It was only a matter of time before cable finally had a movie in the can about the tragic life of Texas model turned reality TV personality Anna Nicole Smith, who died suddenly at age 39 in 2007.
Lifetime cable network is airing "The Anna Nicole Smith Story" 7 p.m. Saturday starring 27-year-old Agnes Bruckner as Smith and 84-year-old Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi, as her 89-year-old billionaire husband, J. Howard Marshall, who died 13 months after the unlikely couple married in 1994 when Smith was just 26.
Landau says he met Smith only once, while at a party they both attended at the home of "Playboy" publisher Hugh Hefner.
While Bruckner has been saying in press interviews to promote the film that she was drawn to the role to stretch her talent (to play the buxom Smith, the actress had to have facial, neck and breast prosthetics and fat suits and even endure blue-tint death makeup), Landau had different reasons.
Laundau says even though oil tycoon Marshall is most associated with his contested marriage, fought in court by his son E. Pierce Marshall, the actor reminds Marshall Sr. was also a Yale Law School graduate who had served as an adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Smith's life has always seemed like a sad and poorly written fairy tale. Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, died on Sept. 10, 2006, just three days after the birth of Smith's baby, his half-sister, Dannielynn Hope.
I only first became familiar with Anna Nicole because of my regular writings about Valparaiso TV personality Michael Essany, who spent two seasons with his own reality show on E! in the time slot right after Anna Nicole's reality show on that same network. Before long, tuning in to "The Anna Nicole Show" on E! before "The Michael Essany Show" broadcast became a guilty pleasure on Sunday nights, especially if I was visiting my parents, with their reactions being just as entertaining.
Smith would often adopt a child-like persona to the silly situations the E! producers made her face for silly, interesting footage. Sometimes, she'd just spend most of the episode in a lethargic state, flopped on a couch with lapdog Sugar-Pie calling out to ever-present attorney Howard K. Stern to bring her Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink and donut holes or asking purple-hair assistant Kimmie Walther to hold her hand at the dentist.
But tragedy is the difference between the odd, orchestrated scenes of her train-wreck reality show, meant to amuse and provide a paycheck (as she herself admitted), and the final months of her life, so muddied by dismal misfortune.