My recap of the TCM Classic Film Festival
There are movie fans from all around the US who fly to Hollywood to spend four days attending the TCM Classic Film Festival. I feel so lucky to be able to hop in the car each day, take in as many movies as possible, then head home to sleep in my own bed.
It’s always one of my favorite events of the year and this year’s festival was no exception.
I know that some of the people who traveled far to be there probably saw as many as 18 movies (I do not think it was possible to see more but could be wrong). I only managed to see 11 and found myself staggering out of Grauman’s on Sunday evening not even knowing what day it was.
It can be wonderfully exhausting – and entertaining.
I love eavesdropping on people’s conversations. For example, before the start of The Great Escape, a man sitting behind me said emphatically to his friend: “You saw Robert Mitcham being totally creepy in Cape Fear. I saw him being totally charismatic!”
For the record, these are the films I saw over the four days: The Greta Garbo classic Ninotchka; Bonnie and Clyde; The Great Escape; On the Waterfront; Deliverance; Giant; The Lady Eve; Badlands; Kismet; The Libeled Lady and Three Days of the Condor.
Not a weak link in the bunch!
Hard choices have to sometimes be made. I had to skip seeing Jane Fonda at the Egyptian at the On Golden Pond screening because I had never before seen Giant starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean and the opportunity to see it in all its big screen glory inside Grauman’s Chinese Theater was just too irresistible.
Had to make a mad dash from Deliverance to Giant and got there just as cast member Jane Withers was wrapping up her discussion about this classic 1956 film. The actress turned 87 on Thursday (the crowd sang to her on the red carpet on opening night) and says: “I’ve got so much I want to do!”
The actress couldn’t hold back the tears when she spoke of James Dean who died shortly after they made the movie. He was just 24 and was killed in a car crash. He and Withers had grown close and she saw him the night before he died.
“You drive too fast kid,” she recalled telling him.
Now crying, she told the crowd: “I was so afraid I’d never seen him (again). I had an awful feeling.”
It’s always extra special when one of the stars of a classic film is on hand to discuss it.
On Friday, 88-year-old Eva Marie Saint showed up to talk about On the Waterfront before we saw it inside the giant Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Waterfront was her very first movie and it won her the Academy Award for best supporting actress. Her leading man, Marlon Brando, won the Oscar for best actor. Both so well deserved!
“There was always something a little special about him,” she said of Brando. “It felt like we were just talking and not acting. I felt in good hands with Marlon.”
Ann Blyth was on hand to talk about both Mildred Pierce which screened Saturday night at the Egyptian Theatre, and about the musical Kismet which screen Sunday afternoon at Grauman’s Chinese 6.
There was a wonderful career retrospective of the still sensational looking actress, now 84. Host Robert Osborne remarked as Blyth sat down: “She’s found the fountain of youth certainly.”
Said Blyth: “I indeed have had a blessed life and I’m very grateful for it.”
The mother of five children, her final movie lead was in the late 1950s in The Helen Morgan Story. She acted sporadically on stage and television for the next 30 years with her most famous gig being the spokeswoman for Hostess Cupcakes.
“I still get letters from all over the world,” Blyth said of her enduring movie fame. “I don’t have any regrets – none whatsoever.”
Well, maybe just one. She turned down a role that went on to win Joanne Woodward the Oscar: The Three Faces of Eve.
“I found the story a little hard to believe,” Blyth said. “Silly me!”
Of the 1955 musical Kismet she said: “I loved making the movie and working with Howard Keel. He was a delight.”
Not so much director Vincente Minnelli: “He was there physically bit his spirit seemed to be somewhere else. It meant we lost a great deal of his genius and that was disappointing.”
Osborne pointed out that Minnelli was eager to being work on Lust for Life with Kirk Douglas but was forced by MGM to make Kismet first.
Blyth had been nominated for an Academy Award for Mildred Pierce a decade before she made Kismet. She attended the ceremony but didn’t win. Joan Crawford, who played the title role, did win but did not attend the ceremony claiming she had the flu.
“She might have been a little bit afraid,” Blyth said.
Blyth was among those who rushed to Crawford’s home after the ceremony to present her with her Oscar – in bed.
“It was a miraculous recovery,” Blyth recalled, laughing. “She was just feeling better by the minute.”
Anyway, it was a glorious four days – an experience that has left me on a movie high that will last for days. Perhaps my most lasting memory will be that of Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor which I had not seen before.
If I had known Redford wore the same pair of snug blue jeans throughout the movie, I would have seen it long ago!