Dunaway in a ‘Class’ by herself

GOOD MORNING: When Faye Dunaway debuted in the touring “Master Class” company last November in Boston, Variety‘s Markland Taylor noted, “Terrence McNally may have written ‘Master Class’ for Zoe Caldwell (who bowed at the Mark Taper Forum in May ’95), but Faye Dunaway claims it as her own … The Oscar-winning actress delivers a full-size, bravura characterization of Maria Callas that has ‘diva’ written all over it.” I quote the above because, after seeing Dunaway at the Doolittle in Hollywood on Saturday, I can’t do better than Taylor. She owns the stage in this “Class-iest” performance and reminds us all of her talent, which has been suppressed many years in poor roles since winning an Oscar for “Network.” She has been receiving prolonged standing ovations in the previews preceding Monday night’s official bow. Backstage, after Saturday night’s performance, I asked Dunaway where she learned her perfect Italian dialog delivery. She smiled and had only to say one name: “Marcello.” She was also talking backstage with Leonard Foglia, who had directed at the Taper and at N.Y.’s Golden, and with Lewis Allen, who produces with Robert Whitehead, Spring Sirkin and Manny Kladitis (he has six shows on B’way). They were exuberant about L.A.’s reaction to the actress in the play by McNally, who is also thrilling L.A. with his book on “Ragtime.” (“Master Class” with Dunaway goes on to 11 more cities). Dunaway keeps trying to convince McNally to write the screenplay for “Master Class,” which she and Jon Platt plan to produce with her starring. She’d like the pic to expand, with roles only mentioned in the play, like “Ari.” And who’d she like to see play Onassis? Al Pacino. Next year, Dunaway also has plans to direct “a small (untitled) movie” about a woman who has a vision. It’s to be for Chanticleer … While Dunaway maintains she owns the pic rights (with Platt), Lester Persky believes he “has a valid agreement” (of pic ownership) and “the courts will judge.” He has just acquired rights to C. David Heymann’s bio of Robert Kennedy for a miniseries or feature. He says the Viking -Penguin book has “new revelations” about RFK. Persky also plans to re-broadcast his NBC pic “A Woman Named Jackie” (also written by Heymann). Persky took it off the air when Jackie Onassis died. Starring was Roma Downey, then a virtual unknown, but who now stars in CBS’ “Touched By An Angel.”

FRED ASTAIRE’S DAUGHTER AVA (Mrs. Richard McKenzie) called from their home in Ireland to tell me she is “delighted” with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judgment giving an OK to use clips of celebs to promote an informational or documentary, but not to advertise a commercial product. Ava, I reported Feb. 26, was “saddened” after “he (Fred) was sold to the devil” ( the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner) by Robyn Astaire … Rod Steiger filed for divorce from wife (of 11 years) Paula. They have a 4-year-old son, Michael. Steiger says he’s burying his disappointment in work — currently starring in “Revenant,” which he describes as a contemporary vampire spoof. Chris Hanley and Brad Wyman produce from a script by Matthew Bright. Rick Elfman directs. Steiger then segues to “The Flying Dutchman” for Gene Kirkwood … While a group of Russian film and theater notables have requested the Moscow Film Fest not be held this year, Tristan Del, exec director of international relations for the fest, says it will go on; Del adds that a press confab will be held here July 1 (at the Acad), with those attending and promoting the event including fest president Sergie Solyvev, director Andrei Konchalovsky, and Stas Namin exec director of the Society for the Performers’ Rights and a movie, TV and record producer. Among those skedded to attend the fest: Sophia Loren, Jim Belushi, John Malkovich, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jack Valenti and Arthur Hiller. Del points out that the head of the organizing committee is also the Prime Minister of Russia, Victor Chernomirdin, and the prime topic to be discussed is to terminate channels of privacy in and out of Russia and to block providers of pirated material as well as the use of it.

BILL CLINTON, BEFORE COMING TO L.A., the showbiz capital, Monday, closed the Summit in Denver where many of the international leaders were enthralled with the showbiz finale set up by Harry Thomason. F’rinstance: England’s Tony Blair, who once played in a rock ‘n’ roll band, was thrilled to meet Chuck Berry, France’s Jacques Chirac was happy to hear one of his favorites, Eartha Kitt, and Germany’s Helmut Kohl was delighted with the playing of his favorite music — Dixieland … Lionel Hampton will be honored at the Atlanta Braves’ Ted Turner Field during pre-game salutes to Jackie Robinson Friday and Saturday. Hampton sez he’ll bring his jersey, No. 26, from days when he played baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs … Dr. Steve Hoefflin, plastic surgeon to many stars, will marry BevHills businesswoman Pamela Wilson Aug. 23 at the BevHills hotel. She’ll wear an especially-designed Valentino.

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