California, Virgin Records is currently cutting a sound-track album of classic '60s R&B hits from the background score, as well as new material performed in the film, which co-producer Loretha Jones calls "wall-to-wall music."

The 20th Century Fox picture, due out March 15 from director-producer Robert Townsend (who co-wrote with Keenen Ivory Wayans), spans 25 years in the lives of five close friends who make up an R&B group, the Five Heartbeats.

Townsend plays the Heartbeats' singer-songwriter, with Michael Wright as the lead singer. Rounding out the group are Leon (from Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video), Tico Wells and Harry Lennix. They may go on tour as the Heartbeats later this year.

"What happened in Oakland was amazing," says co-producer Jones. "When the songs came up, the audience responded like it was a concert, clapping and cheering for their favorites."

"This is definitely a crossover picture," Jones says. "The music of that period is so universal. And the emotions and experiences these guys go through are even more universal." - JOHN M. WILSON

- `Freaks,' 1991?

HOLLYWOOD - "We may or may not find the person we're looking for," admits film maker Sean Cunningham, of his search for the right disabled actor to star in "The Gypsy's Curse," from the 1974 Harry Crews novel of the same title.

The story, about four physically abnormal men who hang out in a gym, centers on Marvin Molar, a handsome deaf mute with no legs who walks on his hands - and ends up in a tragic love affair. (When it was first published, some critics compared Crews' novel to Tod Browning's 1932 film "Freaks.")

Cunningham originally tried to film "The Gypsy's Curse" seven years ago, but the challenge of casting Molar and other problems derailed the project. Now expected to roll mid-May, the film may not star an amputee.

"We've been looking at a number of actors who lost some use of their legs," Cunningham says. "And we're also looking at actors who aren't disabled."

Cunningham, who recently wrapped work on "House IV," says "Gypsy's Curse" is planned as a low-budget art film, not a horror show.

"It's Southern gothic," he says, "definitely closer to William Faulkner than to Stephen King." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Quibbles & Bits:

A recent item implied that director Paul Verhoeven wrote "Total Recall." While he made creative contributions as a filmmaker, the screenplay is officially credited to Ron Shusett, Dan O'Bannon and Gary Goldman.

- Shy? Don't Apply:

HOLLYWOOD - Artist David Salle - a post-modernist who rose to prominence with his figure portraits in the early 1980s - may be making his directorial debut with an erotic thriller for producer Robert De Niro.

Casting materials for "Nothing Compares to You" call for "extreme nudity" from actresses who consider themselves "sexually adventurous."

Told from a woman's point of view, the story is about a wife who goes off for a weekend on her own after learning of her husband's affair. When a burglar shows up in her hotel room, she embarks on a sexual quest.

According to De Niro's Tribeca Productions vice president Jane Rosenthal, the script is currently being revised by screenwriter Larry Gross ("48HRS."), who will co-direct.

Rosenthal acknowledges that the film - which will probably star an unknown - will be "very bold," but adds, "We will not be making a pornographic, misogynist picture. . . . This is about a strong woman's emotional disintegration - and her eventual coming to terms with herself and what's happened."

The film is unrelated to Sinead O'Connor's acclaimed version of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U." But, says Rosenthal, "We will (eventually) attempt to buy the song rights." - PAT H. BROESKE

- In Search of . . . Yvonne De Carlo:

HOLLYWOOD - She's known to TV audiences as Lily Munster in TV's campy "The Munsters," but by the time she took that role Yvonne De Carlo had already been in roughly 100 feature films, including many during the '40s and '50s in which she starred.

Sicilian on her mother's side, Scotch-English on her father's, De Carlo was often cast as the exotic siren. Of her first starring role in "Salome, Where She Danced" (1945), she laughs, "I came through these beaded curtains, wearing a Japanese kimono and Japanese headpiece, and then performed a Siamese dance. Nobody seemed to know quite why."

For her latest role, she goes comedic - and Italian - as Sylvester Stallone's Aunt Rosa in the gangster comedy, "Oscar." Directed by John Landis, it's due this spring from Touchstone. "Mine is a small part - but funny," she says, explaining that her character will witness Kirk Douglas extracting a deathbed promise from gangster son Stallone that he'll go straight.

Born in Vancouver 66 years ago, De Carlo was a teenager when her mother brought her to Hollywood. From 1942 to 1944 she played bit parts. Then came "Salome," and leading-lady status.

Today, some of her films have taken on a camp quality - such as "Hurricane Smith" (1952), in which she's a half-Tahitian princess who entices lusty South Seas pirate John Ireland. Or "The Desert Hawk" (1950), an Arabian nights saga. But she held her own against some of Hollywood's top leading men - including Clark Gable, who literally buys her in "Band of Angels" (1957) when it is discovered that her Southern belle character has black ancestors.

She moved into TV and movie character parts in the '60s, made her Broadway debut in "Follies" in 1971. In years since, she has kept busy, including many low-budget horror titles - "I seem to get killed a lot" - and touring stage productions.

"It's all been very exciting," says De Carlo, now divorced and a resident of California's Santa Ynez Valley. "I've loved it all." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Cinefile:

HOLLYWOOD - Joe Pesci, winner of two critics' association awards for his supporting performance in "GoodFellas," and Ralph Macchio will star in Palo Vista Productions' "My Cousin Vinny," getting underway Feb. 11 in Georgia. Pesci plays a New York attorney, fresh out of law school, who must defend his cousin in a murder trial. Fred Gwynne, Harissa Tomei, Austin Pendleton, Lane Smith and Mitch Whitfield also star in the comedy written by Dale Launer and directed by British director Jonathan Lynn. Paul Schiff and Launer produce.

Jeff Fahey, Brad Dourif and Lindsay Duncan are set to star in Paramount's "Body Parts," a psychological thriller written and to be directed by Eric Red in Toronto beginning in mid-January. Fahey plays a psychologist who has the limb of a criminal grafted onto his body. He then realizes the criminal's personality is invading his. Frank Mancuso Jr. produces.

Marshall Bell, Michael Ironside, Colleen Camp and Patrika Darbo are set for Brooksfilms and MGM-Pathe's dark comedy "The Vagrant." Chris Walas ("The Fly 2") directs and his wife, Gillian Walas, produces a script by Richard Jefferies concerning a vagrant who terrorizes the new owner of a house the vagrant previously occupied. Filming gets underway March 11 in Phoenix, Ariz. Mel Brooks is the executive producer.

On the sequel trail: Fox's "Alien III," which has gone through three directors and as many writers, finally gets underway this week in London with Sigourney Weaver again starring. According to Fox, the writers of credit are now two of the film's producers, David Giler and Walter Hill. . . . Sequels to unsuccessful films are rare enough but a sequel to two unsuccessful films? Nevertheless, a spokesman for ITC says "Stepfather III" is slated to go into production this spring under the direction of Guy Magar.