TCMFF 2015, Day 3: Light on Movies, Big on Star Power

In terms of how many movies I watched, Saturday (March 28th) was my slowest day at the festival. I had seen 5 movies the previous day and I would see 4 movies the following day (more on that shortly), but on this day, I only made it to 3 actual movies. Instead, I spent most of Saturday going to events rather than screenings but I had the chance to bask in some serious star power throughout the day.

Colleen Moore Why Be Good

My first movie of the day was 1929’s Why Be Good, the final silent film from Colleen Moore. As much as I love silent film, I’d never seen a Colleen Moore movie before and I was definitely not disappointed. If you see Why Be Good without knowing anything about Colleen Moore, you’ll have no problem seeing why she was a big star. She is an utter delight to watch; the perfect example of that youthful, exuberant flapper image. The movie itself is a lot of fun and offers great commentary on double standards for women, a fact that the audience seemed to appreciate very much.

Rory Flynn Book Signing

Rory Flynn Signing Autographs

From Why Be Good, I headed over to the Roosevelt, where Rory Flynn, daughter of Errol Flynn, was signing copies of her book “The Barron of Mulholland.” I would have loved to have been able to see the presentation she gave in Club TCM the previous day about her father’s life, so I wanted to at least be able to stop by, say hello, and get a copy of her book. If you ever have the chance to meet her, Rory is absolutely lovely and very approachable. One of the highlights of the festival was when she complimented my dress because, I mean, how often do you get complimented on your outfit by the daughter of one of the greatest screen icons of all time?

Sophia Loren TCMFF 2015

Photo courtesy of TCM/Edward M. Pio Roda

After the book signing, I took a stroll down to the Montalban Theater to get in line for the taping of the “Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival” interview with Sophia Loren. Although I’ve always looked forward to seeing these interviews on TCM, I’ve never attended the taping of one before and since I admire so many of Loren’s films, I figured this would be a good time to go to one. This is the kind of event that even some of the celebrity guests attending the festival wanted to be at; I spotted Greg Proops and Rory Flynn in the crowd.

Traditionally, these interviews are conducted by TCM host Robert Osborne, but since he wasn’t able to attend the festival this year due to health issues, Sophia’s son Edoardo Ponti was there to fill in for him. Robert Osborne is a brilliant interviewer, but there’s simply no way to replicate the dynamic between a mother and her child and it was very clear that Sophia adores her children. Sophia mentioned being a very shy person and I think having her son there with her helped put her at ease. Being able to see an icon like Sophia Loren being interviewed by one of her sons is a truly unique event that I never thought I would have had the chance to witness firsthand.

Just a few of the subjects she talked about included her family, growing up in Italy during World War II, trying to get a start in show business only to be told she wouldn’t make it because she wasn’t pretty enough, motherhood, working with Vittorio De Sica, her co-stars, and even the infamous photo of her with Jayne Mansfield. She explained that her reaction to Mansfield wasn’t judgement, but that she was trying to figure out technically, how she was managing to keep her dress on.

At one point, she talked about what the movies meant to her as a young girl and how she adored Blood and Sand with Tyrone Power. Although it was a simple anecdote, I liked that she talked about that. In the lobby of the TCL Multiplex, TCM set up a video booth and asked festival attendees to come in and talk about the moments that made them love movies, so it was like she unintentionally gave an answer to that. (If you want to see my answer to that question, my video is up here.)

After a quick dinner, it was back to the Roosevelt for Hollywood Home Movies. As always, they had a fascinating selection of clips including Gary Cooper and Esther Ralston behind the scenes of 1928’s Half a Bride (now a lost film); footage of Hollywood Boulevard around the time Hell’s Angels was released; a party hosted by Cedric Gibbons and Dolores Del Rio in 1935; some of Henry Koster’s home movies that show him visiting Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. Jane Withers’ home movies; footage of Bob Hope, Frances Langford, Betty Hutton and Joe DiMaggio entertaining the troops in 1944; footage of Sophia Loren filming on location in Greece; and Steve McQueen at home.

Hollywood Home Movies Screenings Jane Withers Neile Adams McQueen

Bob Koster, Neile Adams, and Jane Withers at Hollywood Home Movies. Photo courtesy TCM/Edward M. Pio Roda

When they show these home movies, they often try to get family members of the people who were featured in the home movies or who donated them to the Academy to add to their collection come out to talk about them. This year, Jane Withers herself was there to talk about her contributions. Although there were other guests there, including Neile Adams (ex-wife of Steve McQueen), Jane Withers pretty much stole the whole show. She is an absolute riot and a real treasure; the crowd was absolutely going wild for her. Her comments were very candid and hilarious, including one moment where she shrieked, “Look how fat I was!” and then went on to talk about how she used to get so much fan mail from young girls who related to her chubbiness. She has so many stories to tell, I could have easily listened to her go on for hours.

Robert Morse Ben Mankiewicz at The Loved One

Ben Mankiewicz and Robert Morse discussing The Loved One

After a short break, it was time for 1965’s The Loved One with Robert Morse in attendance. This is a movie I had heard about before and thought it sounded like it would be right up my alley, and I was not disappointed. The movie is dark, twisted, and completely off the rails in the best possible way. This isn’t a movie that’s going to appeal to everyone, but I loved it. The Loved One is a satire of the funeral industry and features an appearance by Liberace as a coffin salesman. If you hear those statements and think, “I need this movie in my life,” you will probably like The Loved One. If you appreciate this style of humor, you’ll have a great time watching it at home, but it’s one that absolutely begs to be watched with a crowd who is totally into it (which was the case at this screening).

The whole thing was made even better by Ben Mankiweicz’s interview with Robert Morse before the movie. Robert Morse is a hugely entertaining character. He was hilarious and I don’t think he wanted to stop talking to the audience; it was clear he was having a lot of fun. As a Mad Men fan, I thought it was great that Allan Havey, who played Lou Avery in Season 7, tagged along with Robert. Havey didn’t talk to the audience, but I loved getting to see two Mad Men actors hanging around together. This was just a perfect screening for me; there wasn’t a single thing I can think of that could have gone better.

I wish I could have more to say about the final movie of the day, Nothing Lasts Forever from 1984. Nothing Lasts Forever, despite being produced by Lorne Michaels and featuring appearances by Saturday Night Live legends like Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, was never officially released theatrically due to a multitude of reasons. It had some television screenings in Europe and never made it to DVD, but eventually turned up on TCM Underground a while back. I think I made it about halfway through the movie and fell asleep, waking up in time to catch the very end but had absolutely no idea what was going on. But I did see that this movie will be on TCM Underground again in May, so I’ll give it another shot to find out what I missed.

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