YOU'VE GOT TO BE CAREFULLY CHECKED: Schirmer Books just came out with a tuneful overview titled Musical! A Grand Tour: The Rise, Glory and Fall of an American Institution. Dancer-turned-historian Denny Martin Flinn revels in the turf quite infectiously but not without a few factual flubs (i.e., he calls the movie makers of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific "cowards" for cutting the show's race-hatred anthem, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" it was in all the prints I saw). . . . Ethan Mordden, who did his own tome on R&H, uses the title of a Show Boat duet Hammerstein wrote with Jerome Kern for his new magnum opus for Oxford University Press: Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s. . . . Currently enjoying fame as Nana on the NBC hit "Suddenly Susan," Barbara Barrie has contended for both a Tony (Company) and an Oscar (Breaking Away), and she has always been a big winner in the life department. Come September, Scribner will sally forth with her third book, Second Act: Life After Colostomy and Other Adventures.
KINGS GO FORTH: The triumvirate Time magazine tagged "England's three great knights of the theatre" Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson will make a three-ply assault on American bookstores in October when Applause Books simultaneously publishes The Real Life of Laurence Olivier by Roger Lewis, An Actor and His Time by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson: An Actor's Life by Garry O'Connor. All three have come in for considerable acclaim in Britain. . . . Nigel Hawthorne, who had stage brushes with the above and won a Tony for Broadway's Shadowlands, landed one of the key roles in The Object of My Affection, currently before the cameras in New York; its director, Nicholas Hytner, steered Hawthorne to an Olivier Award in England and an Oscar nomination in this country for The Madness of King George. Paul Rudd, taking a break from Broadway's The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Jennifer Aniston, on hiatus from TV's "Friends," have the leads; he's gay, she's straight, a dynamic that Wendy Wasserstein (adapting the novel by Stephen McCauley) previously dealt with her plays, The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig. Also starred: Alan Alda, Allison Janney and Timothy Daly. . . . Hawthorne isn't the only Brit enlarging his horizons beyond the London stage by accepting film work. The great Judi Dench can be seen this month as Mrs. Brown (i.e., the widowed Queen Victoria), and her Disraeli is played by Antony Sher, the recently Tony-nominated Stanley. Next month, Sunday will show off David Suchet (who co-starred with Diana Rigg in last season's London revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Lisa Harrow (from the RSC's Wild Oats and The Merchant of Venice); the movie is a love story set in Queens, N.Y. -- By Harry Haun