TCMFF 2016, Day 4: An Interview to Remember

Sunday, May 1

The final day of TCMFF has arrived and by now, I’ve reached the point where I have to put some effort into walking when I first wake up because all the running around I’ve been doing the past few days is starting to catch up with me. (If you’ve never been to TCMFF before, yes, you’d be surprised how much walking and running around you can do during a trip that largely involves sitting in movie theaters most of the day.) Luckily for me, I was planning on a pretty easy, laid back schedule of only three events.

Elliott Gould TCMFF 2016

Elliott Gould after the screening of M*A*S*H. Photo Credit: TCM

I started the day off at the Chinese theater for a movie that has been long on my list of movies I need to see — M*A*S*H. Somehow, I had never seen this movie before and have hardly watched any of the TV series either, for that matter. I wouldn’t say M*A*S*H is one of my favorite movies, but I’m glad I saw it. I have a bit of a dark sense of humor, so there’s a lot I liked about it.

After the film, Elliott Gould came out for a brief discussion. I actually think I preferred the Elliott Gould discussion after M*A*S*H over the discussion he had done at Club TCM the previous day. Naturally, today’s discussion was more M*A*S*H-focused and I appreciated getting to hear him talk more in depth about one of his films. While some actors like to say that they don’t watch their own movies when they see them on TV, Elliott Gould is not one of those actors. He still absolutely loves M*A*S*H and gladly admits to watching it anytime he sees it on TV. Even over 40 years after the film’s original release, Gould said he can still find new things in it to appreciate and that he had even noticed something new about it just a few minutes before the discussion.

Faye Dunaway TCMFF Interview 2016

Photo credit: TCM

After M*A*S*H, it was time to meet up with my friend Nikki to head over to the Montalban Theater for one of the events I was most excited for this festival. I usually try to keep my schedule flexible for Sundays, but this year, I couldn’t help but break my own rule. Not long before the festival began, it was announced that Faye Dunaway would be appearing to record an extended interview about her career down at the Montalban Theater and to introduce the movie Network. Faye Dunaway is one of my favorite actresses to come out of the new Hollywood era (1967 onward) and Bonnie and Clyde is in my top 10 favorite movies of all time. I also adore her performances in Network and Chinatown, so this news was a total game changer.

As great as Network is, I loved being able to attend the taping of the Sophia Loren interview at last year’s festival, so the Faye Dunaway interview instantly became one of my festival must-sees. Going to that meant making quite a few sacrifices, though. Between the time it would take for the interview to be recorded and having to line up rather early to make sure I get in, going to the interview meant having to skip most of the movies playing that afternoon, but it was completely and totally worth it. There’s nothing that could have come up in any of the TBA slots that would make me change my mind about the interview. I knew this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event and I was not disappointed.

Ben Mankiewicz conducted the interview with Dunaway and it was by far the best interview I’ve ever seen him do. (This year’s festival really drove home to me how very versatile of an interviewer Mankiewicz is. Just two days earlier, he was doing a very fun, lighthearted interview with Adam West and Lee Merriwether, then here he was doing a very intelligent, thoughtful interview with Dunaway, and he did an incredible job with both interviews.) He had clearly done a lot of research before the interview, something that did not go unnoticed by Dunaway, who mentioned how impressed she was by that on more than one occasion. The interview primarily focused on certain landmark movies throughout her career such as Bonnie and ClydeChinatown, Network, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Three Days of the Condor. But she also discussed a little bit about herself, such as her fondness for Bob Dylan, rock and roll music, and Ryan Gosling. Fun fact: Faye Dunaway is also a fan of Uber. She also mentioned liking the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

Many people think of Faye Dunaway being a difficult person and something of a diva, but if anyone at the interview was hoping to witness any of that behavior first hand, they were surely very disappointed. Dunaway was in a lovely mood that day, very relaxed, and clearly enjoyed every single minute of the interview. And, since I’m sure many people are wondering about this, there wasn’t a single mention of Mommie Dearest, Joan Crawford, or wire hangers. At most, she vaguely alluded to Mommie Dearest at one point when she mentioned making some mistakes in her career that she chooses not to speak of very often (and it’s pretty well-known which movie Dunaway does not like discussing.)

Faye Dunaway After TCMFF Interview

My photo of Faye Dunaway after her TCMFF interview

The crowd was loving the interview as much as Dunaway was. When she walked out on stage, I could pretty much tell the exact moment when she realized she was among people who truly respect her and admire her work. She was relaxed, having fun, and when the interview was over, she was so delighted that she took a minute to pose on the stage for fans to take pictures of her. That was the move of a true star. Don’t miss this interview when it airs on TCM sometime next year. TCM has shown a lot of great interviews over the years and was one of the best.

After the interview, I had a little bit of a break before seeing my final film of the festival: The Band Wagon. I loved the idea of ending the festival on a purely exuberant note, so The Band Wagon was a perfect choice for me. I absolutely adore the movie and the idea of getting to see the “Dancing in the Dark” number on the big screen was totally irresistible. Before the movie started, Illeana Douglas hosted a lengthy discussion with award-winning choreographer and director Susan Stroman.

The Band Wagon on the big screen was everything I wanted it to be: fun, joyful, colorful, and simply spectacular. That’s entertainment indeed!

And, with that, the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival came to an end. After The Band Wagon, all that was left for me to do was go back to the Roosevelt to spend as much time with my friends as possible before we went our separate ways again.

TCMFF 2016, Day 3: My Day of Presentations

Saturday, April 29

Shaw & Lee at 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone Presentation TCMFF 2016

Photo Credit: TCM

In addition to being a chance to see a whole lot of movies, TCMFF is also a great chance to see some film-related presentations. While Friday was my busiest day of the festival for movies, Saturday was my busiest day for presentations.

I started the day off what turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of the festival, the 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone presentation at the Egyptian Theater. Since I loved the Dawn of Technicolor presentation at last year’s festival, a presentation on Vitaphone seemed like it might be right up my alley. Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project was on hand to give a brief but delightful presentation on the history of Vitaphone and to introduce a series of restored Vitaphone shorts, including a couple that had just very, very recently been restored.

Vitaphone shorts were often referred to as “canned vaudeville” back then since Vitaphone shorts were a way for people to get to see performances by some of the biggest stars of the time, even if they didn’t live near a theater that could afford to pay astronomical performance fees for people like Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. As a result, many Vitaphone shorts showcase stars who were big at the time, but are now largely forgotten. But there are also many Vitaphone shorts that show stars who went on to have extremely successful careers in show business. The shorts we saw during this presentation were a mixed bag of both of those types.

We were treated to shorts featuring familiar stars like Rose Marie, Burns and Allen, and Molly Picon, but I was more fascinated by some of the shorts featuring stars who aren’t so well known today. There was Zelda Santly, the celebrated impersonator, in the “Little Miss Everybody” short, which allowed her to showcase her impressions of stars like Fanny Brice and Mae West. (This short also ended up being a bit of fashion inspiration for me since I adored the dress she was wearing in it.)

But my personal favorite Vitaphone short was “The Beau Brummels” starring the vaudeville comedy duo Shaw & Lee.

Almost 90 years after this short was originally filmed, Shaw & Lee still managed to win over the Egyptian Theater. I absolutely loved their surreal, surprisingly modern style of comedy and their timing was absolutely impeccable. When I got home from the festival, one of the first things I wanted to do was learn more about Shaw & Lee, but alas, I haven’t been able to find much information on them.

Laraine Newman TCMFF 2016

Laraine Newman reading the story of Anita Loos’ Hollywood arrival

After the Vitaphone presentation, it was off to the Roosevelt Hotel for the first of a few presentation in Club TCM. First up was Cari Beauchamp’s “My First Time in Hollywood” presentation. “My First Time in Hollywood” is a new book by Beauchamp, which is a collection of stories written by some of the biggest stars and other power players of Hollywood’s classic era such as Anita Loos, Colleen Moore, Harold Lloyd, Noel Coward, Marie Dressler, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy, just to name a few, about what it was like for them to arrive in Hollywood. To bring these stories to life, Beauchamp invited Saturday Night Live star Laraine Newman, Bruce Goldstein, David Ladd, Suzanne Lloyd (granddaughter of Harold Lloyd), and Sunset Boulevard star Nancy Olson Livingston to come up and read a few stories aloud.

Nancy Olson TCMFF 2016

Since Sunset Boulevard is in my top 5 favorite films, I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to see Nancy Olson in person (and she is still absolutely stunning). But it truly was fascinating to hear the stories of what it was like to for so many Hollywood icons to come to this town for the first time. Hearing Bruce Goldstein read Ben Hecht’s story was priceless! I enjoyed the presentation so much that I couldn’t resist stopping by Cari Beauchamp’s book signing so I could pick up a copy of the book.

Serge Bromberg Club TCM

Serge Bromberg explaining how different prints are combined during restoration

Although I’m a huge fan of silent films, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it to any of the silent film screenings during the festival. So to get my silent film fix in, I decided to stick around Club TCM for the presentation by noted film archivist Serge Bromberg. This presentation focused a lot on the restoration process and how prints from various sources are combined to create restorations of films, which he demonstrated by using Chaplin’s The Bank from 1915 as an example. He also screened several clips of rare films that have been restored, including 5 minutes of outtakes from Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms, a rare Stan Laurel short named The Whole Truth, and the complete version of the infamous Laurel & Hardy pie fight known as The Battle of the Century.

The description for this event mentioned a special world premiere surprise, which ended up being a clip of Laurel & Hardy that was only shown at a convention for film salesmen in Paris in 1936. It had only been publicly shown that one time, so this was the first time that footage had been seen in 80 years. Remarkably, this footage was found in a collection of random clips of footage that were all thought to be junk!

Serge Bromberg is a truly remarkable presenter. Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable about film, he can also play piano to accompany the films he talks about. If you ever have the chance to see him give a presentation, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Elliott Gould and Alec Baldwin

After Serge Bromberg, it was time for the Conversation With Elliott Gould. After you’ve been going to TCMFF for a few years, it becomes extremely evident that all of the hosts you see during the course of the festival have different styles of interviewing people. Alec Baldwin was conducting this event and when you see him interview another actor, there’s a good chance that it’s going to focus a lot on what it’s like being an actor and the industry and that’s very much what his conversation with Elliott Gould was like. If you wanted to hear more in-depth comments on specific movies, you would have been better off going to see him at either M*A*S*H or The Long Goodbye, assuming those were the movies you wanted to hear more about, but given his prolific career, it was still very interesting to hear everything that he had to say.

Not long after the conversation with Elliott Gould, it was time for one of my favorite annual festival events — Hollywood Home Movies! I’ve gone to this every year that I’ve attended the festival and I’ve never been disappointed. The home movies we see are pulled from The Academy’s collections and not only show movie stars at home, but behind the scenes of their movies and at other events. This year, we got to see footage of Joan Blondell as a WAMPAS Baby Star, behind the scenes footage of On the Waterfront in color, Ginger Rogers at home, and Lupe Velez on the set of The Squaw Man. One of the biggest highlights was getting to see some incredible behind the scenes footage from The More The Merrier. There was also quite a bit of interesting Disney-related footage that included director Federico Fellini visiting Disneyland (which is a concept I’m now rather fascinated with), a brief glimpse of Walt Disney with a cigarette (he was usually very strict about not being photographed smoking), and a bit of footage of some of the original Mouseketeers, including Annette Funicello.

The biggest highlight of Hollywood Home Movies was getting to see home movies from the Nicholas Brothers. This included some truly incredible footage of the Nicholas Brothers with people like Carmen Miranda, Dorothy Dandridge, and Ethel Waters. There were even some very rare clips filmed inside the Cotton Club. Every year at Hollywood Home Movies, they try to invite some of the people who donated this footage to the Academy, which is very often family members of the stars. This year, Tony Nicholas was on hand to talk about the Nicholas Brothers. While Tony did much of the talking, many other Nicholas family members were there. Some of the younger generation is keeping the family’s dancing legacy alive through an act called The Nicholas Kids, who kindly gave us an impromptu performance. The entire Nicholas family was so remarkable; they truly made this year’s Hollywood Home Movies an incredible event. I could have listened to their stories and watched those kids dance all day!

My first actual film of the day didn’t start until after 9:00 PM, but it was one of my big must-sees of the festival — Band of Outsiders introduced by Anna Karina. It was my first time seeing the movie and I enjoyed it, but of course, the big treat was getting to see the one and only Anna Karina in person. Her introduction included stories about things like how she met director and future husband Jean-Luc Godard and how he offered her a role in the French new wave classic Breathless, but she turned it down because the part required nudity.

The last movie of the day for me was the newly restored sci-fi flick Gog, presented in 3D. I’ll admit, I fell asleep for some of it so I’m a little hazy on the details, but fortunately for me, I didn’t miss the scene where Herbert Marshall gets to wield a flamethrower. No, really, I’m not making that up, Gog really did include Herbert Marshall with a flamethrower, which absolutely delighted me. Now I’d love to have a Herbert Marhsall action figure with flamethrower accessory. And I must admit that they did a fantastic job of restoring the movie! Before they actually started the movie, they showed us a comparison of what it looked like before restoration and what it looked like after and it’s a very, very nice looking restoration.

Day 2 of TCMFF 2016 Goes Out With a “Roar”

Friday, April 29

Roar 1981

One of the things I always look forward to seeing on the TCMFF schedule every year is what the midnight movies will be. I don’t always stay awake for the whole movie, but it’s always fun to go to them anyway. In the past, they’ve shown classic midnight movie staples like Eraserhead and Freaks and last year, we got to see the spectacularly odd and terrible Boom! This year’s midnight movie selections did not disappoint. Although Gog was fun (more on that tomorrow), it was awfully hard to top Friday night’s screening of Roar.

Roar is a movie I’d heard a bit about, but never actually seen, so I was intrigued when I saw it made this year’s TCMFF schedule. It’s a movie that has a level of infamy for being a movie that was plagued with production problems (it spent 11 years in production) and for using live, untrained animals, some of which actually lived with stars Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Noel Marshall, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall. Many of the cast and crew were injured by the animals over of the course of production. For everything I’d heard about it before, nothing could have truly prepared me for the sheer insanity of what the movie is actually like.

Roar 1981

Roar is pretty thin on plot. Noel Marshall stars as a man who has decided to go off to Africa so he can study lions, tigers, leopards, and other big cats by living with them in this big house out in the middle of the wilderness. Tippi Hedren plays his estranged wife who brings their kids (Melanie Griffith, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall) out to see him. But is he home when they arrive? Nope! So the wife and kids arrive to this house full of big, wild cats who begin terrorizing the family and they all have to avoid the cats by doing things like hiding in cabinets and iceboxes. This goes on for quite a while, then they all fall asleep and wake up with a whole new perspective on the situation. They figure that if the animals really wanted to kill them, they would’ve done it while they were sleeping and the movie ends with a big montage showing the entire family living in peace with the cats. I’m not kidding, the family just sort of gets over the whole being terrorized by wild animals thing and it suddenly ends in a happy montage.

Roar 1981

In most cases, when you see dangerous stunts and acts of violence in films, it’s pretty easy to understand that it wasn’t real. Roar, on the other hand, perpetually lulls you into a false sense of security. When you see these people actually interacting with the animals (and occasionally being injured by them), you have that moment of thinking, “It’s just a movie.” But then you remember that these were not trained animals and that actor who is bandaging themself up on screen is bandaging themself up because they were actually injured by an animal and you’re simultaneously horrified and amazed that this movie even exists. It truly is like a completely deranged version of Swiss Family Robinson with a little bit of Grey Gardens thrown into the mix.

Not to mention that there are a lot of moments that are kind of hilarious, but you’re not entirely sure you should be laughing at this movie. While watching actors get attacked by wild animals in and of itself isn’t funny, the fact that this movie has a paper-thin plot, a ridiculous musical score, and terrible dialogue that’s made even funnier by Noel Marshall’s hilariously bad line delivery makes it comedy gold.

The whole thing is just so completely and totally off the rails and incomprehensible, it’s one of the most genuinely unforgettable movies you’ll ever see. Not to mention, it’s probably one of the most OSHA-unfriendly movies ever created. If it’s been a while since you last saw a movie, you might say, “Yeah, I think I might have seen that one once a while ago.” Roar is not one of those movies.

One of the first things I did when I got home after the festival was order a copy of Roar on blu-ray. Not only will I always remember the experience of watching this with my friends, but I now feel compelled to tell as many people as possible about this bit of cinematic insanity. When the blu-ray arrived, I noticed that one of the bonus features was a Q&A session with some of the cast and crew, which I figured would be a good thing since I had a whole lot of questions about that movie. The Q&A session didn’t answer any of my questions, but it actually made the whole thing seem even more insane than I already thought it was. A lot of the Q&A session covered what it was like living with/working with the animals and includes tales of things like Noel Marshall distracting the people from Animal Control when they showed up at their house while Tippi and Melanie were in the backyard shoving lions into neighboring yards.

If you ever have the chance to see Roar on the big screen, I totally recommend going. Or get the blu-ray and watch it with some of your friends. In any case, it’s got to be seen to be believed and it’s way better to watch it with other people.

TCMFF, Day 2: The Day Where Everything Was a Highlight

Friday, April 29

Have you ever had one of those days where everything you did was just flat-out awesome? That was what my first full day of TCMFF 2016 activities was like. When people ask me about what the highlights were for this year’s festival, I feel like the short answer would be, “Everything I did on Friday.”

Marlene Dietrich Shanghai Express

When your day starts out with seeing Marlene Dietrich on the big screen in a new restoration of Shanghai Express, you know it’s going to be a good day. This restoration was done ahead of a new blu-ray release that will be coming soon, and I think I’m going to need to buy that blu-ray when it comes out. The print is absolutely flawless and exquisite; I certainly hope other Dietrich/Von Sternberg collaborations will be getting the same treatment.

Shanghai Express was introduced by Nicholas Von Sternberg, son of Josef Von Sternberg. He talked a bit about his father’s life, his career, and how his father worked with cinematographer Lee Garmes to create the completely unforgettable look of Shangahi Express. But when asked if he had any memories of Dietrich, all Nicholas had to say was that he used to sit on her lap as a child and the crowd went absolutely wild.

The Way We Were Streisand Redford

After Shanghai Express, it was time for a quick Starbucks run and The Way We WereThe Way We Were isn’t one of the all-time great films, but if I’m in the mood for something super dramatic and heavy on the schmaltz, The Way We Were never fails to hit the spot for me. I’ve never seen it on the big screen before, but I’m really glad I did if only because I got so much fashion inspiration from it. I’m not typically a big fan of the 70s-does-other-decades styles of fashion, but I was really feeling the 70s-does-40s style looks in the movie. Barbara Streisand really got to wear some pretty fabulous accessories in it and I think I need to find a brooch that’s very similar to the red brooch we see her wear in the beginning of the film. She wore a lot of red accessories and red nails throughout the movie, which I’m sure was a supposed to be a callback to Katie’s communist leanings.

Cary Grant Grace Moore When Youre In Love

From The Way We Were, it was off to see a new restoration of the rarely-seen 1937 Cary Grant movie When You’re In Love The movie certainly wasn’t one of Grant’s finest, but I still enjoyed it well enough. The movie should be getting some more attention in the near future (I know it will be airing on GET TV soon), so if you’re going to watch it, there are a couple of things you really should know about it: that it’s a musical and it’s more of a vehicle for Grace Moore than it is for Cary Grant. If you’re not a fan of operatic musicals, you’re probably not going to be a big fan of When You’re in Love and since the movie spends a lot of time showcasing Moore’s singing talents, you might be a little disappointed if you’re expecting Cary Grant in peak leading man form.

Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer was on hand to introduce When You’re in Love. To give you an idea of how rarely seen this movie was up until recently, Jennifer hadn’t even seen it until about a week before the festival. She had nothing but warm memories to share of her father. He really seemed to set aside the movie star persona when he became a father, but she did tell a cute story of watching one of his films with him when it was on TV when she was a child. She was so young at the time that she didn’t understand that her father was acting, so when she saw Deborah Kerr kissing her father, she walked up to the screen and smacked Deborah Kerr.

If you’re a fan of Cary Grant’s classic style, Jennifer shared a little bit of news you might be interested in: a Cary Grant jewelry line will be launching soon. All the pieces will be based on pieces personally owned by Cary Grant or pieces he gave to his loved ones as gifts.

Adam West and Burt Ward in Batman.

After that, Nikki, Jessica and I headed off to one of my most highly-anticipated movies of the festival — Batman by the pool at the Roosevelt with Adam West and Lee Merriwether in attendance. I wasn’t even able to stay for the whole thing since I needed to get in line for The Manchurian Candidate, but it was still one of my favorite TCMFF events I’ve ever been to. Poolside movies are meant for fun movies you can sit back and relax with your friends and enjoy and Batman was the perfect poolside movie. TCM host Ben Mankeiweicz interviewed Merriwether and West and every single minute of that interview was absolutely priceless and hilarious. West and Merriwether were completely embracing the campiness of the movie and Mankiewicz was clearly having a blast talking with them.

Here’s a little bit of footage shot by Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood of the three of them discussing the amazing shark attack scene. It also includes the moment when Adam West did the infamous, “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” line. West also talked a bit about his work playing himself on the show Family Guy, which you see a little bit of in Jessica’s video, but what you don’t see is that when asked about why he decided to play a parody of himself on Family Guy, West replies that he liked the money, and the whole crowd started laughing. Mankiewicz said it was quite possibly the most honest answer he’s ever gotten in an interview.

I really wish we could have stayed at Batman for longer because it was so much fun to be watching it with a very appreciative crowd. But if we had stayed any longer, we probably wouldn’t have gotten in to see Angela Lansbury talk about The Manchurian Candidate. Since Danny of Pre-code.com is a big fan of Murder, She Wrote, he joined Nikki, Jessica, and I to get in line. This was by far the longest line I have ever stood in for any event at TCMFF. When we left the Roosevelt, we headed over to the Chinese theater and followed the line as it made its way through the shopping center until it was right back in front of the Roosevelt. We actually would have had a much shorter walk to the end of the line if we had just gone out a different exit at the Roosevelt. Our numbers were in the 500 range and I don’t think I’ve ever had a number that high for any other TCMFF event.

Angela Lansbury Manchurian Candidate TCMFF 2016

Once we got inside, it was so packed that I’m surprised we were able to get 4 seats together. They were very close to the screen, which was definitely not an ideal angle to be watching the movie from, but it was a fabulous spot to be in while Alec Baldwin was interviewing the one and only Angela Lansbury. It’s hard not to be starstruck when you’re sitting that close to Angela Lansbury. She’s had such an incredible career and she’s so lovely and lively, just getting to be in her presence was something truly special.

I topped the day off by hitting the midnight screening of Roar. Stay tuned for a special post about Roar tomorrow because that was an experience that truly deserves a post of its own.

Kicking Off TCMFF 2016

Wednesday, April 27

Hollywood Heritage Museum

My first official event for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival wasn’t a film, but a presentation by Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins, authors of the new book “Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers” over at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of costume design in film, so this presentation was definitely something I wanted to see. I was thrilled that their presentation wasn’t just about the big designers like Adrian and Edith Head. One thing they discussed was some of the mysteries they had to solve in the process of writing this book, which I found really fascinating.

One such mystery they had to deal with was what ever happened to Clare West. Clare West was the first credited film costume designer and designed costumes for films like IntoleranceThe Birth of a NationThe Ten CommandmentsMale and FemaleWhy Change Your Wife?, and The Navigator just to name a few. West was a very celebrated and accomplished fashion designer outside of film, too. But after 1925, West simply seemed to drop off the radar. Jorgensen and Scoggins didn’t know what became of her and trying to find out what happened to her turned out to be quite a challenge. Scoggins is a probate attorney who routinely tries to piece together family trees to locate heirs, but even he had a difficult time finding her living relatives. When they were able to finally get the clues they needed, it turned out she had bipolar disorder, which wasn’t very well understood at the time, and that’s why she bowed out of the fashion world.

Not only was the presentation very informative and interesting, but getting to visit the Hollywood Heritage Museum was a real delight. If you love film history and happen to be in the Hollywood area, the museum is well worth a visit. The Hollywood Heritage Museum is located in the Lasky-DeMille Barn, which was one of the first film studios to be built in Hollywood and is currently the oldest film production facility still in existence in Hollywood. In December 1913, Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse Lasky began leasing the barn and the first film they produced there was 1914’s The Squaw Man.

The Hollywood Heritage Museum houses a great collection of film memorabilia, including a Charlie Chaplin Tramp costume (also worn by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.), props from The Ten Commandments (1956), a costume worn by Ramon Novarro in Ben-Hur, a collection of Marion Davies dolls, one of Mary Pickford’s makeup kits, and much more. It even features a re-creation of Cecil B. DeMille’s office as it would have looked during the time he worked there.

Cecil B. DeMille Office

Thursday, April 28

Festival activities got into full swing on Thursday evening. While many people were checking out the welcome party and the poolside screening of Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman at the Roosevelt Hotel, I was with Jessica and Nikki watching the red carpet arrivals. My media credentials don’t actually get me into the big opening night screening, but watching the red carpet arrivals is always a lot of fun. Sean Cameron of Turner Classic Movies is the emcee of the red carpet and always does a great job of keeping the crowd entertained when he’s not talking to one of the festival’s many guests.

If there’s a star at the festival you really want to see, but you aren’t sure if you’ll have a chance to actually see them during the festival, watching the red carpet arrivals might be your best bet to see them. Not all the special guests at the festival walk the red carpet, but a lot of them do. This year, I had the pleasure of seeing guests like Darryl Hickman, Ted Donaldson, Chris Lemmon, Gina Lollobrigida, and Salvatore Cascio, all of whom I would not have been able to see in person otherwise. Norman Lloyd and Roger Corman also walked the red carpet, even though they weren’t introducing anything at the festival or doing any other events.

TCMFF Red Carpet Arrivals 2016

Top Row: Carl Bernstein, Chris Lemmon, Darryl Hickman, Gina Lollobrigida, James Cromwell
Bottom Row: Lee Merriwether, Norman Lloyd, Roger Corman, Salvatore Cascio, Ted Donaldson Click to enlarge.

My favorite story from the red carpet involved Anna Karina. Since Band of Outsiders was on my list of festival must-sees, I was definitely excited to hear she’d be on the red carpet, too. When she walked down the red carpet, she didn’t stop to talk to Sean Cameron and she wasn’t introduced. When she reached the area where we were sitting, she walked by very shyly. I barely even had time to realize who was walking by when I heard Kendahl yelling, “Je t’aime Karina!’  She walked by so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to get a picture of her on the red carpet. I was sitting on the far end of the bleachers, close to the sidewalk, and a couple minutes later, I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw Anna Karina standing on the sidewalk just a few feet away from me. I was able to snap a couple of pictures of her through the bars on the end of the bleachers.

Anna Karina at TCMFF 2016

After watching the red carpet arrivals, I had been planning to go see Dark Victory, but since I stayed a little bit longer at the red carpet than I had originally planned to so I could see Gina Lollobrigida, I would have had to make a very frantic dash to the TCL Multiplex to get there in time. But I was pretty hungry by then and so were Nikki and Jessica so we all decided to skip the first block of movies in favor of dinner. As much as I would have loved to see Dark Victory on the big screen, I’m kind of glad I opted for dinner.

When we were done eating, we headed over to the multiplex and Nikki and I got our numbers for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. By that time, we had a little bit of time to kill before the movie started so we headed over to the bar for a drink. Just as Nikki was handed her drink and the bartender started working on mine, the fire alarms started going off. Everyone in the multiplex had to be evacuated, including the people who were in the theaters. The first block of movies was extremely close to ending at the time. Outside the theater, I talked to a person who had been in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn who said there was only about 15 minutes left of the movie. Another person who was in Dark Victory said the alarms went off right as Bette Davis was about to go in the house and go upstairs.

Fortunately, the fire alarms were only set off because someone had vandalized a fire extinguisher and not because there was an actual fire. So while the whole incident wasn’t an ideal way to start the festival, the staff handled it all exceptionally well. Everyone who had been in theaters when the alarms went off was able to go back and see the end of their movies and the next block of movies was only delayed by about half an hour.

Katharine Houghton TCMFF 2016 Red Carpet

Katharine Houghton on the red carpet.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was introduced by Katharine Houghton, who starred as Joey. Houghton was an excellent guest and had a lot of fascinating things to say about her experience making the film. Although many people assume it must have been fun for her to work with her aunt, Katharine Hepburn, she says it was actually rather difficult. Since Spencer Tracy was so frail at the time, that was taking a toll on Hepburn. There were problems with the studio, who were not only concerned about Tracy’s health, but because they didn’t initially realize that the film dealt with interracial romance. Tracy wasn’t interested in making the movie at first, but changed his mind after director Stanley Kramer said to him, “You can either spend your final days rotting away, or you can spend them doing something that’s really going to make a difference.”

At the time Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was being produced, interracial marriages were still illegal in 14 states. According to Houghton, the movie was made with the intention of appealing to people who weren’t completely sure where they stood on the issue and trying to persuade them to take the more progressive stance. Unfortunately, Houghton became a target for many people who did not agree with the film’s message. Stanley Kramer had warned her that she would likely find herself in the middle of controversy by appearing in the movie, and that certainly ended up happening — Houghton received some death threats over the film.

Houghton was the type of guest I could have easily listened to for much longer. I had only seen Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner once before the festival and that was quite a while ago, so it was almost like getting to see it for the first time all over again. All in all, it was a great way to start off an incredible festival.

Guess Whos Coming to Dinner Screen

What’s on TCM: May 2016

Robert Ryan

Happy May, everyone! I’m going to keep this introduction short since (at the time of writing this) I have to catch my flight to TCMFF very soon.

Robert Ryan is May’s Star of the Month and will be featured every Friday night this month. If you enjoyed last month’s series on Weimar-era German cinema, you may also be interested in the three-night series called Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood coming up on May 2-4. Later in the month, there’s TCM’s annual Memorial Day weekend war movie marathon. There will also be a spotlight on movies produced at American International Pictures (AIP), which should be really fun.

Now, on to the rest of the schedule!

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Bates Motel (2013)

Bates Motel

How has it taken me this long to get around to writing about Bates Motel? It’s one of my favorite shows on TV right now. Bates Motel is a prequel to the events of the movie Psycho, focusing on Norman Bates’ life as a teenager and his relationship with his mother.

The series begins shortly after the death of Norman’s father, an incident that is just one of many deeply difficult and traumatic events in the life of Norma Bates. Eager to start a new life, Norma buys a hotel in White Pine Bay, Oregon and moves there with Norman. However, their new life isn’t quite what Norma had hoped it would be. She’s assaulted by someone from the family who originally owned the house and hotel, she finds out the city is planning to build a bypass that will take away a lot of the road traffic away from the hotel, and she discovers her hotel has a history of being used for shady means.

In fact, the entire town of White Pine Bay is hardly the quaint small town she had been hoping to live in. The town is built around the drug industry and other criminal rackets, which Norma’s other son Dylan gets involved with when he comes to town. Dylan isn’t nearly as close to Norma as Norman is, which Dylan resents, but he ultimately cares about his brother.

Meanwhile, Norman tries to adjust to life at his new high school. Fitting in isn’t easy for him, but he makes friends with fellow student Emma, who is dealing with cystic fibrosis. Emma has a crush on Norman and develops a friendship with Norma. However, Norman has a misguided, unrequited crush on Bradley, a much more popular girl in school. In addition to his highly-sheltered upbringing, Norman is also experiencing unusual blackouts and Norma is struggling to understand what’s going on with him while trying to protect him from himself and from the outside world.

On the whole, if you’re a fan of PsychoBates Motel is well worth checking out on Netflix. When the series was announced, I felt like the series had the potential to be good and fortunately, I was not disappointed. Like most TV series, it has its stronger and its weaker seasons. Season 1 was great, I wasn’t as impressed by season 2, and season 3 was a little bit of a return to form. But even the weaker seasons are worth sticking with because it all builds up to season 4, which is currently airing on A&E. By season 4, it’s very clear that Norman is more deeply troubled than Norma can handle and every episode so far has been really, really good.

Although the movie Psycho was released in 1960, Bates Motel is set in the modern day. However, there is a lot of very retro flair to the series that almost makes it seem like it’s only this quasi-modern day setting. The characters in the show use smartphones and the internet, but then there’s Norman’s teacher who has a very vintage-looking style and Norma doesn’t drive a particularly ultra-modern car. The time it takes place in is just one of the differences between the movie and the show. The Bates Motel was located in Arizona in the movie, but it’s in Oregon in the TV show. Those differences don’t really detract from the show, though.

Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are both fantastic as Norma and Norman. Farmiga is particularly amazing and it amazes me that she doesn’t get more recognition at awards. She makes you want to root for Norma, she simultaneously makes you very frustrated by her, but she also has some great comedy moments in there, too. And Highmore is definitely up for the challenge of taking a very well-known character portrayed by a very iconic actor and making it his own. He channels just the right amount of Anthony Perkins’ performance, but he does a great job of making it a sort of less-evolved version of the character. As the series progresses, his performance has only gotten stronger.

In addition to being a prequel to the events of PsychoBates Motel is very frequently compared to Twin Peaks. I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan and there is a very distinct influence there, but Bates Motel stands up very well on its own. They’re both set in small towns where nothing is what it seems, but it’s not like Norman is having dreams about being a room with red curtains and a black and white floor. Twin Peaks has a lot of supernatural and paranormal themes, but Bates Motel deals more with psychological issues and crime stories.

The hardest thing about watching Bates Motel is that it has many great characters and the show really makes you like them and sympathize with them. But since we know what happens in Psycho, we know that inevitably, none of these characters are going to have a happy ending.