April 24, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

It was reported this week that Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, who are expecting a baby in July, will soon wed. Their plans became public at the same time as some less encouraging connubial news: Neil Simon, who can count the film “The Marrying Man” among his many writing credits, is getting divorced for the third time… from the same woman.

Simon and (third, fourth and fifth) wife Diane Lander aren’t the first celebrity couple to bow out of return engagements. A short history of the two-ring circus: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (1964-74, 1975-76); Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith (1976-77, 1989-95); George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst (1960-65, 1967-72); Milton Berle and Joyce Matthews (1941-47, 1949-50).

Second tries rarely work, says relationship expert Dr. Joyce Brothers, who points out that only one of every 13 remarriages lasts. “The same problems that cause a couple to disappoint one another originally don’t ever get fixed because of personality problems,” she says.

Of course, the wham-bam-aren’t-we-glam world of show business doesn’t help when it comes to building strong marriages. “Sometimes people are more impulsive when they’re celebrities,” says psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, author of “Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them, and When to Leave Them.” “The way actors change from one movie or TV series to the next, that’s the way they change spouses.” Of course, that doesn’t necessarily spell trouble for Uma and Ethan. If they take after Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward instead of Neil Simon, they could co-star in a long-running hit, not a miniseries.

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