TCMFF Coverage and Viewing Lists Galore!

Photo credit: A Classic Movie Blog

In just 24 hours, I will be hoping an early morning flight to Los Angeles, destination Hollywood! I am beyond excited to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival for a second year.

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with you all as a member of the media, particularly with those of you who will be watching the festivities from home. I've also watched TCMFF from afar, and I know that while nothing beats being there, it can be a lot of fun to catch a glimpse of the action.

I will make you feel like you are there!

For oodles of festival updates follow me on Twitter at @classicmovieblg and on Instagram at kcclassic.

I'll add a few brief posts to the blog during the festival as well, to be followed by more detailed coverage once I join the real world again.

It has been interesting to see the many choices other bloggers have made after agonizing over the festival schedule.

My list hasn't changed much since I posted it, though I am considering switching out The French Connection (1971) for the hand-cranked films presentation.

Check out these other lists for inspiration, and to get a feel for how the festival will unfold:

A Shroud of Thoughts
The Black Maria
Cinema Sentries
Classic Movie Blog
The Hollywood Revue

I See a Dark Theater
Journeys in Classic Film
Lindsay's Movie Musings
Once Upon a Screen
Out of the Past
Vivien Leight and Laurence Olivier

The Black Maria will also be live blogging the event here (page not live until festival time).

And remember, if you're flying solo at a screening and you'd like a seat buddy, send me a tweet at  @classicmovieblg to join up with me and whatever other gang I'm with!

Warner Archive: Fredric March Madness

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Though he's appeared in some of my favorite films, Fredric March has never really been on my radar. I've always enjoyed him, and I think he's talented, but I've tended to take him for granted. I've now been cured of my blasé attitude thanks to the release of several March films from Warner Archive.

I unintentionally watched these films in chronological order, which ended up being fascinating, because I got to see March developing his talent over the course of ten years. It struck me how diverse he was as a performer, able to handle comedy and drama with equal ease, sometimes switching between the two in a matter of moments.

March was also less reliant on his persona than many of the stars, and even character actors, of his time. The three films reviewed here are very different in tone and structure and he appears dramatically different in each one. He was remarkably able to disappear into a role.

We Live Again (1934)

This drama based on the lesser-known Tolstoy novel Resurrection is perhaps best remembered for being one of Samuel Goldwyn's failed attempts to make Anna Sten a movie idol. The Russian actress was beautiful, but had limited range as an actress, and didn't have the star power to pick up the slack.

It's a beautiful production though, with gorgeous sets and costumes that live up to the famous Goldwyn standard. Full of orgies, elaborate church services, smart stepping officers and large groups of wailing folk musicians, it is a fascinating portrait of Russia, Hollywood-style.

March is Dmitri, a prince who falls in love with peasant girl Katusha (Sten). After a night of passion, he leaves her for the armed forces, unaware that she is pregnant. Fired for her indiscretion, Katusha's child dies and she is forced into prostitution. When she gets in trouble with the law, the now more worldly woman is discovered again by Dmitri, and he tries to make up for the wrong he has done.

The movie jumps quickly through time, as must happen if an epic novel is to fit into 80 minutes. Predictably, the politics in the novel are mostly set aside for romance. March elegantly manages the lightning quick changes his character must appear to be making over many years. He never seems less than sincere, and even manages to draw some passion out of his scenes with the oddly blank Sten.

One Foot in Heaven (1941)

In a dramatically different role, March plays William Spence, an aspiring Canadian medical student who gets the calling and becomes a Methodist pastor. Over the course of his career, Spence led congregations throughout the American Midwest. Based on his son Hartzell's memoirs, this episodic movie isn't quite a forgotten classic, but is charming nevertheless.

I've always been a bit wary of Hollywood biopics. Despite the diversity of subjects, they always seem to plod through the same basic challenges, awkwardly jumping from one event to the next in an attempt to cram everything into formal dramatic structure. While Spence's biography can get lost in its rambling, it has a natural ease that gives you the feeling of bumping along a country road in a wooden wagon. It also jumps right into his religious career, avoiding any tedious childhood exposition.

March gives his character a lived-in feel, avoiding the glossy perfection of the typical biopic hero. He lets himself be cranky and overbearing, while never abandoning the well-meaning man at the heart of it all. As his loyal wife, Martha Scott matches March in temperament and determination. They're a great team, whether in the midst of an argument or quietly supporting each other through a new challenge.

I especially liked a scene set in a movie theater, where Spence tries, and fails, to show his son the immorality of films. It's a great picture of the early days of cinema, with booing audience members, snack vendors in the aisles, and excited kids struggling to stay put in rickety chairs. Whenever the film seems to be rattling off a story with no point, it draws you back in with moments like these.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)

March truly disappears into his role in this also remarkably entertaining biopic of writer Samuel Clemens, more famously known as Mark Twain. With a crazy beak of a nose and a wild wig, he even looks like the author. It's an unruly epic, full of the cynically witty humor that made its subject famous.

Max Steiner does a remarkable job with the score, making it sound lazy river relaxed, but somehow grand at the same time. It is the perfect underscoring for an early steamboat scene, set in a misty evening so beautifully staged that you can almost feel the dampness of the air. March lives up to these magnificent trappings, so lost in the spirit of Twain that you have to remind yourself who you are watching.

Alexis Smith is also appealing as Twain's wife, projecting more warmth than she is usually allowed, in a role that doesn't give her much to do, but which she gives sympathetic life.

It is a remarkable portrait, beautifully capturing the spirit of its subject, most of all because of March's astonishing performance.


The March epic Anthony Adverse (1936), co-starring Olivia de Havilland is also now available from the Archive.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copies of the films for review. These are Manufacture on Demand (MOD) DVDs. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

Classic Links

I was saddened to hear that Robert Osborne will not be attending the TCM Classic Film Festival this year due to a "minor medical procedure." Osborne is such a constant, reassuring presence at events throughout the festival; he will be missed. I'm glad that he his taking care of himself though.

Get better soon Bob! You're the face of a fandom and we love you.

Osborne's letter to the press is here.

Will also shared some details about Osborne's past health issues and how the festival will adjust its schedule at Cinematically Insane.

I love this recent interview with Lana Wood, Natalie Wood's younger sister. She really knows how to dish.

Laura shares a fun story about meeting Winston Severn, a former child actor who made an appearance at a recent screening of one of his films, Edgar G. Ulmer's Her Sister's Secret (1946)--Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

The Beach Party Blogathon, to be hosted by Speakeasy June 8-12 sounds like a lot of fun. I immediately thought that I'd like to write about the bizarre horror flick The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965). Check out the great movie poster-style banners too!

A nice gallery of Françoise Dorléac photos. She did a lot in only 25 years.

TCMFF Prefunc: Cooking with Sophia Loren

While I've yet to check out Sophia Loren's new memoir, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, I have had the pleasure of reading her cookbooks. She wrote two of them, one published in 1972, the other over twenty years later in 1998. Both books are lot of fun, very autobiographical and full of that joy for life that Loren exudes so delightfully.

The most glamorous pizza chef ever
Loren wrote the notes that would become her first cookbook, In the Kitchen With Love, when she was pregnant with her son Carlo, Jr. She was under doctor's orders to rest. To calm her anxiety about the upcoming birth and fill long days of confinement, she began to cook the recipes she remembered from her childhood.

The book has dozens of these recipes, all traditional Italian cuisine, arranged in neat little paragraphs. She also adds snippets of advice about eating and entertaining called Digressions. Her insights are among the best parts of the book. They're revealing, charming and timelessly practical. Over forty years later, her thoughts about taking care of guests, sourcing fresh ingredients and smoking at the table (she thinks it's yucky, as most people do now!) are still useful.

Some of the recipes had me drooling. Fried artichokes? Fried pizza? And on the healthier side, Polenta with Gorgonzola.

Loren making sauce, with full cat eyes and her cook
I wasn't so sure about the Beans with Caviar, though Loren insists it is divine. The Tuna Fish Loaf and Kidneys and Bacon kind of disturbed me too, though if Ms. Sophia were making it, I'm sure I'd be game for anything.

And her sandwich recipes are so fancy! I'd pass on the celery and almond sandwich, and the lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich, which is laden with butter too, sounds a bit much. But her salmon sandwich with anchovies and egg yolk intrigued me, as did the combo of mozzarella and pimiento or tomato.

There's also lots of photos of Loren at work in the kitchen, looking every bit the star you want her to be. Full eye make-up, big, gold hoops in her ears. This is how you cook darling!

Unfortunately, the book is long out of print, but it's out there if you're willing to pay a bit for it. I was lucky to find a copy at the library, but I adore it so much that I am sure I'll eventually track down one of my own. Check it out if you can!

Sophia Loren's Recipes & Memories has a lot of the same kinds of recipes, but is overall a much different book. It's more elaborate, with photos on every page, more details about Loren's personal life and the sort of detailed cooking instructions more commonly found in modern recipe books. While it doesn't have the fascination of a 40-year-old viewpoint, it is equally as charming as her first book and the recipes are a bit more palatable for current tastes.

While there are many new recipes, the Fried Pizzas make another appearance. My goodness that sounds delicious. Loren also sings the praises of caviar and beans again in this volume. Maybe I'll have to give that a try after all?

This book is also out of print, but used copies are much more affordable. It's worth tracking one down if you have any interest in Italian cooking. The recipes seem practical to make, and look delicious.

Be forewarned that it doesn't matter how stuffed you think you might be, reading these books will make you hungry!

Now I need to track down Sophia's book about beauty. Who better to give tips on that?

Oh to be a guest at this party!

Quote of the Week

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To enjoy life to its fullest, one must build contrast into it. And the more extreme the contrast the fuller the life.

-George Sanders

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Classic Links

The big news for many classic film fans this week was the release of the full schedule for TCM Classic Film Festival 2015. There's been a lot of controversy over the films selected this year, with some fans questioning the inclusion of several films from the 80s and 90s, and others questioning how selections fit the theme.

While I understand where these concerns are coming from, I've got to say I've found plenty of things I wanted to see. I'm also excited about the special guests this year. Any event where I can see Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret, Christopher Plummer, Shirley MacLaine and Norman Lloyd is fine by me!

I shared my picks earlier this week. It's also been fun to see what other bloggers are planning to see. Here's a few lists I've read the past few days:
Out of the Past
The Hollywood Revue

I've been enjoying taking a look at the TCMFF Tumblr account lately. It really gets you excited about the films it features, whether or not you're attending the festival.

I really enjoyed this post at Black Maria which addresses the controversy over the programming choices at the festival this year. Very thoughtfully written, and with some great points.

Having just enjoyed him in the new Blu-ray of Far From the Madding Crowd (1967), I was especially interested to read this new interview with Terence Stamp.

TCMFF Prefunc: 10 Reasons I Dig Christopher Plummer

Plummer in 2009

Handsome, intelligent and wickedly talented, Christopher Plummer is a legend of both the stage and screen. I'm thrilled that he will be attending TCM Classic Film Festival 2015. Though I will not be in the audience when he introduces the opening night film, The Sound of Music (1965), with Julie Andrews and a trio of his screen offspring, I plan to attend his handprint and footprint ceremony in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre (yeah, still having trouble with the TCL Chinese name...).

There are several reasons why I adore Plummer. Here's a few of them:

1. He was my first movie crush

I only recently realized this. While enjoying all the 50th anniversary tributes to The Sound of Music (1965), I remembered that he was the first actor to give me that delightfully swoony feeling. So good looking! So sophisticated! He enthralled my 6-year-old self. I'll never forget the butterflies I had in my stomach the first time I saw him dance with Julie Andrews. That scene has the same effect on me today:

2. He has great career integrity

Though he has found widespread fame for his movie roles, Plummer stepped gingerly into the cinematic world. I admire that he has continued to do significant work in the stage roles he enjoys. He even chose Hamlet over film stardom when David O. Selznick offered him a lucrative movie contract, which he discusses in this 2009 interview:

3. He has a sense of humor about "that movie"

Though, as Plummer says in the clip above, the fact that The Sound of Music (1965) overshadows his long and varied career "pisses me off," the story "was not his cup of tea" and it isn't his favorite film, he appreciates that he was part of a beloved classic. He has also always spoken generously of his costar Julie Andrews.

In this clip filmed on the set of the movie, it is clear that Plummer was given the part because he had that extra depth to offer that he felt was better embodied in his other, more serious works. He shares some interesting insights on acting here (Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise make appearances too):

4. He makes silly movies not so silly

The particular silly movie I have in mind is Star Crash (1978). This Star Wars rip-off, which I adore by the way, features ridiculous dialogue, costumes that look like they were made out of garbage bags and plastic sheeting, and a crazy, but fantastic cast including David Hasselhoff, former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner, cult favorite Joe Spinell and British bombshell Caroline Munro.

It's all a gorgeous, goofy mess. However, while wearing an eye-searing metallic costume, Plummer gives his brief part as the Emperor, and dad to Hasselhoff, all the majesty of a Shakespearean actor performing King Lear. Check out the way he proclaims "halt the flow of time!":

5. He truly deserved his Oscar for Beginners (2011)

When a performer has had a long, celebrated career, sometimes an Academy Award can seem like a lifetime appreciation award. While an award of that sort was certainly due Plummer, his performance as a man who comes out of the closet at age 75, and not long after learns he has cancer, stands on its own as a remarkable achievement. He brilliantly embodies the happy/sad persona of a dying man who never stops living life to the fullest or succumbs to self pity. You can see him in action here:

6. He brings great excitement to classic roles

Check out the electricity he generates as Hamlet, opposite Jo Maxwell Muller as Ophelia, in a 1964 television production:

7. He plays a mean piano

Plummer apparently trained as a classical pianist before beginning his acting career. As can be heard from this clip of him playing the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano concerto on the set of Elsa and Fred in 2014, he has kept up with his practicing:

8. He continues to be active as a performer

Speaking of Elsa and Fred, his starring role opposite fellow TCMFF guest Shirley MacLaine is one of three movies he made in 2014. According to IMDb, he has made appearances in or done voice work for five upcoming films in 2015. Here's the trailer for Elsa and Fred. I love these two together:

9. He still makes great movies

In addition to his wonderful performance in Beginners, Plummer has contributed to several interesting films over the past decade, including Up (2009), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), The New World (2005) and Inside Man (2006).

10. He speaks his mind

One of the things I most admire about Christopher Plummer is his ability to speak his mind in an intelligent, frank and essentially kind manner. Whatever issues he may have with a film, director or whatever, he always has something nice to say,but he doesn't pull punches. Here he talks about his frustrations in working with Terrance Malick on The New World (2005):

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