Margaret O’Brien

Remembering Mickey Rooney at TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images.  That's me in the second row with the flower in my hair.  Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood is to my left, Carley of The Kitty Packard Pictorial is on my right.

Photo courtesy Getty Images. That’s me in the second row with a flower in my hair. Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood is to my left, Carley of The Kitty Packard Pictorial is on my right.

Just a few days before the Turner Classic Movie Classic Film Festival kicked off, the film world lost one of its biggest legends — Mickey Rooney. Rooney had attended the festival in previous years and although he wasn’t there physically this year, his presence could still be felt very strongly.

During a press conference on the first day of the festival, Ben Mankiewicz was asked about his experiences working with Rooney and he spoke about the last time Rooney was a guest on the TCM Cruise. During that trip, Rooney had been scheduled to do four Q&A sessions. After doing three of the sessions, he was taken ill. Although it was nothing too serious, considering his age, doctors and TCM staff agreed it was best to cancel the final Q&A session. Not being able to do that Q&A session devastated Rooney. Rooney asked Mankiewicz to visit him in his room and Mankiewicz arrived to find Rooney with tears in his eyes. This was shortly after news had broken about Rooney having been a victim of elder abuse and he had testified before a US Senate committee about it. After having been through all that, for him to be able to go on the TCM Cruise and be among people who appreciated him meant everything to him.

National Velvet Mickey Rooney Elizabeth Taylor

The festival’s main salute to Mickey Rooney came Sunday morning with a screening of National Velvet with Rooney’s long-time friend Margaret O’Brien in attendance. Everything about the tribute was very thoughtful, heartfelt, and moving. National Velvet was selected as the movie to show because in his autobiography, Rooney said the line, “What’s the meaning of goodness if there isn’t a little badness to overcome?” resonated so strongly with him, he wouldn’t mind it being his epitaph.

Margaret O'Brien Eddie Muller TCMFF 2014

Margaret O’Brien wore a beautiful green outfit, which she had recently worn when she had dinner with Mickey on St. Patrick’s Day. Mickey really liked that outfit so she decided to wear it again for this tribute. One thing O’Brien really emphasized is that for the last two years of his life, Rooney was being cared for by people who truly had his best interests at heart. She also spoke of his love of animals and how he enjoyed painting, writing poetry and limericks, and watching the news and Turner Classic Movies. Rooney and O’Brien were working on a movie together, an adaptation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” just before he passed away and he was still as passionate about acting as he ever was.

Margaret O'Brien Joey Luft TCMFF 2014

Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation was on hand to lead the discussion with O’Brien. Joey Luft, son of Judy Garland, made a guest appearance to escort O’Brien into the theater. After O’Brien was seated, Luft stepped aside and let O’Brien and Muller do most of the talking, but there was one moment when he couldn’t resist joining the conversation. Since Rooney enjoyed writing poetry, Muller wanted to read a poem Rooney had written called “Flesh and Bones” while a picture of Rooney was displayed on the screen behind him. When the picture failed to come on the screen as planned, Luft came back out to tell the story of how there was a similar problem with a projector at his father Sid Luft’s memorial. Rooney, being the consummate professional that he was, kept things going at that moment by getting up and talking about Sid Luft’s relationship with Judy Garland.

The poem “Flesh and Bones” was lovely. It was a really poignant and honest look back on his life and how even though he wasn’t perfect and with all the ups and downs he encountered in his life, he did the best he could.

Mickey Rooney TCMFF Tribute

The picture of Mickey came up on the screen as we were leaving the theater.

TCMFF 2014, Day 4 — Another Good Thing Comes to an End

Sunday, April 13, 2014:

I went into the final day of the festival with very few plans in mind.  A large part of Sunday’s schedule wasn’t announced until Saturday afternoon, so I didn’t want to get make a bunch of plans, only to end up having to make even more hard decisions once the “To Be Announced” slots were announced.

The Sunday “To Be Announced” slots are typically given to movies that were more popular than expected and deserve a second run.  However, this year, the first “To Be Announced” spot was decided before the festival even started. Since Mickey Rooney had passed away just a few days before the festival, a screening of National Velvet was added to the schedule with Mickey’s long-time friend Margaret O’Brien in attendance to share her memories.

Margaret O'Brien Eddie Muller TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy TCM

Stay tuned for a post specifically dedicated to this event.  TCM always does an excellent job with memorials and this was no exception.  It was extremely heartfelt and touching; I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. A very fitting way to remember one of cinema’s most enduring stars.

After a lunch break, Jessica (Comet Over Hollywood), Carley (The Kitty Packard Pictorial/The Black Maria) got in line to see Gone With the Wind at the Chinese Theater.  After the amazing experience of seeing A Hard Day’s Night there the day before, I absolutely loved the idea of seeing Gone With the Wind in that theater.  We only stayed for the first half of the movie, but that was enough to blow me away.  I had seen Gone With the Wind in a theater once before, but this was a totally different experience.  Before, I had sat pretty far back in the balcony.  This time, I was much closer to the screen and the impact of being so close was pretty intense.  The print we saw was the new 75th anniversary print, which looked divine.

Gone With the Wind Intermission TCMFF 2014

As fabulous as it would have been to stay for all of Gone With the Wind, Carley, Jessica and I were really eager to check out The Heart is a Lonely Hunter introduced by Alan Arkin.  Earlier that afternoon, Arkin had recorded a “Live from the TCM Film Festival” interview with Robert Osborne at the Montalban theater.  If the discussion before Heart is a Lonely Hunter was a taste of what’s to come in the Robert Osborne interview, I can’t wait to see that interview; it should be fascinating.

Alan Arkin Ben Mankiewicz TCMFF 2014

Photo courtesy Getty Images

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was one of my few new-to-me movies of the festival and it was a good one.  Alan Arkin gave an amazing performance in it and even though I could tell from the very beginning that it was going to be a tearjerker of a movie, I wasn’t prepared for just how devastating the ending would be.

After a short break, it was already time for my final movie of the festival — Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger.  The Lodger has long been on my list of movies to see, so getting to see it in a stunning digital print with live music by the Mont Alto Orchestra was an incredible way to get to see it for the first time.  And I had the added bonus of watching it with my friend Trevor (A Modern Musketeer). Since Trevor and I became friends because we both love silent films, watching one together in person was a really good way to end the festival.

What’s on TCM: January 2014

Joan CrawfordHappy new year!  I hope you all had a very happy holiday season. I had a lot of fun revisiting all my favorite holiday movies in December, but now it’s time to get back to watching more regular movies and luckily, TCM is going to make that transition very easy for me.

Break out the shoulder pads, eyebrow pencils, and Pepsi because Joan Crawford is the Star of the Month!  A marathon of Joan Crawford movies will start every Thursday night at 8:00 PM and each week will focus on a different era of Joan’s career.

This month’s installment of Friday Night Spotlight will feature Science in the Movies and is going to be hosted by Dr. Sean Michael Carroll, PhD, a senior research associate at the California Institute of Technology’s Physics department.

Other noteworthy things happening in January include Judge Judy as Guest Programmer, a celebration of past and present recipients of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and 24 hours of movies by Columbia Pictures to commemorate the studio’s 90th anniversary.  Now, let’s take a more detailed look at the line-up…