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Show Business: Most of ’86

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THE LOUDEST BANG The detonation of Top Gun, which mixed the talents of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis to become the year’s highest-grossing movie (about $170 million).

THE MOST WELCOME STRANGER Australia’s “Crocodile” Dundee, which grossed over $100 million, the biggest earnings for a foreign film shown in the U.S.

THE DEADEST DUCK George Lucas’ $40 million Howard the Duck as it sank into box-office oblivion, proving that even the empire can strike out.

THE SHARPEST KNIFE The one belonging to Kitty Kelley, whose biography, His Way, punctured the image, and perhaps the ego, of Frank Sinatra.

THE MOST PAINFUL SCREECH The inharmonious notes emitted by such flops as Rags, Raggedy Ann, Into the Light and Honky Tonk Nights, which indicated that the once robust Broadway musical is very sick indeed.

THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE That of Giacomo Puccini and Kiri Te Kanawa; his music and her voice gave A Room with a View the year’s loveliest sound track.

THE MOST LIKELY SUCCESSOR TO CECIL B. DE MILLE The House of Windsor, which proved, at the wedding of Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, that Buckingham Palace still has no peer when it comes to pageantry.

THE MOST VISIBLE FREE-FOR-ALL The battle that followed the late news, as Joan Rivers, David Brenner, Dick Cavett and Jimmy Breslin fought for the insomniac talk-show audience claimed by Johnny Carson and David Letterman.

THE LIVELIEST SPIRIT Marilyn Monroe, whose sexy memory still fascinated writers like Gloria Steinem, who wrote one of at least four new books about her (Marilyn), and Norman Mailer, who wrote one of two new plays (Strawhead); and whose platinum afterglow inspired Madonna to remake herself in M.M.’s image.

THE SADDEST GOODBYES The world’s farewells to Cary Grant, who died at the age of 82, and James Cagney, who was 86.

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