70-year-old McDowall terminally ill

GOOD MORNING: I phoned Roddy McDowall on Wednesday to wish him a happy 70th birthday — only to be told he was unable to come to the phone; he was resting and, I was further informed, he is terminally ill with cancer. The suddenness of this illness has shocked us. Roddy was as recently as last month busily helping with the celebration of the 30th anni of “Planet of the Apes” for which he did a special video, having starred in four of the five features. McDowall is one of Hollywood’s strongest supporters — not only the industry, its players and its product, but a constant and active contributor to the Motion Picture and TV Fund with royalties from his beautiful books, “Double Exposure,” his photos of friends, the great and near/great, along with stories about them. He has also been a tireless worker and board member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. From the time he started in the biz here in John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” (1941) through the “Lassie” and “Flicka” films, on to B’way and a Tony, back to Hollywood, the “Planet of the Apes” and the small screen series. He also won an Emmy for “Not Without Honor.” He segued between drama, comedy, family and horror films and musicals. He has been a true friend and supporter of the biz and Roddy has also been a constant confidant and close friend to Elizabeth Taylor, at her side during all of her illnesses and marital travails. We all wish Roddy well … And veteran Las Vegas comedian Jimmy Caesar, another of the sweetest human beings, is also ill and has been getting cheering calls from pals Milton Berle, Steve Lawrence, Buz Kohan and many others who have known him over the many years.

HANNIBAL LECTER AND DINO De Laurentiis will team again. Author Thomas Harris (“Silence of the Lambs”) had teamed with De Laurentiis on the first Lecter pic, the Michael Mann-directed “Manhunter” (from Harris’ “Red Dragon”) but the producer passed on “Silence of the Lambs.” However, Dino now wants to make as his 601st (or 602nd) pic the new Thomas novel on which he has first refusal. Another project for De Laurentiis (who turns 80 next year), is turning Nelson Demille’s bestseller, “Word of Honor” into a feature. He’s now shuttling between L.A. and the Malta site of “U-571” … Producer Arthur Sarkissian teams with Arnold and Anne Kopelsons’ banner on “7 Day Soldiers” on a fast track at 20th. The Rob Cowan script is an action comedy, says Sarkissian, about three investment bankers who take revenge on former bosses who screwed ’em out of bonuses. Sarkissian and Roger Birnbaum’s “Rush Hour” finally bows Friday via New Line, three and a half years after Ross Lamanna brought ’em the initial script … Irene Kassorla, the normally loquacious and bubbly psychological therapist to the stars — and Monica Lewinsky — isn’t writing a book about this subject. She’s keeping mum even though she was previously explicit in “Nice Girls Do” and “Go for It” … Jerry Goldsmith will join UCLA’s Dept. of Music during the fall quarter as a regents lecturer. He also records the new “Star Trek” feature next month and will perform live concerts in Spain, Japan, Scotland and London, and inaugurates the N.Y. FilmHarmonic Oct. 4 at Carnegie Hall. That orch’s dedicated to educating inner-city kids about classical music through movie scores … Jane Alexander and Jason Berman will be honored by the People for the American Way Oct. 8 at the BevHilton. Paul Rodriguez m.c.’s and Michael Moore gives the keynote. Shelby Sarner performs.

THURSDAY’S AFI ASSOCIATES tribute to Debbie Reynolds, daughter Carrie Fisher and son Todd F. at the BevHilton was a hit. President Bunny Stivers and the AFI’s Jean Picker Firstenberg led the tributes followed by Penny Marshall, Candice Bergen, Debbie Allen, and longtime pal and costar of Reynolds’, Carleton Carpenter … The mother-daughter team of Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis will receive the Pantheon of the Arts Award from the U. of the Pacific, Oct 2, also at the BevWilshire. Lew Waserman and David Gerber chair. Angela Lansbury makes the presentation, Bob Stack m.c’s and Bob Wise, Richard Lewis Jamie Farr and Kelly Curtis will add to the gala … Robert Loggia, who receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Breckenridge Film Festival Sept. 19, will also be honored, along with wife Audrey, with the Young Musicians Foundation Humanitarian Award Oct. 24 at pal Merv Griffin’s BevHilton … Judi and Gordon Davidson celebrate their 40th wedding anni Saturday … Margery Tabankin and Earl Katz were maried Sept. 12 in Georgetown … Peter Graves, now in his 11th year hosting the award-winning A&E “Biography,” will be honored by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Sept. 23 at the Sportsmen’s Lodge … And Monty Hall will receive the 1998 B’Nai B’rith Canada 1998 Humanitarian Award at a tribute dinner Nov. 18 in Winnipeg … George Sidney, who receives a lifetime achievement award Saturday in Las Vegas will speak Sunday ayem at Julian Myers’ Las Vegas Festival workshop, “Using PR to Put the Business in Showbiz” … Robin Williams participates in the 12th annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon to be held Sunday. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation benefits.

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