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Take One

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Bah, humdrum! The initial chilly responses to two Christmas releases have their studios worried. Universal’s Brighton Beach Memoirs was found bleak and too stagelike by test audiences. WASPy actresses Blythe Danner and Judith Ivey, who play Jewish sisters, didn’t seem to help this adaptation of Neil Simon’s hit play. Then there’s The Morning After, a potential turkey 20th-century Fox may need to carve. The film stars Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges, but Chicago preview audiences apparently just couldn’t swallow this film with Fonda as an alcoholic. But there are some glad tidings for Warner Bros.: Preview audiences loved Little Shop of Horrors with Steve Martin, except for the last half hour, which is mostly minus Steve. Now the ending is being reshot with more of Martin’s mug. Studio elves seem to have their work cut out for them.

No more Manic Mondays for Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs now that her mom, writer-director Tamar Simon Hoffs, has tossed the kid a leading role in her new feature, Cutting Loose. The 25-year-old chart topper says nepotism was not at work here. Universal, she says, simply “liked my screen presence.” Oh.

This is one case in which Anthony Quinn doesn’t mind being strung along by his producers. The actor is close to signing a deal in which he’ll play master violinmaker Antonio Stradivari for an Italian feature film.

Emporia, Kans. minister Tom Bird, 33, and girlfriend Lorna Anderson, 31, were convicted of conspiring to murder Lorna’s husband, Marty, in 1983. Then the preacher was given a life sentence for the earlier murder of his own wife, Sandy. Both are now serving time in Kansas prisons. The case stirred up holy hell in the Bible Belt, but to Hollywood it sounded heavenly. Now NBC, ABC and CBS are all racing the clock to tell their versions of the grisly tale, respectively titled Murder in the Ministry, Murder in Kansas and Kansas Gothic, the last starring Keith Carradine and Jo-Beth Williams.

Don’t Leave It to Beaver’s wife anymore. After four years as president of husband Jerry’s 2,000-member fan club, Rhonda Mathers has resigned to spend more time with her family. “I got so bogged down with all of the mail,” she says.

Director Alex Cox is on a roll. While his film Sid and Nancy, about the late Sex Pistol, Sid Vicious, and girlfriend Nancy Spungen, is getting critical hurrahs, Cox has also tamed Grace Jones for his next film, Straight to Hell. Cox says the $2 million movie, co-starring Dennis Hopper and Elvis Costello, was “written in three days, shot in four weeks and will be out by Christmas.” Prouder still is he of the flick’s pristine tone: “It’s a story of violence, jealousy, money, greed, sexual tension and, best of all, there is absolutely no swearing.”

Anne (Falcon Crest) Archer was worried about doing the first nude scene of her career and, sure enough, going to bed with Deadly Attraction co-star Michael Douglas was more embarrassing than she imagined. Recalls Archer: “When it came time to do the scene, I took my clothes off and got into bed with Michael.” Then, at that delicate moment when things began to heat up, so did the ninth inning of a tense play-off game between baseball’s New York Mets and Houston Astros, which Douglas was trying to watch on a TV set in the studio. “Here I was feeling very vulnerable and sexy, and all Michael did was keep popping up in bed every two minutes to see what was happening.” Boys will be boys.

Now that Fox Broadcasting Network has launched its own princess at night in Joan Rivers, it is planning to book Queen for a Day. In the midst of these tough times FBN may bring back that ’50s tearjerker, which featured the late Jack Bailey and a host of down-and-out women who had to cry for their cash and cars. The applause meter, please!