Keach wins praise with 'Lear'

MARLENE’S RULES were clear. No woman present must be younger than she, but all the men must be younger and attractive.

Such were the dinner-party dictates of Marlene Dietrich, according to Charles Higham’s new book, “In and Out of Hollywood.” You see, “Diva” behavior began years before Jennifer Lopez and Mariah and the rest.

Mr. Higham is a well-known chronicler of the famous and infamous. Although he is a noted poet and has written a number of reasonably received plays, his biographies are the meat of his career — Kate Hepburn, Bette Davis, Howard Hughes, Cary Grant, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine, Audrey Hepburn and Orson Welles.

Higham’s greatest notoriety came with his biography of Errol Flynn, in which he claimed the beloved swashbuckler was a bisexual Nazi sympathizer.

Higham’s new book tells many dishy tales. It’s shocking on Judy Garland and terrifyingly on spot on Lucille Ball — believe me, Lucy was not funny in real life!

Maybe my favorite story is about the unabashedly autocratic director Cecil B. DeMille. During a pre-production meeting on DeMille’s epic “The Ten Commandments,” Charlton Heston, cast as Moses, asked DeMille, who would speak the voice of God, talking to Moses, on the Mount? A mighty tall order, after all.

DeMille shouted, “You DARE to ask?!!!” And so of course, DeMille played God. It makes James Cameron’s “I’m King of the World!” seem puny indeed.

THE PERIPATETIC columnist and author Dominick Dunne has now flown back to Germany for stem cell treatment and won’t return to the U.S. until mid-August.

He is traveling with a helpful, concerned friend, and he has nothing but praise for the way his magazine, Vanity Fair, has backed him up as he battles cancer.

WHERE DOES one go after garnering the reviews of one’s life in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”? Ask Stacy Keach. The veteran actor received brilliant reviews on his performance, which rang down the curtain last week in Washington, D.C.

L.A. and, but of course, Broadway are eventual goals. But something much more far-flung, exotic and challenging is also in the cards. A producer from the Beijing Opera Company caught Keach and is very much interested in staging “Lear” in the Chinese capital and Shanghai as well!

Also on hand for one of Keach’s last performances was filmmaker Frank Miller (of “Sin City” and “300” fame.) He promised the actor “a powerful role” in his next film, based on Aeschylus’ classic drama about the Persians and the Greeks.

But right now Stacy Keach is off with his family to Poland, where they have a second home. Poland! Every other actor seems to have a second home in posh Lake Como or Bermuda or the English countryside. But this Savannah-born guy chooses Poland. Well, maybe he likes to sail. The country does have 1,000 lakes.

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