The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival Recap, Days 1 and 2: Pre-Codes, Norman Lloyd, Rory Flynn and James Bond
March 31, 2015
The 6th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival wrapped up two days ago, and I think I still need another week to fully recover - in a totally good-had way too much fun-got too little sleep way.
As I mentioned previously, this was the first year I: 1. had a pass and 2. attended all four full days of the festival. People have asked me what the highlight of the event was, and to be honest, it will probably take another few days for everything to sink in. Days melted together and even on Thursday I was already thinking it was Saturday! Nevertheless, I can say without a doubt that this festival was my favorite of all six I've attended simply because this was the first time I actually felt fully immersed in the experience. I met countless people who I've followed online for quite some time, I made new friends in line, and I had the wonderful opportunity of experiencing the festival from a brand new angle as a Social Producer. To say I'm sad it's over is an understatement - the more appropriate word is probably withdrawal. For example, yesterday, the first day after the event wrapped, I found myself craving a hot breakfast, like the ones I shared with the Social Producer group each morning at the festival. Through Twitter - what else? - I found out that a few others had that same hankering!
Program guide, pass, an adorable thank you note, and BUTTONS! (Picture by Kim Luperi)
Part of the fun of TCMFF, aside from the movies themselves and the people you get to hang out with, is the fact that it can be so unpredictable. Though many pre-plan their schedule - me included - a lot of people also recognize that those plans will most likely be blown to bits one or two days into the festival. Why? Well, sometimes a movie starts late or the Q&A/intro runs longer than expected. Sometimes, a film garners a huge crowd unpredictably and you get shut out. And other times, you just change your mind because you feel like it, or you hear great things about a particular movie. Whatever the reason, plans change.
The part of the festival that surprised me most this year? How few movies and special events I made it out to, compared to the overall statistical possibility (about 21 total, I think, if you're mostly seeing films), and how close I stuck to the schedule I drafted out for myself, though there were a handful of deletions. My film/event count came out to 13: two on Thursday, four on Friday, four on Saturday, and three on Sunday.
I definitely didn't run from movie to movie, and I took two or three whole blocks off to eat, work, or just charge my phone and chat with people. Only two major films dropped off the schedule for me (one I regret now): Boom! (1968) and The Children's Hour (1961). I had heard crazy things about Boom! which piqued my interest, but when I actually thought about it sanely for a moment and did the math, re: how many hours of sleep I'd get (about four) before returning to the Roosevelt for our 8am Social Producer daily meeting/breakfast, I quickly nixed that plan. As for The Children's Hour, I desperately needed to charge my phone and wrap up a few things on Sunday afternoon, so I opted to stay only for Shirley MacLaine's intro since I saw the movie only a month or two ago. Turns out, it was amazing to watch on the big screen with an audience; in fact, I heard raves from multiple people. Sadness.
First time in Club TCM! Definitely loved the way it was decorated. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
Anyways, onto my fest recap for Thursday and Friday, days 1 and 2!
Thursday started with a Social Producers morning meeting where everyone met, went over guidelines, and sorted out our plans for the next three and a half days. The TCM social team graciously took us out to lunch afterwards, and from there, we all went our separate ways. That afternoon, I stopped in to a Meet TCM panel in Club TCM, prepped some tweets and Instagram facts and photos in the Social Producers room, and swung by an early afternoon #TCMParty get together by the Roosevelt Pool. Thursday was an insanely scorching day, which made it tough to stay outdoors in the sun for long. After retreating back inside, I stopped by the Opening Night Party (I've never been - perks of having a pass!).
I stayed at the Opening Night party long enough to cobble together enough food to equal a meal and headed over to the Chinese Multiplex around 5:30pm for my first film of the festival, 1933's Queen Christina with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, which I hadn't seen in years. The brief introduction by film historian Cari Beauchamp was welcome, but besides her remark that the real Queen Christina more closely resembled Danny DeVito, none of her commentary was new to me, perhaps because I had already conducted research on how closely many parts of this film actually resembled the Queen's life (the John Gilbert romance part aside). The real treat for me, and I could tell most of the audience, was the three-four minutes of silent footage of Garbo's costume tests, provided by the Academy, that played before the film itself. I always assumed these would center more on the outfit, but a good chunk were focused on Garbo's face, the lighting, and the angles, which was totally fine. Really, one can never tire of staring at Garbo's breathtakingly perfect features. And because it's Garbo, she possessed an interesting mix of indifference and discomfort the entire time, which made the whole thing even more mesmerizing as I tried to read what was going through her mind. In general, pre-codes are always so much fun to watch with an audience, and several scenes garnered gasps, applause, and laughs. Cases in point: Garbo proclaiming that she'll die a bachelor (as opposed to an old maid), the bedroom 'tent' Garbo and Gilbert inhabit the morning after he figures out that she's a woman, the kiss between Garbo and one of her ladies in waiting, and a very flirtatious female hotel employee who was far more interested in Garbo than Gilbert.
For real. No one could tell Garbo was a woman in this scene from Queen Christina?!
Afterwards, a good number of us jumped in line for one of the 10pm shows: 1936's My Man Godfrey, introduced by the witty Ileana Douglas, which was a great way to end an abbreviated first day of the festival. Though I was already a bit tired, it's seriously impossible not to be amused by Carole Lombard's hilariously hyper-dramatic antics and William Powell's charm.
By the time I got home, it was about 12:15am. I didn't know it then, but that would be the earliest I'd make it home all four days!
Friday was the first (insanely) full day of the festival. Even though I live close by Hollywood, I still had to leave by 7:20-7:30am to swing by and pick up my friend Ariel, who is a neighbor of mine and also in the Social Producers program, to make sure I could find parking (which I did, for free, every day. I was extremely proud of that accomplishment) for our 8am Social Producers meeting/breakfast. After the brief gathering, a number of us booked it to the Egyptian Theater down the street to get in line for the 9am Dawn of Technicolor presentation led by James Layton and David Pierce. This lecture focused on Technicolor in early sound musicals, which I was surprised by; I didn't know the spotlight would be purely on musicals, but, if I had carefully read the synopsis, I would have known that. Regardless, it was fascinating, and I will definitely write more on this one later.
I definitely want to buy this book now.
The Technicolor presentation was short enough to allow sufficient time to bolt back to the Chinese Multiplex to get in line for Norman Lloyd and Reign of Terror (1949), which screened at 12pm. I was extremely surprised to find out that the film was being shown in House 4, which is the smallest venue of the entire festival, because: 1. 100 year old Norman Lloyd would be chatting afterwards and 2. it's a film noir, a genre that usually turns people away year after year. Inevitably, the screening sold out well before the standby line even had a chance, but I was lucky enough to make it in since I got there very early (thanks short Dawn of Technicolor presentation!). The movie, which was a French Revolution set film noir/spy thriller that boasts the name The Black Book on the title card (which I'm sure threw some people for a loop), was quite a unique entry in the genre, and I really enjoyed it. As usual, Norman Lloyd was the most adorable 100 year old ever, and I'm pretty sure that everyone in the audience wanted to just put him in their pocket so we could hear him speak 24/7. I'll cover his chat with the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller separately in a week or two (hopefully).
Though the 2:30-3pm block was packed with awesomeness (The Cincinnati Kid with Ann-Margaret, Limelight with Norman Lloyd, Young Mr. Lincoln with Peter Fonda, and Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight), I sat it out to charge my phone, get some Instagram pictures and Tweets up, and grab something to eat. I also wandered into Rory Flynn's discussion on her father, Errol, for a little bit in Club TCM. I caught the tail end of the conversation, in which Rory talked about her father's relationship with teenager Beverly Aadland late in his life. That whole part was very interesting to hear, because Rory, who was 12 at the time, recalled hanging out with her 14-year old sister Deidre and Beverly...who was only 17! Rory described the sister's relationship with Beverly as very friendly; after all, they were much closer in age to Beverly than she was to Errol! One story I found particularly amusing had to do with Errol sneaking the girls into an amusement park-type place by scaling a wall after he found out they wouldn't let him in for free!
Rory Flynn at Club TCM discussing her dad's life. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
Next up was one of my most anticipated screenings of the festival: Don't Bet on Women, a rare pre-code from 1931. To ensure my seat, I lined up around 3:45pm, well ahead of the 5:30pm screening time. For a few minutes, I was the only one in line, so I sat down to do some more research with my phone, festival schedule, water and snacks sprawled around me. Before I knew it, one of the TCM photographers was snapping my photo, probably because I'm young (ish) and sitting all by myself in line. I tried to pose and flash my TCM Film Festival phone case for the camera, but that looked insanely unnatural, so I just sat there instead. Hope that picture never surfaces! Luckily, I wasn't alone for long; a few minutes later, a woman, Trudy, and her niece Kayla joined me. Ironically, I found myself standing next to them in line two more times (and sitting next to them in the theaters as well). Both had been coming to the festival for a few years, which was a running theme that I noticed this year: families attending the event together - parents with their children and aunts/uncles with nieces/nephews. Kayla had recently graduated from college where she took a course or two in film history, and we had a nice chat about 1933's Baby Face and pre-codes while waiting for Don't Bet on Women. They also asked me about the Social Producers program - a lot of people did - and on Sunday night they came over to me to say goodbye at the Closing Night Party. I really enjoyed talking to both of them in line, and I definitely hope I run into them again next year!
Anyways, Don't Bet on Women was pretty fantastic, and I plan to write a short piece on the pre-codes I saw this year...at a later date. I was originally going to try for another pre-code afterwards, 1933's The Invisible Man, but I decided to grab a bite to eat and catch up on some work before lining up for On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) at 9:15pm. George Lazenby spoke with Ben Mankiewicz before the screening, and...let's just say he sounded A LOT like James Bond; even Ben pointed that out. I'll recap his interview, which ran much longer than scheduled, at a later date. As for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I had never seen it in its entirety. At just under 2.5 hours, the movie let out around 12:15am, and I was definitely exhausted and even nodded off a bit during the film, which I hate doing. The imaginary film editor in me could have cut out at least 30 minutes of footage (um, most of that could be from the bogus female-only allergy retreat in the Swiss Alps) and the picture would have played just the same, but I get it - the style, the women, etc. - that's a trademark of the James Bond character and series.
Well, "FAR MORE!" is certainly accurate (as least to me).
Two days down, two more to go. It felt like I had been living in the Chinese Multiplex/Roosevelt Hotel for days - in a totally good way, that is. Though I felt tired on Friday, of course when I got home at 12:45am I couldn't go to sleep, which made for a super fun Saturday...Stay tuned for that recap (plus day 4) on Thursday!