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And the Race Is On . . . : 'Bugsy,' 'Beauty,' 'JFK' Win Globes--Leave Top Oscar Wide Open


The stage is set for the most wide-open Oscar race for best picture in years.

That scenario unfolded at Saturday night's glittering Golden Globe Awards ceremonies during which Walt Disney's animated musical "Beauty and the Beast" captured three prizes, including best musical or comedy picture of 1991, and TriStar Pictures' "Bugsy," starring Warren Beatty, won in the best dramatic picture category.

But the Globe for "Bugsy" was the only one out of eight nominations it received from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the sponsor of the annual Golden Globe film and TV awards show. Instead of cleaning up, "Bugsy" fell prey to a lone assassin: "JFK." That three-hour movie, suggesting a conspiracy to murder President John F. Kennedy, won the best director award for Oliver Stone--and thus elevated its chances in the Oscar derby.

In the press room backstage, the overtone of rivalry among upcoming Oscar contenders was almost amusing, as stars and representatives waited their turn before cameras and reporters. At one point, the winners for "Beauty and the Beast" were being interviewed as Nick Nolte (best actor in "The Prince of Tides") and Jodie Foster (best actress in "The Silence of the Lambs") stood by. Press questions for them eventually caused a backup of the other potential competitors, the winners for "Bugsy" and "JFK."

"Bugsy" star Warren Beatty confirmed to interviewers that he and his "Bugsy" co-star, Annette Bening, are parents of a baby girl, named Kathlyn Bening Beatty after his mother.

Bening joined Beatty, director Barry Levinson, co-producer Mark Johnson, TriStar Pictures Chairman Mike Medavoy and screenwriter James Toback in answering questions about the movie, based on the life of mobster Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel. But, mostly, the interest was on the new arrival.

The 8-pound, 11-ounce girl was delivered by Cesarean section this month. Beatty, 54, and Bening, 33, became romantically involved during filming of "Bugsy."

As the questions for the "Bugsy" crew ran on, Stone and "JFK" star Kevin Costner waited patiently. Costner at one point joked to those around him: "And they say our movie runs long."

What the Golden Globe prizes really mean and why stars by the hundreds show up each year is debatable. On the television side, which this year was dominated by CBS shows, the awards carry a publicity value. But when it comes to movies, the 86 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. who run the affair have managed to make it a must-show night for any potential Oscar contender.

Year after year, they have an uncanny ability to predict the top prize winners of the Oscars, which are not handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences until months later.

It doesn't hurt, either, that the Globe ceremonies often coincide with the Academy's mailing of more than 4,000 ballots for Oscar nominations--as it did this weekend. The nominations will be announced on Feb. 19 and the winners named on March 30.

Hollywood being Hollywood, and business being business, there's also the underlying knowledge that these representatives of the foreign press can be important conduits to the international market. These days that market is the industry's primary area of audience growth.

But perhaps even more compelling, the Golden Globe ceremonies, televised live by TBS and produced by Dick Clark Productions, feel like a throwback to Hollywood's earlier days, when Oscars were handed out over dinner and the party-goers could mingle. It's a far cry from the huge, high-security, international media event that now marks the Academy Awards.

Thus it was not out of the question for hundreds of fans to crowd the Beverly Hilton's lobby to get a close look at the year's one awards ceremony where stars of feature films and television mix. Some onlookers were even able to get a handshake or hug from the parade of arriving stars such as Dustin Hoffman or Burt Reynolds.

Inside the International Ballroom, the lighthearted party atmosphere made it possible for Bette Midler to visit with Robin Williams at the next table, and then turn around to hug Hoffman, seated immediately behind. Or for Tom Cruise to chat with his "Rain Man" director, Levinson, or Barbra Streisand to whisper with table-mate Nick Nolte, her co-star in "The Prince of Tides."

Film industry executives such as Disney's Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Sony's Peter Guber and TriStar's Medavoy made the rounds.

Others dropped by Robert Mitchum's table to visit with the veteran actor of 113 movies, who was honored with the association's Cecil B. DeMille Award, and with actress Jane Russell, seated near him.

But the evening wasn't without its more resonant moments. A majority of the guests wore red ribbons, which, as actress Raquel Welch explained to the TV audience, denoted concern for the AIDS epidemic.

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