Little in Hollywood has touched off more rumors, or denials, than the news that Warren Beatty, 54, would finally attempt parenthood, courtesy of mom-to-be Annette Bening, 33. Did Warren want the baby? (Beatty, his lawyer, and his sister, Shirley MacLaine, say yes.) Would Julia Roberts replace the bulging Bening as Catwoman in the new Batman? (Michelle Pfeiffer got the role.) The clamor was understandable. For three decades Beatty made foolin' around an art form, and the news that he's passing into papa-land made the earth move in California. On the occasion of Beatty's forthcoming production, we look back on his most creative contribution to pop culture his love life rating each liaison on the basis of its heat, hype, and headlines.
Circa 1960. She was his first known celeb. They got engaged and she got pregnant, or vice versa. His first known abortion. His first known engagement broken. Didn't get much press then, but plenty later, when she wrote about it in a 1978 tell-all autobiography. A
1962. A pre-Sonny fling when she was just an unknown. ''I was only 16,'' she said later, ''maybe I can get out of it with that.'' C
Mamie Van Doren
Early 1960s. Has the unusual distinction of making headlines by claiming (in her 1987 autobiography) that she didn't sleep with Warren, although she said they'd romanced and that he was a wet kisser. Yech. D+
Late 1960s-1973. Movies together: McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Shampoo (1975), Heaven Can Wait (1978). Started out of Beatty's weakness for Oscar nominees and turned into one of his longest-running relationships, defying all odds of nature and bookies. Even Shirley said she liked her. Got much press, most of it good. B+
Early '70s. Had a six-week fling with Beatty after her divorce from Peter Sellers, but she serves mainly as the chronicler of Beatty's sexual prowess. ''I have never known such pleasure,'' she wrote in her 1981 book, True Britt. ''He could handle women as smoothly as operating an elevator.'' An A for effort, but not a significant entry in the Beatty oeuvre. B
Mid-'70s. Phillips left Jack Nicholson for Beatty (big media points), then by her own admission spent years in therapy getting over Beatty (bonus media points). A
Late '70s. Movies together: Reds (1981). This was her first post-Woody Allen affair. Reportedly she issued Warren a marital ultimatum; reportedly she did the same thing with Al Pacino. Many tabloid headlines. A
1989-90. Movies together: Dick Tracy (1990), Truth or Dare (1991). She called him ''old man''; he called her ''Buzz Bomb.'' She said, ''If you have to give Warren Beatty safe sex lessons, then what is the world coming to?'' They were cute and they got press, but something was missing. Maybe it was better for them than it was for us. B-
1991. Movie together: Bugsy (scheduled for fall 1991). Before the announcement of her pregnancy, she insisted, ''We're working together and that's all.'' Some people have odd notions of work. In any case, she has changed Warren's life forever, plastered their names all over the globe, and opened the door for such future Beatty films as 300 Women and a Baby. A+
Other names linked with Beatty: Elle MacPherson, Goldie Hawn, Candice Bergen, Connie Chung, Barbra Streisand, Diane Sawyer, Jane Fonda, Joni Mitchell, Isabelle Adjani, Brigitte Bardot, Leslie Caron, Kate Jackson, Faye Dunaway, Justine Bateman, Mary Tyler Moore...Does the Beatty bundle mean Warren is finally settling down? Maybe in the next life let's ask Shirl.