Lansbury looking for laffer

GOOD MORNING: Angela Lansbury is not only returning to features after a 20-year absence, and resuming her “Murder She Wrote” telepix, but she and son Anthony are seriously searching for a half-hour comedy series in which she’d star. She’s looking for a three-camera format in front of a live audience. Angela has stayed away from work since the death of husband Peter Shaw, Jan. 31, 2003 … The feature is Universal’s “Nanny McPhee” which she starts shooting in England April 26 with Emma Thompson (who also scripted) and Colin Firth. Kirk Jones is directing. “The role,” says Lansbury, “gives me a chance to flex.” I assured her audiences are familiar with her ability to “flex” in past roles which won her three Oscar nominations, a niche in the Television Hall of Fame, and for Tonys. But she says the role of Aunt Adelaide, the great aunt of widower Firth’s seven out-of-control children, “is fun, crazy.” … Before returning to this once-again full sked, she performed in Peter Shaffer’s “Lettice and Lovage,” a one nighter for the Acting Company at the Coronet along with Dana Ivey, David Ogden Stiers and Patricia Conolly … She starts the first of two “Murder, She Wrote” TV’ers this fall, shooting in Southern California locations.

REMEMBERING “THE ALAMO.” With the bow this weekend of Disney’s version, I recalled the preem of John Wayne’s 192 min.(!), $12 million version which I reported here in my Oct. 26, 1960 column. Wayne told me he’d been working on directing (producing, starring) in that film since 1946 — and at the preem admitted he’d been “bitten badly by the directing bug” and planned to do more. And he did — “Green Berets” in 1968. On hand at that preem were Laurence Harvey, Richard Widmark (who drove two hours from the location of “Two Rode Together”), Richard Boone from his location of “Have Gun Will Travel,” Frankie Avalon and Patrick Wayne, then 20, who returned to Loyola after the film’s bow. Patrick and brother Ethan now run John Wayne Enterprises and sister Gretchen heads Batjac since the death of her husband Michael. She says the banner still owns 12 film titles: “The High and the Mighty,” “Island in the Sky,” “Hondo,” “McClintock, “Track of the Cat,” “Seven Men from Now,” “Ring of Fear,” “Plunder of the Sun,” “Man in the Vault,” “Gun the Man Down,” “China Doll” and “Escort West.” Gretchen , too, was on the locations of “The Alamo” — with her then 3-month-old daughter. “The movie company was like a family — with the best food for everyone all the time! … Also this week, MGM launched the DVD version ($14.98) of the Wayne “Alamo” — which runs only 162 min., plus a 41 min. docu narrated by Michael with outtakes, and on-the-set star portraits. John Wayne died June 11, 1979.

“I’M PRETTY SURE ANYONE who watches it will be a lot more responsive to what former terrorism adviser Richard Clarke has been saying. I hope the media and audience figure out that we made this (movie) long before Clarke’s book came out and the script comes to the same conclusions,” says Scott Glenn of NBC’s “Homeland Security” airing Sunday. It will also shed added comment to today’s Condoleezza Rice’s testimony. Glenn, playing a CIA agent, says the script calls the participants in the 9-11 tragedy by name — George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, etc. Glenn says the TV’er points out that “the ‘red flag’ should have been picked up. The CIA’s pickup of chatter talking of ‘9’s’ and ”11’s’ was indeed a ‘red flag’.” While the NBC’er didn’t make it to series, Glenn’s now starring in CBS’ pilot “Wanted,” playing the commander of an LAPD fugitive warrant section “hunting people you really want off the streets.” Glenn. says he has been drilling at LAPD’s Scotty Rietz Intl. Tactical Training Seminars — on his own. “That (training) dovetails into this role, ” says Glenn says.

“THIS BOOK WOULDN’T BE what it is without that experience,” Arianna Huffington told me. The “book,” is “Fanatics & Fools, The Game Plan for Winning Back America,” and “the experience” was as a candidate in the recall election of California Gov. Gray Davis. P.S. She has no plans to run for office again — well, at least, not currently. Her take on the dirty game of politics is a no-punches-pulled attack on the administration and everyone associated with it. In addition to her book, Huffington has outlets for her philosophy and facts to back it — via her weekly column and radio show, “Left, Right and Center.” She believes the new liberal radio web and Al Franken “are marvelous.” She’ll guest shortly. This week, she started her nationwide two-month college tour, Tuesday at UCLA and USC and heads out to Harvard, Berkeley and New York. The college dates are her love, noting “the best day” in her campaign was one with students at UC Berkeley. The “worst day” was when a story broke in the L.A. Times about her income tax. She said she wasn’t able to clarify in the paper — but does so in the book. She makes it clear liberal Demos have to eliminate any thought of supporting Ralph Nader — and the book reads like speeches tailored for Demos to deliver. Or that she’ll deliver?

“LIFE WILL NEVER be the same,” Dyan Cannon said Wednesday after returning to look at her condo which went up in smoke Sunday morning. ” I got out just in time — I dodged the bullet, but I’m alive!” And she’s thankful that her dog was found. She is temporarily staying “with friends,” but will take a temporary residence while her place is rebuilt. … And Marilyn (Mrs. Harry Lewis) was rushed to UCLA Medical Center three times within five days to be treated for toxic shock allergic reaction. She’d been injured in a car accident and given pain medication. She says she will require two months to fully recoup from the prescription.

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