Lee praised for ‘Bamboozled’

GOOD MORNING:Spike Lee is getting a fan letter about “Bamboozled” from actress-producer Ellia English. She is readying to produce a pic based on the life of Hattie McDaniel, the first black performer to win an Oscar — in a supporting role in “Gone With the Wind.” English has played Aunt Helen on “The Jamie Foxx Show” for five seasons and has an enviable record, with shows including B’way’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” and “Show Boat” at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, as well as on screen in “Wildcats” for Michael Ritchie at WB. English says of “Bamboozled,” “I love it because it has so many wonderful messages to learn from it, not only the negative but the positive as well.” One of the latter, she noted, was “Let’s be black!” She has seen the film three times already. McDaniel’s early beginnings were as a minstrel performer. English reminds that Hattie’s motto was, ” ‘I’d rather play a maid than be one.’ I stand on her shoulders.” English, who was born in Covington, Ga., says, “My mom worked as a maid and I would sometimes go along to help her.” English obtained film rights from Carlton Jackson, who wrote “The Life of Hattie McDaniel” (Madison Books). English would play Hattie McDaniel from her early days to her death on Oct. 26, 1952.

ELECTION DAY, NOV. 7, WILL FIND Don Rickles co-hosting with Regis Philbin in N.Y. Don assures me he’s applied for an absentee ballot. Will all of you who will be on locations also request absentee ballots for this all-important election? Of course, Rickles will have plenty to say about all candidates on Election Day — ditto on Election Day eve when he guests with David Letterman. On a serious note, Rickles was very moved about receiving his star on Hollywood Blvd. Tuesday — in front of the El Capitan theater. Disney picked up the tab — he’s “Toy Story’s” Mr. Potato Head. (P.S. Rickles was supposed to get a star 30 years ago!) … Among the guests invited to the wedding of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones is “Uncle Karl” — Karl Malden who co-starred with Douglas on “The Streets of San Francisco” for five years. Malden, who is on the Citizens’ Stamp Committee, commutes to D.C. four times a year. Tuesday, he’ll be on hand for the commemoration of the Edward G. Robinson stamp, getting in its first licks at Hollywood Egyptian theater. Ah yes, remember, Robinson was on another Egyptian site — in “The Ten Commandments” … New groom (and new daddy) Douglas is skedded to return to work at the end of November in “Don’t Say a Word” for New Regency. He plays a psychiatrist in this one.

WE WERE SADDENED by the death of Walter Shenson. He died at the Motion Picture Country Hospital. Shenson was another of the halcyon days of studio press agents who recognized talent when he saw it — and jumped into producers’ ranks launching the Beatles’ pix. Shenson hired press agent Jerry Pam 36 years ago to do the publicity on the Beatles’ first film, “A Hard Day’s Night”; now Pam will assist Miramax’s marketing department on the Dec. 1 reissue … The Motion Picture/TV Foundation’s CEO Ken Scherer notes Tangueray No. 10 gin becoming a major contributor to the Fund … Kate Guinzburg, who first worked with Marty Bregman on “Sweet Liberty” in 1986 then moved on to partner with the film’s star, Michele Pfeiffer, is now back to Bregman to produce feature pix. Bregman’s next, “Pluto Nash” starring Eddie Murphy, is skedded for April 6 release by WB; Bregman’s next feature will be “The Gold Coast.” Meanwhile his son Michael B.’s comedy, “Table One,” receiving early applause, heads out on the festival circuit, starting at Savannah’s … Michael Caine starts “Last Orders” Nov. 1 in London with Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings and Helen Mirren, directed by Fred Schepisi. In December he guests in “Quicksand” for his “Shiner” producer Geoffrey Reeve, and in January stars with Brendan Fraser in Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American,” filming in Australia and Vietnam with Philip Noyce directing. And, oh yes, Nov. 17 he’ll be at Buckingham Palace where Queen Elizabeth will dub him Sir Michael.

WEDDING BELL BLUES,” THE SONG that became a 1969 hit for Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, has been “reincarnated” into the tune “Watching You Bill” for on-air spots to promote “The Cosby Show” as it heads into syndication. When they first did the Laura Nyro-penned tune, Billy and Marilyn were dating. They celebrated their 31st wedding anni July 26! … Dennis and Gerry Weaver celebrate their 55th wedding anni Friday … Seven years ago, Roma Downey pinch-hit for Pierce Brosnan to host the annual American Ireland Fund gala; this Friday, Downey is recipient of the Fund’s Heritage Award at the BevHilton. Michael Burns receives the Distinguished Leadership Award and Peter Mullin, the Hope and History Award … Stacy Keach has received an award of appreciation from the Shriners Hospital for Children in recognition of the psa’s he has done for their Campaign Helping Kids … Martin Sheen receives the George C. Scott Career Achievement Award from Scott’s widow Trish Van Devere at the Sun Valley Film Fest Oct. 28 … Linda Blair cohosts the Diversity Awards, Oct. 23 at the BevWilshire … Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Curtis and Billy Dee Williams are the first celebs to decorate an angel sculpture for “A Community of Angels” to be placed around L.A. benefiting the Catholic Big Brothers and Volunteers of America.

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