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Spotlight Often Glaring for Troubled Female Celebrities

2007 was a troubling year for several female celebrities. And the year also was marked by slow music sales, an unpredictable box office and a Hollywood writers' strike. VOA's Ruth Reader reviews the year's top entertainment news.

Four celebrities repeatedly found themselves in the spotlight in 2007, and the glare was often harsh. In the case of former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, it was tragic. She died in February from an accidental prescription drug overdose. The reality TV star died less than a year after the death of her 20-year-old son in a drug related incident and the birth of her daughter.

Soon after Smith's death, pop star Britney Spears faced her own issues -- caught often by cameras in unflattering situations, smacked down by unwanted publicity. She checked into rehab, got into trouble with police and became entangled in a custody battled over her two sons. In spite of her personal problems, Spears still put out a comeback album, "Blackout".

Hotel heiress Paris Hilton got more attention than she wanted when a judge sentenced her to 45 days in jail for violating probation on a drunk driving charge and driving on a suspended license. "I'm definitely scared, but I'm ready to face my sentence," she said.

That sentence initially was reduced to 23 days. But when jailers sprung Hilton after just three days for unspecified medical reasons and placed her under more comfortable house arrest, the court did not go along. Back to jail she went and served a 23-day sentence.

Like Hilton, actress Lindsay Lohan had legal problems and trouble dodging celebrity-hounding paparazzi. Police arrested her -- twice -- on drunk driving charges, and she also faced charges for cocaine possession. Her alcohol abuse and stints in rehab made for tabloid headlines.

In November, the entertainment industry suffered a blow that will likely last into 2008. Writers went on strike for the first time in nearly 20 years. Without a settlement, reruns are already beginning to dominate American TV.

Even the music industry may be feeling the effects of the writers' strike. Without late night talk show hosts' promotion of new albums and talent, already-low music sales are bound to worsen. USA Today reports that CD sales plummeted 14 percent from last year. It says digital music sales have doubled, but combined music sales are still substantially low.

Despite this, new albums are still captivating audiences. At the American Music Awards this year, Justin Timberlake won for Best Male Pop/Rock Artist and his album Futuresex/Lovesounds was awarded best album under Soul, Rhythm and Blues.

Songstress Fergie won for Best Female Pop/Rock Artist. The entertainment channel MTV reports that iTunes users downloaded her song, "Big Girls Don't Cry" more than any other this year.

On the big screen, the top grossing American film this year is "Pirates of the Caribbean at World's End." It is approaching a billion dollars in ticket sales worldwide. The latest boy wizard tale, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," has made nearly as much.

Film critics have different favorites. The Los Angeles Film Critics voted "There Will be Blood," a film roughly based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel "Oil!," as the best film of the year, while the New York Film Critics Circle named the Coen brother's crime thriller, "No Country for Old Men" the top film. It is based on Cormac McCarthy's novel by the same name.

The British historical film "Atonement" is another adaptation from a novel that is critically acclaimed. It has won nominations for seven Golden Globe awards, including best dramatic motion picture. The film is adapted from Ian McEwan's novel by the same name.