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TCM Classic Film Festival recap: Seeing “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” on the same day

The TCM Classic Film Festival ended on Sunday and it was a day that will go down as one of the greatest of my moviegoing life.

I just don’t know how anything will ever top this day: saw Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz on the big screen for the first time and to top it all off, it was at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Gone With The Wind was in a fantastic digital print and there is so much to be gained by seeing the movie on the big screen. Vivien Leigh could not have been more gorgeous and her performance is one of the greatest of any actress in any movie – ever.

I also gained tremendous respect for Hattie McDaniel’s performance as Mammy and now understand perfectly why she won the supporting actress Oscar over Olivia de Havilland.

The scene as she walks Melanie up the staircase telling her about Bonnie Blue’s death probably sealed the award for her but she is first-rate throughout.

As for The Wizard of Oz. I know it forward and backward from all those years on TV but to see it on the big screen and as a new 3D print, it was an amazing experience. The 3D only enhances the movie, it does not detract. It especially enhances Margaret Hamilton’s scenes at the Wicked Witch of the West who is never scarier – or greener.

For me, the performances of Hamilton and of Bert Lahr are especially good and can be appreciated all the more theatrically. Judy Garland is, of course, aces throughout. It’s astounding what she was able to achieve so young.

So that was Sunday and it was perfect.

But the festival runs four days so there’s more. I saw nine films in all and would have seen more except for having to leave early Saturday to cover the GLAAD Media Awards in Beverly Hills. On that day, I saw Mr. Deeds Goes to Town for the first time on any screen and fell in love with Gary Cooper all the more and became an instant fan of Jean Arthur whose work I was not really familiar with. And there was Lionel Stander as Cooper’s sidekick in a gem of a performance. I had only known him as Max from Hart to Hart!

On opening day Thursday, I covered the red carpet for the gala screening of Oklahoma! and thought I’d see that but made a last minute decision to go over to Chinese Theatre #1 and see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Seen it many times but on the big screen, Bette Davis’s performance is even more extraordinary. so funny, so tragic. How did she not win an Oscar for this? Anne Bancroft won that year for The Miracle Worker – Bette was robbed just as she was for All About Eve.

One woman who did win an Oscar and deserved to was Olivia de Havilland for The Heiress which I also saw on opening night. Have never seen the film on big screen or small so this was quite a treat. Montgomery Clift is even more beautiful in this, his third film, than he was in A Place in the Sun.

Friday was jammed with four films and would have been five if I had not required some sleep!

Kicked off the day with a noon screening of the documentary Grey Gardens and have written about that in a separate post you can see HERE.

Then headed over to see My Sister Eileen starring Rosalind Russell who is just a hoot as a writer who moves from a small town in Ohio to New York City with her actress sister (Janet Blair) and they encounter all sorts of madcap adventures after moving into a studio apartment in Greenwich Village.

Russell received the first of four Oscar nominations for her performance and later starred on Broadway in a musical version of the story called Wonderful Town and won a Tony Award.

Her son, Carl Lance Brissen, attended the screening and said how His Girl Friday opposite close friend Cary Grant and Eileen were a major influence on his mother’s career.

“She found a path forward in her career playing strong women,” he said.

After Eileen, I made it over to Grauman’s to see Double Indemnity which is another classic I had never seen – at least that I recall. Sometimes you see these movies as a kid on television or have seen so many clips you think you’ve seen it.

All I can say is wow!

Fred MacMurray is the real revelation for me here. I knew him from My Three Sons, not as this completely hot insurance salesman who commits murder. And Barbara Stanwyck is delicious too. Loved it!

My fourth and final film on Friday was The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr which reminded me in some ways of The Others which starred Nicole Kidman.

This kind of psychological horror is not my favorite genre but I was spellbound by Miss Kerr throughout even if I’m not sure why she kisses the little boy.

So that’s a wrap for TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 which in just five short years has become this hugely successful monster of an event. I’ve gone each and every year and it is always such a joy to be around these particular audiences who know so much about film, are so passionate and appreciative of what is up there on the screen and who is responsible for it being up there.

And thank goodness for the presence of TCM Channel host Robert Osborne who is a real rock star at this event. He walks onto a stage and you’d think it was The Beatles!

FILE UNDER: Film Festivals


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2 Remarks

  1. Have seen GWTW of course many times but this week on TCM I made a point of looking beyond the star and the dialog and paying attention to the background. Lighting, design, furnishings etc. Each scene an absolute work of art. There has never been another motion picture of such artestry and don’t think there ever will be. Amazing that it was done in 1939.

  2. April 16th, 2014 at 6:06 pm
    babbitty lil' snob says:

    Hattie McDaniel is the true “heart” of GWTW, and the scene you mentioned is certainly worthy of an Oscar. Hattie was a JOY in every single movie she was in. Besides Thelma Ritter, there is no other actress whose name I look forward to seeing listed in the opening credits. As for Baby Jane, I’ve always felt Miss Crawford in her “underplaying” was just as effective as Bette was in her “theatrics”. The award was totally Miss Bancroft’s that year! (and we all know the Davis/Crawford back story regarding the hoopla that went on prior to Maxmillian Schell announcing that years Best Actress)

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