Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers get their due

GOOD MORNING: One of the final bills signed by President Clinton, Public Law 106-554 will see its fruition July 26 at the rotunda in Washington when President George W. Bush presents Congressional Gold Medals to four of the five surviving 29 Navajo Code Talkers of the Marine Corps Radio Operators — whose code could not be broken by the Japanese. MGM will preem their story, “Windtalkers,” Nov. 9 during the Veterans Day holiday weekend. A 20-minute seg will be shown to participants in advance of the D.C. event … The $100 million-plus “Windtalkers” is produced by Tracie Graham and Alison Rosenzweig who have been working on the project for 10 years. John Woo directs and produces along with partner Terence Chang. And Nicolas Cage, Christian Slater and Native American thesp Adam Reach star. The film is based on the “Windtalkers” actions in 1944 on Saipan. They were always guarded by fellow Marines who, the Congressional order notes, “were ordered to kill them (the Windtalkers) in case of imminent capture by the enemy.” It also reminds, “use of the Navajo code was so successful that military commanders credited it in saving the lives of countless American soldiers and in the success of the engagements of the United States in the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.” The code was kept secret for 23 years. The medals are now being awarded “to express recognition by the United States and its citizens.” Graham and Rosenzweig tell me the script, by John Rice and Joe Ratteer is inspired by real events but some characters and situations are fictional. James Horner is musicking … This WWII film joins large and small screen reminders of that era: They include the Bruce Willis starrer “Hart’s War” and HBO’s giant “Band of Brothers,” as well as the already released “Pearl Harbor,” of course, “Enemy at the Gates” and the Emmy nominees “Diary of Anne Frank,” “Nuremberg” and “Conspiracy.” Four hundred other “Windtalkers” who followed the original 29 will receive Congressional Silver Medals later this year … Graham/Rosenzweig are readying another oneword’er, “Darksiders.” It’s a contemporary, N.Y.-set FBI’er. “Just call us ‘The Action Chicks,'” the glamorous duo tells me.

HOLLYWOOD LIKES TO LAUGH AT ITSELF — at least the group at Wednesday’s Village preem of “America’s Sweethearts” audibly approved the airing (screening) of its foibles (fables). Revolution followed the screening of Joe Roth’s multi-starred takeoff on movie-making principals — and its press corps which covers (covets?) ’em — with an appropriately high-on-the-hog party. Along Came Mary parodied the pic’s menus including hot cakes, which Julia Roberts stuffed herself with in the Billy Crystal-penned Hollywood takeoff … Costar and ever-glamorous Catherine Zeta-Jones was joined at the festivities by mishpocha from near and far. Near: Michael Douglas, Anne and Kirk Douglas, Cameron Douglas, Joel Douglas and fiancee Joann Savitt (they’ll wed December in Bermuda), Dianna Darrid and boyfriend Don Webster. From afar, Zeta-Jones’ clan from Wales: her mom, dad, brothers. All reconvened Wednesday night for dinner at Darrid’s house in the Valley. Michael, Catherine — and Kirk (hopefully as the sultan) will star in I.E.G.-financed “Smoke and Mirrors” for producer Joel Douglas, Kevin Brodie and Catherine’s brother David. A January start in Morocco or Tunisia is hoped for with Mimi Leder directing. Talking travel, the star cast of “America’s Sweethearts” heads across country and to Europe to promote the pic — most own a piece of the action.

“MY DREAM,” SAID TOM SELLECK, “was to earn the respect of (playwright) Herb Gardner.” Selleck, making his (total!) stage debut in Gardner’s “A Thousand Clowns” at the Longacre, told me he’d always wanted to do this play and followed Gardner’s advice to take it out for six months pre-B’way. The out-of-town reviews were excellent. Most in N.Y. were good — not the N.Y. Times — and Selleck readily admits, Bruce Weber’s review “was upsetting and mean. It was hard to take.” He’s received offers for more plays including repeating this one in London. Selleck is a close family man. He and his parents had talked about his B’way dream since Tom’s college days. During his 20 year career, he has had offers for other B’way plays but nixed them. “But now, it was high time to do my favorite play.” Selleck pere died shortly before Tom’s first out-of-town bow in the play at Duke U. His mother will catch the show next week. He’s booked in the play through Oct. 15. He has offers for features, well as vidfilms. He has appeared in telepics ranging from “Running Mates” to Louis L’Amour’s “Crossfire Trail,” both for TNT, and also has a “good relationship with Showtime of future projects. “It’s nice to know I can work in all mediums” … Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna were unable to attend the July 17 preem of son Gabriel Bologna’s film “Theory of the Leisure Class.” Renee and Joe started previews of their play, “If You Ever Leave Me, I’m Going With You” in N.Y. at the Cort … Lest we forget: As soon as “West Wing’s” quartet of Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and John Spencer reach a settlement on their raises, look for Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe to make their moves … Jerry Seinfeld, receiving rave reviews in his new act — continues to book himself “only east of the Mississippi” — to be near home (N.Y. and the baby). But he’s booked through Oct. 20 with one nighters ranging from Buffalo, to Cincy, Toledo, Orlando, Montreal and St. Louis (izzat east of the Mississippi?)

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