The Stars Go with the Flow at Two Lavish Benefit Premieres for the River

updated 11/26/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

My wife's expecting, but we're both starving," explained John Ritter, patting wife Nancy's stomach and bellying up to the feast at the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom. They were among the elegant showbiz flotsam and jetsam who bobbed up at black-tie bicoastal screenings of Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson's upcoming The River, the latest in the flood of movies about struggling farm families. The Hollywood opening was followed by a $175-per-head fund raiser for the American Film Institute that drew the likes of Sean Penn, Bette Midler, Drew Barrymore, Gene Kelly and Leonard Nimoy. New York countered with a $300-a-head fund raiser for the Actors Studio, attracting a high-cotton crowd that included Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Ellen Burstyn. While young Drew Barrymore was turning cartwheels in L.A. (see following pages), much of the adult talk turned on the relative merits of The River's actors.

Scott Glenn, 42, the only star from the film to appear at the Hollywood bash, was accompanied by-his wife, Carol, and daughters Dakota, 13, and Rio, 11. Ritter praised Glenn's onscreen power—"I thought they'd need to hose down certain women in the audience"—but Ursula Andress cast her vote for co-star Mel Gibson ("I adore him") as the movie's hunk.

Bette Midler wasn't choosing favorites but raved about the roles the new farm films—Places in the Heart, Country and The River—have offered women. Places star Sally Field lamented, "I'm just sorry the movies are all out at once and are being compared." What about the inevitable comparisons of her performance with Spacek's? "Sissy never fails to make me cry," said Sally. "She's so good I forget to even be jealous."

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