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The Wednesday wrap-up: Jennifer Aniston ... strapless gowns ... Jane Fonda ... Natalie Wood

Liz Smith

"SOMETIMES I have trouble catching my breath. Maybe when God breathed life into all of us, he didn't breathe enough into me."

That's Natalie Wood, in "This Property is Condemned," uttering a very Tennessee Williams-like line, to Robert Redford. In fact, this 1966 movie was based on a one-act play by Williams. (Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay, but he'd surely studied his Tennessee!)

The film wasn't a success, and is rarely shown. But Turner Classic Movies aired it recently and although Natalie's character, Alva Starr, is a rather obvious mix of many unhappy, fantasy-driven Williams heroines, Natalie gives what is probably her best big-screen performance. She is luminous, lyrical and Tennessee had to have been pleased to see one of his minor works elevated by such commitment from an actor. (Natalie would later remake Tennessee's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" to lesser effect.)

Robert Redford is fine, and Kate Reid is wonderfully loathsome as Natalie's mother (yet another of Natalie's films in which she has severe issues with her mother -- much as in real life.) But it is Miss Wood who inhabits every frame of the film, even when she is not onscreen.

To watch this, is to realize what a tremendous loss her death was, at the age of 43. She would have gone on to great things in her maturity.

ONE of my readers, Penelope Bianchi, writes about Jennifer Aniston, who I thought came across beautifully at the Globes. (She was nominated for best actress in a drama, but took her loss well when Julianne Moore won.)

Bianchi: "Over 20 years ago my house in Pasadena was the location for a US magazine photo shoot. I'd never heard of Jennifer, but she spent six hours hanging, literally, from a crane at the front of the house. It had to be complete 'h--l,' but she was smiling, funny and darling. A real trooper. (It was before Photoshop!)

"Jennifer came into the dining room after and asked, 'Is this your house?!' I said, 'Yes, I'm a decorator.' She said, 'When I get a house, I want you to decorate it.'

"I should have given her a card, if only I had one. Now it's just a memory, but my daughter's close friend, Mike White, wrote 'The Good Girl.' And he says lovely things about Jennifer. She was excellent in this 2002 movie! She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for 'The Good Girl.'

"Incidentally, Andrew Lloyd Webber bought Mike's 'School of Rock' and it will be produced on Broadway."

Writing about the passing of Rod Taylor at age 84, I knew there was a serious movie he'd made, but I couldn't recall it exactly. Research failed to turn up the title at first. I only remembered that it had co-starred Julie Christie and Maggie Smith.

Turns out what had slipped my mind was 1965's "Young Cassidy," an Irish masterpiece about the writer Sean O'Casey. I never thought Rod got the serious consideration he was due in Hollywood for work like this.

Reminds me of Colin Farrell who blasted to the top in "Tigerland," then fell off and is now on the rise again.

MORE and more people are eschewing the tactile experience of newspapers and magazines, doing their reading and information-gathering online. (Or Kindle books.) I don't, unless I must, but you can't entirely fight something that is more than a trend.

One of the more interesting new websites is something called -- rather ominously -- Pleasekillme.com. This site focuses on art, music, fashion, with an emphasis on Manhattan. Recent articles have included interviews with Deborah Harry and Angie Bowie, and a piece titled "10 Untold Stories from the Wild Days of the Beatles."

The site is run by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. They wrote "Please Kill Me: The Uncensored History of Punk." (Hence, the website's name.)

I love the invite I received from Bloomsbury Publishing to join historian Lord Charles Spencer at Christie's, near Rockefeller Plaza, for an intro to his new book -- "Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I." It happens January 20 at 6:30 p.m.

This is the event that changed England for all time and put British royalty in its diminished state, where it remains a publicity-marketing gig today.

BEFORE WE abandon tidbits about the Golden Globes for good, let me give a bit of fashion advice. Strapless dresses and their perceived perils!

Few women know how to wear them, constantly tugging at the bodice as if it were coming down, or they fear it will. So distracting! Back in the day, a woman wore a strapless gown and let the construction of the gown do its own gravity-defying work. Evening gowns had built-in brassieres, extra boning, wiring and uplift. Unless a woman wanted her dress to fall down, it didn't. So, either dresses today are poorly made, or today's woman just doesn't have the confidence -- best stick to straps in that case.

I noticed a lot of "adjusting" at the Golden Globes. The first thing beautiful Naomi Watts did as she arrived at the podium to present an award, was -- tug at her top! All that did was make the audience nervous -- or hopeful! -- and also draw attention to the big, borrowed necklace that was sitting rather awkwardly on her delicate neck. Better a bare, elegant throat than these giant pieces that have to go back in the morning, and generally don't suit the star anyway. Naomi's escort, Liev Schreiber, wore Prada, beautifully, and didn't tug at anything.

Oh, and we would be remiss not to mention Jane Fonda's incredible posture and killer body at 77. This is what good health, exercise, excellent genes and discreet "procedures" can do. Jane puts women 40 years her junior to shame.

I RECEIVED a handsome invitation from many friends in Palm Beach. On February 13, they'll benefit the American Heart Association at The Breakers.

Soul Survivors will be the entertainment and tickets for two are $3,500. You'll have to have $800, if you want to go single and browse. You do need black tie. Call 561-697-6621. Let them hear by January 25, or they may say no.

Now listen. If I had $3,500, I'd pay my New York City and state and federal taxes. But more power to Palm Beach for healthier hearts!

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

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