But on Jan. 3 the old Smith reemerged with a vengeance. Dressed in a gold lame cocktail dress, Dolce & Gabbana pumps and a leopard-print coat from Versace, she exited the probate court in Houston and announced that she was withdrawing from the Texas case. Why? The judge presiding over an L.A. bankruptcy suit that she filed to ward off creditors in 1996 had finalized an earlier decision that Smith be paid $475 million from Marshall's estate. "We did it. We made it," Smith said after withdrawing from the suit. "Thank you, Jesus. I just want to go home."
Lord knows, that may not be immediately possible. Marshall's son Pierce, 62, has vowed to appeal the California award and has threatened to call Smith as a hostile witness in his ongoing legal struggle with his estranged brother J. Howard Marshall III, 64—who was left nothing in his father's will—over who will ultimately win the bulk of the family fortune. But for now Smith, who dreams of playing Marilyn Monroe-style roles onscreen, is eager to get back to work. "My husband is looking down on me right now," she says. "He's watching me, and he's proud."