Patti Davis has written her first screenplay, "Home Fires."

Patti Davis - daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan - tapped into her political past with her first novel, "Home Front" (1986), which was set against the Vietnam War and bore some autobiographical touches.Now she has dug even deeper into her personal history with her first screenplay, "Home Fires," a White House drama set in the early 1980s about a troubled first family coping with an assassination attempt.

She has just submitted the feature-length script to a major agency for consideration.

It is no secret, of course, that Davis' relationship with her family - particularly with her mother - is strained. That situation improved dramatically but briefly, Davis says, when her father was wounded by would-be assassin John Hinckley in 1981.

"I watched the transformation in our family when my father was shot. How we pulled together and then how we fell apart again."

That experience has now inspired "Home Fires."

"I used the most dramatic event my family ever faced, which was when my father got shot," she says. "That's the centerpiece of the story. I fictionalized it in a lot of ways, but with some aspects, I didn't."

The storyline revolves around an emotional "triangle" between the president, his wife and their daughter.

"They're strangers - three lonely people on this huge stage. For years, they can't seem to connect with each other. They seem unable to know each other. It takes a bullet to bring them together.

"It's not a story of somebody being right or wrong. It's the story of a family working through not getting along. I resist the word dysfunctional, but in essence, that's the problem.

"They're supposed to be representative of a family, but they're really not a family at all."

The Carol Publishing Group, meanwhile, is readying Davis' third novel, "A House of Secrets," for August publication (her second, "Deadfall" (1989), was set in Nicaragua). The new book promises to stir up at least as much attention as her first.

Davis describes it as a coming-of-age story about a girl deeply affected by a psychologically domineering mother, "wrestling with the residue of that" as she copes with issues of sexuality and motherhood as an adult.

She declines to discuss details, but concedes, "There are some very autobiographical elements in it."

The former president and first lady are unaware of her latest writing efforts, she adds.

"I don't really apprise my parents of my work," she says, laughing. "I figure that at 38, I can work on what I want." - JOHN M. WILSON

- Kael Calls It Quits:

HOLLYWOOD - She may be retiring from writing her regular column at the New Yorker, but influential film critic Pauline Kael insists she will stay busy.

Kael, who has been at the magazine for 24 years, says that she will be doing other articles for the magazine, "some profiles and reflections, and possibly some `Onward and Upward With the Arts' pieces." Adds Kael, "And I hope to write another book."

Now 72, Kael has had health problems in recent years, including, she says, "a bum heart."

"There's no point in kidding anyone," she says. "It's been harder to get out to screenings."

Still, she insists, "I feel pretty damn good."

Dutton will publish Kael's 12th book, the essay collection "Movie Love," in September. Holt plans a new edition of her massive film review collection, "5001 Nights," to include 800 new titles.

The March 11 issue of New Yorker acknowledges Kael's retirement following Terrence Rafferty's review of Oliver Stone's "The Doors." (Rafferty now takes over as chief film critic.)

Kael says that it was her decision to retire now, rather than write a final column. And, she adds, "I was not eager to see another Oliver Stone movie."

Kael took heavy shots at Stone's "Platoon" in 1986, then passed on reviewing his ensuing titles, "Wall Street" (1987) and "Talk Radio" (1988), which she says "were just so bad."

But she plans to see "The Doors." She knew Morrison when he was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and she was teaching a film course there, so "I'm pretty curious." - PAT H. BROESKE

- Nobody's Patsy:

HOLLYWOOD - Patsy Kensit continues to feel the impact of her performance in the small, independent film, "Twenty-One," which won her raves at the USA Film Festival last spring.

Last week, she started shooting "Prince of Shadows" in Madrid, Spain, starring opposite Terence Stamp. The Spanish production has Kensit as a nightclub singer caught up in political intrigue in Franco's postwar Spain in the early 1960s. Pilar Miro directs.

And Kensit has just signed to co-star with Dudley Moore and Robert Griffith ("Withnail & I") in Disney's "Blame It on the Bellboy." The ensemble comedy from producer Steve Abbott ("A Fish Called Wanda") is still being cast, and is due to begin shooting next month.

After "Lethal Weapon 2," in which she played Mel Gibson's ill-fated love interest, Kensit returned to her native England, appearing in several European films. Then she read director and co-writer Don Boyd's script for "Twenty-One," the amorous adventures of a young woman who confides intimate monologues directly into the camera.

"I realized it was a change of direction for me, a role I really wanted to do," she says. "It was very frank, very honest, something a studio would never make. There are not that many good roles for actresses. This was a once in a lifetime part."

It led directly to Disney's "Bellboy" offer, she says - and other offers keep coming in.

When she took the "Twenty-One" role, she says, "I never expected in my wildest dreams that this would happen." - JOHN M. WILSON

- Striking It `Rich':

HOLLYWOOD - Kids and high concepts continue to sell: Screenwriter John Hill has just been paid $300,000 for "Rich Kid" - which, he acknowledges, is so high concept it might as well be dubbed " `Home Alone' meets `Die Hard.' "

The project, says Hill, "is a kind of `Captains Courageous' for the '90s" - all about a youngster who finds himself caught up in "adventurous jeopardy."

For producer Steve Tisch, and Warner Bros., it is Hill's biggest sale yet (he got $250,000 for "Quigley Down Under"). He credits his longtime agent Norman Kurland for generating interest in the project.

Hill programmed assorted film "formulas" into his computer - for example, kid comedies and heavy action shoot-'em-ups - and mixed and matched various plot devices until he came up with the best combination for his scenario.

"But the (computer) organization is just a small part," he adds. "You still have to create characters and heart and story."

The central character of "Rich Kid" happens to be about 10 years of age.

Deadpans Hill: "Gee, I don't know who could play that part."

Macaulay Culkin, call your agent! - PAT H. BROESKE

- The Movie Chart:

Films going into production:

GRAND CANYON (20th Century Fox). Shooting in Los Angeles. Lawrence Kasdan writes (with wife Meg) and directs this look at the harshness of the urban life and how a simple act of kindness can transform people's lives. Producers Kasdan, Charles Okun and Michael Grillo. Stars Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell, Mary Louise Parker and Alfre Woodard.

THE LAST DAYS OF EDEN (Cinergi Productions-Hollywood Pictures). Shooting in Mexico. "The Hunt for Red October" director, John McTiernan, teams "October" star Sean Connery with "GoodFellas' " Lorraine Bracco in this look at a love story set in the South American rain forests. Connery is also executive producer. Producers Andy Vajna, Tom Schulman and Donna Dubrow. Screenwriter Schulman. Distributor Buena Vista.

THE ANGRY GUY (Film Brigade). Shooting in Los Angeles. Comedian Steve Oedekerk is a writer of children's books who spends an entire day ranting and fuming in his apartment. His rage is suddenly punctuated by a voice that tells him to expect something significant to occur at precisely 8 p.m. Executive producer Vladimir Horunzhy. Producer Rubin Mendoza. Director Roger Nygard. Screenwriters Oedekerk and Robert Kuhn. Also stars Toni Sawyer, Tom Wilson ("Back to the Future's" Biff), Ed Williams, Denise Crosby and Fred Willard. -DAVID PECCHIA