GOOD MORNING: Billy Crystal’s not only agreed to return to the small screen — as Oscar’s m.c. — but he’ll be back to reprise his role in the bigscreen’s “City Slickers II,” sez Castle Rock’s Rob Reiner, who unspools a long list of projects for the year including his own May 3 start to direct “North” with Jon Lovitz plus “Seinfeld’s” Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Jon’s parents … Another starter is “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshanker Redemption” based on a Stephen King novella — in the group that included “Stand By Me,” a previous Reiner hit. Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins will be reined by first-time director Frank Darabont … And “Barcelona” will be helmed by Whit Stillman. The Castle Rock’ers also have this impressive list of pix coming into release pronto: “Amos ‘n’ Andrew,””In the Line of Fire,””Needful Things,””Damages” (still searching a new title) and “Josh and Sam.” The company’s convinced times are rough for TV series –“In the next two or three years, it will be a good time again,” Reiner said. “We’re lucky we have ‘Seinfeld’ — and in the fall he will go into the ‘Cheers’ slot.” They do have a pair of comedy pilots in the works; John Mendoza stars in an NBC’er and Alan Zweibel’s prepping a series for English comedienne Morwenna Banks. And Rob Reiner and wife Michele have another production of their own in the works — their second child’s due in September … May Britt is engaged to wed Lennart Ringquist, president of Four Star Intl. They’ll marry in the spring. It’s her second, having divorced Sammy Davis Jr. in 1968 … Grace and Montel Williams expect their first in September. He’ll announce it on his Valentine’s Day show, tomorrow — when Williams also debuts as a singer — duetting “Get Here” with Darcu Speed … WB’s VP of music affairs Keith Zajic and wife Cher welcomed daughter Brittany Nicole.
THAILAND FINALLY GETS ITS DUE, declares Stirling Silliphant, here on a rare visit from his home in Bangkok to huddle with Fred Dryer, whose banner launches “The Wisdom Keeper” (by Silliphant) in Thailand in April. “Thailand has only been used to double for movies about Vietnam,” said Silliphant. “This is the first film to really show Bangkok as it is in 1993.” Dryer says his pic will be a two-hour NBC’er and a feature overseas “to attack the ‘Hunter’ market in Europe.” It’s part of his deal at Par, which will include another feature, “And Justice for One,” from John Clarkson’s novel set in N.Y.’s underworld of after-hours clubs and rogue police. Plus a comedy feature, “Gobble,” about a boy and his radioactive turkey! (dangerous word in movies, Fred) … Adding to Dryer’s plate is “The Cat Who Went to Paris” by Peter Gethers, who arrives here tomorrow to screen-test his cat Norton for the NBC telepic. If he doesn’t work, how about testing Socks? … Silliphant returns to his Bangkok home to also work on “Flight of Eagles” about the WWI Lafayette Escadrille (of which Bill Wellman was a member). And “Heat” with his “Route 66” partner Bert Leonard with Irvin Kershner to direct … CNBC is opening up its phone lines — and how. For 90 minutes on March 8, Phil Donahue, Tom Snyder, John McLaughlin, Dick Cavett and Vladimir Posner will take calls from anyone on any subject — emanating from Donahue’s N.Y. studio. Bob Berkowitz of CNBC’s “Real Personal” moderates. Good luck, Bob. During the web’s interactive talk week, all of its programming will also have open phone lines for the special “Talk Back America” celebration … Gary Collins got word his MRI test showed a hairline fracture of the right hip — which will heal itself — and no leg fractures as feared. Gary told me, “I’m the luckiest man alive.”
MYSTERY SOLVED — UNSOLVED: Robert Stack proudly tells me his “Unsolved Mysteries” just solved its 150th case. And the show is No. 1 in Canada. To celebrate, Stack agreed to play in the Bob Hope pro-celeb tourney — only if he were paired to suitably keep a “low profile.” So they teamed him with — Arnold Palmer. There’s another unsolved mystery for you, Bob … Life mag takes a departure next week with its cover of an unknown actress, Camilla Overbye Roos, in the story titled,”How Hollywood Creates a Star.” It’s reminiscent of old-fashioned Life covers — like the one of then-unknown Yvette Mimieux in the ’60s. The mag will be more Hollywood-driven in the next few months — which, of course pleases West Coast bureau chief Jim Calio … Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992, has moved to L.A. to pursue her acting career and inked with Roger Neal for personal management/PR and the Dora Whitaker Agency. Sapp’s first feature film is “Freedom Factor” for Mountain Pictures … Edie and Lew Wasserman hosted a fundraiser at their home for Sen. Ted Kennedy, there with his wife, Vicki. Among those on hand: Barbra Streisand, Angie Dickinson, Sidney Sheinberg, Tom Pollock, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bob Daly, Mike Medavoy, George Stevens, Jr., Jack Valenti, Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Wells, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, etc.