The Great TCMFF 2017 Revue: Day 4
April 14, 2017
Day 4: Sunday 4/9
As Cock of the Air (1932) is rather rare, my original plan for the final day of TCMFF was to attempt another viewing. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really didn't want to get up at 7am to battle crowds at 8 for a 9 o'clock start. Plus, the film was a hot ticket, and as I'd seen it before, I thought it better to let it go...and sleep in till 8:30. The decision then came down to Lured and TBA Unfaithfully Yours, which I skipped the previous night. I know Unfaithfully Yours should have been the answer, hands down, but upon closer inspection of the runtime, I found out that it would have overrun its TBA slot and crept into the next block, right on top of Republic Preserved. So, my decision was made. Of course, the false sense of relaxation I was lured (get in?) into with a "late" wake up resulted in my running late, but luckily I hopped in line for Lured right before every other theater let out - and to my surprise, this turned out to be another popular screening.
Another day, another foreign poster: Lured in Spanish. I've posted this before, but I really adore it.
Lured counts a wonderful cast - Lucille Ball, George Sanders, Charles Coburn and Boris Karloff, just to name a few, and Karloff's daughter Sara was on hand to share some memories of her father. In particular, she recalled Boris' soft, sweet disposition and emphasized his humor. As for the picture, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I went in assuming it would be straight noir but was pleasantly surprised by Ball's sharp humor (though I really shouldn't be surprised by that) and some of the film's odd little quirks, which most surely included Karloff's 10 minute 'cameo' as a designer gone slightly mad. And of course, Sanders was his pesky little cad-ish self, which automatically ensured my amusement.
As I shuffled into theater 6 for the special presentation Republic Preserved, I spotted several familiar faces: Eddie Muller, Alan K. Rode, Ben Burtt, Craig Barron and UCLA Film and Television Archive director Jan-Christopher Horak, among others. The rundown was simple: Paramount's head archivist Andrea Kalas introduced two sets of clips from rarely viewed Republic films that Paramount had or was in the process of preserving. Most selections I hadn't heard of at all, though one, 1939's S.O.S. Tidal Wave, I saw in March at UCLA's Festival of Preservation (and that wave sequence got a ton of laughs because it's so ridiculous).
Yes, that is a television in 1939. Republic title S.O.S. Tidal Wave portrayed a TV-saturated future which wouldn't become reality for another decade or so...and then there were also gigantic tidal waves and (miniature) toppling buildings all over the place, for about 1/4 of the movie.
Select titles appeared intriguing, and hopefully one day they'll make it out of the vaults and into the light of day, though Andrea cautioned that not all the movies she pulled from were necessarily good films. The Poverty Row tour ended with montages from Roy Rogers pictures and Republic serials (separately), capped with an extended disaster sequence chock full of blown up bridges, cars careening off cliffs, preposterous explosions and the like - I will say, I was actually thoroughly impressed with the production value on those! The Q&A portion was quite popular; the audience, many of whom worked in the industry, asked at least 10 questions, and several other archivists from Paramount were in attendance to help field inquiries too.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)...Kinda
Early on, I decided to sit out the 4/5pm feature to spend a quality hour or two in Club TCM getting a head start on my writing...but of course, I wanted to hear an introduction, at the very least! This block's guest game was strong, from Lee Grant (Detective Story) to Peter Bogdanovich (What's Up, Doc?) to Todd Fisher and Ruta Lee for this movie. (Bob Newhart was scheduled to appear at Hell is for Heroes but cancelled Sunday morning.) I mentioned in my brief fest recap that I really wanted to hear Grant's Detective Story Q&A, as I had a film-specific question planned for her on the red carpet that I never got to ask and secretly hoped she'd touch upon the subject in her discussion. But when I was greeted with a respectable crowd over an hour before the movie was slated to start, I decided to abandon that plan. Instead, I headed to the roomy IMAX theater to listen to Todd Fisher and Ruta Lee's introduction for Singin' in the Rain, which was preceded by a lovely TCM tribute to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.
I spy with my little eye...Singin' in the Rain on this Club TCM banner. (Picture by Kim Luperi)
I was slightly stunned at first by how composed Todd Fisher was when remembering his mother and sister, but then again, in most media stories I read he handled the tragic news with grace and a rather positive tone. Ruta Lee was also a pip and shared some heartfelt stories of Debbie, who was one of her closest girlfriends for over 50 years; she even quoted Debbie, who once admitted she was lousy at choosing husbands but great at picking girlfriends! I hope to detail more of their conversation sometime soon (but obviously, I have my work cut out for me with all these intros).
Lady in the Dark (1944)
Though one of the TBAs this evening, 1932's Red-Headed Woman, was also one of my initial must-see movies, I opted for my original choice, Lady in the Dark. (Also, most of my friends went to the first screening of Red-Headed Woman, and I felt like somehow it wouldn't be the same without them!) Lady in the Dark was the third nitrate print I watched out of four that screened (I didn't catch Laura), and it was easily the least seen/hardest to find of the bunch. Though I wasn't too enticed by the plot summary, I'm usually all in for rare titles, especially ones screened on rare film stocks. As for the movie itself...what can I say? Some people adored Lady in the Dark, but for the most part, I think this picture inspired more antipathy than I usually hear about.
Nothing unusual going on here...by the way, that dress Ginger Rogers is wearing is now housed in the Smithsonian. (That was the coolest part of the film, for me. That and the nitrate.)
Director Mitchell Leisen was a former art director and designer turned director, and you can tell he had a BALL on this film. There are multiple dream sequences that must have been a dream to design. But...it appears that he probably could have paid more attention to his directorial duties. I found the plot thin, the story meandering and none of the characters very likable. Oh, and the film's hearty dose 1940s sexism left a bad taste in my mouth (looking at the last 10 minutes, specifically). For a minute there, I actually held high hopes that they'd let Ginger Rogers remain single AND a boss lady at the fade out, but no...that couldn't happen. (I don't know what I was thinking.)
While story-wise, TCMFF may have ended on a low note, I savored the chance to watch yet another nitrate print - and this one did include some lovely nitrate moments. Plus, the closing night party made up for any displeasing mood Lady in the Dark may have left me in. The highlight: finally working up the nerve to talk to Beat the Devil script supervisor Angela Allen, who I spotted every day of the festival and was borderline starstruck by. (She also sat behind me at King of Hearts and hearing her chuckle throughout was the most adorable thing ever.) Angela was a sweetheart, and though it was after 11pm, she regaled a few of us with more stories, and she even told me she's working on her memoir! (Now how do I figure out a way to get involved in that...)
I very rarely ask to have my picture taken with people, but I couldn't resist getting one with Angela Allen. (Picture by Christy)
As expected, TCMFF #8 was a runaway success. Although I took it easier this year - final count: 10 movies, 5 special presentations and a handful of introductions - I still had a ball catching up with old pals, meeting new friends and of course, watching movies! Until next year...
To those of you who have been keeping up with these recaps, thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more TCMFF coverage coming soon.