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Agnes Bruckner's ĎAnna Nicole Story' Bound to Draw Big Public Interest -- as do All Stories of Bombshells Who Died Young
If you've seen photos of "Private Practice" alumna Agnes Bruckner amazingly transformed to play the late Anna Nicole Smith, perhaps you are holding out hope that Bruckner's upcoming "The Anna Nicole Story" for Lifetime will be better than the cable network's very bad "Liz & Dick" Elizabeth Taylor movie starring Lindsay Lohan last year.
Adam Goldberg, who plays Smith's lawyer/boyfriend Howard K. Stern, has extolled her performance, saying that Bruckner plays the Playboy sexpot as a fully-dimensional person. Bruckner herself told "Entertainment Tonight" that she's fascinated by Smith, who died by a lethal combination of prescription drugs in February 2007. Bruckner said she spent hours watching old TV shows and YouTube videos and reading articles to get a sense of the woman who rose to fame as Playboy's Playmate of the Year 20 years ago. From Craig Zadan's and Neil Meron's Storyline Entertainment for Sony Pictures TV, the movie also features Martin Landau as Anna Nicole's aged billionaire hubby, J. Howard Marshall.
Good or bad, it is bound to draw big numbers. Six years after Smith's passing at age 39, she continues to absorb the media and captivate the public.
And so it is with all Hollywood sirens that died young and mysteriously through the years — especially Anna Nicole's idol, Marilyn Monroe.
Perhaps the Filmland sex goddess of all time, Monroe had also been the plaything of wealthy, powerful and questionable men, as was Anna Nicole, and had famously been a Playboy centerfold. As you may recall, Monroe was the first Playboy centerfold.
Also like Anna Nicole, Monroe had a role model from a bygone time. She idolized Jean Harlow, even keeping a scrapbook of photos and clippings about the so-called "laughing vamp" who played the title role in the 1933 blonde "Bombshell." There was serious talk of Marilyn portraying Harlow in a project that would have been up for discussion the week she died, it was said and later disputed, of an overdose of Nembutal sleeping pills at age 36 in 1962.
Harlow died amid rumors that she had been poisoned by the punishing hair bleaching procedure she followed, but the cause was kidney failure. She had become a bona fide superstar, gone through three marriages, a scandalous affair with married Heavyweight Boxing Champ Max Baer, linkage to mobsters including Bugsy Siegel, and was in the thick of her romance with the love of her life, film star William Powell.
When Harlow died, she was only 26. The lives of quite a few Hollywood blonde bombshells have gone the way of James Dean's credo, "Live hard, die young, leave a good-looking corpse" — whether they had any awareness of traveling that route or not. Although plenty of Tinsel Town's most sizzling sex symbols live long lives i.e., Mae West and Raquel Welch, the job of bombshell is fraught with occupational and lifestyle hazards.
Party girls, oftentimes with a taste for dangerous men — or vice versa — have lost their lives through self-destructive drug and/or alcohol downspirals, by accidents or by murder.
Dorothy Stratten only made it to age 20. She had been a Playmate of the Year, like Anna Nicole, and had done five movies and some television work when she became the victim of a murder-suicide at the hands of estranged husband Paul Snider. She'd fallen in love with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, who later wrote a book about her titled "The Killing of the Unicorn." "Star 80," with Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts, recreated the Stratten-Snider story of obsessive, jealous love.
Charming Thelma Todd - a.k.a. Hot Toddy — was one of the early film actresses to prove that one can be gorgeous and hilarious simultaneously. She scored successes in both dramas and comedies (was a great foil for Groucho Marx in "Horse Feathers" and "Monkey Business"), opened a successful cafe in Pacific Palisades, and was a popular figure on the Hollywood social scene of the day. In 1935, Todd was found dead in her car of carbon monoxide poisoning in a garage belonging to the ex-wife of her business partner. She was 30. Her death was ruled accidental, but suspicions swirled that she'd either committed suicide (her friends quickly dismissed that idea, saying she'd been in great spirits) or been murdered. She was said to have been receiving threats from gangster Lucky Luciano.
Sex symbol Jayne Mansfield's death in an automobile accident in 1967 was exactly that — a terrible accident — as she and three of her children and her boyfriend were speeding along the highway between Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans with her driver at the wheel at 2:25 a.m. En route between a Mansfield supper club gig and an early morning TV appearance, they crashed into a tractor trailer.
Mansfield certainly did the fast-living number in preceding years. Her resume included good movies ("The Girl Can't Help It"), bad movies, and the 1963 movie "Promises! Promises!" in which she became the first mainstream American movie actress to do a nude scene. She also had three husbands and numerous lovers, multiple appearances in Playboy (one of which led to obscenity charges against Hugh Hefner, later dropped), and a number of staged wardrobe malfunctions showing off her purported size 40-D breasts. Her career had been in decline for years when she died, with Beatle Paul McCartney having branded her an "old bag" in a Playboy interview (the magazine never used her again), and critics referring to her as becoming a caricature.
She was 34.
No doubt about it, the burning glare of the spotlight is hard on Hollywood bombshells — Anna Nicole Smith included.
To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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