'Newcomer' makes good on promise

There’s a sweet moment in “Bonnie and Clyde” when Clyde is telling his brother how one day he got so bored in prison he just shot a couple of his toes off — and the next day they gave him parole. “Ain’t life grand?” says Clyde.

Well, that grandeur keeps on giving, and so this year, to mark the eventual release of “Reds” on DVD, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is giving Warren Beatty the Cecil B. DeMille award, named after the man who did his best to get a loyalty oath requirement from all Hollywood directors.

The advantage of such an event for the Golden Globes is clear: Beatty brings a lovely lady to the dinner (likely to be there anyway); he may be counted on to get comic eulogies from fellow old-timers — but he is not dead. On the contrary, alertness and good humor are his (far more so than when America knew who he was and reckoned to keep their daughters under lock and key if he passed by). But he will come, and be gracious and funny. He is available.

The only question is why this man is so available. I know, he is 70 next year, but he seems strong. I doubt if he ever has fewer than half a dozen projects on his mind, and they may all dissolve in the face of his four children. (If the HFPA ever votes for Father of the Decade, he’s an automatic.)

It may be hard to credit, but those children will grow up, and Beatty will remain in history as one of our most intelligent actors (though he took scant pleasure in acting), a fair director (overrated for his efforts), a great producer and the real thing, a star — Johnny Carson could get a 10-second laugh with, “Or Warren Beatty?” Shirley MacLaine did much the same thing one night at the Oscars, and he took it in stride, even if he realized why so many murders are within the family.

Then I got the point about Beatty’s infamous reticence — like the day on “The Ten Commandments” when DeMille staged a huge battle with cameras positioned on three hills for maximum coverage. The director yells “action!” and the battle rages. Real soldiers. Carnage everywhere. Afterward DeMille is informed that the first camera jammed. Then he’s informed that the generator on the second exploded. So DeMille trudges up the third hill, where the hapless a.d. gives him the thumbs up and says, “Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille.”

Well, Warren, we’re ready when you are.

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