‘Beauty’ gets high scores in college

GOOD MORNING: DreamWorks’ “American Beauty” continues to matriculate through the college circuit with screenings and appearances by the cast and filmmakers (sans the pregnant Annette Bening) helping to bridge the gap between the generations this film covers. Today it’s U.C. Berkeley, following Tuesday’s NYU class, and last week at UCLA, and then onward to Northwestern in Chi, U. of Texas in Austin and D.C. The afternoon screenings are compounded by nighttime (adult) press showings. Here, Tuesday at Mann’s National, “Beauty” received a smashing reception as it had last week at the Egyptian preem with the audience applauding and remaining well through the end credits — and lingering long afterward in the lobby and outside the theater. The talk was unanimous — “American Beauty” is a great movie with great performances led by Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening plus young players Thora Birch, Wes Bentley and Mena Suvari, and of course, directed by Sam Mendes, written by Alan Ball and produced by Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks. The pic opened Wednesday in L.A. and N.Y., and is joined by Boston, Toronto and SanFran, Friday and 14 additional sites Sept. 24. There’s no doubt more screens will be quickly added as 4-star reviews pile up and word-of-mouth from teens, yuppies and, yes, seniors lures audiences in to see this movie-movie.

EVEN MARTIN SHORT WAS SURPRISED when guest Jamie Lee Curtis started unveiling what she kept in her bra — on Short’s show aired Wednesday night. The items ranged from a compact, keys, money, Binaca — and eyeglasses. When I noted it was lucky the show airs (in L.A.) at 11 p.m., Short said, “We’d love to see Jamie pull anything out of her bra — any time of day!” Short, who started his talk’er this week with guests Billy Crystal and Steve Martin, airs Tom Hanks tonight, having taped Wednesday night. It’s the first time the friends, who met in 1983, have worked together — “except for home movies,” Short said … Judd Nelson, who left “Suddenly Susan” after the March 22 suicide of 29-year-old costar David Strickland, says, “it was difficult to walk by his dressing room, his parking space — he was the mortar to keep us together.” As for his departure from the show, “It was a mutual understanding.” But since that time Nelson has been plowing into one drama after another. He just wound playing Alan Freed in “Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Alan Freed Story,” which will air on NBC Oct. 17. Nelson laughingly said, “It was like, ‘Can you finish this scene — we have to edit it!” Andy Wolk directed, with Frank Von Zerneck as exec producer. In quick succession, Nelson also wound roles in the Fox 2000 “Light it Up,” as well as “Cabin By the Lake” and a remake of “The Spiral Staircase.” Would Nelson return to do a sitcom? Not yet — instead he’s readying his own dramatic series to team with a black partner — a la Bob Culp and Bill Cosby in “I Spy” … Quincy Jones and Bono will meet with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican Sept. 23 to talk the Third World debt seg of NetAid. Since the start of the NetAid website, 2 million hits have been logged … Hurricane Floyd delayed thesp Lane Smith’s departure to Savannah to join Robert Redford’s “The Legend of Bagger Vance” in which Lane plays Grantland Rice … Anne Biondi and producer Bob Simonds (“Water Boy,” “Problem Child”) will wed Saturday (18) in BevHills. The two were intro’d by her dad, Frank Biondi. Don Granger, VP of production at Par, is best man … It’s a first grandchild, Logan Vale Branch, for Rita and Jerry Vale, parents are Pamela (Vale) and Steve Branch. Logan arrived Sept. 10 in Providence, R.I. — where Rita and Jerry met 40 years ago … A gathering to remember Fred Skidmore will be held 11 ayem Saturday in the Chaplin theater of Raleigh Studios.

AN EARLY VEGAS VISIT FOR BARBRA STREISAND and husband Jim Brolin: they took in the Cirque du Soleil’s “O” at the Bellagio followed by the Cirque du Soleil’s “Mystere” at Treasure Island. Barbra, you recall, has a New Year’s Eve date at the MGM Grand. The Cirque’s latest show, “Dralion” bows at the Santa Monica pier Sept. 23 … The Museum of TV and Radio was SRO Wednesday night, for the Stan Freberg retro and seminar. Two overflow rooms carried the show via closed circuit TV. Rhino releases his four CD boxset “Tip of the Freberg” covering almost 50 years of his work … “The Judy Garland Show,” a 15-hour DVD boxed set is released Oct. 12 by Pioneer Entertainment, includes “Rainbows End,” the backstage look at the series by Daily Variety’s Steve Sanders. The Fox Searchlight film version is on the fast track … Sid Caesar is toasted on his 50th anni in TV, Oct. 29 at the Friars with a show including Jonathan Winters, Larry Gelbart, Jack Jones, Mel Brooks. Larry King m.c.s and Johnny Francis produces … Celebrating its 70th anni, the USC School of Cinema-TV presents its First Look Festival — 29 films by students — Oct. 4-7 at the DGA theater … The Hollywood Radio and TV Society’s forum of Network Entertainment Presidents, Sept. 22 boasts Stu Bloomberg, Lloyd Braun, Garth Ancier, Nancy Tellem, Doug Herzog, Suzanne Daniels, Tom Nunan. Brian Lowry mediates at the Century Plaza … Sign of the Times: the DGA’s Independent Film brochure lets young indies know how and why to join the DGA.