Turner readies for 2nd cancer battle

GOOD MORNING: Lana Turner has a recurrence of cancer. “I beat it two years ago and I’m going to beat it again,” she told me. “You know I am strong — and I put myself in God’s hands.” She entered Cedars last Friday, as noted here, for the tests, which revealed Tuesday she has the cancer on part of her throat. She said she’s feeling OK, and she sounded quite strong … George Burns has never been at a loss for words or a quick quip, but Tuesday,we weren’t able to trade jokes with him as usual. Since his fall last week, “Sugar Throat” has been having difficulties speaking, the reason for extensive tests at Cedars-Sinai. It’s hoped he’ll be released today and that Burns will soon be talking a blue streak again. His daughter Sandy and son Ronnie joined George for dinner in his hospital room … A few doors away, at Cedars, Michael Eisner had started his therapy, post-bypass surgery, and is expected to be released at week’s end. Prior to his trip to Aspen and the Herbie Allen conclave, Eisner had been criss-crossing the country to N.Y., the Chicago electronic trade show, to D.C.-Virginia for Disney Park parleys, countless appearances — radio-TV interviews at/for “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” all this plus performing his usual exec duties on the lot … It wasn’t something Tom Arnold said or Jay Leno asked on Monday’s “Tonight” show that caused TV screens to blank to a test pattern for several seconds or as much as a minute in Western states — it was a technical problem, I was told.

“THERE’LL ALWAYS BE WESTERNS,” director/screenwriter Walter Hill told me as we sat in the bar of Mann’s No. 10 saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. It was, of course, movie magic on Stage 4 at WB Hollywood Studio, where Hill is shooting the Zanuck Co.’s UA “Wild Bill” with Jeff Bridges in the title role of the historic Western character, 1861-1876 … Hill credits “Unforgiven” and “Dances With Wolves” with the plethora of Westerns onscreen; and he gives “credit” to Ted Turner’s smallscreen “Geronimo,” which reached 45 million viewers (for free) , for shooting down his own version, the (expensive) bigscreen “Geronimo.””I hope there won’t be a television ‘Hickok,’ ” Hill smiled … Promises producer Richard Zanuck of their “Wild Bill,””It’s not going to be a traditional Western. It’s different in many ways.” F’rinstance, the hero dies at the end. Their Western, of course, has lots of action, but it also features humor — and some theatrics, as Hickok was on B’way with Buffalo Bill’s show. Flashbacks will be screened in sepialike tones … Zanuck reminds he’s had success with an earlier, non-traditional Western, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” when he ran Fox. “I remember showing it to the N.Y. brass,” he recalled. “And they loved it, but one of them said, ‘That song’s got to go.’ ” The song? Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Look for a song in “Wild Bill”… And evidence of the international love of Westerns was given me by John Hurt, who plays Charley Prince in “Wild Bill.” He arrived on the set with Ellen Barkin (Calamity Jane) and admitted to me, “Every English actor would like to be in a Western”… Barkin has taken to her Calamity Jane role with relish: She came onstage snapping a bullwhip with dangerous accuracy. And toyed with her gun, twirling it with confidence, convincing any varmint she means business.

HOMAGE TO CECIL B. DEMILLE and his 1935 “The Plainsman” will be found in two scenes of “Wild Bill,” including one in which Barkin mixes a drink for Jeff Bridges as Jean Arthur did for Gary Cooper. Hill says his two favorite Westerns are John Ford’s “My Darling Clementine” (1946) and Howard Hawks’ “Red River” ( 1948). His $ 32 million 1994 “Wild Bill,” produced by Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck, boasts the great sets of Joseph Nemec and costumes by Dan Moore. The supporting cast includes strong Western profiles such as Keith Carradine’s and Bruce Dern’s. The heavy is newcomer David Arquette, who was visited on the set during our stay by Luke Perry (en route to his “Beverly Hills, 90210” location). Perry starred in the bull-riding saga “8 Seconds”; Perry and Arquette teamed on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”… Walter Hill stays outdoors for his next, “Sudden Country” at Par, which he describes as “a Western ‘Treasure Island.’ ” And Zanuck’s readying UA’s “Day After Tomorrow,” a movie of epic proportions. He’d like to make another “small” movie like the award-winning “Driving Miss Daisy.””But can you imagine asking (a studio exec) today for an OK to make a movie about a little old Southern Jewish lady and her black chauffeur? His (the studio exec’s) eyes would glaze over.” At that moment a young, very-assistant director walked by. “I’ll be working for him someday,” said Zanuck — of his 22 -year-old son, Dean.

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