HOLLYWOOD -- By any measure, Jaclyn Smith is the queen of television drama, enjoying the longest reign in memory.
The breathtaking brunette first captured viewers' admiration and affection in 1977 playing Kelly Garrett, one of 'Charlie's Angels.' She has endured to set a record of more than 35 TV movies and a half- dozen miniseries.
At the beginning of her career millions of viewers who tuned in to see her perform did so largely out of fascination with the perfection of her face. Still stunning, Jaclyn Smith is the first actress to come to the minds of producers, directors and network executives seeking a star for major dramatic projects.
As a result, she has played more roles than any current feature movie star. She is seen by larger audiences than Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts combined.
Her versatility is evident in the diverse characters she has beeen called on to play: Jacqueline Kennedy, Florence Nightingale, prison inmates, physicians, lawyers, a rape victim, a Southern belle, m mall girl, a ballerina, an actress, a film producer, a mother and a crazy woman.
Moreover, Smith has become one of the richest women in Hollywood. She earns top dollar for8TV projects and a fortune for her clothing designs for a national chain of stores and Max Factor commercials.
The other day in her spacious French chateau, nestled on a Bel Air hilltop, Smith said her latest role contrasts most with her own demeanor.
She plays a rookie New York cop in 'In The Arms of a Killer' (NBC- TV Jan. 5).
'It's really a departure for me,' Smith said. 'She finds herself in the hard-edged, drug-infested heart of Manhattan. I had nothing in my personal life to relate to.
'Frankly, I would never want to be in that girl's shoes. There are elements in every character I've played that I could strongly relate to or imagine for myself. As a detective, she is nothing like Kelly in 'Charlie's Angels.'
'The series was fun and light-hearted. This movie is certainly not that. I also played a cop in 'Settle The Score,' but I wasn't seen on the job. I was a victim. In 'In The Arms of a Killer,' I'he script covers that in explaining the key to her motivations.
It is easy to see that her character, Maria Quinn, is as out of place in the scuzzy alleys and gin mills of New York as Smith herself would be. Happily, she has no physical rough stuff scenes, which seldom rings true with Hollywood's version of policewomen.
Because Smith invariably draws high ratings for her movies and miniseries, she continues to be in great demand.
Of her growing popularlity, she says, 'It's been nice. And lucky. As I get older I'm getting more things to do. And it hasn't interfered with being a mother.
'Now I'm doing at least two TV movies a year. The good part is that I'm doing most of them here in town so I can be home every evening with my children.'
In the future, Smith would like to play more historical characters as she did in the George Washington and Florence Nightingale miniseries.
'It's good for young people because it makes history jump off the screen,' she said. 'I wanted to play Margaret Mitchell and Clare Booth Luce, but nobody wanted to take the risks.'
Instead, she has starred in the highly rated, glitzy TV versions of 'Rage of Angels' and 'Rage of Angels II,' 'Windmills of the Gods' and 'The Bourne Identity,' for which she won an Emmy nomination.
Few actresses have amassed as large and varied a body of television work.
Smith's predecessors as queens of TV drama -- discounting weekly series -- were Elizabeth Montgomery and, more recently, Lindsay Wagner.
Another actress also greatly in demand in TV drama was 'Charlie's Angels' co-star Farrah Fawcett.
'I got together with Farrah and Kate (Jackson, the other original member of the 'Charlie's Angels' cast) for dinner at Farrah's house not long ago,' Smith said. 'It was fun talking about the good times we had in those days.'
When 'Charlie's Angels' was the TV rage, Smith would have been third in the betting among the co-stars for superstardom.
But her beauty and capacity for growth as an actress have combined to make Smith TV's most successful actress.
And those who know hAr#be#t agree it couldn't have happened to a better woman.NEWLN: