Saturday, April 29
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.