Midler, Murphy team to spin biopic for Par

Bette Midler’s All Girl Prods. has joined forces with Eddie Murphy Prods. to produce a comedy for Paramount Pictures based on the real-life story of 1950s New Jersey housewife-turned-record label president Florence Greenberg.

While no writer or director has been set, Midler will star as Greenberg, a woman who overheard four girls singing in the bathroom of her daughter’s school and went on to launch their careers as the Shirelles. She also became the first woman to start her own record label.

Discussions are under way to cast the girl group En Vogue as the Shirelles. Midler has been interested in doing a movie based on Greenberg’s life for about four years. Her company originally partnered on the project with Kenny Vance, who got the rights to Greenberg’s story and will co-produce the film and work on the musical score.

Since her company is based at Disney, Midler originally had the project in development there. But Disney’s option expired, according to All Girl prexy Bonnie Bruckheimer.

High-priority project

It was Murphy’s company that convinced All Girl Prods. to bring the project over to Paramount, where it’s been given high priority.

“We first heard about this project when a script was given to us as a writing sample by ICM,” said Mark Lipsky, veepee at Murphy’s company. “And we liked the story very much.”

While the script is due to be re-written, Lipsky said Greenberg’s life was the big draw.

“She is quite a character,” he said. “She stepped into a field where she had no knowledge and it was a very tough field at that.”

Rights delay

The biggest time delayin bringing the story to screen has been getting the rights to all the songs that came out of Greenberg’s Scepter Records. Among them were the Shirelles’ big hits “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and “Soldier Boy.”

Other hit songs include “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Bros., “Louie, Louie” from the Kingsmen and “Walk on By” by Dionne Warwick.

It’s taken about four years to acquire all the rights, Bruckheimer said.

Late ’94 target

How soon the project will make it to the screen is still in question, although Bruckheimer said they’d like to see it done by the end of 1994.

Midler, at this point, is about to start a 10-city concert tour (beginning Aug. 20 in Minneapolis) including a six-week stop at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

“We promised Florence that she would be at the movie’s premiere,” Bruckheimer said.

Greenberg, now in her mid-80s, lives in a nursing home in New Jersey. She’s skedded to sit down and meet with Midler when the actress-singer opens at Radio City this fall.

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