Fatal Blonde: The Outlaw Cinema Of Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith captivated humanity first as a superstar Playboy Playmate turned high fashion model, and then as a reality-TV star turned drug-decimated tragedy spiraling downward in slow motion.

February 09, 2017

Anna Nicole Smith, Skyscraper [VHS box cover image detail]

Anna Nicole Smith, Skyscraper [VHS box cover image detail]

By: Mike McPadden

When Anna Nicole Smith departed this mortal coil on February 8, 2007, humanity bid farewell to a genuinely multifaceted icon. It’s hard to believe she died an entire decade ago.

To the Limit (1995) [VHS box cover image]

To the Limit (1995) [VHS box cover image]

The Texas gal born Vickie Lynn Hogan had captivated humanity first as a superstar <em>Playboy</em> Playmate turned high fashion model, and then as a reality-TV star turned drug-decimated tragedy spiraling downward in slow motion.

Ultimately, though, by going out in a blaze of illegal and insane circumstances, Anna Nicole Smith achieved immortality as the last of Hollywood’s truly tragic blonde bombshells. She joined the elite array of fallen flaxen figures à la Jean Harlow, Jayne Mansfield, and, of course, Marilyn Monroe, who seem doomed from birth for simply being too glamorous for this world.

Cult cinema devotees also revere Anna Nicole Smith for her wild run of movie roles.

Perhaps sensing her innate outlaw edge, filmmakers cast Smith most often as an underworld evildoer or a righteous, gun-toting action heroine who just happens to also take a lot of long, lingeringly photographed showers on camera.

Some of the following titles are terrific and some are terrible — but even the latter are "terrible" in a terrifically entertaining manner.

Each film will serve forever as a testament to her undying star power.

THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Anna As: Za-Za
Non-Anna Cast: Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman

In The Hudsucker Proxy, the Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski) venture into the rapid-fire vintage Hollywood milieu Preston Sturges/His Girl Friday screwball office comedies.

Tim Robbins plays the wide-eyed inventor of the hula hoop. Paul Newman is a corporate magnate out to use Robbins as a patsy for his stock swindle. Jennifer Jason Leigh is a fast-talking, crackerjack reporter out to blow the scam wide open.

Anna Nicole Smith makes a few brief, almost wordless appearances as Za-Za, a gangster’s hyperglam gun moll. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to take your eyes off her on the screen, even in the Coens’ lavishly conjured world of big business in 1958 New York.

NAKED GUN 33 1/3: THE FINAL INSULT (1994)
Director: Peter Segal
Starring Anna As: Tanya Peters
Non-Anna Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy

Anna Nicole Smith costars as Tanya Peters, the chief villainess in the final installment of the off-the-wall Naked Gun comedy film series. She’s in cahoots with Fred Ward as Rocco Dillion, a mad bomber out to blow an upcoming Academy Awards ceremony to Tinseltown smithereens.

Leslie Nielsen, as Naked Gun hero Lt. Frank Drebin, naturally — and uproariously — saves the day. As always, Drebin fights these lunatic crime schemes side-by-side with Detective Nordberg, played, one more (and final) time by O. J. Simpson.

Anna Nicole is, of course, breathtaking in her femme fatale role, and she also proves to be a game comedian.

Alas, what’s probably most notable about Naked Gun 33 1/3 is that the film, which opened in March of 1994, was still in theaters on the night somebody murdered Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J.’s ex-wife, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

TO THE LIMIT (1995)
Director: Raymond Martino
Starring Anna As: Colette Dubois
Non-Anna Cast: Joey Travolta, Lydie Denier, Michael Nouri

The first of Anna Nicole’s direct-to-video action epics with writer-director Raymond Martino, To the Limit casts our perpetually dolled-up heroine as CIA agent Colette Dubois. Her code name, for real, is “D-Cup.”Colette teams with mercenary Joey Travolta to track down a top secret CD-rom and take out a crime lord who assassinated her husband. To the Limit’s tagline conveys much about the rest of the plot details: “This agent bares all in the line of duty.”

SKYSCRAPER (1996)
Director: Raymond Martino
Starring Anna As: Carrie Wisk
Non-Anna Cast: Richard Steinmetz, Tina Arning, Gary Imhof

Bigger, crazier, and ostensibly “better” than To The Limit, Anna Nicole lights up Skyscraper as helicopter pilot Carrie Wisk. She embarks on a delightfully bargain-budgeted Die Hard knockoff in which she takes on — and mows down — an entire high-rise building full of terrorists.

BE COOL (2005)
Director:</strong> F. Gary Gray
Starring Anna As: Anna Nicole Smith
Non-Anna Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Dwayne Johnson

The funny and stylish Elmore Leonard adaptation Get Shorty (1995) stars John Travolta as Chili Palmer, a mobster-out-of-his-element who amusingly stumbles his way to success in the movie business. Be Cool, also taken from a Leonard novel, updates Chili’s adventures ten years later, when he switches his focus to the music industry.

Anna Nicole appears memorably as herself amid an onslaught of other “personal appearance”cameos that include drop-ins from Gene Simmons, Aerosmith, Wyclef Jean, the Black Eyed Peas, RZA, the Pussycat Dolls, and Sergio Mendes.

ILLEGAL ALIENS (2007)
Director: David Giancola
Starring Anna As: Lucy
Non-Anna Cast: Chyna, Lenise Soren, Gladise Jiminez

Venturing into true rubbernecking territory, Illegal Aliens is a sci-fi Charlie’s Angels spoof in which Anna Nicole stars alongside professional wrestling superstar turned tragedy Chyna.

Anna plays Lucy, a space alien accompanied by fellow interplanetary shape-shifters Cameron (Lenise Soren) and Drew (Gladise Jimenez).

They comely invaders crash land in 1987 Los Angeles, where they work as models until they’re called on by cosmic authorities to battle an evil space villain named Rex, who has taken possession of the body of a mobster’s wife (Chyna).

Once again, yes, Illegal Aliens is a comedy. Sadly, it's also the last movie Anna Nicole Smith got to make.

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