Wilder heaps praise on Spielberg’s ‘List’

GOOD MORNING: Billy Wilder, who had wanted “very much” to film “Schindler’s List”–“as a memorial to most of my family, who went to Auschwitz”– has now seen Steven Spielberg’s movie. Billy told me, “They got the best. They couldn’t have gotten a better man. The movie is absolutely perfection.” He is writing “a long letter” to tell Spielberg his feelings. Among them, Wilder’s reaction to the crix who voted Spielberg’s movie the best and second-bested his direction, “I am aghast.” Wilder also admitted “Schindler’s List” would have been his “adieu” to filmmaking. But, after seeing Spielberg’s chef d’oeuvre, he says he’s inspired to sit down Jan. 2 and type, “Fade in –.” These days, he’s enjoying reception to the showing (sale) of his second collection of art at the Stern Gallery in BevHills. In addition to the Wilder-owned works is Miro’s “L’Etoile,” for sale at $ 2.6 million. It is owned and for sale by the buyer at Wilder’s first auction at Christie’s in N.Y. … Wilder’s name is attached to some of the art works but he admits, “I can’t draw, paint or sculpt, I just have ideas, some of them are good and some are very good”– like his “Marble Salesman’s Sample Case” with Richard Saar, or his “This Fish Needs a Bicycle” with Bruce Houston. One of the first items sold was Swierzy’s “Sunset Boulevard” poster from Poland. “The Poles made the best movie posters,” claims Wilder. The French poster for a bare-bosomed “Emmanuelle” saved Billy the constant irritation of Universal tour trams, which used to stop in front of his bungalow regularly with a blaring tour guide’s spiel — until Wilder put up the semi-nude poster in the window … Among the first art lovers/collectors on hand at the Wilder showing: the George Axelrods, Marvin Meyers and Alain Bernheims.

WARREN BEATTY AND THE “Love Affair” troupe have been filming Wednesday-Sunday since returning from a two-week hiatus and director Glenn Gordon Caron’s recovery from the flu. The company will, of course, have a holiday hiatus as well. But Beatty says only one scene remains after the first of the year. “We’re on schedule for the second half of the film,” he says. “People (in Hollywood) are more interested in schedules than the movie,” he noted. And I reminded him of Billy Wilder’s quote to me years ago: “I don’t know anyone who ever came up to the box office and asked, ‘Is it true this picture went over schedule?’ “… Beatty says this picture, which co-stars wife Annette Bening, Kate Capshaw, Pierce Brosnan, Brenda Vaccaro, “a very funny” Garry Shandling and Paul Mazursky , “has not been the most complicated movie. It has been a pleasant movie to make”– with 10 days in “beautiful” Moorea and a week in N.Y. “But when we did the fake rain in the studio — that’s when we came down with two bouts of the flu!” WB will not release it until late ’94, he believes, so there is no pressure … The First Family will spend Christmas night at the Kennedy Center watching “The Will Rogers Follies” starring Mac Davis …President Clinton surprised photographer Phil Stern when he stepped out of a conference to congratulate Stern, and accept a copy of his book of classic pix, “Phil Stern’s Hollywood” (Knopf). The president singled out pix of Frank Sinatra and Anita Ekberg to ask Stern for the stories behind the photos … Another book of the glamour era is “Bob Willoughby: The Hollywood Special” (Takarajima Books). Willoughby, like Stern, had carte blanche with stars like James Dean, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, etc., to capture their memorable moments … And arriving in time for the holiday season is NATO Publications’ “America Goes to the Movies: 100 Years of Motion Picture Exhibition,” by Barbara Stones. It’s a tribute to the movie palaces that played those stars. As Norma Desmond said, “We had faces then!”

IN SPITE OF THE PASSING last Friday of her mother, Eleanor Magna, Connie Stevens kept her spirits up for a holiday party Saturday that also celebrated her daughter Tricia’s 25th birthday. Tricia and sister Joely entertained the guests with some of the songs from their “Tradition, A Family Christmas” album (with Connie). Few of the 400 guests at Stevens’ home knew of the family’s concealed sadness … Richard Harris is moving the family Christmas from his home in the Bahamas to L.A. because son Jared broke his leg in three places in a soccer game — on a day off here from shooting “‘A Tall Tale” with Patrick Swayze. Harris wings in from London p.a.s for his latest, “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway”… Esther Williams is recuping from knee surgery and is on a walker — but not for long — if you know Esther. She and Ed Bell are readying a new line of swimsuits for women — who swim … The Barry Levinsons birthday-partied daughter Michele on her 21st at Typhoon at Santa Monica’s airport. Guests included the Dustin Hoffmans, Peter Bogdanovich, Vanilla Ice, etc.

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