April 7, 2017
It’s awfully hard to resist the idea of starting off the day with Ginger Rogers movie, especially if it’s a rarely-screened Ginger Rogers movie. Rafter Romance is one of the six movies kept out of circulation for several decades because the rights were owned by director Merian C. Cooper as part of a settlement over a payment dispute. Ten years ago, these movies were finally made available again thanks to the legal department at Turner Classic Movies straightening out all the legal entanglements.
I watched Rafter Romance once several years ago, but aside from the general plot of the movie, I didn’t really remember much about it. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t remember it better, because it’s a very delightful little comedy. Ginger is simply wonderful in it, it’s got a lot of great laughs, and it’s one of those fast-paced movies that were so common in the early 1930s. But one of the highlights was getting to see Laura Hope Crews as the rich, older patron supporting the artist played by Norman Foster. Crews is best known for her performance as Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind and her character in Rafter Romance is a far cry from the prim and proper Aunt Pittypat.
From Rafter Romance, it was on to Beat the Devil. I have a personal rule that in most cases, if I don’t like a movie, I try to keep an open mind and give it another chance later on. Sometimes, I’m just not be in the right mindset for something or I might be distracted by something the first time I watch it, and that can have a huge impact on how I view it. Beat the Devil is a perfect example of why I’m glad I have this philosophy.
I’d tried watching Beat the Devil once before several years ago and it simply didn’t grab me. I think I got maybe 20 minutes into it before I went off to do something else. The fact that it was a rough-looking public domain print probably didn’t help things much, either. But not long ago, my dad caught part of it and asked me if I’d seen it because he thought it seemed interesting and funny. So when I saw Beat the Devil on this year’s TCMFF schedule, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to give it another chance.
Not only was the print a vast improvement over the one I’d attempted watching years ago, seeing it in the theater gave me a whole new appreciation for it. Yes, the story is convoluted and a bit hard to follow, but it’s hilarious. Although Bogart was the star I was most interested in the movie for, Jennifer Jones stole the show for me. I absolutely loved her performance as a daffy pathological liar. All in all, this was my favorite movie discovery of the festival.
Next up on my schedule was the conversation with Peter Bogdanovich in Club TCM. Not only am I a big fan of several of his movies, he was friends with so many film legends, so this was instantly very high on my list of events to attend.
Much of the conversation revolved around his experiences in knowing Orson Welles and John Ford. With the recent news that The Other Side of the Wind, an incomplete movie Orson Welles had been working on with Bogdanovich throughout the 1970s, is going to be finished and released on Netflix, there was quite a bit of discussion about that.
Over the years, there have been efforts made to complete the film, but thanks to lots of legal issues, none of them have been successful until now. All the filmed footage is now in Los Angeles and editors will start cutting it together very soon. This is a project Welles had wanted to see completed and he had asked Bogdanovich to finish it for him, so this is something he’s been trying to make happen for the past few decades. I’m excited to see how this project all comes together.
We were also treated to a great anecdote from Bogdanovich about witnessing Cary Grant encountering a person who failed to recognize him, complete with Bogdanovich doing his famous Cary Grant voice.
After spending some time listening to Peter Bogdanovich talk about a more modern era of Hollywood history, I jumped back to the silent era with Ernst Lubitsch’s So This is Paris. I’ve long lamented the fact that not many Lubitsch silents are commercially available, so there is no way I could pass up the chance to see this on the big screen. The handful of Lubitsch silents I have seen for the most part have been incredibly witty and stylish, just like his sound films. So This is Paris was no exception. Only Lubitsch could so effectively pull off a movie about partner swapping. I sincerely hope this eventually gets a DVD/blu-ray/streaming release because if you’re a Lubitsch fan, particularly his early 1930s films, So This is Paris is bound to be right up your alley.
Once I got out of So This is Paris, I went outside and got right back in line for an old favorite — Red-Headed Woman. I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to see Jean Harlow on the big screen. In fact, I think this may have been the first Harlow movie I’ve seen on the big screen where she was the main star. This screening was one of those delightful experiences where I was able to watch a movie I’d seen several times before, but it was like getting to see it for the first time all over again. Seeing it on the big screen brought out so many little things that I simply didn’t notice when I watched at home; mostly things that really brought out the comedic aspect of the film. When I watched it at home, it was funny. When I watched it at the Egyptian, it was hilarious.
Cari Beauchamp’s introduction for Red-Headed Woman made the whole experience even better. It was a prime example of what a good movie introduction should be. Not only was she able to tell us a lot of fascinating details about the production of the movie, it’s one of her favorite movies so she brought the perfect balance of enthusiasm and expertise.
At the beginning of the day, I had been thinking I’d spend three movies in a row at the Egyptian by getting in line for Laura after Red-Headed Woman. But after watching a few great comedies early in the day, I started to realize I wanted to keep that lighter tone going and Laura just didn’t fit. Yes, seeing that on nitrate would have been incredible, but if it’s a kind of movie you’re just not in the mood for, you’re not going to enjoy it as much as you should. So instead, I went for Those Redheads from Seattle in 3D.
Getting to see Those Redheads from Seattle on the big screen in its original 3D format was another rare screening opportunity at the festival. Those Redheads was the first musical to be filmed in 3D, but when it was released in 1953, not many people had the chance to actually see it in 3D. After its release, the 3D version was largely unseen until 2006. This screening was of a newly-restored print from the 3D Film Archive, the same organization responsible for the restored version of Gog shown at last year’s TCMFF.
If you ever have a chance to go to a screening of something restored by the 3D Film Archive, I highly recommend going because they do a truly remarkable job on their restorations. At both Gog and Those Redheads, the movie was preceded by an explanation of the challenges they faced in restoring them and we were shown before and after comparisons of their work. It’s easy to dismiss these older 3D movies off as being cheesy, but this group does an amazing job of making them look their very best.
My last movie for the day was Zardoz, one of this year’s midnight screenings. To be completely honest, I don’t fully understand what on Earth was going on in that movie. But if I’m going to watch a movie where Sean Connery goes around in a weird monokini outfit in a dystopian future and it opens with a disembodied head floating around the screen with a Sharpie-d on goatee, I’m glad I was able to see it with the type of crowd that comes to midnight movies at TCMFF.