Foster hopes for Riefenstahl biopic

Army Archerd’s column will resume upon his recovery from minor surgery.

GOOD MORNING: The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Leni Riefenstahl’s claim that “I had no idea what Hitler was doing,” is much like the claims of innocence from those who lived next door to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Dachau, etc. Riefenstahl is garnering new space for a whitewashing as she approaches her 100th birthday, Aug. 22. Thursday’s front-pager in the L.A. Times is a reminder that the evil men (and women) do lives on and on. Jodie Foster does not want the world to forget. She still plans to make a true story about Riefenstahl who was Hitler’s press agent via films like her “Triumph of the Will.” The project has long been simmering with pros and cons cooking around whether it should be made. But Foster definitely wants to do it, I am reliably told, and she continues to be partnered with Gabriela Bacher whose Primary Pictures originally teamed with Foster’s Egg Pictures. Bacher is now running the Studios Babelsberg in Germany. Bacher has spoken with Riefenstahl. And at the premiere of “Anna and the King” in 1999, Jodie told me she’d make the biopic “her way.” In other words, truthfully. Since then she has spoken to Riefenstahl and when Leni said she wanted to sanitize the script by Ron Nyswaner (“Philadelphia”), “Jodie would not stand for it,” I was informed. She sees the film as “a challenge to tell the truth.” I had previously noted here that Reifenstahl wanted remuneration for her footage of the Nuremberg rallies used in the Wiesenthal Center’s film, “Genocide.” The Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier, at that time, refused payment saying, “We are not compensating Nazis. We would never pay her and we never did. She sold Nazism to the world in her films.” He also reminds that her attorney, the infamous Julius Streicher, front-paged his paper, Der Stuermer, every day in 1933 and 1934 with “Jews Are Our Misfortune.” Coincidentally, Rabbi Hier, Thursday was doing an interview on — Eva Braun.

ROBERT BLAKE IS BEING CHEERED (?) if that is possible — at L.A. Men’s Central Jail by visits from Hollywood friends like Quincy Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Mort Sahl. Jones has known Blake since “In Cold Blood” in 1967 and they have kept up their friendship which included a visit last year by Blake to a class Jones was lecturing for Milton Katselas. Quincy reports that Blake’s spirits “are great” despite the jail limitations — only a half-hour visit on Thursday and Saturdays. Jones also recalls making jail visits to other friends in years gone by — with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella and Frank … Q is next off to Mexico City for a remembrance program on 9/11 … Carl Reiner receives the first Steve Allen Pioneer of Comedy award at the Comedy Festival. Sept. 4-8 at the Stardust Resort & Casino. Jayne Meadows will make the presentation. Carl tells me, “Steve was a true Renaissance man — he didn’t need a straight line to give you a funny one back.” At the fest, Debbie Reynolds will receive a lifetime achievement award. Ironically, Reynolds lost a fortune with her hotel and museum in Las Vegas. … From Shaquille O’Neal to — Alexander Dumas! Judi McCreary is readying a CBS dramatic movie with O’Neal while also co-exec producing NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU.” She aims the Dumas, fils et pere, for HBO. She’s also teaming with Lance Bickford, “who is so tired of all the ‘Traffic’ ripoffs.” He will segue to TV with her on a series about an inter-agency dealing with homeland security.

IT USED TO BE BROADWAY — or nothing,” Gordon Davidson mused on his latest trek to B’way. But since Davidson’s successful tenure (too bad he’s departing), L.A.’s Center Theater Group has developed its own standard for creative — and successful theater. He was in N.Y. as the Taper production of “Flower Drum Song” was readying to bow again on B’way, this time at the Virginia. Production will be the same as at the Taper — except in a proscenium setting. And Davidson believes the Taper can be a home for small musicals in the future. Simultaneously, “Mamma Mia!” returns to L.A., this time at the Ahmanson after its cross-country success from the Shubert to B’way. The 36th season of the CTG bows Sept. 20 with a gala performance of “Mamma Mia!” followed by a ball in the Grand Hall and a tribute to Lily Tomlin. She will star in the “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at the Ahmanson in the spring. Joining the cast of “Morning’s at Seven” at the Ahmanson will be Mary Louise Wilson, replacing Estelle Parsons. Davidson will remain in L.A. after he steps down from his leadership chair — to direct, write — “and not have to raise money!” … The charitable Loreen Arbus will be honored by Project Angel Food, Saturday at its HQ at 7574 Sunset. And Eric McCormack of “Will & Grace” and wife Janet will also receive an Angel award … Angela Bassett is a special honoree at the eighth annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards Aug. 24 at the Pasadena Civic … Connie Stevens was birthday-partied by Carol Connors with Connie’s daughter Tricia Leigh anticipating the stork momentarily. Leigh and the baby’s father, Stephen Chabot, are engaged to wed … Caroline Graham’s son Constantin will wed Leslie Withers Aug. 31 in David Lean’s old olive mill (now for sale) in Provence … Robert Graham’s great bronze doors at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will be preview-partied Tuesday with guests attending including his wife, Anjelica Huston, natch, plus Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, Glenne Headley, Kelly Lynch, Ed Ruscha, etc. … And I’m off for a week’s vacation.

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