GOOD MORNING: Mel Gibson admits WB wondered why he wanted to make “The Man Without a Face,” in which half of his face is disfigured from a fire. “And the disfigurement is pretty bad. I wanted to do something really different,” Gibson told me. However, WB was quick to call me yesterday to happily report that the San Diego sneak’s results topped those of “Lethal Weapon III”! Gibson’s “look” will be shown in trailers for the pic’s bow, Aug. 25. (Print ads will only show his face shaded.) “It (the face) didn’t put off the audience,” Gibson reports. “They were really into the performances.” He shares the successful reaction with 12-year-old co-star Nick Stahl, “the best kid actor I’ve ever seen.” Gibson also directed, you recall. And he is anxious to return to helming again soon. But first he returns to work with director Dick Donner in “Maverick.” On Gibson’s immediate sked is a “Love Letters” stand July 11-12 with Sissy Spacek for pal Sandra Will (Mrs. Keith) Carradine. It’s a fundraiser for the Sheridan Arts Foundation at the historic Sheridan Opera House in Telluride, Colo., where the Carradines reside. Keith gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame July 16, two days after his “Will Rogers Follies” bow at the Pantages. That morning, Carradine, as Will Rogers, addresses the opening session of the L.A. Council. Keith (Will) is never at a loss for bon mots on/off the stage … Here comes another PG-13 project from Robert Halmi. It’s a remake of “Robinson Crusoe.” “I’ve found a great island off the coast of New Guinea,” he told me. Halmi, now filming “Return of Lonesome Dove” in Butte, says he’s contemplating action vs. Nicol Williamson, who walked off the location last week and was replaced by Oliver Reed, “who is fantastic,” added Halmi. Another new project for the producer is “Black Fox,” a trilogy of CBS telepix (features overseas) to star Christopher Reeve, who will head from the Calgary location to Nairobi for the bigscreen “Samburu”… And Walter Matthau resumes with Halmi July 12 for “Incident (III) in a Small Town: A Family Secret” for CBS/Procter & Gamble. What about Halmi’s “Scarlett”? “It’s progressing on schedule,” with the lead to be set soon.

“IT’S VERY EXCITING at my age (97) to be honored like this,” says George Burns , “but then again, it was exciting at 79 to get an Oscar for ‘The Sunshine Boys’ and I found out then the most important thing about acting is honesty. And if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Burns receives a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Brandeis U. of Waltham, Mass., today at the Four Seasons. Samuel O. Thier, president, winged out for the presentation. Barry Mirkin organized the luncheon, to be attended by Burns’ buddies, and at which Tony Martin will sing “This Is All I Ask”… Cliff Robertson addresses 2,700 students at the World Scholar Athlete Games in Newport, R.I. After 12 days together they go back to their respective countries, says Robertson, “to help communicate peace and understanding”… It’s a bonanza for “Bonanza.” David Dortort tells me a B’way musical’s in the works for the all-time hit western series (per TV Guide’s poll). George Hearn’s been talked to play the Ben Cartwright role. George W. George is working with Dortort on the production and Lucas Richman’s readying music. Meanwhile, “Bonanza — The Return” is being prepped for fall sweeps on NBC. The two-hour vidpic shot on the Ponderosa in Lake Tahoe may be preceded by a one-hour retrospective of the series, hopefully narrated by Pernell Roberts. Linda Gray is back from the location where she played a saloon owner, “Laredo,” girlfriend of the heavy, Dean Stockwell. The alumna of 11 seasons on “Dallas” says working on this period western “was a magical experience. The entire company was sensational. And wait till you see me in curls, little hats and lace ,” she laughed. Gray is being very selective about roles since her departure from South Fork. “I’ll only do quality — what my heart wants to do.” In addition to the “Bonanza” return, Dortort is also trying to revive his “High Chapparal” series. “It was the only show that captured true Latino feeling,” he reminds.

EMMY WILL GET A NEW LOOK, promises Don Mischer, deep in the show the day after “The Great Ones” spec aired on NBC Tuesday night. “It will be respectful — and entertaining,” he says. “And it will be important. ABC feels that way as well”… July 18, KCET begins re-running the “Gardens of the World With Audrey Hepburn” series, and later this summer airs the “Audrey Hepburn Remembered” bio hosted by Roger Moore with Hepburn’s son Sean Ferrer, ex-husband Mel Ferrer, Rob Wolders, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, etc. We all remember Audrey …”L.A. Law’s” Blair Underwood bows as Claudio in “Measure for Measure” at the N.Y. Shakespeare Fest, July 1-25 … Rex Linn, “Cliffhanger’s” corrupt Treasury agent , joins Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid in “Wyatt Earp” at WB … Papazian-Hirsch’s two-hour “Empty Cradle” got the greenlight from ABC. And P-H’s “Johnny Bago,” which bows Friday on CBS, also gets a repeat of its eight segs each Wednesday late night. Directors include Robert Zemeckis and Frank Marshall … Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy receive a special tribute tonight at the Vision Awards from Retinitis Pigmentosa International at the BevWilshire.

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