Laurel & Hardy back in ‘Jungle’

GOOD MORNING: Laurel & Hardy are coming back to the bigscreen — at least their characters are returning. Larry Harmon, celebrating the 50th anni of his “Bozo the Clown” character, says “Jungle Bungle,” a $20 million feature, will be produced by himself, John R. Cherry III and Ken Badish. Cherry is the director of the (five) “Ernest” features. Harmon says he searched for 36 years to find the right team. “I promised Stan (Laurel), after Ollie (Hardy) died that I would only do it if I found the right partner(s). Stan had turned down offers from major studios and entrusted me when he passed the torch to me.” Harmon reminds, “They made 105 pictures so we have a potentially potent franchise.” Laurel received an honorary Oscar in 1960. Hardy died in 1957, Laurel in ’65. Their “Music Box” won a short subject Oscar in ’31-’32 . Among names mentioned as possible to play Hardy: Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman or Chris Farley, and Rowan Atkinson to play Laurel. The producers have plans for a new L&H movie every two years. Some of the memorable original titles are “A Chump at Oxford,” “Laughing Gravy” and “Sons of the Desert.” The duo was well-known globally because they phonetically spoke their lines in different languages, reshooting in another language after completing each scene in English … What motivated Diana Ross to do the Super Bowl 11-minute halftime concert Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe? $200,000. No, not Ross’ salary, but a charity donation from the NFL and Oscar Mayer to Diana’s favorite charity, a Better Chance Inc. (she’s on the board). It targets talented and motivated youngsters for a full education. On her Super Bowl show, Ross will sing songs from her early career as well as her newest album, “Take Me Higher.” She will be backed by a 1,000-voice choir and a cast of 1,600 directed by Steve Binder, choreo’d by Kenny Ortega. A TViewing audience of 1 billion is expected. Ross is also in pre-production for “The Retta Williams Story” for Fox TV. And a theatrical feature at TriStar … Oakland Raider Anthony Smith signed with William Morris’ Steve Glick, is huddling with an acting coach, and hopes to intercept movie and TV roles in the NFL off-season.

“THE POSTMAN’S” AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR Michael Radford is developing “Tania” at WB with Antonio Banderas hopefully to star in (another) Che Guevara role … Judy Davis had a couple of days off “Blood and Wine” in Miami, so she hopped over for a look at — Cuba, via Nassau with her Aussie passport … The Oscar party animals are lining up. Planet Hollywood will be closed for its celebration honoring Whoopi Goldberg, who will arrive after her femcee chores, natch. The benefit is her favorite charity, Covenant House for the homeless. The menu here will be inspired by “Chefs of the World”– which may offer clues for the next string of eateries from the Planetarians … Wolfgang Puck and wife Barbara will not host an Oscar party at Spago — he’ll be too busy cooking at the Governors Ball, and it would be too stressful to make that ‘copter trip crosstown — as he did last year. However, Puck notes several people have inquired about hosting their own private party at Spago … Columbia is taking over Drai’s for its Oscar party — for 200 at dinner, 500 post-awards. Drai’s looked like an Oscar party the other night — Sophia Loren, Dolly Parton, Jackie Bisset, Lew Wasserman, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover among those there. In the private dining room, Deborah Raffin and Michael Viner dined author Jack Higgins (r.n. Harry Patterson), author of four books on Dove Books on Tape, and soon to miniseries his “Cold Harbor” for Viner. Also at Drai’s, “TNT’s” Henry Kissinger, Ron Silver and Oliver Stone’s Kissinger from “Nixon,” Paul Sorvino, were trading notes (and accents?) … Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter says his Oscar party at Morton’s this year will coincide with release of the mag’s March issue on Hollywood — concentrating on young actors — but also including the tried and true, like Redford, Hackman, etc. “But not one lingerie shot of the ladies,” promises Carter following last year’s brouhaha. And Sherry Lansing should be pleasantly surprised this year, he adds.

IT’S GOODBYE DOLLY Sunday as the show starring Carol Channing closes after a smash 19-month run that was to have lasted seven weeks on B’way but went on for 20. Producer Manny Kladitis tells me the show will be back in the fall. It was supposed to go to Japan at this time but they (Japanese) changed the date, so, after a brief national tour, they’ll head to Tokyo, then London and Australia. Carol never missed a performance. Kladitis continues on B’way with “Victor, Victoria” and “Inherit the Wind”… The Paramount Parks and Vegas Hilton’s “Star Trek: The Experience” got its blastoff Wednesday with “a wormhole implosion,” breaking ground for the $ 50 million attraction, which I described here some months ago. It’s expected to open in spring 1997 … Rod Steiger, who attended the memorial for Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem, will present a special tribute to Leah Rabin on Saturday at the Friends of Sheba benefit.

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