Years from now, the 6th annual Turner Classic Film Festival may be described as the year that made history. How suitable considering this year’s theme of ‘History according to Hollywood.’ There was a feeling of change in the air.
1. Our beloved patron saint of classic film Robert Osborne was not present this year. (All curiosities of how he was doing with his minor health procedure was aptly addressed by Ben Mankiewicz with a personal message directly from Bob, infused with all the warmth and sincerity we’ve grown accustomed.)
2. The schedule featured some distinctly newer entries in the line-up which created some controversy. But most of the rumblings quieted once the fest started with the realization of a plethora of ‘true classics’ and not-to-be-missed events available in every time slot.
3. The presence of mega star power was almost dizzying… Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Ann-Margret, Dustin Hoffman… just scratches the surface of the long list of cinematic heroes.
4. And something I was personally and proudly a part of … the Social Producer program. This inaugural concept was a brand-new journey exploring what happens when passionate fandom meets social media expression/engagement as ambassadors for the brand. My contribution was partnering with my ‘cinema sister’ Aurora aka @CitizenScreen for a fun game of asking trivia questions and passing out Buster Keaton buttons and posters to fest goers as we wait in lines. The results? Success!
My TCMFF Highlights:
ANGIE DICKINSON~ as a special offering exclusively to Citibank clients for $25 per ticket, an intimate interview took place at Club TCM the night prior to the official start of the fest. Ms. Dickinson was as charming, generous and as delightful as anyone could have hoped. Her stories of both personal and professional relationships with the likes of the Duke and Frank Sinatra made us all feel like dinner party guests within close circle of friends. And brought out the boyish charm in our blushing host, Ben Mankiewicz.
CORA SUE COLLINS ~ Kelly, the founder of the ‘Going To TCM Film Festival’ Facebook group, kindly arranged for a group of us to meet this popular child actress of the 1930’s- known for such roles as the young Greta Garbo in QUEEN CHRISTINA. She captivated us with her stories and photos (including a rare one of Jean Harlow from a beautifully handcrafted wood-cover album). This lovely woman, who will turn eighty-eight years old this month, kept our avid attention as we hovered closely huddled, straining to hear every word.
Byron Haskin’s TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) ~ This was a noir I had never seen before. Plus with Lizabeth Scott (who passed this past year) in the lead, we just had to go see it. Wise choice. This lady is a BAD, BAD girl and frankly, her ill intentions are so jaw-dropping at every turn that it’s almost campy. Truly entertaining, especially with the engaged audience. And thanks to Eddie Muller and his foundation, we were able to enjoy this restoration and his intro- in a way as it should be seen.
Michael Curtiz’ THE SEA HAWK (1940) ~I’ve seen this swashbuckling classic before but never like this. Errol Flynn was impressive on the big screen. But what was most thrilling was the introduction by his daughter, special guest and author Rory Flynn, who pointed out surprises in the audience her son (Errol Flynn’s grandson and a very handsome lad). I later discovered that many of these special guests and family members would be a highlight for the fest.
John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) ~ a majestic John Ford film on the big screen simply CANNOT be missed while at TCMFF. And this one? Aaaaahhhh. Those clouds and landscapes of Monument Valley are positively breath-taking. If it weren’t for the stellar performances of Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp (whom Ford knew personally), the cool and complex Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, and an actually evil Walter Brennan, I would be WAY too distracted by the background. And for the icing on the cake, a Keith Carradine chat with Peter Fonda about what dad (a very private guy) may have shared for a behind the scenes experience. WOW.
Michael Curtiz’ THE PROUD REBEL (1958) ~ This was another surprise for me. I had never seen this one and was only expecting a very generic western tale. [We had attempted to see REIGN OF TERROR but despite having line #142, many of us were shut out. Small theater, more popular than they had anticipated and obviously very popular with the Spotlight passholders. Ah well.] This tale shows a very sweet bond between father Alan Ladd and his real-life and on-screen son David Ladd, and their dog. I was also very pleased with Olivia de Havilland’s performance as an assertive and independent female. It’s a tear-jerker, I warn you. David Ladd himself introduced the film, which was not only insightful but lent a completely different spin while watching him on the big screen. Then he pointed out that Olivia de Havilland’s daughter was in the audience!
ANN-MARGRET! ~Ben Mankiewicz conducted an interview with this legendary actress known for films such as Bye, Bye Birdie (1963), Viva Las Vegas (1964) and Carnal Knowledge (1971). Conducted in the lobby of the Roosevelt hotel, I was running late so I could only watch from behind the already assembled crowd. But let me tell you, this lady has still got it. I didn’t realize it was possible to have THAT much beauty and sex appeal at age 73. Sheesh.
Charles Reisner’s/Buster Keaton’s STEAMBOAT BILL, JR.(1928) ~ This is Buster Keaton’s (my home state comic genius) last film of freedom before his contract with MGM killed his creative spirit. I was laughing to the point of near hyena levels. It’s unparalleled to experience a silent film as we did for this 70 mm world premiere restoration screening introduced by Leonard Maltin that also featured a world premiere original score composed and conducted by none other than Maestro Carl Davis with a live orchestra. A highlight of the fest for me.
Edward F. Cline’s THE BANK DICK (1940) ~ Introduced by W.C. Fields’ two grandsons (with unmistakable genetics), they shared delightful stories and quotes from their uniquely talented and humorous grandpa. I’ve seen this film many times but to experience it along with friends on the big screen brought our laughter to tears-streaming howls.
William A. Seiter’s WHY BE GOOD? (1929)~ my first-time viewing of this ‘semi-silent’ Pre-Code was utter delight. Starring the energetic flapper with a good girl heart, Colleen Moore. It featured no voice so this transition into the talkies blended the music, sound effects and expressive acting to keep the jazzy dance scenes fired up. Fun to see a much younger Neil Hamilton, aka the 1966 Batman Commissioner Gordon, take the male lead. With the best scoop on the most juicy dish, famed film historian and scholar Cari Beauchamp’s introduction alerted us to look for a quick cameo in the background (at a party with a man in her lap) of a yet to be discovered Jean Harlow. This film revealed a wonderfully and unexpectantly feminist tone in messaging -complete serendipity and we all cheered loudly!
Lloyd Bacon’s 42nd STREET (1933) ~my second Pre-Code before noon. Score! A Busby Berkeley musical is like eating your favorite decadent dessert and our first nibble was served up with an entertaining intro by Broadway star Christine Ebersole. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve enjoyed this sweet treat, seeing this world restoration premiere on the enormous screen with fellow classic film friends was extraordinary!
Special Interview with ANNE V. COATES/ interview by Cari Beauchamp ~ With an outstanding resume in film editing that spans six decades with films such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, Coates was unexpectantly funny and very down-to-earth. I only caught part of this interview as we needed to secure an early spot in line at Grauman’s for THE APARTMENT, otherwise I would’ve listened for hours.
Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT (1960) ~ What a thrill!! Like a live #TCMparty, a group of familiar faces camped out super early to experience this magnificently dark comedy with an introduction by none other than Shirley MacLaine herself. As we waited, I passed the time as I did throughout the fest in my Social Producer role, in a fun game of pitching trivia questions and giving away Buster Keaton buttons and posters. MacLaine was as candid and spunky as I anticipated (“Fred MacMurray never picked up a check”… LOL!) and the joy of seeing this film across that enormous Grauman’s screen is positively indescribable.
William Dieterle’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939) ~ What a perfect choice to kick off the final day of the fest. Watching my favorite Irish lass Maureen O’Hara in her break-out role and the genius who transitioned her to Hollywood in the greatest role of his career, Charles Laughton, in this masterpiece was awe-inspiring.
ACADEMY CONVERSATIONS: GUNGA DIN (1939) ~ I thoroughly enjoyed this classic military bromance with the hilarious trio of my man Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Victor McLaglen at the beautiful Egyptian theater. At last year’s TCM film fest, I had the pleasure of experiencing Craig Barron and Ben Burtt’s Academy Conversations presentation of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938). This year they came back with another installment with a hilarious and fascinating look at GUNGA DIN, again with the same behind-the-scenes approach to the special effects, complete with their matching themed hats. I highly recommend these two Oscar-winning artists as presenters at every year’s TCMFF – you won’t be disappointed! I was thrilled to see them again on Friday nights this month as the ‘Friday Night Spotlight’ guest programmers… yippee!
Vittorio De Sica’s MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964) ~ I’ll admit that I could care less that I had never seen this film before, because I came to see the legendary beauty Sophia Loren in person. This was my final film of the fest and it did NOT disappoint. Her interview by Ben Mankiewicz was outstanding because if anything, her charming humor and nature-defying beauty has somehow escaped the passage of time. So I was surprisingly delighted to find this film, paired nicely with Marcello Mastroianni; to be a very funny take on Italian themes of relationships and an excellent showcase of her talents.
I went on to celebrate the fest’s joys with beloved friends at the Closing Party, meeting some for the first time and reconnecting with others which was like a big and happy family reunion. Overall, I felt more tired than last year with the Social Producer duties but enjoyed it immensely as an opportunity to have fun chatting and bonding with fest goers.
For a peek at my activities outside of the fest, where I explored the hallowed grounds of Old Hollywood, look for my upcoming post on HOLLYWOOD HIGHLIGHTS.
The absolutely best part of the TCM Film Festival is connecting with TCM pals. That’s exactly what Aurora and I shared with our pal Debbie of the LA based radio show “Behind The Lens” with our TCMFF wrap-up report in our live interview the day after the fest: 3/30 show (VIDEO). For a pictorial along with a few videos of the many friendly faces found at this year’s fest, stay tuned for my IMAGES OF THE TCMFF 2015 post. See you in Hollywood next year…