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Strange Bedfellows

December 20, 1987|From John M. Wilson

Philip Michael Thomas is in discussions to star in "The Adam Clayton Powell Story," a two-hour movie in development for CBS about the controversial Harlem minister-politician who died amid scandal in 1972. It's from Carson Prod. and co-producer Chet Walker ("The Father Clements Story"), who promises: "We have discovered a lot of elements about the man never exposed--I think the public will be shocked."

Walker, the former National Basketball Assn. star forward, wouldn't give details supposedly uncovered by scripter Robert Boris. But Walker did say that Powell's extramarital love life will be part of Powell's "fascinating story--but it will not the focus. We'll try to capture his personal life and his political life, from his marriage to (jazz pianist-singer) Hazel Scott to his death after self-exile to Bimini in 1972."

Powell built a formidable political following from his Baptist pulpit in the late 1930s, becoming the first black elected to the New York City Council. He entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 1945 but was expelled from his seat in 1967 for allegedly diverting government funds for private use--then reinstated by the Supreme Court before being defeated for renomination in 1970.

Walker admitted that he remains "an Adam Clayton Powell fanatic--he's my hero. Look at his political record--he had some great accomplishments."

But he and co-producer Jim Thebaut also promised balance in the docudrama, which could shoot this spring if CBS approves a script.

And on the other side of the political fence: Fries Entertainment, which produced the NBC three-hour movie, "L.B.J.: The Early Years," is developing a similar project on the early years of . . . Ronald Reagan. Fries producer Louis Rudolph told us he's researching, though it's only at the discussion stage with ABC.

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