Category Archives: TCM Classic Film Festival
Day 3 and the compulsive movie going behavior was in full mode as I attended a record (for me at least) six events.
Fall Guy. Legendary producer Walter Mirisch (“West Side Story,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to name just three of his films) introduced “Fall Guy,” the very first movie he ever produced. The 89-year-old Mirisch explained that he was just 24 when he produced the 1947 noirish potboiler. Of his first effort Mirisch said, “I thought I knew a lot more about movies than I did. You will be subjected to my learning. For that I apologize.” The observation was greeted with much laughter from the sold out 9 am audience. After the screening, which the crowd loved, Mirisch returned for a post screening discussion with Film Noir historian and author Foster Hirsch. Mirisch proved to be a most humorous and gracious interview subject. Of “Fall Guy” Mirisch added that the film “was kind of an historical oddity. Here it is back again. I’m not prepared for what exactly this will be. If you have any questions, and if I can still remember, I’ll give answers.” The event was also introduced by Jared Case from the George Eastman House. Eastman House was responsible for the 35mm print that was screened.
Lonesome. For me one of the great discoveries of the festival was the 1928 silent film “Lonesome.” Originally I was on line for a screening of Laurel and Hardy shorts but switched at the last minute after reading the description of this terrific little film. I mean I have Laurel and Hardy shorts on DVD (and they are hilarious) but a festival should be about new discoveries. “Lonesome” is the simple tale of a young man and young woman dealing with the loneliness of life in New York City. Eventually they meet, at Coney Island. Everything goes well between them but fate intervenes. Will they reunite and find true love? While the answer may be obvious “Lonesome” uses a great screenwriting rule, namely, “Give the audience what they want but not in the way that they are expecting it.” “Lonesome,” a late silent, had a music sound track and sequences involving sync dialogue. The film was visually interesting employing a German expressionistic style, multiple dissolves and tinted frames to convey the anonymity and general chaos of life in the big city. The closest silent movies, in terms of these, to which it can be compared, are “Sunrise” and “The Crowd.” Jared Case, of Eastman House, gave a fascinating account of how the film, a French production, came to America and was restored. He told us how leading actress Barbara Kent died only recently at the age of 103!
Retour de Flammel / 3D rarities 1900-2003. Film collector, historian and pianist Serge Bromberg gave a history of 3D films from France, Russia and America. His presentation included a generous amount of 3D film clips from the silent era to today. Bromberg proved to be knowledgeable as well as a proficient showman.
Girl Shy. Harold Lloyd’s 1924 feature was accompanied by the Robert Israel Orchestra. Israel wrote the score, conducted and even supplied sound effects. There is nothing like seeing a silent movie (which, by the way were never silent) with a full orchestra. This group of exceptional and enthusiastic musicians (matched by an equally enthusiastic audience) made this already hilarious movie really fly. “Girl Shy” was introduced by film critic Leonard Maltin and Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd’s grand daughter.
More to come. Must have breakfast and then it is on to more screenings.
Yesterday, Day 2, was a long but invigorating day that started at 9:00 am with a screening of director William Wellman’s 1927 WWI drama “Wings” and ended at midnight following a screening of Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.”
While yesterday’s films ran the gamut from a silent, to film noir, to dramas, a consistent theme seemed to be vigorous movie people in their 90s who showed up to speak at the screenings of their films. The most visible of these was Kirk Douglas who entered Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to a sustained standing ovation from SRO crowd. He was there to introduce his 1954 film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”At one point Douglas declared himself to be the oldest person in the room. He asked if there were any other 95 year-olds present. Not a hand went up. Douglas, who was interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, held the audience in the palm of his hand as he told stories, jokes and even sang “A Whale of a Tale” from “20,000 Leagues.” Douglas also talked about his role in ending the blacklist by employing and crediting blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo on his film “Spartacus.” While Douglas was there to introduce “20,000 Leauges,” his all too brief, 15 minute, introduction proved to be better than the film itself!
Actress Marsha Hunt, also in her 90s, gave a riveting interview following a screening of her 1948 film “Raw Deal.” Hunt, elegantly dressed and walking with a cane (she told us not to worry and that she was fine) had also been blacklisted. She gave us a mini history lesson on the Blacklist and her part in speaking out against it, which only got her into trouble. Hunt also talked about working with director Anthony Mann and fellow cast members Dennis O’Keefe and Claire Trevor on “Raw Deal.” She was interviewed by film noir expert Eddie Muller.
Ninety something, and still working, Paramount producer A.C. Lyles introduced a screening of a killer, restored print of the movie “Wings.” Lyles told how he first saw “Wings” in 1927 at a movie theatre in Florida. He told how he parlayed the experience into being hired by the theatre, owned by Paramount, and eventually parlayed that into a job working at Paramount Studios in LA where he has been ever since. Lyles talked about his relationship with Paramount head Adolph Zucker and director Cecille B. DeMille. Lyles was office boy for both men. He remembered advice given to him by Zucker which included “Dress British but think Yiddish.” Read the rest of this entry
Yesterday marked the opening of the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival. The opening night event was a screening of a digitally restored print of director Bob Fosse’s 1972 multiple Oscar winner “Cabaret” starring Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York. All three were on hand for a pre-screening interview with TCM host Robert Osborne. The event took place at famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Grey, who took the night off from starring in Broadway’s current hit “Anything Goes” and flew to Hollywood for the event said he couldn’t imagine not being there. Minelli said that being at the screening with all of us was better than winning an Oscar. Minnelli recalled that she had auditioned for the original Broadway production of “Cabaret” but was turned down. Michael York recalled hearing about the “Cabaret” filmmakers looking for a “Michael York” type. He remembered asking his manager if he fit the bill, to much laughter. Attendies for the red carpet screening included Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Larry Hagman, Robert Wagner, Richard Anderson and many others. The restored print was flawless. Read the rest of this entry
From April 22 – 25 cable channel Turner Classic Movies presented its first ever “TCM Classic Film Festival” in Hollywood. The festival was four days of classic films on the big screen and included many appearances by the actors and directors who made them. Celebrities introducing their films included Tony Curtis, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, Mel Brooks, Esther Williams, Tab Hunter, John Voight and many others. It was four days of “full contact” movie going with simultaneous screenings starting as early as 9:00 am and going as late as 2:00 am. There were also panel discussions covering different aspects of the art and business of film. Believe me I tried to see all of it. Read the rest of this entry
As I write this I am sitting in LAX waiting for my flight back to JFK following a head spinning, exhausting, highly enjoyable, educational and gratifying four days at the “TCM Classic Film Festival” in Hollywood. Yes, I flew to the other side of the country to see a bunch of old movies that I could just as easily have watched at home on TCM (cable channel Turner Classic Movies) or on DVD. So why do it? Well, for one thing how likely am I to sit down and watch all of these movies at home? I need only look at my shelves of unwatched DVDs and VHS tapes to answer that question. That is why I need and prefer to see movies in a theatre, preferably with a full and appreciative audience, uninterrupted and without the distractions of daily life. Seeing the films on the big screen also made the difference for me and fellow festival goers to whom I spoke.
My plan for the festival was to strike a balance between titles I had already seen and movies I had not yet seen. Movie director Peter Bogdanovich said, as he was being interviewed by critic Leonard Maltin at a festival event, “If you haven’t seen it, it’s not an old movie.”
So here is a small sampling of what I saw and thought: Read the rest of this entry