Ameche shows his dedication to the end

GOOD MORNING: The show must go on: Tradition has no better example than Don Ameche’s career finale in New Line’s “Corrina, Corrina.” Ameche had cancer. Yes, the producers of the movie knew of his condition. “But we knew how important this role was to him,” Steve Tisch told me. “We assigned him limited hours and made a comfortable environment for him.” On Nov. 7, Ameche was so dehydrated he entered UCLA Medical Center for treatment to assist him. And the next day, Monday, Nov. 8, he reported for work to complete his role. In the movie, he plays Ray Liotta’s loving, caring father, Grandpa Harry, concerned about his son , whose wife has died, leaving him and their 8-year-old girl (Tina Majorino). Whoopi Goldberg is the housekeeper whose tenderness helps keep the family together. “He had a wonderful presence on the set,” added Tisch. “The other actors were so respectful of him and concerned. I feel blessed to have had him in our movie — his last.” Don Ameche Jr. (60), a Scottsdale broker in whose home Ameche, pere, died, said his father’s last year had been his happiest — in addition to working in this movie, he did “Homeward Bound,” a Chrysler commercial, AND — after 49 years with thoroughbreds, he had a winner, quickly followed by three more and an entry in the Breeders Cup. A memorial will be held Monday at 11 a.m. in Scottsdale’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Ameche Jr. said another will be held in L.A. at a later date. It was ironic that on Tuesday I was visiting the 20th Century Fox lot, Don’s alma mater, where I’d had warm interviews with him over many years. Yeah, I also had many warm talks with him over the “Ameche.” Then, they were giants.

MICHAEL JACKSON’S DEFENSE TEAM now includes attorney Johnnie Cochran, whom Howard Weitzman has invited to join him and Bert Fields. Weitzman spoke (on the phone) with Michael on Monday, and said he’s sounding better and is hopeful he will be back home for Christmas. Elizabeth Taylor has also asked Weitzman to have her attorney, Neil Papiano, informed, and Weitzman says he is perfectly willing to do so “if he (Papiano) would want to be”… Although away, Jackson authorized the purchase of 100 classic children’s books for kids at the First AME Church here as part of the Junior League of L.A.’s second annual Holiday Book Fair and Reading Presentation … Meanwhile, Taylor’s color photo by Roddy McDowall sold for $ 1,700 as part of the Project Angel Food auction, which raised more than $ 350,000 for those homebound by AIDS … Castle Rock’s “North, ” starring Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis and Jon Lovitz, has gone back for “fine-tuning and clarification.” Cameo guestars in Rob Reiner’s film include Dan Aykroyd, Reba McEntire, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Kathy Bates, Faith Ford, John Ritter, etc. Meanwhile, Castle Rock’s rejoicing with the first rough screening of “The Shawshank Redemption” by first-time director Frank Darabont … And WB got hefty reaction from its nationwide “sneaks” of “Grumpy Old Men” with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret. Recommend levels were in the 90% range … A”wedding present” for thesp William Sanderson and personal manager Sharon Arndt, who tied the knot Sunday at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas: Sanderson will co-star with John Candy in the “Wagons East” comedy western for Carolco. Gary Goodman and Barry Rosen exec produce, Peter Markle directs Matthew Carlson’s script … Tommy Lee Jones, starring as Ty Cobb in WB’s “Cobb” for Ron Shelton, will be joined by Robert Wuhl, who plays Al Stump, the newspaperman-biographer who traveled with and chronicled the ballplayer.

“THREE WOMEN WILL DIE of breast or ovarian cancer during the short time we watch this film,” Annette Bening narrated in a film put together by Jane Semel and Joel Silver for Monday night’s fourth annual Fire & Ice Ball. And Hillary Rodham Clinton also taped a message for the packed BevHilton Intl. Ballroom gala , which raised $ 2.7 million and was chaired by Semel, Lilly Tartikoff and Ron Perelman. WB’s Marian O’Neil helped assemble the night, produced by Just Call Sharon. Mel Gibson emceed, and promised all would be home “in time for the 10 o’clock news.” Dr. Dennis Slamn told of the progress by the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Center. Phil Collins sang and Maya Angelou’s words and music finale’d with: “Just when it looks like the sun won’t shine anymore, there is a rainbow in the clouds. This evening is that rainbow”… Tonight, Prince Edward attends a screening of “Wayne’s World II” and private dinner at N.Y.’s Planet Hollywood to benefit Variety Clubs Intl.’s children’s programs. And Sunday, Planet Hollywood opens in the famous Mall of America in Minneapolis with its seventh eatery.

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