Monday, May 21, 2018

TCM Classic Film Festival 2018--The Power of Words and Love of the Movies

The late Robin Williams once said, "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." Those of us who love classic cinema and the history of Hollywood certainly know this to be true. On that note, the theme of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) was Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen, and the programming brought our greater classic cinema family together once again. We enjoyed some of the best screenplays of all time along with storylines that featured characters who were responsible for the written word. My own personal programming seemed to swing between escapist movies of the 1930s, film noir of the 1940s, and comedies from more recent years that were celebrating significant anniversaries.

Like last year, everything kicked off on Tuesday with my own talk related to the festival - Fashion in Film of TCMFF 2018. It was held at the Woman's Club of Hollywood, a cultural monument that has existed for over 100 years with deep connections to classic cinema including its time as the Hollywood School for Girls. Stars associated with the place include pioneers like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin as well as boasting students like Jean Harlow and teachers like Edith Head. My event had a sold out crowd filled with many of the people I know and love from years together at the festival, and they honored me with a standing ovation. It was wonderful to have time to catch up a bit before the first official day of the festival on Thursday.

Opening day is always like being shot out of a cannon. It's a rush of activity at the Roosevelt Hotel, the headquarters of the festival, and seeing who you can before events and screenings start to take all of your time. It began with a "Meet TCM" panel at Club TCM where TCM leadership discussed everything from the launch of a new TCM website to the possibility of the cruise returning to the challenges of making the channel even more available to audiences via streaming.

Then after a couple more hours of meeting and greeting friends poolside, I was off to my first movie - 1944's To Have and Have Not. This was one of the movies I covered in my talk (and is among The Style Essentials on GlamAmor), and seeing those Milo Anderson costumes on the big screen was incredible. There are always new details to discover. Of course it was also Lauren Bacall's first film, and there's nothing like watching Bogart and Bacall fall in love.

After that screening, I drove to a big opening night party co-hosted by TCM and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It was quite the event - held at Boulevard3 on Sunset Boulevard. The heads of TCM were there, including GM Jennifer Dorian, SVP Brand Creative and Marketing Pola Chagnon, and Programming head Charlie Tabesh. TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz and Eddie Muller were also there mingling with guests along with the channel's newest hosts Dave Karger and Alicia Malone. In addition, celebrities like Mel Brooks, Paul Sorvino, and Eva Marie Saint were there and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. The bonus this year was that I was able to bring my significant other Kevin as my plus one - the adorable Cora Sue Collins described us as "happily unmarried" when we met her at the party - and I was finally able to introduce him to all the people I've talked about for the last seven years. We were so busy talking with everyone that you'll see I only got a couple pictures from the party.

Friday morning came far too quickly after only about 3.5 hours of sleep (a regular occurrence for me at nearly every festival). However, it was worth it to see a phenomenal movie from the standpoint of style - 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire. It was my first time watching it on the big screen and it was glorious to see Travilla's costume design for Marilyn Monroe in such detail. His costumes for Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable were equally striking and showcased his talent as a great costume designer; each were unique to their characters onscreen but also reflected something of the women's personalities in real life. 1953 was a pivotal year for Marilyn in particular - Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire all came out that year - so I enjoyed seeing the movie for that reason as well.

My friend Elise joined me for Millionaire and she also joined me in line for 1936's Three Smart Girls. This was a movie I had never seen and didn't really know that much about its star Deanna Durbin. It turned out that Girls was her very first film and I was blown away by her talent. It was also really fun to see a young (and charming) Ray Milland as a love interest. Film critic Susan King interviewed a relative of director Henry Koster before the screening, and we learned about Deanna's growth as an actress working with him and how she sacrificed a career in the opera in order to be in film. I love movies from the 1930s, and this was the first of several I would see at the festival.

The biggest gathering of my TCMFF family happened that night for 1945's Leave Her to Heaven. There was much discussion in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre and tons of photos taken while we waited. It happily worked out that many of us were able to sit together inside and we got a great group selfie (you can see it below). This screening was special because it was shown in nitrate. It was the first color movie I have ever seen in nitrate and it really was something to behold. There was just so much more to experience - you felt like you were there in the movie with the characters at each of the locations. And Gene Tierney's costumes - my god, they were extraordinary. This was another movie whose backstory and costumes I discussed in my talk before the festival, and I loved being able to celebrate the film's (relatively unknown) costume designer Kay Nelson. Several people said they got so much more out of the film due to things I shared, which meant so much to me.

Saturday, the third day of the festival, started at the Egyptian Theatre with two films from the 1930s - the Pre-Code Girls About Town (1931) and Wife Vs. Secretary (1936). Girls about Town was dazzling. It was another movie I had never seen and I just wanted to live inside the Art Deco world of the production. The costumes Travis Banton created for star Kay Francis were especially wonderful and, in true Pre-Code fashion, the movie included her walking around in lingerie. Seeing Joel McCrea as a young man was also something to behold. As a bonus, the movie was introduced by Illeana Douglas who spoke with Wyatt McCrea (Joel's grandson) and Zoe Perry (relative of the story's writer Zoe Akins) before the audience. After watching that movie with my friend Casey, who adores classic style as much as I do, it was time for MGM all-stars Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, and Jimmy Stewart in Wife Vs. Secretary. I loved the beautiful costumes from Dolly Tree (and, though uncredited, I assume Adrian outfitted Harlow) and there are great performances from each of them in this film.

That night I finally deviated from the 1930s and indulged in a comedy I absolutely love - 1998's The Big Lebowski. The movie was celebrating its 20th anniversary at the Chinese Theatre, and Ben spoke with Jeff Bridges in front of the audience before the screening. It was something to experience because The Dude was in full effect - Bridges actually had the entire audience "ohm" in waves and then paced the stage for some time before finally settling into his chair next to Ben. Some friends questioned my seeing The Big Lebowski at the festival, but this movie should be considered a modern classic. The script, the direction, the acting, the production (which includes references to Busby Berkeley musicals) is all incredibly well done. It's so good that I've memorized much of the movie and can't help relating to parts of it, especially the colorful characters, since I've lived so long in Santa Monica.

The final day of the festival on Sunday began at Club TCM - the Blossom Room at the Roosevelt Hotel - to learn what it was like "Growing Up Mankiewicz." Illeana moderated a fascinating and funny discussion between Ben, his brother Josh, and their cousins John and Alexandra. There were many stories about Ben and Josh's father Frank Mankiewicz, grandfather Herman Mankiewicz, and John and Alexandra's father Joseph Mankiewicz. There are five Oscars between the members of the Mankiewicz family, and it was interesting to hear how some were kept shiny and new and others were tarnished due to a certain amount of ambivalence and neglect.

Another movie I saw that was a bit outside my TCM film festival norm was 1988's Bull Durham. This movie celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Egyptian Theatre and brought out the director Ron Shelton and star Tim Robbins to talk with Ben before the screening. Ben is an expert when it comes to sports, and especially passionate about baseball, and he described Bull Durham as the best sports movie of all time. It's no wonder - Shelton made every effort to tell the full story of baseball and it's one that fans don't normally see. I must say that Robbins really does deserve high praise for bringing his character to life. A lesser actor may have just played Nuke as a dumb jock rather than an endearing young man who becomes enlightened both on and off the field.

I always like to end my festivals at the Chinese Theatre and this year's closing night movie was a groundbreaking comedy - 1978's Animal House. I've seen it many times of course, but TCM did a proper celebration of its 40th anniversary. As you'll see in the photos below, most of the cast was there along with director John Landis. They all spoke at length about what it was like to film the movie, including hilarious bonding experiences they had before and sometimes during the production. This included a story of the "Delta house" actors dropping by an actual frat party to see what Greek life was all about, and finding themselves in a fight when they were physically escorted out. Once the movie ended, everyone was off to the closing night party at the Roosevelt Hotel across the street to celebrate another great year and once again say good-bye.

I've tried to capture as many moments as I could to share with you here, but many times I was simply caught up in the moment of being with my TCM family and celebrating classic Hollywood. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Until next year, my friends...

I chose a white dress to begin this year's festival and it was the only non-vintage dress I wore -
I paired the white Betsey Johnson sheath with a 1950s camel purse and matching pumps

The Roosevelt Hotel in its earliest days

Entering the Roosevelt Hotel,
the center of all TCMFF festivities

The festival begins for me in Club TCM,
which is in the historic Blossom Room of the Roosevelt and the site of the first Oscars

Some famous Warner Brothers costumes were featured at Club TCM,
including two from Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford on left and Ann Blyth on right)

Elise and I captured by one of the TCM photographers
before the "Meet TCM" panel

Then it was off to the Egyptian Theatre
to see 1944's To Have and Have Not

This was my first time seeing To Have and Have Not on the big screen -
the movie is among The Style Essentials here on GlamAmor

Then it was off to Boulevard3 on Sunset Boulevard for the big opening night party
with all of TCM leadership, celebrities, and the festival's Spotlight pass holders

Boulevard3 has many rooms and all were beautifully decorated -
things were so busy that these are the only shots I got of the evening

This was the first year that Kevin was able to join me as a plus one
and it was such fun to introduce him to so many at TCM and my classic film family

Day 2 of TCMFF 2018 started with 1953's How to Marry a Millionaire

I wore a tangerine 1960s shirtdress (with 1950s black patent purse and matching pumps)
in reference to that color being featured in Millionaire as well as Leave Her to Heaven

With some of my crazy crew in between movies (l-r): Elise, Kaci, and Karin

Three Smart Girls was the next movie I saw,
which I had never seen before 

Photos with some more of my favorite people while waiting in line - 
with Kellee (above) and Aurora, Elise, Alan, and Kellee (l-r below)

Caught talking with Elise in Priscilla's picture before Three Smart Girls

Kaci and I had a delicious dinner at Miceli's before going to see Leave Her to Heaven

Last movie of Day 2 was 1945's Leave Her to Heaven in nitrate at the Egyptian Theatre,
and it seemed like everyone I knew was there

With fellow vintage lover Casey

A new tradition is for someone taking a photo of us taking a photo of ourselves -
this year Laura caught my selfie with Aurora, Joel, Kellee, and Kaci

After several failed attempts at a selfie of our big group of friends,
we finally put the camera in Marya's capable hands

 For Day 3 I wore a 1960s vintage navy sweaterdress as a nod to Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968)
with a 1960s faux fur leopard handbag and nude pumps

The first movie of Day 3 was the Pre-Code Girls About Town (1931)
with Kay Francis and Joel McCrea

I was lucky to be able to see Girls About Town with Casey
who loves classic style as much as I do 

There was a discussion before the film between (r-l)
Illeana Douglas, Wyatt McCrea (Joel's grandson),
and Zoe Perry (relative of writer Zoe Akins)

Next up was 1936's Wife Vs. Secretary at the Egyptian
with MGM's biggest stars Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and Jean Harlow

Karin staged a shot with Theresa and I at Wife Vs. Secretary
that was supposed to be reminiscent of Shanghai Express

Day 3 at TCMFF also took a surreal turn -
LA icon Angelyne watched me touch up my makeup while sitting in my car near the Egyptian
and gave me an approving smile before driving away 

Day 3 for me ended at the iconic Chinese Theatre

This year I included a movie that was very different for me at TCMFF
but one of my favorites - The Big Lebowski

Ben did his best to interview Jeff Bridges before the movie,
but The Dude took over the stage before settling into a discussion about Bridges' career

Closing day of the festival began at the Roosevelt Hotel

I chose a 1960s red belted wiggle dress with 1950s red patent leather purse
and ivory reptile pumps for the final day of the festival

Kellee and I somehow always manage to coordinate at least one day of the festival -
this year even Jeremy Arnold got our unwritten memo to wear some red

Kellee and I with our bestie Aurora to learn what it was like "Growing Up Mankiewicz," 
a fascinating and funny panel moderated by Illeana Douglas in Club TCM

Back at the Egyptian for another movie that was outside my norm for TCMFF -
1988's Bull Durham

Director Ron Shelton and star Tim Robbins joined Ben to discuss the film
in honor of its 30th anniversary

The day and the festival would end with one of the greatest comedies of all time - 
1978's Animal House

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking comedy, 
most of the cast and director John Landis shared hilarious stories of the production
(so many of them there that poor Ben didn't even have a seat)

After the movie, it's off to the festival's closing night party at the Roosevelt

Celebrating another wonderful festival with friends
Lara, Karie, Isabella, Beth, and Kaci (above)
and Karin and John (below - you'll see me in red bottom right)

The closing night party is always bittersweet -
a great celebration, but so hard to say goodbye

1 comment:

Silver Screenings said...

Looks like a wonderful time! Thanks for sharing your experiences and photos.

P.S. You look fabulous, as always. :)

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