Baldwin acts out U.S. history

GOOD MORNING: From “Nuremberg” to “Pearl Harbor” to “The Pentagon Papers.” That’s the reason Alec Baldwin’s happy. And with damn good reason. First is the completed TNT two-nighter (July 16-17) “Nuremberg,” in which he plays Justice Robert Jackson who presided over the trial of the century, which set the example for the U.N. in Kosovo, Rwanda — whenever humanity is the victim. In Disney’s “Pearl Harbor,” Baldwin plays Gen. Jimmy Dolittle, and in the about to be set “Pentagon Papers,” he’ll portray Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the papers on U.S. policy in the Vietnam War. Baldwin, who got his first TV job from producer Gerry Abrams in “Cutter to Houston,” quickly agreed to play in the word-for-word-accurate role of Justice Jackson. “This has been one of my greatest experiences,” he said. Walter Cronkite, who covered the trials from start to finish for United Press Intl., told Baldwin he didn’t think America really got behind the trial. As for “Pearl Harbor,” Baldwin tells me he was just as appreciative when Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay called him to play Dolittle. He’ll continue on in American history with the “Pentagon Papers” (again for TNT) teamed with John Dean as a producing partner and John Frankenheimer to direct. … And oh yes, Baldwin plays “the Conductor” in the Thomas the Tank Engine live action-and-live-action-model animation feature, “Thomas and the Magic Railroad” for Britt Allcroft. … The importance of the “Nuremberg” mini is pointed up by “Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial” author Joseph E. Persico, who read all 42 volumes of the trial’s transcripts in the Library of Congress before writing the book on which the TV show’s based. He says the testimonies are reported verbatim. “The dimensions are horrific!” He’s happy the movie will reach tens of millions more than the book. “In my research, a poll showed 22% of Americans still do not believe the Holocaust happened! That’s what’s important about showing this movie. The reward of this TV (pic) is a significant contribution to televised history.” He has nothing but superlatives for the mini directed by Yves Simoneau. I saw 35 minutes and can only echo Persico’s praise. This will be one of the most important pieces of TV history. The fictionalized trial in the original Playhouse 90 “Judgment at Nuremberg” was eloquently written by Abby Mann for the 1959 vidpic, followed by the 1961 star-studded feature, winning Mann and Max Schell Oscars. Both were effective in their presentation — even without the real characters — on both sides of the bar. TNT’s includes the British, French and Russians prosecuting and all 21 defendants — including Hermann Goering, Albert Speer, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Julius Streicher, Rudolf Hess, etc. Award-winner David Rintels, who scripted the TNT mini, actually lived in Nuremberg when his father was an attorney assigned to the series of trials in the late ’40s. When you hear those (real) bloody words from the mouths of the defendants, I promise your own blood will boil with anger.

MONTEL WILLIAMS MAY BE LIMPING into tonight’s “Race to Erase Multiple Sclerosis” gala at the Century Plaza. Williams, who receives the “Man Of Courage” award, tells me he was in an accident Tuesday — while snowboarding at Oregon’s Mt. Hood. He had just wound a guesting in his recurring Lt. Vernon Rivers role in “JAG” and took off for r’n’r before tonight’s Nancy Davis-headed event. In the charity’s auction, Williams has also donated an internship on his show. Williams and Nancy Davis have “joined forces” with their respective MS foundations. “We both have MS,” he reminds, “and we’re the same age.” He heads to Stockholm next month for a new evaluation. He reports he is “not having any residual degradation after each bout.” Montel has a busy schedule while on summer hiatus from his TV’er, launching his new publishing arm — the first three books: inspiration, workout and parenting. … Ron Silver, starring in the preem of “Bill Graham Presents,” written by Robert Greenfield, bowing at the Canon Theater in BevHills Sunday, says he’d linger past the six weeks here. The Tony winner is planning N.Y. and London stands. But he’s happy to preem in L.A. where he started in “El Grande de Coca Cola” at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip “where there was still some smell of smoke” from previous rock ‘n’ roll occupants. The setting of the play is during a night of crisis in the life of Graham, presenter of acts including the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, the Doors, the Who, etc. He died in a 1991 helicopter crash. Silver will also appear Tuesday at the Skirball Cultural Center’s “Live at Fillmore East” with Greenfield, Amalie Rothschild, Allan Arkush, Ellen Sanders, etc. … David and Susan Royal dinner-partied Paris’ Yanou Collart at L.A.’s Brasserie des Artistes. “Collart has intro’d so many Americans to French chefs, this was a chance to reciprocate,” said the Royals, “to introduce her to our new favorite chef, Jean-Pierre Giron.” The brasserie’s Georges Etesse has decked the L.A. eatery with a great collection of French film posters. Collart and Paul Bocuse have created the “Craig Claiborne Trophy” (designed by Anthony Quinn) honoring an American winner to go on to Bocuse’s international “Bocuse d’Or.” First winner is Tracy O’Grady of D.C.’s Kinkead’s. Presentation is May 15 at the French Consulate in N.Y.

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