Alec Baldwin

TCMFF 2015, Day 2: Early Technicolor, Dustin Hoffman, and BOOM!

Today involved making a lot of my hardest decisions of the entire festival. In a way, it was actually kind of nice to get those done and out of the way, but still, the decisions were tough. When it all came down to it, I ended up spending the majority of my day hanging out at the Egyptian theater, getting out of one movie and getting right back in line for the next one. The line-up there that day was just incredible.

David Pierce Dawn of Technicolor TCMFF 2015

David Pierce at the Dawn of Technicolor presentation. Photo courtesy TCM/Tyler Golden

The day started with a presentation called “The Dawn of Technicolor” given by James Layton and David Pierce, authors of the new book “The Dawn of Technicolor.” Although their book isn’t specifically focused on early musicals, this presentation was mostly focused on early Technicolor musical numbers as well as information about the early Technicolor process and some of the problems that came along with it. Now, I’ve always had an odd fondness for the look of early two-strip Technicolor, so I was relieved to find out that I am not alone in that. The Egyptian seats about 600, making it the third largest venue at the festival (behind the Chinese theater and the El Capitan) and it was a pretty full house. It was pretty exciting to see so many people who were willing to get up early to go see examples of early Technicolor; it made me feel a little less alone in my nerdiness.

Most of the clips featured in the presentation were extremely rare; the only one I had seen before was “The Lockstep” musical number from the scrapped revue The March of Time, which was featured in That’s Entertainment! Part 3. The clips they showed ranged from entertaining to downright baffling. The “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” number from the mostly lost Gold Diggers of Broadway gave us all an idea of why that movie was such a rousing success in 1929. A color version of the “Meet My Sister” number from 1929’s The Show of Shows was really fun to watch and featured appearances from Loretta Young, Dolores Costello, and Ann Sothern in her second film. We were treated to a restored version of 1930’s The Sultan’s Jester, a 10-minute short produced by Warner Brothers which features a lot of bad jokes and some pretty wild acrobatics. If you ever have the chance to see Layton and Pierce give this presentation, I very highly recommend checking it out.

Dustin Hoffman Lenny

One of the hottest events of the entire festival was Friday’s screening of 1974’s Lenny with Dustin Hoffman in attendance. I had been really interested in the Christopher Plummer handprint ceremony at the Chinese theater, which was immediately before Lenny started, but ultimately, I decided to skip it to get in line for Lenny since Dustin Hoffman is one of my all-time favorite actors and the star of some of my favorite movies. This proved to be a good call because I don’t think I would have been able to get in if it weren’t for the fact that I was able to get out of the Technicolor presentation and immediately get in line for Lenny; a lot of people were shut out of this one.

Prior to the festival, I had never seen Lenny and didn’t know anything at all about the real Lenny Bruce, so I can’t talk about how accurate the movie is at depicting Lenny’s life, but Hoffman was amazing. I’m not sure why I haven’t heard this movie discussed more, but it’s definitely time for more people to rediscover it. Hoffman’s performance was a real tour de force and he had a terrific co-star in Valerie Perrine as Honey, the wife of Lenny Bruce.

Following the film, there was a discussion between Dustin Hoffman and Alec Baldwin about what it was like making the film and about his career in general. Hoffman was an absolute delight to listen to; he was funny, honest, candid, even showed a very heartfelt moment of vulnerability when talking about his late friend Robin Williams.  This was an interview I could have listened to all day; I so adore Hoffman as an actor, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to hear him talk about how he researched the role of Lenny Bruce and what it was like to work with Bob Fosse. He and Fosse didn’t always see eye-to-eye on his performance, but Hoffman admitted that ultimately, Fosse was always right and joked that he’ll admit to a lot of things 40 years later. (If you’d like to see a clip of the interview, someone has uploaded a clip onto YouTube, but I will warn you that this clip is the most R-rated bit of the interview. But you do get to see both Hoffman and Baldwin doing their best Buddy Hackett impressions.)

Ann-Margaret at the TCM Film Festival

Ann-Margaret at the TCM Film Festival. Photo courtesy TCM/Tyler Golden

Following the screening of Lenny, I went outside and got right back in line for The Cincinnati Kid, which would be introduced by Ann-Margaret. Gambling movies aren’t always my thing, but with a cast like Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Karl Malden, and of course, Ann-Margaret, it was hard for me to resist. But the movie held my interest the whole time and had lots of suspense. It also gave Joan Blondell a lot of opportunities to be the ultra-sassy type of character I always love watching her play in her early 1930s films. And being able to see Ann-Margaret in person was a treat. She talked about things like making her film debut along with Bette Davis in Pocketful of Miracles and how wonderful Bette was to her, her love of motorcycles, and working with Steve McQueen, who she recalled saying, “Eh, let them worry, it’s their job,” when the studio asked him to stop riding his motorcycle to work.

Steamboat Bill Jr

After The Cincinnati Kid, it was time for me to get in line for Buster Keaton’s classic Steamboat Bill, Jr. with live music conducted by the great Carl Davis. Steamboat Bill, Jr. wasn’t a new movie to me, but it’s always incredible to see one of the great silent film comedies with a big audience, especially when the music is being conducted by one of the top composers of silent film scores. It’s truly an experience unlike anything else.

The Bank Dick WC Fields

I finally got a break from the Egyptian Theater after Steamboat Bill, Jr. when I went over to the TCL multiplex to see 1940’s The Bank Dick, introduced by Allen Fields and Ronald J. Fields, two of W.C. Fields’ grandchildren. Being able to see his grandsons was a real trip because one of them looked and sounded so much like W.C. Fields. In all honesty, my memory is a little hazy of this screening since I dozed off at a couple of points, but what I do remember of the movie, I immensely enjoyed.

Elizabeth Taylor Boom

I was willing to stay up til midnight to find out the context of how and why this hat was worn.

Oddly enough, one of the biggest highlights of the entire festival was the midnight screening of Boom!, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s film adaptation of Tennessee William’s “The Milk Truck Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.” Boom! is best remembered for being the only movie Taylor and Burton made together that lost money. And the movie does completely miss the mark in every conventional way, but that’s what made it so much fun to see in a theater. Boom! is the kind of movie that is best watched late at night after you’ve had a few drinks. John Waters has called the movie “so bad, it’s the other side of camp,” and everything else he has said about the movie is completely dead on. To give you an idea of what Boom! has to offer, I’ll quote the awesome Anne Marie of The Film Experience:

I know a lot of other people at the festival read John Waters’ comments about the movie and were totally sold on the movie by them. And judging by how many times I heard people around the festival doing their best imitations of Elizabeth Taylor shrieking, “WHAAAAAT!” I think it’s safe to say Boom! was a success. John Waters was right — it’s really best seen with an appreciative audience and this audience was, indeed, appreciative.

On that note, I will leave you with the trailer for Boom!

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TCMFF 2014, Day 3 — From “Father of the Bride” to “Freaks”

Saturday, April 12, 2014:

Father of the Bride Spencer Tracy Elizabeth TaylorAfter having ended the previous day’s movies with Eraserhead, I woke up this morning in need of a little levity.  Originally, I had been planning to see Stella Dallas, but decided to go with Father of the Bride instead.  Not only is it a very funny movie, I had never seen a Spencer Tracy or Elizabeth Taylor movie in a theater before.  Plus it had the added bonus of playing in the same theater as the next movie I wanted to see, Godzilla.

Father of the Bride was delightful as always.  Godzilla was so much fun to see with a crowd and boy was the crowd enthusiastic!  This screening was the world premiere of a new restoration of the original Japanese version of Godzilla, in all its Raymond Burr-free glory.  The picture quality was absolutely stunning.  If you have the chance to go see this restoration on the big screen, I very highly recommend it.  Godzilla was introduced by historian Eddie von Mueller and Gareth Edwards, director of the upcoming Godzilla movie.

Godzilla

From Godzilla, it was back to Club TCM to check out the conversation with editor Thelma Schoonmaker hosted by author and historian Cari Beauchamp. In addition to Schoonmaker’s long collaboration with director Martin Scorsese (her work on his films has won three Academy Awards), she was an editor on the groundbreaking documentary Woodstock and was married to legendary British filmmaker Michael Powell, half of the Powell and Pressburger team.  (Fun fact: Martin Scorsese was also an editor/assistant director on Woodstock.  Scorsese brought cufflinks with him to Woodstock because he thought they’d be going out to dinner while they were there.)

Thelma Schoonmaker Cari Beauchamp TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Of the movies she’s done with Scorsese, she discussed Raging Bull the most. Raging Bull was a very challenging film to edit because there was so much improvisation from the actors; a challenge revisited with Scorsese’s most recent film, The Wolf of Wall Street.  She doesn’t visit the sets of his movies because she thinks it’s important to have a cold eye in the editing room.  Schoonmaker credits Scorsese with teaching her everything she knows about editing because he’s a director who thinks like an editor. As for what quality Scorsese most admires most in her, he knows he can trust her.  Ever since the time in film school when she helped him fix his student film that hadn’t been cut properly, he’s known she will do what’s right for his films.

Schoonmaker spoke very fondly of her time with husband Michael Powell. She’s very active in preserving her husband’s film legacy and also introduced his film A Matter of Life and Death at the festival.  She plays a role in overseeing the restorations of Powell’s work and mentioned that after this conversation, she was heading out to check some work on a transfer on one of his films.  If you are hoping to see a HD print of The Tales of Hoffman, you’ll be glad to know that she said the original negative is in excellent condition.

Next up was “Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures from the Academy Film Archive.”  We were treated to rare behind-the-scenes footage and personal home movies of film legends.  This was a must-see event for me because I knew it would be a totally unique event that I wouldn’t be able to attend elsewhere.  I was definitely not disappointed; the home movies we saw were absolutely fascinating.

The selections included home movies of Florenz Ziegfeld and Billie Burke, an extremely playful Alfred Hitchcock at home with Alma and daughter Pat, Jean Harlow in her dressing room, visitors to Hearst Mansion (including a cameo from Howard Hughes), Gilbert Roland and Constance Bennett with friends on their boat, behind the scenes footage of Gone With the Wind, the It’s a Wonderful Life wrap party picnic, Walt Disney riding on a backyard railroad, location footage of Oklahoma!, behind the scenes of Jerry Lewis on The Geisha Boy, and a montage of movie stars with their pets and other animals.

Vivien Leigh behind the scenes Gone With the Wind

Behind the scenes of Gone With the Wind

My favorite clips were the Ziegfeld/Burke home movies, which included Florenz Ziegfeld frolicking with a butterfly net and a pet elephant trying to walk into daughter Patricia’s playhouse; the Hitchcock home movies; and Jean Harlow in her dressing room.  I found the Jean Harlow footage particularly interesting because it wasn’t official, studio-sanctioned footage; it appeared to be filmed by a friend or MGM employee who was casually testing out their personal home movie camera.  So it doesn’t show “Jean Harlow the movie star,” it’s Jean being herself, casually chatting with the camera operator.  Even when she wasn’t being “Jean Harlow the movie star,” she was captivating to watch.  The hosts from AMPAS said they could tell from some grain on the film that it had originally been filmed in color, but unfortunately, they only had a black and white copy.

The Gone With the Wind behind the scenes footage was a real treat.  It was color 8mm footage that showed Vivien Leigh with her stand in, Clark Gable riding horses with Cammie King, and the setups for filming the scene at Twelve Oaks where Scarlett is surrounded by all the men at the party and the scene where Rhett and Scarlett are on their honeymoon and are having dinner with the can-can dancers in the background.  I was also thrilled to see the It’s a Wonderful Life picnic since that was something Karolyn Grimes had talked about when I saw her at the Redford back in November.

The types of film used for some of the home movies were also unintentionally revealing about the types of people who used it.  The Ziegfeld/Burke home movies were filmed on 35mm, something that would have only been used by the very wealthy in the early 1920s.  The Hitchcock home movies, which dated from 1929-1936, were in color, so it should come as no surprise that he was definitely a person on the cutting edge of film.

After “Hollywood Home Movies,” I headed over to the Chinese theater for A Hard Day’s Night.  I was really torn between seeing A Hard Day’s Night and Bell, Book, and Candle introduced by Kim Novak at the Egyptian.  I had been leaning more toward Bell, Book, and Candle, but I really wanted to see something at the Chinese theater and I was starting to worry that I might not get to see anything there, so A Hard Day’s Night won.

Alec Baldwin Don Was TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Beatlemania may have started 50 years ago, but it was still going strong at TCMFF.  I couldn’t have asked for a better venue to see A Hard Day’s Night in. Their sound system is wonderful, so it was a dream to hear all those Beatles classics  that way.  The picture quality was absolutely pristine.  The Chinese theater seats over 900 so it was packed with a lot of enthusiastic fans.  The excitement was palpable and I loved every minute of being a part of it.

A Hard Day’s Night was introduced by Alec Baldwin and music producer Don Was (who has produced albums for Ringo Starr, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, just to name a few).  Their introduction was one of my favorite introductions of the festival; it was hard to not be engrossed by their enthusiasm.

Then it was time to head to the El Capitan to get in line for The Women.  I joined Raquel (Out of the Past), K.C. (A Classic Movie Blog), and Lara (Backlots), who are exactly the kind of people you want to be in line with to see The Women. I had so much fun discussing the movie with them and quoting the famous, “There’s a name for you ladies…” line in unison.

The Women TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Over the course of TCMFF, I saw a lot of movies with very enthusiastic crowds, but I think the crowd for The Women took the cake.  I’m used to people applauding for certain things like a star’s entrance or a name appearing in the opening credits.  Since this is a movie with such an incredible cast, there was a lot of applauding going on.  The crowd went wild for Norma Shearer saying, “I’ve had two years to grow claws, mother! Jungle red!” It’s a fabulous movie to watch at home and even better to see with a crowd.  The Women was introduced by Ben Mankiewicz and actress Anna Kendrick. Much shade was thrown at the 2008 remake.

Freaks Poster

The last movie of the day was the midnight screening of Freaks.  I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about this screening since I was pretty exhausted by the time I got there.  But I’m glad I had to check out one of the ultimate midnight movies on the big screen.

And I just love the fact that I started this day with Father of the Bride and ended it with Freaks.