Late screen siren MARLENE DIETRICH started rumours James Stewart forced her to abort his baby when he ended their intense affair, according to a damning new biography.

Author MICHAEL MUNN's sensational expose, JIMMY STEWART: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE LEGEND, investigates claims Stewart was seduced by Dietrich, but refused to shatter his wholesome image by talking about it.

After years of denying the torrid liaison, he said, "That was such a long time ago, in another lifetime. But yeah, we had some fun together. Nothing too serious, just horsing around."

But Dietrich took Stewart's eventual rejection seriously, and suddenly the VERTIGO actor was at the centre of speculation he had not only made Dietrich pregnant, he had forced her to abort the baby.

The actress's long-time pal Burgess Meredith, who died in 1997, says in the book, "The person who started those rumours was Dietrich.

"I think she considered it an unpardonable sin when Jim told her it was over."

31/07/2005 10:37