Tragic Beauties Living Fast, Dying Young

ByABC News via via logo

Feb. 9, 2007 — -- Anna Nicole Smith's looks were captivating, and her antics were so strange we couldn't help but be curious.

"She was a train wreck," said Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne. "A beautiful train wreck."

Smith lived her adult life in the spotlight -- cameras capturing her every joy, and most recently, her every tragedy.

"She offered a lot of hope to the woman out there that wanted to make it, that was a little larger size," said Eric Redding, author of "Great Big Beautiful Doll: The Anna Nicole Smith Story."

Now, with so many questions swirling around her death, Smith's life is reminiscent of the many beauties that have captured the public's heart and died too young, like Jean Harlow, the original blonde bombshell.

"She was a major star and was actually a debutante," Dunne said of Harlow. "She was from a swell family, but her thing was that she was the tough girl."

But even the tough-girl persona couldn't halt the kidney infection that would eventually kill Harlow at the age of 26.

"[Harlow] was a wonderful actress. Her death was unexpected," Dunne said.

Another tragic beauty who was described as "vibrant" and "vivacious," film star Jayne Mansfield was on her way back from a nightclub engagement when the car she was traveling in slammed into an oncoming semitruck.

Mansfield was killed instantly. She was just 34 years old.

"She was always at every premiere, every red carpet," Dunne said. "She was way ahead of her time."

Anna Nicole Smith aspired to be like Mansfield and her favorite blonde, Marilyn Monroe.

She even lived in Monroe's house for a time and said she'd seen Marilyn's ghost wandering the halls. The circumstances surrounding Monroe's death at age 36 are still debated today, but we know she lived life hard, just like Smith.

"After 39 years of partying hardy and taking all these medications, to have her die at 39 years old is not surprising in the least," said Redding.

What is it about these beautiful women, struck down in the prime of their lives?

"I think the public feels sympathetic to these women," Dunne said. "They never got so tough that they lost their vulnerability. I think she's [Smith] going to get more famous than she's ever been."

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