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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hollywood Days -- The Turner Classic Film Festival 2016

Attending only my 2nd TCM Classic Film Festival for 4+ days at the end of April, I felt equal parts film student, party girl, and star groupie.  The 'star groupie' in me could not resist seeking out and photographing the stars on the 'Hollywood Walk of Fame' or certain handprints and footprints and signatures in cement in the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese Theater.  The film student in me relished the opportunity to see new-to-me films, on the big screen, in the presence of celebrities and scholars sharing their personal stories with appreciative audiences.  The 'party girl' in me enjoyed meeting other classic film fans and bloggers who all embraced one another in the joy of indulging at the epicenter of our favorite passion.  It's an experience highly recommended for anyone enamored of film and film history.
A collage of some of the video graphics playing on the big screens prior to each screening.  I love how TCM does this, emphasizing the films and themes of the festival while allowing a feast for the eyes in anticipation of the film.
View on Hollywood Blvd of the
Festival environs
First, I'll admit that I didn't completely fulfill the expectations of my schedule as planned and documented in a previous post. Of that list, because of either getting in line too late, or simply needing some down time, I missed DOUBLE HARNESSLOS TALLOS AMARGOSPRIVATE PROPERTY, "90th Anniversary of Vitaphone (shorts)", DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID, and THE BAND WAGON.  Other than that, I pretty much stuck to my plan and watched a total of 14 films.  Besides THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, which I wrote about here, the films I enjoyed the most were:

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (Thursday evening) -- This was my first film of the festival and despite the fire alarm evacuation five minutes before the end of the film, it was a great start.  I hadn't ever seen this film, and was interested to see more of Dorothy McGuire, who I didn't care for in THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE, and who was OK in FRIENDLY PERSUASION -- those being the only other films of hers I've seen.  Here she was magnificent playing the steely Irish immigrant mother in turn of the century NYC lower east side trying to hold her family together.  Ted Donaldson, who as a child actor portrayed her son 'Neeley', introduced the film and, among other stories, told about how infatuated he was with Joan Blondell, here as McGuire's scandal-ridden but beautiful and kind-hearted sister.  The film was well-paced, moving, and yet felt true-to-life.

HE RAN ALL THE WAY--In my preview post I wrote that this was in a dead heat with DOUBLE HARNESS for a Friday afternoon viewing -- it needn't have been, as very few people got into the latter, and most of those rushed to the Egyptian to see this, John Garfield's last film.  It was a stunning noir, written by Dalton Trumbo, and underscored everything good about John Garfield.  Here he played a tough baddie, who nonetheless projected enough raw sexuality as well as vulnerability to make you forget to root against him.  I marveled at the talent we lost at a young age.  Shelley Winters was effective as his love interest/kidnap victim, and an older Wallace Ford was perfect as her middle-aged doughy father.  The film maintained tension until the inevitably regretful end.  RIP Mr. Garfield, and thank you.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (Friday evening).  Two words: Angela Lansbury.  It was worth it to "run all the way" from the Egyptian Theatre down Hollywood Blvd back to the 'TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX' to catch this screening.  I got in the back of the line seemingly two nautical miles from the cinema entrance, didn't even collect a queue number, but managed to get in and meet my friend who was early and was guarding a seat for me with her life (thank you, L.!). While it was a thrill to see Lansbury live, and cheer her on as one of the most inspirational great ladies of the cinema and stage working today, her performance in the film was the true highlight (I had recently seen Lansbury live and in a smaller venue at the Harvard Film Archive in 2014). This was a chilling cold-war mystery/black comedy that went in all kinds of unexpected directions.  Nightmares figure prominently here, and the film itself was nightmare-inducing, yet fascinating and highly recommended.  I was wide awake until the film ended at about midnight, and considering the sleep deprivation I had endured, this is saying something.

Sr. Rose Pacatte interviewed by
Ileana Douglas
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (Saturday evening)-- Of all the films, this one was the worst attended, perhaps about a third of the smallish Chinese Multiplex Theater 6 was full.  Well, it didn't have a major film star or family member present; it isn't a little-known precode or highly-anticipated restoration; it was up against blockbusters THE LONG GOODBYE and THE KING AND I; and it celebrates faith in our largely secular society.  That said, for me it represented an opportunity to see a film I'd never seen, one that made Jennifer Jones a star and won her an Oscar, and suitably fit in with the festival theme of 'moving pictures'. I was a bit worried it might be too saccharine, but it really wasn't.  There were a couple scenes that bordered on it, but altogether it was quite moving and genuine.  The supporting cast of Vincent Price, Anne Revere, Charles Bickford (rapidly becoming a fave), and Gladys Cooper was uniformly excellent, and their parts were well-written and nuanced.  The digital presentation of the black-and-white photography was luminous, and the story was compelling.  This was a highlight, and I was glad to see the fascinating and inspiring Sr. Rose Pacatte (film critic for National Catholic Reporter) introduce the film.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS The film, for me, was average, but what made this screening special was the presentation in advance of the film by visual effects artist Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt, who did extensive detective research to uncover the probable methods that Paramount's artists used to create the effects of the martian warships and alien creatures as they attempt to take over planet Earth.  This is a great example of why you attend a festival like this.  While I didn't learn enough to try these effects at home (!), it was fun to watch the effects in the film with the new knowledge of the technical wizardry, which, for the mid-1950s, was pretty effective. Here are some photos taken from their presentation.

THE STARS -- I'm going to let the photos (mostly taken by me, and therefore pretty amateur) speak for themselves.  I felt I was doing these long-gone stars homage for the joy and fun they had brought me over the past years.  I couldn't find some of my favorite stars' "stars", and didn't have time to search for very long, so I will add to my photo collage with new "stars" each year.
Reaching through time 

TCM Staff greet festival-goers
on Thursday
Getting in to town a few days before the festival started led to a tour of the Forest Lawn Cemetery and the Getty Museum.  When the festival opened on Thursday, it was a blast getting to meet fellow fans, TCM-Party regulars and bloggers, especially when you crossed paths later in the festival and breathlessly compared notes on the films and guests.  My regret was the festival flew by so quickly there wasn't enough time to attend all the events, social and educational.  All in all, it was an enthralling experience which I plan to repeat next year.  Here's to Hollywood!
Getty Museum environs on a sunny day in L.A.

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