This week's very special edition of Classic Links is all about the TCM Classic Film Festival 2014. Many fine bloggers were given media credentials this year and their posts have more than justified the honor of being able to report on this transformative event. I've divided most of the links into days, so that you can get a well-rounded perspective on what happened each day:
This is a fun post about one blogger's encounter with Illeana Douglas and Ben Mankiewicz
Journeys in Classic Film
Out of the Past
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Out of the Past
Journeys in Classic Film
Comet Over Hollywood
Out of the Past
Journeys in Classic Film
Out of the Past
Out of the Past
Will McKinley's essential guide to TCMFF
Also check out his wonderful family album of festival attendees.
TCM Ultimate Fan winner Tiffany Vasquez describes her amazing festival experience and how difficult it is to get back to real life after living the classics for several days.
The TCM Film Festival official blog provides an interesting overview of the event.
Check out the TCM YouTube channel for lots of great clips of interviews from the festival. It's like you're there in the audience!
Leonard Maltin describes the hard work and good fun of being an interviewer at TCMFF
Laura's final wrap-up of the festival at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Raquel's final wrap-up of the festival at Out of the Past
Jessica's final wrap-up of the festival at Comet Over Hollywood
A very personal festival overview from Vintage Film Nerd
Kate Gabrielle briefly shares her experiences at Scathingly Brilliant
This is a great podcast recorded poolside by several #TCMParty people at the closing night party of TCMFF
If you have coverage that you would like added to this line-up, please let me know and I'll update the post!
I saw fourteen films at this year's TCM Film Festival. The first day was a sort of warm up with two movies. Then I had the most bonkers Friday, where I watched six flicks. That's basically only watching movies from 9am to 2am. I never quite got full energy back after the second day, but I had plenty of what I've started calling "festival adrenaline" to keep me going. That and caffeine.
|Ben Mankiewicz, Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark and Paul Le Mat/ photo courtesy of Getty Images|
One of my big goals for the festival was to watch a movie beside the gorgeous Roosevelt Hotel pool. The first night was the perfect time to do this, since the opening night party overflowed into the pool area.
Before the movie there were dancers in 50s outfits performing around the pool. A DJ who was supposed to look like Wolfman Jack, but who had a wig that made him look more like Wayne Newton, spinned some great tunes. I didn't quite have my festival mojo yet, I think jet lag might have finally hit me, so I pretty much spaced out watching the dancers, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a perfect night to be outside.
American Graffiti stars Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark and Paul Le Mat spoke with Ben Mankiewicz before the film. They had a good time kidding each other. Since Clark managed to drag John Huston's first name into three syllables, I think she might have been a little tight, which fit the party feel.
Once the movie started, I realized my view was blocked by a palm tree. It was getting cold too, so I joined a group of bloggers in a booth inside Club TCM to watch. Though I'd been looking forward to the pool experience, I liked watching inside the Club much more. It was gorgeous! Check out the ceiling:
It had been years since I'd seen American Graffiti and I really enjoyed the youthful energy (and soon-to-be famous stars) of the production. It was the perfect way to start the festival. I should also mention that we ate fries from Mel's Diner, just like the drive-in in the movie.
I had to leave American Graffiti early so I could catch this wonderfully odd western with Joan Crawford, Mercedes McCambridge and Sterling Hayden. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the flick, and the premiere of a new restoration.
Film archivist Michael Schlesinger introduced the movie and he was hilarious. This self-deprecating, seriously silly man could be a stand-up comic. He got the audience ready for a wild ride, preparing everyone for the most bizarre moments in the movie.
The print was gorgeous and Johnny Guitar was every bit as campy and strange as I remembered. This isn't to say the film is insubstantial though. It's gorgeous to look at, full of tension and the performances, especially a delirious turn by the movie-stealing Mercedes McCambridge, are flawless.
Starting the festival with a pair of fun, undemanding films was the ideal cure for jet lag.
Day TwoStagecoach (1939)
I continued with my western theme (and John Carradine theme, he was in both movies) the next morning with the John Ford classic that made John Wayne a star. This is such a perfectly balanced film. For one, it's gorgeous, filmed with the care of an artist swiping a brush across a canvas. Who else but Ford could give you chills by simply filming the Duke walking down a hallway?
Stagecoach also handles many elements beautifully. It succeeds as drama, action and even a comedy. That last part was a surprise for me. The audience laughed often, and yet there were also moments of unbearable sadness and intense action. This has got to be one of the most remarkable casts ever assembled too, including Claire Trevor, Thomas Mitchell and Andy Devine.
Author Nancy Schoenberger, co-author of the fascinating Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century, introduced the film. She's working on a book about the relationship between Ford and Wayne. I can't wait to read it!
|Director Albert Maysles/ photo courtesy of TCM|
Grey Gardens (1975)
Oh how I love this film! It's a bit of an obsession for me. Apparently I'm not alone: I chatted with a lady in line who had seen it ten times. It's documentary about a mother and daughter, known as big and little Edie, who are the aunt and cousin of Jackie Onassis. Grey Gardens explores their lives in a decaying mansion in the Hamptons, and the film is unique by any standard. It tells the story of these two eccentrics shut away from the world in a manner so compassionate that you question why you ever could have judged someone just for being a little unusual.
I was a bit disappointed in the audience experience for this one. It is a seriously quotable film, with lots of classic, funny moments. I was hoping to watch it with a crowd anticipating and applauding all those brilliant things, but it was not to be. I think the movie was new to too much of the crowd. I've since heard that you have a much more party-like atmosphere watching Grey Gardens at the Castro in San Francisco. I'm sure of that! Might need to make a trip down the next time they show it.
Co-filmmaker Albert Maysles made an appearance before and after the film, and it was marvelous to see him. He spoke about his philosophy as a documentarian, essentially that it is important to have affection for the subject. He and his brother David had originally planned to make a film about Princess Lee Radizwell, but he said that when he met her cousin Edith, "it was love at first sight." Maysles also said that upon seeing the film for the first time, Little Edie stood up and said, "the Maysles have made a classic!" I can just picture that.
It was an honor to get a glimpse of this deeply compassionate, observant director.
|Margaret O'Brien and Richard Corliss/ photo courtesy of Getty Images|
Part of the fun of seeing this glorious MGM musical was getting a chance to check out the gorgeous restoration of the Grauman's Chinese Theater (today known as TCL Chinese Theater). Getting a chance to see films in some beautiful old theaters is definitely a huge perk of attending the festival.
I was delighted to meet a fellow Seattleite while waiting in line. She and I chatted about Seattle International Film Festival, of which we have a great deal of city pride! We joined a bunch of bloggers in the second row, which provided a perfect view of Margaret O'Brien, who I discussed in my previous Stars post.
I've never been a fan of episodic movies, and while I've always appreciated the production quality of Meet Me in St. Louis, I was never very interested in watching it. Seeing it on the big screen changed my mind in a big way. Musicals really should be seen that way, with a large, enthusiastic audience. I also enjoyed the edge O'Brien's character had. She was quite the troublemaker, even making a streetcar go off the tracks for a prank. A lot of musicals may look like they're all sweetness and light, but that's usually just a camouflage for some dark stuff.
|Leonard Maltin and Suzanne Lloyd/ photo courtesy of TCM|
After a quick break for food, it was time to dash to the Egyptian Theater (another gorgeous old building) to catch the debut of Carl Davis' new score for this underseen Harold Lloyd silent. Leonard Maltin interviewed Suzanne Lloyd, the comic's granddaughter. She has worked very hard for several years to protect her grandfather's legacy.
I'd never seen a silent movie with a full orchestra before, and it was an entirely different experience from an organ or a lone piano. We all gaped at the musicians when the film began, in awe of the gorgeous music. About five minutes later, we totally ignored them, which is a testament to the perfection of the score.
The restoration was just as beautiful as last year's new print of Safety Last! (1923). It was an amazing movie experience, with all elements working together brilliantly. Ms. Lloyd should be very proud of her work.
And then of course there was the movie. It was hilarious; definitely deserving of classic status. Lloyd's use of a seven foot giant for several bits was clever and inventive. This was one of my favorite movies at the festival.
As soon as Why Worry? ended, a few of us made a mad dash down Hollywood Boulevard to catch a screening of this funny, and often very dark, pre-code at the TCL Multiplex. Since it was screening in one of the smallest festival venues, we were lucky to get in.
Film Forum Repertory Programmer, and Founder of Rialto Pictures, Bruce Goldstein introduced the movie with a segment he cheekily called "Pre-codes 101." Though I'm a huge fan of this period in film, I learned a lot from his talk. He also showed a great reel of clips from some of my favorite pre-codes. There were even some movies I hadn't seen!
The movie was a serious crowd-pleaser, with lots of typically pre-code naughtiness, snappy humor and Depression-era social commentary. I was grateful that we managed to squeeze into this popular screening.
|That's me on the right waiting with TCM Party for Eraserhead. The jolly storm before the unsettling calm|
I needed a major infusion of caffeine to make it through the screening of David Lynch's excruciatingly brilliant feature debut, but I was determined to make it through. I'd only seen the film on DVD and I wanted to check out the audience reaction to this strange and often revolting masterpiece.
My husband once saw it in a theater, and he said it was the quietest audience he'd ever been in. There was a party atmosphere in the theater before the TCMFF screening. I think everyone was delirious from exhaustion and a bit high from double espressos and cola. Patton Oswalt's introduction was hilarious, he welcomed us to "Coachella for shut-ins," which is a perfect description of TCMFF. However, once the movie started, it was dead silent.
Eraserhead is a tough film, especially when you have already seen five films that day. I found it challenging to make it through, but there's something about it that draws me in. Perhaps because it is so personal and yet also so open-ended that you could easily give it your own interpretation. As tired as I was, it wasn't easy to sleep after watching this intense flick.
Coming up next-- The Movies: Day Three and Four
All photos belong to Classic Movies unless otherwise noted.
William Holden (1918-1981)
Anne Shirley (1918-1993)
TCMFF is quite a starry event. You can expect to run into famous people everywhere. Tippi Hedren in the restroom of the Roosevelt Hotel. Leonard Maltin walking down Hollywood Boulevard. Illeana Douglas, Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz seemed to be everywhere.
It was exciting to see these glamorous faces, but without a doubt, the guests that drew the most interest were the legends from the classic age of Hollywood. In their special appearances, these stars inspired laughter, made tears flow and all demonstrated that they still knew how to mesmerize a crowd.
Here are the legends I was fortunate to see at this year's festival:
Day two was my busiest at the festival, and the highlight was seeing Ms. O'Brien before a screening of Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) in the gorgeously-restored Graumen's Chinese Theater (yes, I know it's the TCL Chinese Theater officially, but not in my heart). The former child star was the most enthusiastic guest I saw at TCMFF. Dressed impeccably, and looking very hip with her silver nose stud, O'Brien hardly needed to be interviewed. She plopped down on her seat, feet dangling in the air, and began to tell stories. She still moves her head from side to side in that charmingly mannered way she did as a child, and her voice has kept its girlish warmth. It looked like she would have loved to stay and chat more, which I'm sure would have delighted the audience!
While day two was the most overwhelming schedule-wise, day three was the most emotional for me. This is because I saw three legends of the silver screen in person, something I never could have imagined happening to me as a teenage film fan mainlining Bette Davis movies. The coolest by far was seeing Jerry Lewis put his hands and feet in cement for the courtyard of the Graumen's Chinese Theater. As a new fan of Lewis, I was overwhelmed to see this legend in person. He still knows how to entertain a crowd, clearly born to it. I've got a lot more to say about this special morning, so I'll share the rest in a future post.
After a rare sit-down meal with a bunch of great bloggers, a few of us ran to wait in line at the El Capitan to see Ms. O'Hara before the screening of How Green Was My Valley (1941). One of the most sought-after guests for the festival, fans were lining up outside the theater two hours before show time. And it was so worth it! The Irish star is still sharp, sassy and clever.
O'Hara, now in a wheelchair, was visibly overcome as she was wheeled out to an enthusiastic standing ovation. She was in tears many times during her interview with Robert Osborne. While touched, at one point she told the crowd, "don't be fooled into thinking I do magical things," which inspired Osborne to tell her that she certainly did.
With a heavy emphasis on spirituality, O'Hara discussed her life philosophies while giving encouragement and advice to the crowd. She said, "all of you do what you're supposed to do, better than you are supposed to do." The actress was also concerned when she heard a cough in the audience, she insisted that the woman stand up and wished her good health. Oh to be that cougher!
It wasn't all emotional though, this dame is funny. When Osborne opened the interview by asking about Ford, O'Hara snapped back, "I thought we were here to talk about me!"
At the end of the interview, while O'Hara received another standing ovation, she was clearly trying to stand up to give thanks to the crowd. However, despite appearing to speak about it to the TCM staffer who was there to push her wheelchair, it didn't happened. That was probably for the best, though it was touching to see how much she wanted to pay tribute to her fans. This appearance was the high point of the festival for many.
As a huge fan of Kim Novak, seeing the star was on the top of my list. That she had appeared at the festival before, and was likely to do so again, was one of the factors that motivated me to attend TCMFF this year. When I found out she was going to be interviewed before my favorite Novak flick, Bell, Book and Candle (1958), I couldn't believe it!
While Novak has had rather extreme plastic surgery, she is still very alluring and magnetic. With her husky voice and mesmerizing eyes, she brought plenty of glamour to the stage. Always known to speak her mind, I wasn't surprised that she addressed what interviewer Robert Osborne called, "the elephant in the room," the star's controversial appearance at the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony.
Novak called the negative feedback she received what it was, "it's bullying and we've got to fight back." She added, "we've got to stand up to these bullies, we've got to be stronger than they are." When the crowd applauded her honesty and bravery in addressing this clearly painful issue Novak smiled and said, "I've got to confess, I feel like I'm home with you."
Feeling very moved by what Novak had said, when she went back up the aisle I told her, "you show 'em Kim!" She responded, "don't forget to stand up!" And I most certainly will Ms. Novak! It was one of my high points of the festival to exchange words with this amazing woman.
|Photo courtesy of TCM|
This was my favorite interview of the festival. I wanted to see Arkin so I could enjoy his butter-smooth voice in person, and yes, that was dreamy, but he was also a fascinating person. Everything that comes out of his mouth is quotable.
When interviewer Ben Mankiewicz joked to Arkin, "I know you don't care about awards, but I do, because I'm more shallow than you. Which is readily apparent," the actor launched into an interesting tirade about industry awards. Using his Oscar nomination as an example, Arkin said that he was pleased by the nomination, because it was a surprise and he enjoyed being honored with his peers and promoting his film. He was less thrilled when he won, because he didn't like the implication that he was better than the other nominees noting that, "isolation is bullshit," when it comes to honoring great performances.
The whole interview was so interesting, and Arkin was so darkly charismatic, that I almost didn't want the film to begin. Here are some more gems from this intelligent actor:
3/4 of [current] American films are made by draftsmen or engineers.
There's something kind of ennobling in not knowing the answer to something.
[Improvisation] is at the core of everybody's life, whether they like it or not.
I have a dread of failing as a human being, not as an actor.
I still can't believe I got to see all of these amazing performers in person. They were all so charismatic, clever and engaging--truly born to entertain.
Coming up next: TCM Film Festival, The Movies
All images belong to Classic Movies except where noted.
Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
Charles Chaplin (1889-1977)
John Hodiak (1914-1955)
Henry Mancini (1924-1994)