TCMFF 2018 Day 3: No Rest for the Weary
May 4, 2018
Saturday started off with a nice mile long walk, which may sound incredibly lengthy to those who live in LA, but really, it’s not.
The Dome is so photogenic. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Stopping by Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958)
From one of my free parking spots on Sunset, I hoofed it to the Arclight's Cinerama Dome for a special presentation of Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich, the first - and last - picture made in the Cinemiracle process. Windjammer was one of two films I saw at TCMFF this year that I had never heard of before, the other being Intruder in the Dust. For this particular title, it was the 'Cinerama' that caught my attention. Though the venue is a bit of a hike, I always enjoy watching movies at the Dome, especially Cinerama ones, because TCM always pays such great detail to them.
Cool little keepsake from the Windjammer screening. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
For instance, back in 2016, a screening of Holiday in Spain, aka Scent of Mystery (1960) was presented with the works, aka mini sample-sized perfume vials filled with different aromas handed out to each audience member to recreate the original premise of the movie. I’m pretty sure the gimmick failed in execution just as soundly as it did back in the early 1960s, but it was certainly fun while it lasted! For Windjammer, we were given a replica of the program audiences received 60 years ago this very month when the film premiered, which was a nice touch.
Mary Ann Anderson and Ida Lupino, probably in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, I only caught a few minutes of Windjammer, because I had to head back to queue up for Outrage. (I did enjoy the overture, though; for a few moments, I thought I had transported to Disneyland!) Now this next block was the most painful of the fest for me, as far as decisions go. Outrage, which I missed when it played at the UCLA Film and Television Archive in early April, was scheduled opposite a rare comedy condemned by the Legion of Decency, 1940's This Thing Called Love, and as someone who frequently researches in the Academy’s Production Code Administration (PCA) files, that condemnation is an immediate draw for me. (I also took a peek at this film's PCA files before the fest, which I discuss more on Twitter if you're interested.) But alas, I was banking on that being a TBA and instead opted for Outrage, partly due to the introduction by Mary Ann Anderson, who was Lupino’s conservator.
Anderson shared some tales from Lupino’s later years, one of my favorites being the fact that when Lupino watched a TV program with bad writing, she'd turn the sound down and make up her own dialogue! I’ll reveal more from the Q&A and the movie sometime in the future, once I go through all the recorded introductions on my phone. But on the film front, I will say that Outrage was gripping, powerful, and alternatively heartbreaking and headache-inducing. While I recognize and commend how progressive Lupino’s story was for the period, at the same time, it’s still tough watching how society reacted to certain things back then – and I think part of the reason I feel that way is because society is still working on how we respond to assault today, almost 70 years later.
The clothing in this still from This Thing Called Love intrigues me...
Saturday is also the day that the TBAs are unveiled! Contrary to what I politely requested in my fest preview, This Thing Called Love landed in the only spot I couldn’t make, 3:15 on Sunday, which conflicted with the one program I was dying to see that day. Perhaps TCM misread my appeal (I kid). I guess I simply wasn't meant to see this one at TCMFF, but fear not: using my resourcefulness, I’ve already found a way to see This Thing Called Love through other means.
Cari Beauchamp in conversation with Cora Sue Collins. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)
After grabbing a quick meal, I headed to the dreaded Theater 4 for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. (To my astonishment, it wasn't all that bad this time around!) Honestly, Tom Sawyer is one film I normally would have no interest in seeing, but since I missed guest Cora Sue Collins at a pre-fest meet-up and on the red carpet, I made this movie a priority - and because her Q&A was at the end, I stayed for the whole thing, to boot; I have to admit, I like that TCM programs so many different types of films, and I appreciate the fact that I can find myself watching something I otherwise probably never would. The picture certainly had its charms, like the lead, Tommy Kelly, who possessed no acting background and nailed the jubilance of the age. (Though I will say I was surprised at some of the more harrowing moments, like a villain hurling a knife at a child - things like that.) As for Collins, she exhibits a fiery spark, just like Ruta Lee, and a true entertainer's spirit. With that said, it was rather sad to learn that she only appeared in movies from age 5 to 18. She did share a rather devastating reason for her departure as a teenager, which I'll post here at a later time.
Kay Francis and Lilyan Tashman primp as two Girls About Town.
Girls About Town (1931)
I hopped from good ol' family entertainment... to a pre-Code boasting paid escorts, lingerie galore, and one very transparent bathing suit top. Girls About Town was my most anticipated pre-Code of the fest, mainly because I had never seen it, and luckily it was scheduled in the Egyptian so I knew I'd have no problem making it in. Prior to viewing this title, I was already a fan of Kay Francis, but now I'm a fan of Lilyan Tashman, too; boy, did she hit all those comedic beats perfectly! In terms of the story, I found it rather interesting that everyone in this picture comes out as the good gal/guy in the end, which is rather rare for a movie from this period. In particular, I enjoyed how the money hungry Tashman teams up with her sugar daddy's wife and helps them get back together! Again, that's not the sort of relationship you generally see in these films, but it was humorous, bold, and heartwarming all at the same time. Truly a delight, this picture, and one I'd definitely like to experience again!
Nancy Kwan chatting with Donald Bogle. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Nancy Kwan and The World of Suzie Wong (1960)
Whew, the day isn't over yet! I swung by The World of Suzie Wong to hear Nancy Kwan's intro, which was great and very timely, as she discussed a hot topic, diversity. Like a broken record, I’ll be sure to share more from this Q&A soon. I’ve never seen The World of Suzie Wong, and while I would have loved to stick around for the main event, I was kind of intent upon experiencing my first poolside screening ever…
My first poolside movie! (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Where the Boys Are (1960) Poolside
As I mentioned in my fest preview, I've been a fan of Where the Boys Are for years, so when it was announced as a TCMFF entry, I knew I had to see it - at least part of it. I headed over to the Roosevelt early and luckily had the chance to hang out with some friends before the movie started, including Raquel, Danny, Sabina, and Christy. I quickly learned that poolside presentations are fun, if not a wee bit uncomfortable, especially since we were sitting on what amounted to a padded bench (but we scored a spot next to the heat lamps, which is what really mattered). Personally, I was crossing my fingers for a mini cast reunion, but instead we were treated to a performance of the theme song - yes, "Where the Boys Are" - which was a lovely consolation prize. However, as much as I relished getting to experience parts of the movie on a big screen, that's all I got to see, because soon enough I was off to my last picture of the night. (Boy, I sometimes hate how much the TCMFF schedule overlaps!)
Please enjoy this blurry photo of John Carpenter introducing Scarface. (Photo by Kim Luperi)
Per my original schedule, Spellbound (1945) on nitrate was next on the docket, but when I read that it was almost 2 hours long AND a fire alarm at the Egyptian was pushing the start time back 15 minutes, I made the executive decision to catch another pre-Code. Well, to be honest, it wasn't that hard of a choice to make. With John Carpenter in attendance, I was fully expecting this screening to be a killer to get in to, but it actually wasn't packed. (I told a friend that this would be harder to get in to than the 20th anniversary of The Big Lebowski with Jeff Bridges. Yeah, I was probably wrong.) Carpenter only spoke for a few minutes, but he was quite enthusiastic and knowledgeable, which the audience appreciated. As for Scarface, a film I haven't seen in years, I was taken aback by the violence - by that I mean there were like a million more drive-bys and gunshots than I remember - and how unique Ann Dvorak's performance was. I heartily agree with one of Carpenter's opening statements in which he called Dvorak's turn incredibly modern; she certainly stunned and stood out, giving the character a rather naive sense of maturity that strikes me as incredibly contemporary.
Saturday was long, wasn't it? Stay tuned for my review of the final day of TCMFF, coming soon! (Spoiler: It was super short compared to Saturday.)