TCMFF 2014, Day 2 — 70s Cinema, Silents, and Pre-Codes

Friday, April 11, 2014:

For the first full day of movies, my friends Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood) and Carley (The Kitty Packard Pictorial/The Black Maria) decided to kick things off with 1944′s On Approval.  Knowing that On Approval was playing in the smallest of the theaters, we tried to get there early, but we weren’t early enough so we couldn’t get in.

East of Eden PosterAlthough it’s not fun to be shut out of the first movie of the day, it at least served as a valuable lesson for the rest of the festival.  On Approval was scheduled to start later than the other movies in that block, but we decided to ask if we could still get into East of Eden instead.  Fortunately, seats were still available and they were nice enough to let us come in late.  East of Eden on the big screen was nothing less than breathtaking.  I had only seen East of Eden once before and that was quite some time ago, so it was a pleasure to see it again. Watching it on television simply does not do it justice.

After East of Eden, it was time for me to get in line for Grey Gardens.  Grey Gardens was one of my big “must-sees” for the festival.   It’s one of the most absolutely compelling documentaries I have ever seen and getting to see it introduced by documentarian Albert Maysles was an offer I could not refuse.

The print we saw was a brand new digital print that had only been publicly screened once prior to the festival.  Never before has a run-down mansion ridden with cats and raccoons looked so good.  The Maysles brothers have often been praised for allowing their subjects to be themselves and for not interjecting their own editorial opinions.  This is absolutely the case with Grey Gardens and that’s exactly what makes it such a fascinating documentary.  It’s easy to judge the Edies and the way they lived or to dismiss them as being crazy, but the Maysles didn’t. (However, Albert did say that he and his brother changed their minds about actually living in Grey Gardens once the smell hit them.) Instead, they let the Edies’ larger-than-life personalities dominate the movie and it’s almost hypnotic to watch them be themselves in this unusual world they built around themselves.

It pained me to tear myself away from Grey Gardens a little early (missing Little Edie’s flag dance scene), but I did not want to be shut out of another one of my “must-sees” of the trip — a conversation with Richard Dreyfuss in Club TCM.  Richard Dreyfuss is one of my favorite actors of the 1970s (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, American GraffitiJaws), so I was thrilled when it was announced that he would be making not one but three appearances at the festival.  (He also introduced screenings of The Goodbye Girl and Mr. Holland’s Opus.) The conversation was hosted was Illeana Douglas, frequent TCM contributor and granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas.

Richard Dreyfuss Illeana Douglas TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Richard was very witty.  He is a real fan of classic film and mentioned wanting to teach a film history class where students were required to watch many black and white movies.  He said his children have only seen a handful of black and white movies and he feels like they are extremely deprived because of it.

As an actor, he admits that he has his limitations.  He declared that he’s not an actor like Charlton Heston, who could play any century; that he can only really play “a 20th century, Upper West Side Jew.”  However, he really enjoys playing characters who are on the hunt for something.  Before starting American Graffiti, George Lucas gave him the choice between playing Curt or Terry (who ended up being played by Charles Martin Smith).  He chose Curt because Curt was really seeking something and he knew the movie covered a pivotal night for Curt that he would remember for the rest of his life.

The discussion about Close Encounters was particularly interesting.  Roy Neary was a role he really wanted to play and he had to keep after Spielberg to get the part.  It wasn’t until Richard told Spielberg that Roy needed to be played by a child, not an adult.  Spielberg gave Richard the part on the spot after that. Richard said he knew from the beginning Close Encounters would be a timeless film because “it was noble from birth.”  At one moment, Richard got very emotional because Roy’s son Toby was played by Richard’s nephew, Justin Dreyfuss.  Tears started welling up in his eyes as he talked about working with his nephew and needed a moment to regain his composure.  “I cry at the drop of a hat. Please don’t drop any hats,” he told the audience.

William Friedkin TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images

I stuck around Club TCM after Richard Dreyfuss for the conversation with director William Friedkin (The ExorcistThe French Connection).  I specifically decided to stay for this event because I didn’t really know anything about William Friedkin and wanted to learn more. Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation hosted the discussion and the rapport between him and Friedkin was extremely fun to watch.

Despite being the director of two of the best movies to come out of the 1970s, Friedkin seems quite down to earth about how influential his movies are.  When Muller said something about The French Connection being a groundbreaking film, Friedkin seemed pretty dismissive of that statement and proceeded to name several other movies he thought were more groundbreaking (The Birth of a Nation, if you disregard the subject matter; Citizen Kane; BreathlessEasy Rider; and Star Wars.)

William Friedkin Autograph TCMFF 2014This event was also an opportunity for him to sign copies of his memoir, “The Friedkin Connection.”  Before the event got started, a TCM staffer came out and explained that due to time constraints, the book signing needed to be just a book signing; not a book signing plus a personal item signing/photo op/brief conversation.  The Richard Dreyfuss conversation had started half an hour late, so it was understandable that they wanted to get back on schedule.  However, Friedkin seemed really concerned about giving fans what they wanted. He was very talkative, friendly, and was taking pictures with people anyway.

Originally, I had planned to stick around for the conversation with Quincy Jones, but by then it was about 5:00 PM and I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.  Since I did not want the reputation of being “that woman who passed out in front of Quincy Jones,” I decided to skip it and get dinner instead. At dinner, I ran into K.C. of A Classic Movie Blog and Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings and we headed over to next movie, Why Worry?, together.  In line, we met up with Aurora from Once Upon a Screen and had fun waiting for our chance to see Harold Lloyd’s classic on the big screen with a brand new score being premiered by composer Carl Davis.

Harold Lloyd Egyptian Theater TCMFF 2014

I had seen Why Worry? before, but it had been long enough that I didn’t remember it very well.  However, it was my first time seeing a Harold Lloyd movie on the big screen, which is why I was so eager to make it to this one. Why Worry? was introduced by Leonard Maltin and Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd.  There is absolutely nothing quite like seeing a silent comedy on the big screen and being part of a large crowd of people who are all totally into the movie and are laughing hysterically. Seeing a silent movie with live music accompaniment is always a real joy, especially when it’s being conducted by someone as legendary as Carl Davis. The orchestra was so flawless it was often easy to forget that it was live music.  The standing ovation he received at the end was well deserved.

Employees EntranceFrom Why Worry?, K.C., Laura and I made a mad dash from the Egyptian theater to the TCL Multiplex Theater 4 for the pre-code classic Employees’ Entrance.  The Multiplex Theater 4 is the smallest of the theaters and was the one I had tried to see On Approval in earlier that morning.  We didn’t have much time to get there and were afraid we wouldn’t be able to get in, so we were literally running down Hollywood Boulevard, dodging tourists along the way, to make it.  Luckily, we made it in time!
Employees’ Entrance was introduced by New York Film Forum programmer and Rialto Pictures founder Bruce Goldstein.  The movie was prefaced with a brief presentation titled “Pre-Code 101,” which I adored.  After doing a few years of 30 Days of Pre-Codes, I’m no stranger to pre-codes, but the clips he chose were fantastic as was his commentary.
David Lynch Eraserhead
The last movie of the night was a midnight showing of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.  I had never seen Eraserhead before, but I’m familiar enough with David Lynch movies to know that his movies are often meant to be more of an experience rather than a traditional story.  The movie is so bizarre (I was not disappointed by that) and I was so tired by then that I don’t really know what to think of it.  But I do know that I really enjoyed Patton Oswalt’s introduction, which was stand-up comedy mixed with a real fondness for the movie.  

TCMFF 2014, Day 1 — Let the Festivities Begin!

Thursday, April 10, 2014:

Rick Baker Joe Dante TCM Classic Film Fest 2014

Festival activities started getting underway Thursday afternoon with a “Meet TCM” panel at the Egyptian Theater and a discussion at the Hollywood Museum called “Sons of Gods and Monsters” with director Joe Dante and Academy Award winning make-up artist Rick Baker, hosted by TCM’s Scott McGee.  “Sons of Gods and Monsters” was all about the wonderful world of monster movies and how Joe and Rick were influenced by them. I like monster movies, but I wouldn’t call them my area of expertise, so it was very interesting to learn a bit more about them from two people who are so incredibly passionate about them.

When asked about which movie they believed featured the most impressive monster make-up, Joe and Rick seemed to agree with 1931′s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Mel Brooks Robert Osborne TCMFF Interview

One really fun thing about TCMFF is that if you’re in the Roosevelt Hotel by Club TCM at the right time, you can catch Robert Osborne or Ben Mankiewicz interviewing some of the celebrities and historians attending the festival.  Over the course of the festival, I got to see Margaret O’Brien, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Judy Garland historian John Fricke being interviewed.  But the best interview I had the chance to catch was Mel Brooks. Before heading over to “Sons of Gods and Monsters,” I was there chatting with Jessica from Comet Over Hollywood and Raquel from Out of the Past while TCM was setting up for the interview.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the whole thing, but Mel was hilarious of course and it was exciting to have the opportunity to see him in person.  That interview will be airing in May, so stay tuned for that.

Kim Novak Jane Seymour Club TCM TCMFF

No matter what people said about her at the Oscars, Kim Novak looked lovely.

After “Sons of Gods and Monsters,” it was back to the Roosevelt Hotel, where many of the festival’s activities were based.  The Club TCM area was set to open with Kim Novak, Jane Seymor, Charles Busch, and Bruce Eric Kaplan discussing some artwork they had created that was on display during the festival.  (Manolo Blahnik, Todd Oldham, Joel Grey, Tony Bennett, Jules Feiffer, and Burt Young also created artwork  for the festival.)  I still get a little bit of a rush every time I get to say that I have been in the same room as Kim Novak, even if only for just a few minutes.

Ben Mankiewicz, Paul Le Mat, Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins TCMFF 2013For the first movie of the festival, I decided to go with the poolside screening of American Graffiti with stars Paul Le Mat, Candy Clark, and Bo Hopkins in attendance.  The vibe of being poolside was fun; I was chatting with friends, music was playing, and they had jitterbug dancers there.  However, I didn’t actually stay poolside for very long.  I stayed for the interview with the stars, but since the table I was sitting at really didn’t have a good view of the screen, my friends and I went back to Club TCM, where the movie was also playing. Poolside or not, it was a lot of fun.

TCMFF 2014, Day 1– Press Day

Thursday, April 10, 2014:

Robert Osborne at Press Day, TCMFF 2014

The 2014 Turner Classic Movie Classic Film Festival officially got underway on Thursday, April 10.  For those of us attending with media credentials, the day started with the chance to attend press conferences with TCM’s Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, Senior Vice President of Programming Charles Tabesh, and Managing Director Genevieve McGillicuddy.

The biggest revelation from Robert Osborne’s conference was about Olivia de Havilland.  There has been much speculation lately that Olivia would be doing a Private Screenings interview and would possibly be making an appearance at this year’s festival.  The Private Screenings interview rumors were true, but unfortunately, it did not end up happening. Olivia agreed to do the Private Screenings interview and since she lives in France, Robert Osborne and the TCM crew flew out there to film it.  But when they got there, Olivia was in the hospital. Olivia felt awful about not being able to do the interview and offered to fly to New York to film it there instead, but once again, health problems stood in the way.  As for her coming to the festival, she simply cannot handle traveling that far anymore. According to Robert, the last time she traveled to California to visit her family, it took her a year to fully recover from it.

Although many people might expect a classic film festival to be mostly full of people wanting to revisit movies from their youth, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  66% of TCM’s viewers are 18-44 years old and about half of festival attendees are under 30.  Robert Osborne stated that when he got started with TCM twenty years ago, he thought it was going to be a nostalgia channel, but he’s thrilled that younger people have embraced it so strongly.  In fact, Charles Tabesh said one thing he would really like to do in the future is have a series of child guest programmers.  (Personally, I hope that works out because that could be really fascinating.)

Ben Mankiewicz, Press Day TCMFF 2014

There has long been concern among some TCM viewers that TCM will start showing more and more modern movies in hopes of luring in younger audiences. Robert, Ben, Charles, and Genevieve were all very adamant that the TCM we all know and love will not be changing.  There’s no need for them to actively court young viewers when they already have young viewers.  TCM just celebrated its 20th anniversary and Ben made it clear that when TCM celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2034, it will not be playing a bunch of movies from 2004.

One interesting thing Robert Osborne said is that he never expected his job description to include being a nurse.  He and Ben both said they are most moved by hearing fans tell them about how Turner Classic Movies helped them cope with periods of unemployment, illnesses, and other difficult times in their lives. Ben elaborated that the personal connection many fans have with TCM is completely unique.  Although he enjoys watching things on ESPN and HBO, he does not have the attachment to those networks the way people do with TCM.

Ten Little Things I Love About Gold Diggers of 1933

1.  This dress worn by Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers Gold Diggers 1933_Tumblr Schatzepage

GIF found at Schatzepage Tumblr.

2.  This door.

Gold Diggers of 1933 Door

3.  “We’re the Kentucky Hillbillies!”

Gold Diggers of 1933 Kentucky Hillbillies

4.  The way Ginger Rogers says, “The Depression, dearie.”

The Depression Dearie_Gingerrogers Tumblr

GIF found on Gingerrogerss Tumblr.

5.  Dancing with the snowman.

Gold Diggers of 1933 Snowman

6.  Adjusted for inflation, those hats Trixie has delivered would cost about $1,300 each. She really didn’t appreciate being mistaken for a gold digger.

Gold Diggers 1933 Hat Delivery_Tumblr rosejoanblondell

Picture credit: rosejoanblondell Tumblr

7.  The way Fay reacts to seeing Trixie and Carol in a restaurant with Lawrence and Fanuel.

Gold Diggers of 1933 Ginger Rogers

8.  This lighter with a clock in it.

Gold Diggers of 1933 Watch Lighter

9.  The shots during musical numbers when the camera moves down the line of chorus girls and gives each of them a little moment to shine.  A similar shot is also used in “Remember My Forgotten Man,” only with a line of forgotten men instead of chorus girls.

GD1933 Chorus Girl GilboGarbageTumblrGIF found at the Tumblr Gilbo Garbage.

10.  The final shot of “Remember My Forgotten Man.”

Gold Diggers of 1933 Forgotten Man

Gold Diggers of 1933: The Ultimate Early 1930s Film

Gold Diggers of 1933 Ginger RogersWhen a movie is described as being a product its time, it’s often meant in a sort of apologetic way.  It’s the sort of thing I say about creaky early talkies like The Broadway Melody or The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  It’s basically a nicer way of saying, “Look, I know this isn’t particularly good by today’s standards, but you’ve gotta remember…”

However, a movie being a product of its time isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to being dubbed a cinematic fossil just a few years down the road.  Movies such as Saturday Night Fever and Since You Went Away completely embraced the eras they were made in but are still loved by audiences today.  Gold Diggers of 1933 is another product of its time that remains as entertaining as it was eighty-one years ago.

Trixie Lorraine: “Isn’t there going to be any comedy in the show?

Barney Hopkins: “Oh, plenty!  The gay side, the hard-boiled side, the cynical and funny side of the Depression!  I’ll make ‘em laugh at you starving to death, honey!”

Gold Diggers of 1933 is a perfect reflection of so many things that were happening in the film industry at the time.  First and foremost, it dealt with the Great Depression during the Great Depression.  Even though times were tough, audiences were still flocking to movie theaters for a little bit of cheap escapism.  Gold Diggers of 1933 managed to directly address the Depression while still offering the fun and escapist qualities audiences craved.  When the character Barney Hopkins declares the show he’s producing is going to be a comedy about the Depression, it’s more like a mission statement for the movie because that’s exactly what it ends up being — funny but with a hard-boiled side.

Gold Diggers of 1933

When we first meet the main characters, they’re all struggling just like everybody else was at the time.  They lose their jobs in the first scene; they have to steal milk and avoid the landlady because they can’t pay their rent.  When they find out a new show being produced, the ladies play a game to decide which one of them goes to find out about it because they don’t have enough nice clothes for everyone to go.  Even though the name of the movie has the phrase “gold diggers” in it, the main characters aren’t heartless mantraps; they’re very likable characters who are mistakenly stereotyped as gold diggers.  It’s not hard to want these characters to come out on top.

The film’s escapist elements come from the extravagant Busby Berkeley musical numbers.  The musical numbers have nothing to do with the overall story of the movie, but they’re the most memorable scenes of the movie.  These numbers could never be done on a real stage, but it sure is fun to suspend disbelief and just enjoy them for what they are.  The opening number, “We’re in the Money,” is fun to watch although it sets an ironic tone for the movie.  “The Shadow Waltz” is a moment of pure whimsy.

Gold Diggers of 1933 Forgotten Man

Because Gold Diggers of 1933 was made in the pre-code era, it gets away with being more risqué and political than many people think of older films as being. “Pettin’ in the Park” is risqué comedy for risqué comedy’s sake.  For a movie that offers so much escapism, it ends on a very political and haunting note with the “Remember My Forgotten Man” number.  “Remember My Forgotten Man” is a scathing indictment of the way World War I veterans were being treated at the time.  Both gritty and extravagant, it’s a stunning finale.

Gearing Up for TCMFF 2014

TCMFF 2014

The 5th annual Turner Classic Movie Classic Film Festival kicks off one week from today, and like many fellow attendees, I’ve been poring over the festival schedule, trying to make my plans.  Trying to decide between some of these events has been an absolutely wonderful problem to have.  The movie schedule is a great mix of crowd-pleasing hits, lesser-known gems, and everything in between; not to mention all the additional events with some very highly respected historians and people in the film industry.  Since this is my first time attending the festival, I want to try to experience a little bit of everything.

My main strategy for planning my TCMFF schedule is to do as many things as possible that I would not be able to do at home.  Some movies on the schedule such as City LightsThe Wizard of Oz, and Imitation of Life are movies that I’ve either already seen on the big screen at least once or I know will be playing at theaters at home in the near future.  So even though I adore City Lights, I did just go to a screening of it in December, which made my decision to go for Stella Dallas instead on Saturday morning a fairly easy one.

Although I’m trying to do things I can’t do at home, it’s not the only deciding factor.  In theory, I would love to nothing but silent, foreign, lesser known titles, and new-to-me movies, but many of the screenings are more than just the movie. For opening night, I’m planning on going to the poolside screening of American Graffiti.  Although I went to a screening of that movie a year or two ago, Paul Le Mat, Candy Clark, and Bo Hopkins weren’t there and there aren’t many chances to watch movies poolside in Michigan.

With my mission to experience things I can’t do at home, that means many of the Club TCM events are musts for me.  I’ll be spending a good deal of time at there on Friday with the conversations with Richard Dreyfuss, William Friedkin, and Quincy Jones all happening that day.

So, here’s how my schedule is looking right now…

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What’s on TCM: April 2014

John Wayne Happy April, everyone!  For Turner Classic Movies, April 2014 isn’t just any ordinary month — it marks the channel’s 20th anniversary.  This entire month can only be described as a celebration of everything that makes TCM wonderful.  TCM will be celebrating their 20th year by handing control over to their fans with a week of viewer requested movies during the daytime from April 7-11th.  In prime time that same week, several of the top contestants in TCM’s Ultimate Fan competition will join Robert Osborne to introduce some of their favorite movies.  And on April 14th, the day the channel was launched, you’ll find a day packed to the brim with many of the greatest films ever made.

TCM’s anniversary isn’t the only major milestone happening this month.  April 2nd is the 100th birthday of Alec Guinness and April 3rd is Doris Day’s 90th birthday.  Both stars will be feted with 24-hour marathons of their films on their respective birthdays.  Also turning 90 this year is MGM Studios.  TCM will be featuring 48-hours of some of MGM’s finest films from April 17-18.

John Wayne fans may want to clear some space on their DVRs because  John Wayne is April’s Star of the Month.  Instead of having one night a week of his movies, as is usually the case for Star of the Month showcases, TCM will be dedicating five straight days to The Duke.  That’s right, from April 21-25, TCM will be all John Wayne, all the time.  Although I’m personally not the biggest fan of Westerns, I’ve gotta admit that John Wayne is a perfect choice to be Star of the Month during such a milestone month for TCM.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff!

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