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BAKER’S FIRST NOVEL IS A TALE OF DOLCE VITA DAYS

“I only recently got the courage to start writing,” said Carroll Baker. “I never had much formal education, you see. But now I’ve gotten two books coming out within weeks of each other. One, though, I won’t be sending to my mother.”

Next month the London-based actress’ first novel, “A Roman Tale,” will be published here. And Baker claims it may well raise an eyebrow or two.

She is the actress who, after starring in such films as “Baby Doll” and “Giant,” quit Hollywood and moved to Rome.

And since nobody else seems to have written about life in the Italian capital during those wild dolce vita days, she decided she’d do it. She had, after all, already written one book--her 1983 autobiography, “Baby Doll.”

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What’s the novel about?

An American actress who, after playing a sex symbol in Hollywood for many years, decides Italy must have more to offer.

Sort of autobiographical, then?

“Sort of,” agreed Baker this week. “After all, I was in Rome when it was at its peak as a film center. And I did have some great adventures. So I thought why not write about them?”

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But the fact is the novel was written as bait. A memoir she penned several years ago--"To Africa With Love,” in which she detailed a journey through the Dark Continent--was deemed “uncommercial” by every publisher she sent it to.

“I love that book,” she said, “but no one would publish it. So I sat down and knocked out the outline for a sex novel about Rome and made a deal--this publisher (Donald Fine Inc.) could have it if they’d also publish the Africa book. And they agreed.” (The “Africa” book is already on the shelves.)

Baker, however, is not just here to talk about her books. She’s starring in a new movie, “Native Son,” together with Matt Dillon, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth McGovern and Oprah Winfrey. It’s based on the book by Richard Wright.

The true story concerns a ghetto-raised black youth who accidentally kills the daughter of a white family for whom he works and the fierce emotions aroused by his trial. Baker plays the blind mother of the dead girl.

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“It’s a great story,” said Baker, “and we’re all working for scale because we care about it so much. Fortunately, I need only do films that interest me now. I still get offered lots of glamour roles but I always turn them down--I hated them when I did them and I hate them now. But maybe if I hadn’t hated them so much, I wouldn’t have left Hollywood and moved to Rome. And then I wouldn’t have written these books.”

THE DIFFERENCE: Those who saw Ridley Scott’s new movie, “Legend,” when it opened in London recently heard a score by Jerry Goldsmith. But anyone seeing the film here (it opens citywide Friday) will hear a score by Tangerine Dream.

What’s going on?

“I changed it,” said Scott this week. “And I just hope Jerry will forgive me. We worked together before (on “Alien”), and his was a great score for ‘Legend.’ But when the film was finished we decided we needed more threatening music, so we brought in Tangerine Dream.”

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Scott, the TV commercials director whose first movie, “The Duellists,” established his reputation, says he wanted to make “Legend"--a fantasy adventure featuring goblins and fairies--to fill a gap.

“I wanted parents to have something to take their children to,” he said, “though the film is aimed at all ages.”


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