TCMFF 2018 Day 2: Bring on the Drama
May 2, 2018
This year, I told myself to take it easy at TCMFF... well that went out the window on Friday morning.
Claude Jarman Jr. and Donald Bogle discussing Intruder in the Dust. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Intruder in the Dust (1949)
After prying myself out of bed, I hustled over to the Chinese Multiplex for Intruder in the Dust, introduced by Donald Bogle and Claude Jarman Jr, an incredibly skilled child actor who co-starred in the picture. I generally prefer to start the day with lighter fare, but I was glad I caught Intruder in the Dust, because it's an exceptional, powerful film, one I will certainly discuss more in depth at a later time. All I'll say now is that Juano Hernandez's quiet fortitude was incredibly moving, and Elizabeth Patterson brought down the house - something I never thought I'd say of this character actress - pretty much every time she opened her mouth.
Ruta Lee is the definition of firecracker. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Ruta Lee at Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
From there, I stopped in briefly for Ruta Lee's Q&A before Witness for the Prosecution, which was, to my delight, much more crowded than I expected. Man, when this woman steps out into the spotlight, or the carpet, or anywhere with an audience, she puts on a show! Lee shared some stories about how she was chosen for the role (which is small but important) and what Marlene Dietrich thought of her, both of which she told me on opening night, so I'm going to save those tales for my red carpet story. But fear not, I'll reveal more of her saucy Q&A in a future article, because she regaled us with some resplendent stories, including one about Charles Laughton that I might not be able to post... The funniest part: When Lee was informed that they'd have to wrap the conversation up so they could start the screening, she remarked: "Screening?! We could sit here and talk for another 4 hours. Somebody go get the wine and the sandwiches, and we will!" I don't doubt that at least 150 people would have dashed off to order lunch if asked!
A panoramic view of the Academy's 1917 Fotoplayer. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Harold Lloyd: New Dimensions in Sight and Sound
I recently saw Witness for the Prosecution for the first time, and though normally I wouldn't hesitate to see it again, the film overlapped with the Harold Lloyd program, something I was very much looking forward to. Ever since speaking with Lloyd's granddaughter Suzanne on the red carpet last year, I've been keenly intrigued with her grandfather's 3D photography. This particular presentation boasted not only those breathtaking photos but also a selection of Lloyd's home movies, which revealed a loving family man. This is another exhibition that I'll cover separately down the road, but I also wanted to point out that the images displayed on the screen weren't the only highlights of the program: the way in which they were projected and accompanied was also an experience!
The Academy's Randy Haberkamp speaking to Joe Rinaudo, who was manning the Fotoplayer in the lobby. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
For starters, Joe Rinaudo took up residence in the lobby of the Linwood Dunn Theater to man the Academy's 1917 Fotoplayer, which is one of 12 left in the world. The machine is so massive and complex that the lobby was the only location the Academy could place it; thus, not only was the sound piped into the theater, but a live feed of Rinaudo performing was as well, so the audience could watch him play just as a silent movie audience would. A selection of Lloyd shorts, including a 3D conversion sequence in 1923's Safety Last, were also shown on a hand cranked projector from 1909. However, I had to skip out early, because...
Eddie Muller chatting with Marsha Hunt. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Marsha Hunt and None Shall Escape (1944)
... I had to dash to my most highly anticipated event of the festival, 100 year-old Marsha Hunt's conversation before None Shall Escape. I hopped in a Lyft back to the Multiplex and nabbed a queue card - number 84 - which honestly was higher than I thought it would be. (The volunteers actually stopped handing numbers out for this screening, it was that crowded.) As usual, Marsha Hunt was a delight. Every time I've seen her in person she's very much been the lovely, proper lady. That said, I was a bit taken aback - and frankly, I loved it! - that she got a little brazen while talking about None Shall Escape director Andre De Toth. As suggestive as Hunt was, she was characteristically demure, polite, and adorable about it, especially if you were to compare her to Ruta Lee, who told some cheeky stories earlier!
To be honest, after the reaction that Intruder in the Dust elicited, I was kind of disappointed in the audience reaction to None Shall Escape; I think I was expecting more of a vocal and enthusiastic response, especially as Hunt delivers two speeches that are particularly searing. Perhaps that's because, as opposed to Intruder in the Dust, None Shall Escape is a rarity, so much so that Eddie Muller said he wasn't even going to bother asking how many people had seen it because the number would be minuscule. So maybe, as I've seen the movie three times, I was simply more aware of the content and impact it would have, while people viewing it for the first time would probably need to let it sink in, because there's definitely parts of this picture that are blunt and unexpected for a film from 1944. After the screening, I briefly spoke to Roger Memos, who directed the documentary Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity, and he told me that he finds None Shall Escape more relevant today than when he watched it in 2015. I certainly agree. I was also thrilled to read positive reactions on Twitter, because of all the movies in the festival, I felt most invested in seeing this one appreciated by a wide audience.
You can't really tell from this picture, but there were a lot of people dressed up at the Roaring Twenties party. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
None Shall Escape let out a little late, and while I was floored that I Take This Woman - by far the rarest pre-Code at the fest, barely seen since 1931 - hadn't reached queue card number 46,289 yet, the numbers were in the 130s when I got there, which I knew would be too high to get in when you count Spotlight and VIP pass holders. (The infamous Theater 4 seats 177). Though I've already seen the movie, I didn't exactly love it, and I would have liked to give it another shot. (Well, I was like 25% invested in it.) Instead, I enjoyed a glass of wine at the Roaring Twenties party and grabbed a slice of pizza before lining up for my last picture of the night. And I was more than OK with that.
Michael York, Leonard Whiting, and Olivia Hussey in conversation with TCM host Alicia Malone. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
The cast of Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Before this screening, I got to chat with my Twitter friend Raquel of Out of the Past, who placed this film at the top of her TCMFF list. However, after an abbreviated night’s sleep and a long day of movie-going, I knew I couldn't thoroughly enjoy and appreciate this classic, so I opted to stay only for the Q&A. On that front, I absolutely adored the love and friendship on display between Romeo (Leonard Whiting), Juliet (Olivia Hussey), and Tybalt (Michael York) that came as a result of a partnership 50 years ago! It was clearly a very special project for the stars, a mutual feeling they were quick to confirm and repeat; really, with the admiration and respect these three showed one another, I can totally understand why they were cast together. Hell, Whiting and Hussey's chemistry during the Q&A alone almost convinced me to stay for the movie. Almost. Alas, the promise of 8 hours of peaceful slumber won out.
I'll be back in a few days with my recap of TCMFF day 3; stay tuned!