Chaplin comes alive at Savannah film fest

GOOD MORNING: The genius of Charlie Chaplin soon will be seen for the first time by new generations of American moviegoers. “Modern Times,” “City Lights,” “The Kid,” “Gold Rush,” “The Great Dictator” and others will be shown during the fifth annual Savannah (Ga.) Film & Video Festival in October-November. Producer Gil Donaldson, Savannah-born member of the festival team who has been a Paris resident for 10 years, got the OK to bring Charlie back to America. Last April, Marin Karmitz’s French company MK2 acquired all rights to 17 Chaplin films from Chaplin’s children. Geraldine, Josephine and Annie plan to accompany the films to Savannah, Donaldson tells me. The festival is sponsored by the Savannah College of Art & Design, the world’s largest art and design school … Donaldson’s own film, “Schinkent,” shot in Kazakhstan, goes into release in May. He spent three months shooting in the area, one of the last occupied by the Soviets — and wound just before Sept. 11 changed that whole part of the world … While the sultan of Oman has invited Lalo Schifrin and the London Symphony to present the world premiere of Schifrin’s “Symphonic Impressions of Oman” in Muscat, the composer affirms to me that a date for the concert depends on conditions in that part of the world — Oman is so close to Afghanistan and Iran. He recorded “Symphonic Impressions” in London. Schifrin, who has written musical scores for more than 100 films and TV shows (and was nominated for six Oscars and 20 Grammys), is writing his first film script. But it’s a script for an “imaginary movie,” he says, and he will write a musical score for this as well. He’s been commissioned to do it by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for its 2002-03 season. He has titled it “Fantasy for Screenplay and Orchestra.” Schifrin, Grammy-nominated this year for instrumental arrangement for “Scheherazade Fantasy,” will receive the Maverick Spirit Award at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose. He receives the award Feb. 28 after a screening of “Cool Hand Luke,” which is among Schifrin’s all-time classic scores.

I KNOW FOR SURE there’ll be one standing ovation at this year’s Academy Awards: When Sidney Poitier receives his honorary Oscar. Sidney told me he was in bed reading Tuesday night when Acad president Frank Pierson called to notify him. “It was a remarkable moment,” remarked the obviously touched thesp. He got a big chuckle out of the Academy’s press handout saying there were so many members of the board of governors seconding the nomination that it took a remark by governor Tom Hanks “to finally bring the proposal to a vote.” Hanks recalled, “When I was a young actor, I worked as a bellboy. I carried Mr. Poitier’s bags once and he tipped me five bucks!” Poitier confirmed Hanks’ recollection: It was in Oakland, 1970, when Poitier was filming “Brother John.” Poitier recalls that Hanks “was then, as he is now, such a gentle person.” Incidentally, the score for “Brother John” was written by Quincy Jones; Poitier, on invitation from Jones, departs this week for N.Y. to join Q at the World Economic Forum, “to get a sense of what direction the world should take” — and to help take those taking that direction. A longtime friend of Nelson Mandela, Poitier continues to help the democratic government of South Africa. Sidney, who will be 75 on Feb. 20, is writing another book — about life. “That’s what I’m about.” As he looks back, he says, “I don’t look back at anything I’d change.” Is Poitier’s life about any more films? “If something is challenging, something that I cannot say ‘no’ to.” While he notes there aren’t that many roles around, his longtime agent (and friend), Martin Baum of CAA, allows Poitier is paged for a dramatic role, as a retired cop.

NO STRANGER TO THE BEVERLY HILTON’S Intl. Ballroom was Golden Globes presenter Andy Garcia. In 1978 he was a waiter in that room, serving director Hal Ashby (among others). Eight years later, in 1986, Garcia worked for Ashby in “Eight Million Ways to Die” … Back in 1954-58 (before he went on to direct commercials, TV and features), Howard Zieff was a still photog in N.Y. Starting Friday at the G. Ray Hawkins Gallery in BevHills, some of Zieff’s wit, as created in his still pix, goes on show. It includes pix he shot for a N.Y. Daily News campaign: “Our newspaper is so fascinating, you’ll forget what you’re doing.” Also there: a collection of ad shots themed “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Rye Bread” … A Wilshire Boulevard window of Neiman Marcus will be a tribute to Stanley Marcus, who died Tuesday at 96 in Dallas. His showmanlike approach to merchandising lives on at the many stores and in particular at the BevHills store, where vice president and general manager John Martens has opened Neiman Marcus to many community charities … It’s a big Friday for Adam Davidson, son of Judy and Gordon Davidson. The young Davidson, Oscar winner for dramatic short subject “The Lunch Date” in 1991, directs one of the one-acts, “The Homecoming,” starring Jennifer Grant (daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon) and Jerry O’Connell, at the Tiffany. Also, the Davidson-directed “Names” is at the Marilyn Monroe Theater of the Lee Strasberg Center. And a seg of “The Chronicle,” which he directed, airs on the Sci Fi Channel.