GOOD MORNING: It was the party of the year — the classiest on all counts. First of all, the movie that was preemed, “The Bridges of Madison County,” is a classic. And the setting for the screening, the new Steven J. Ross Theater on the WB lot, is perfection … The other elements for the exuberance: the invited group of responsible and caring industry friends … Everything was meticulously handled Tuesday evening, from comfortable arrivals through the studio gate, copious cocktails in the theater’s lavish lobby; warm, welcoming yet brief remarks, picture-perfect screening in the 516-seat theater, no-waiting-in-line supper party and no-delay departures, handled with dispatch by Chuck Pick’s parking army. It was one of those rare midweek affairs when everyone wanted to linger to schmooze indefinitely about the success that had preceded. Tuesday evening soon evolved into Wednesday — which, coincidentally, was Clint Eastwood’s 65th birthday, a secret (?) he kept to himself, as usual. But Wednesday night, Bob Daly and Terry Semel toasted Eastwood and his birthday at Daly’s home with a small group of Clint’s closest friends and associates. The party invite didn’t mention it was his birthday … Meryl Streep, at the preem party with husband Don Gummer, also lingered long after the screening to receive the accolades from men and women alike and constant talk of Oscars for her and Eastwood. She took off Wednesday ayem in the WB jet for Connecticut, where she soon starts “Marvin’s Room” with Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio (as Streep’s son — who also plans to play James Dean) and Robert De Niro … An indication of how powerfully “Bridges” affected the all-pro audience: Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin banner presented the WB pic with Malpaso, told me, “I’m itching to get back to directing.” He hasn’t decided on the project, but the start will not be farther away than January. Spielberg said “Bridges” is “the best-directed movie I’ve seen since ‘Forrest Gump.’ ” Coincidentally, Bob Zemeckis was nearby, heartily congratulating Clint. When I asked Zemeckis when he too would return to directing, he said so far he’s only (!) occupied in producing –“The Frighteners” in New Zealand, “Tales From the Crypt” in Vancouver and the upcoming “Night of the Gargoyles.”“STEVE ROSS WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS,” said Bob Daly, who welcomed preem guests to the theater. “A love story was his favorite. The only regret he would have had — it’s in color,” he laughed. “Bridges” opens Friday in 1,400 theaters and Daly is confident: “This is the kind of movie that will bring in people who don’t usually go to the movies.” Terry Semel followed Daly by telling how the studio theater would have made Ross proud — its roominess for a man his size. Everyone appreciated its comfort as well. The movie’s principals were on hand, including Streep, Annie Corley, Victor Slezak, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and author Robert James Waller (whose book has jumped up another two notches with the movie’s arrival publicity), Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy. Eastwood even took the mike to make a couple of jokes. “My invitation said ‘Judge Dredd,’ ” he laughed, but also seriously paid tribute to Ross, whose widow, Courtney, was on hand with daughter Nicole, Ross’ daughter Toni and her husband, Jeff Salloway. Time Warner’s Jerry Levin and wife Barbara led the WB exec list. Carole Bayer Sager was with Daly, Jane with Terry Semel … Arnold Schwarzenegger, there with wife Maria Shriver, looked weird with crew-cutted jet-black hair –“It’s for the 3-D film I did for the ‘Terminator’ ride at Universal,” he explained. He’ll have to erase it for his next, “The Eraser”… Amy Irving and husband-director Bruno Barreto were in conversation with her ex, Spielberg, and his wife, Kate Capshaw. Irving departs for N.Y. to film “I’m Not Rappaport” totally in Central Park … Another topic of the evening was the permanence of Eastwood and his showbiz associates — 22 years with WB, 33 years with William Morris agent Lenny Hirshan and similar length of time with lawyer Bruce Ramer. The Morris office and CAA (which reps Streep) were well represented at the screening, where longtime friends also included Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck, Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sikes , Wanda and Al Ruddy, Joan and Marvin Worth, Joel Silver, Keith Barish, Jerry and Jane Weintraub, Frank Marshall, Mace Neufeld and Pat McQueeney, Ed Limato, Carrie Fisher and Jodie Foster. QUINCY JONES RECEIVES the UCLA Medal at commencement ceremonies of UCLA’s School of the Arts & Architecture June 17 … Malcolm-Jamal Warner, long involved with young people’s progress, kicks off the summer season at Hawthorne High today at a Coca-Cola-sponsored pep rally … Worth noting: A year ago, we printed that Jay Weston optioned “Bell, Book and Candle” to remake — hopefully for Sharon Stone. Jay said Miramax read it here, made a deal with Weston, who set John Patrick Shanley to script. Now, Miramax signs Sharon Stone for the Kim Novak role — among other films in their new multipic pact. And Weston will produce.
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