Knowing Hollywood, history's not on your side

THE FLIP SIDE

June 29, 1995|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

With "Pocahontas" a huge hit, it's only a matter of time before these historical figures grace the big screen:

* "Betsy Ross" -- She's hot and looking for love! Sexy Betsy (Shannen Doherty) is an 18th-century seamstress trapped in a ho-hum marriage. But when clueless hubby John Ross (David Hyde Pierce) is kicked in the head by a mule and suffers amnesia, she embarks on a torrid affair with handsome Gen. George Washington (Richard Gere), who asks her to sew the first official U.S. flag.

There's just one catch: She has 24 hours to do it, or else a renegade colonel (Christopher Walken) will kill 200 American patriots held hostage at a mysterious fort surrounded by redcoats.

Desperately racing the clock, Betsy sews a design with 13 red and white stripes and 13 white stars in a blue field as the Revolutionary War engulfs the colonies and John Ross slowly regains his memory, wondering aloud what boots with the initials G.W. are doing beneath their bed.

* "Ulysses S. Grant" -- Ex-intelligence agent "U.S." Grant (Keanu Reeves) is steaming mad. And he's not gonna take it anymore! Someone's been leaking Union troop movements and cannon placements to the Confederate Army.

Now President Lincoln and The Agency want Grant back for one more mission. The deal: Find the rebel spy and retire with a full general's rank and commission, enough to open the modest blacksmith shop of his dreams. Turn the deal down and get thrown in the stockade, where a sadistic warden (Tommy Lee Jones) runs roughshod over Grant's deserter brother Jed (Johnny Depp).

With fewer than 48 hours before the Battle of Gettysburg, Grant teams with a beautiful counter-espionage agent (Sandra Bullock) uncover a massive conspiracy that extends high up the Union chain of command -- maybe even to the president himself!

* "Eleanor Roosevelt" -- Against the epic backdrop of World War II, Eleanor (Michelle Pfeiffer) leads two lives: dutiful wife of a wheelchair-bound president by day, raven-haired temptress on the Washington social scene at night.

Accompanying FDR to the Yalta Conference in early 1945, Eleanor seduces her young Army lieutenant bodyguard (Val Kilmer) and gets wind of a final, desperate Nazi plot to bomb the Crimean resort where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill are to decide the fate of postwar Europe.

With loyal pal Annie (Rosie O'Donnell) in tow, Eleanor scales the Alpine fortress of the German high command, leading to a terrifying hang-glider chase after the insane Field Marshall Karl von Rundsted (Tony Curtis), who ultimately holds the key to the war's outcome.

* "Jonas Salk" -- Something's out there all right -- something evil! The citizens of Middletown are dropping left and right from a mysterious disease called polio, and only courageous epidemiologist Jonas Salk (Dustin Hoffman) can save them.

With his wise-cracking research partner Noah (Samuel L. Jackson), Salk parachutes into the "hot zone" with a team of virus-busting cowboys, only to discover millions of micro-organisms running amok and the townspeople virtually unable to produce protective antibodies.

Reeling from his own painful divorce, Salk agrees to test his polio vaccine on an attractive paramedic (Jamie Lee Curtis), even as the psychotic commander of a nearby air base (Jack Palance) readies a squadron of F-14s for a bombing run that will be the final solution to Middletown's epidemic.

* "Duke Ellington" -- Uh-oh, there's trouble in the 'hood. The Duke (Charles Dutton) can sure bang the ivories; night after night he brings the house down at the Cotton Club with songs like "Mood Indigo" and "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." But now there's a new hotshot named Cootie (Snoop Doggy Dogg) playing some sizzling licks at the club, and The Duke is feeling his age.

Worse yet, the new kid is moving in on the Duke's girl Baby (Whitney Houston) and seems to spend money like he's printing it in his basement, courtesy of his Harlem crime boss Uncle Bones (Wesley Snipes).

A pep talk with blind mentor Ray-Ray (Sidney Poitier) convinces The Duke to take on Cootie in a final, winner-take-all piano showdown, with Baby as the top prize.

* "Thomas Edison" -- The year: 1879. The place: Menlo Park, N.J. A team of Middle Eastern terrorists led by an evil soldier of fortune (Jeremy Irons) has taken over Menlo Park's tallest building, the three-story public library.

And they've threatened to blow it up unless the town fathers come up with a $10,000 ransom and a get-away horse-drawn carriage.

Stumped, the local police chief (Charles Durning) calls in young inventor Tom Edison (Dennis Quaid), a hopeless alcoholic.

"We could see 'em better if we only had some light," mumbles Edison before lurching to his workshop, where he places a filament of carbonized thread in a bulb, thereby inventing electric light.

With an earlier Edison invention, the phonograph, continuously blaring "Mary Had a Little Lamb," the climactic battle between the lamp-toting police and terrorists takes place as Edison sleeps it off in the arms of his mistress (Meg Ryan).

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