Journal follows in <I>Variety</I>‘s footsteps

GOOD MORNING: Hey, Wall Street Journalists, polling Academy voters on their Oscar choices — that’s old stuff to Daily Variety staffers and readers. This paper holds a batting average of .868 in announcing the upcoming correct winners in eight categories. For 11 years, the polls’ results were front page-bannered on the day of the Oscars and bows were taken on page 2, the day following, along with the actual results of the previous night. The last poll was printed Wednesday, March 26, 1958. Among the Oscar winners, “Bridge on the River Kwai,” Alec Guinness, Joanne Woodward, David Lean, Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki (Variety missed with Umeki, its poll reporting Elsa Lanchester of “Witness for the Prosecution” as the projected winner). The next year, Daily Variety, then under the helm of its new editor Tom Pryor, did away with its poll. Pryor (84) says, “I didn’t think it (the poll) was right.” Neither the Acad’s or studios’ negative opinion about the poll had anything to do with his decision. And he says, if they had asked him to pull the poll, “I would have told them to go —- themselves.” The winners that year were: “Gigi,” director Vincente Minnelli, David Niven (“Separate Tables”), Susan Hayward (“I Want To Live”), Burl. Ives (“The Big Country”), Wendy Hiller (“Separate Tables”). The TV show — without commercials — was produced by Arthur Freed and it was skedded for 90 minutes; it ran 20 minutes short which occasioned m.c. Jerry Lewis to bring the entire cast on stage at the Pantages and had them repeatedly singing choruses of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” until NBC finally pulled the plug and subbed a filmed sports show to fill the gap. The next year, the TV show ran two hours and 10 minutes and again it was skedded for only 90 minutes. It’s hard to picture a 90 min. Oscar show anymore!

PARAMOUNT APOLOGIZED TO the Alan Ladd family after reading here that the studio’s “Wonder Boys” had erroneously named the onetime Paramount superstar as a “suicide.” Sherry Lansing immediately told Alan Ladd Jr. his father’s name would be deleted in the upcoming video and — what else could they do? Ladd, fils, suggested naming a building on the lot after him. Many Paramount studio buildings bear names of far less successful stars than Alan Ladd. That, too will be corrected. “Shane” is back where he belongs! … Meanwhile, Alan Ladd Jr. who has moved his company off the Par lot, is busier than ever — after a three-year drought in which none of his projects reached the screen. He has set up financing with German and N.Y. backers to immediately launch, through the Ladd Co., “Unfinished Life,” to be directed by Mark Rydell, “Glimpses of the Moon,” scripted by Leslie Dixon, and the Bette Midler starrer, “Finders, Keepers” by John Luessenhop. Also the big budgeter, “Day After Tomorrow,” in turnaround from MGM, and a thriller-actioner to star Pierce Brosnan (subject to rewrite). Ladd has also purchased rights to the screenplay of “The Storm,” a bank heist during a Miami hurricane, by Alex Pacjin in which Ladd partners with ex-associate Don Kopoloff. Plus a period adventure , “Knights Of The Sky,” by Brad Mosley and Gerry Gacek, a WW I fighter pilot story. As earlier noted, Ladd also has the WWII “With Wings Of Eagles” to go at Par in a year with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also at Par, “The Hand of God” by Randall Wallace, “North of Cheyenne” to be directed by Jon Amiel, “The Orient Express” TV series and Pat Conroy’s “Beach Music.” As Laddie noted about this bizness, “It’s either a feast or a famine!”

FURTHER PROOF OF KIRK DOUGLAS’ determination — and ability — to resume his amazing acting career is CBS’ “Touched by an Angel” seg airing Sunday. Titled “Bar Mitzvah,” about an 83-year-old recuping from a stroke, was co-written by Douglas’ rabbi-teacher for his own Bar Mitzvah, Rabbbi Joseph Telushkin and Allen Estrin. But Kirk laments, “I’m now unemployed!” Not for long, for sure … Billy Wilder, who receives Germany’s highest honor, the Cross of Merit, today, from German ambassador to the U.S., Juergen Chrobog, viewed the Oscar nominated docu, “One Day in September,” about the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich, and tells me the pic “is very moving and very touching” … Roy Christopher who won the Art Directors’ Award for designing last year’s Oscars, returns to the stage, acting in David H. Vowell’s “Acts of Passion” at the Two Roads Theater in Studio City. Christopher is also designing the sets for B’way’s Kristin Chenoweth’s upcoming NBC pilot at Par … Annie Potts who joined the troupe of “Vagina Monologues” at L.A’s Wiltern, joins the Gotham production with Gina Gershon and Lynn Thigpen, April 4-16 … Women In Film’s Finishing Fund launches twice-yearly online auctions of celeb memorabilia beginning with this year’s Oscars via FilmFestivals.com. WIF asks all nominees to donate items. Latest addition at NBC’s new talent agency, Beyond Talent Management, is Donna Chavous alumna of SLBG and CAA … Norman Lloyd joins the April 9 CBS “live” re-creation of “Fail Safe,” directed by Stephen Frears in the role of Secy. of Defense, originally played by William Hansen in the 1964 Sidney Lumet feature … Although Steven Spielberg says no final decision has been made on his next pic, it looks more and more like “A.I” (“Artificial Intelligence”) as those attached to ready his “Minority Report” are freed and other regulars of the Spielberg team have been asked to be ready for a July 15 start of “A.I.” for DreamWorks/WB.