"IT'S NOT a comeback! I hate that word. It's a return!" So said Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard."

DO YOU feel as you go to a movie these days that you are seeing more or less of the talented Oscar-winner Jon Voight (he won for "Coming Home" in 1978 with Jane Fonda and was nominated three other times). Jon became famous as the dim-witted hustler of "Midnight Cowboy" back in 1969, and went on to score in such films as "Deliverance," "The Champ," "Runaway Train," "Conrack," The Odessa File" and many others.

I know Jon Voight and once spent an absolutely hilarious lunch with him in the second Le Cirque, with his longtime friend Kaye Ballard.

This was before his daughter, the rising Angelina Jolie, rather gave him a public black mark as a father who hadn't done right by her mother.

And then there was Jon's conservative view of the world and his many appearances on Fox TV. (Come on, people, can't you separate these liberals and conservatives and their talent from political ideology?)

Now Jon has rejoined the living, so to speak. He is back in Miss Jolie's good graces and he is a genuine charmer of a guy. I'm so glad.

So it delights me to say in addition that Jon Voight is giving the performance of a lifetime on the new (and just renewed for a second season) Showtime drama "Ray Donovan," starring Liev Schreiber. Voight is alternately super-funny, utterly repugnant and without a politically correct bone in his body, as a recently released con, looking either to sincerely "reconnect" with his damaged, dysfunctional family or betray them. He is superb.

Liev is also terrific as one of his sons, a sexy, stony-faced "fixer" for the rich and famous -- he uses some pretty low-down methods to protect his clients. The show is intense and well-acted all around. My one complaint? An unusual amount of stereotyping of Jews, the Irish and African-Americans. Maybe it's supposed to be funny, maybe it's simply the first season finding its footing? In any case, toning it down wouldn't be a loss.

And somebody please explain the accent employed by Paula Malcomson, who plays Liev's wife on the show? She is a very good actress, but every time she opens her mouth you are distracted by the accent -- is it Irish, Brooklynese or some heavy combo of both with slight bit of Jewish thrown in?! (That her character is similar to the snarky, deliberately clueless Carmela Soprano doesn't make her odd inflections more palatable.)

Ah, but all this nit-picking pales in the face of Jon Voight. If he is not Emmy nominated next year, there's no justice in show biz!

A BRIEF note -- with some real news! -- from my director/producer friend Linda Yellen: "We all know about the royal prince, but a royal princess of theatrical lineage has come into the Redgrave family. Lynn Redgrave's youngest daughter, Annabelle Clark, gave birth to a beautiful girl, enchantingly named Zelda Lynn! Annabelle and her husband, Eddy Garabal, and baby are all doing great. Of course this leaves me with a certain tristesse as I knew and adored both Lynn and Diana, and what amazing grandmothers they would have made."

A DAY for notes: This one from my old friend Jimmy Mitchell, the PR guy. "Dear Liz ... I loved your column on Ava Gardner. ... I knew her and a lot about her from Saint. (Jimmy is referring to my now retired but wonderful longtime aide, St. Clair Pugh, who knew Ava from her North Carolina girlhood days.)

"Peter Evans was a friend of mine and called many times about his book 'Nemesis' and his Ava Gardner book.

I helped Frank Sinatra out at El Morocco one night. He and Mike Romanoff were waiting for Ava in the Champagne Room. There were a lot of photographers outside, and I told the doorman to send her car to the office entrance of El Morocco on Second Avenue. She arrived without the photographers seeing her.

"I told Mr. Sinatra what I had done ... he thanked me and put a $100 bill in my hand ... I said no thanks ... on his way out of El Morocco Sinatra asked Angelo what kind of crazy waiter did not want his tip. Angelo told him that the man was Jim Mitchell, our PR man. Sinatra's secretary called a few days later and told me Mr. Sinatra would like to hire me to do some PR on his new film, "Never So Few" ... which I did.

"I was also at P.J. Clarke's the night Ava came in after a movie premier, wearing a big white strapless evening gown. She went to the juke box by the bar, smoking a cigarette, put lots of quarters in, playing Sinatra records.

"Moments of our early New York life."

AND STILL more: I received a missive from a couple of friends who live in Florida. They were not happy with my column about the madness surrounding the royal birth. They thought I'd been "mean" to the infant. What? I just said I thought the media hysteria around the birth -- and Kate and William themselves -- was somewhat manufactured. Not nearly as genuine as the obsession had been for William's mother, the iconic Princess Diana. I concluded this was a good thing. How could one be mean to a child who -- as I was writing the column -- hadn't even been born yet. (Although he was well on his way!)

Anyway, another friend sent another note -- the astrologer Shelley Ackerman. She tells me: "The Royal Baby has the Sun in Cancer, Moon in Capricorn, Scorpio Rising. His astrological chart has strong ties to mom Kate, Dad William, Grandma Diana and Grandpa Charles."

So, the stars have been aligned for this baby, whose childhood might be the first truly happy one in generations -- less "royal," more human. (Diana did her very best in this area, but her monumental fame always intruded.) And hopefully, it is a childhood less filled with the stress and tragedy that surrounded Will and Harry. Congratulations to all.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)