Saturday, April 30, 2011


Those four days of bleary-eyed movie fan bliss known as the TCM Classic Movie Festival are upon us again, and once again I have been lucky enough, under the aegis and good graces of Keith Uhlich, Ed Gonzalez, Slant magazine and The House Next Door, Slant’s official blog, to be turned loose upon the general area of Hollywood and Highland to experience it and cover it. (My extensive coverage of last year’s festival can be read here. Readers up for another go at similar reportage can expect something new for 2011 and in the same vein sometime in the next couple of weeks.)

Fears of not enough support for a second festival were put to rest quickly when Turner Classic Movies reported a better-than-doubling of sales for passes for the festival from last year’s sales figures. And just like last year, a major part of the fun of the festival is in the fascinating and entertaining conversations struck up between strangers, seatmates on a journey through a shared appreciation for film history. I’ve met someone new at every film I’ve attended, and spent a grand time with old friends as well.

As for the movies themselves, this year’s lineup of films is nothing if not as eclectic as the selection from the first year—my only complaint so far is that Theme 2011, Music and the Movies, while it has yielded worthy focus on Bernard Herrmann and great movie musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Royal Wedding, Pennies from Heaven and Cabin in the Sky, has also yielded a closing Sunday night lineup across the festival schedule that is less inspiring-- Fantasia doesn’t stir the blood like Metropolis did last year and, the appearance of George Chakiris notwithstanding, screenings of West Side Story and Manhattan (a tribute to George Gershwin in films) are just too commonplace for such climactic positioning. As the Sunday slots left open for rescheduling popular films from earlier in the festival get filled in, perhaps Sunday will start looking brighter. But for right now, in lieu of the more detailed commentary to come later, here’s a brief look at what I’ve been able to take in on day 1.5 (Thursday evening, all day Friday). To sum up in the briefest, broadest possible way, of the first six films I’ve seen five have been comprised of or featured moments, images or actors of surpassing beauty. (And one featured one of our most caricatured actors in perhaps his finest performance.) Not bad for really just the first day. Saturday comes quickly, in just a few hours. Sleep awaits and with it dreams of the flights of beauty, violence, agony and transcendence to come. Here are some of the things I dreamt on the big screen on Day 1.5…

Streamers, scrims, nets, patterns of latticework, iron gates, one upon another and another and another... The most thickly atmospheric, claustrophobically beautiful (and last) of Josef Von Sternberg's Marlene Dietrich cycle, The Devil is a Woman (1935).

Cagney, all elbows and fists, in Taxi (1932; Roy Del Ruth), a quintessential pre-Code Warner Brothers (First National) melodrama with enough electricity to light the Eastern Seaboard...

...and who knew Loretta Young, Cagney's rip-snorting costar, was ever this beautiful? (Okay, maybe you did, but I sure didn't.)

"It ain't right to kill a man and let a rat live!"-- Edward G. Robinson, devastating in Mervyn LeRoy's Two Seconds (1932)

Kathryn Grant is Princess Parisa, who inspires Kerwin Matthews in more ways than one, completely beautiful in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958; Nathan Juran)

Another kind of beauty, courtesy of Ray Harryhausen from the same film...

Miriam Hopkins, incandescent in Ernst Lubitsch's maligned and underseen, but perfectly wonderful Design for Living (1933)...

with unlikely and breezy comic support offered by Fredric March and Gary Cooper.

Bodies in motion in the completely entrancing, almost totally geographically artificial Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954; Stanley Donen). (The screening was marred only by a pitifully sub-par print).

Billed as Julie "Newmeyer," the Catwoman emerges as Dorcas, the loveliest (and certainly most Amazonian) of the Seven Brides.

Jane Powell, sprightly and beautiful at age 82, spoke with Leonard Maltin on stage before the movie and described the appeal of her movie star personality as being essentially consistent with her own: "I just showed up and changed my clothes a lot."

Up Next: Day 2.



Thedriveindude said...

Sounds like so much fun. Kinda agree with you about the West Side Story screening. I do love this film but there was a similar evening a little ways back at the same venue. I shot video of that night,

There is a much more interesting screening of WSS that will take place later this summer at the Hollywood Bowl. The film will be shown of the Bowl's superwide screen with the L.A. Phil playing the entire soundtrack live with the original films vocals. Can't wait to see that.

BTW, did you see or get the chance to interview Allison Anders? If so then I'm looking forward to reading that.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Get those early films by William Wellman on the Netflix queue for more lovely Loretta.

And if I can make a recommendation - Whistle Down the Wind. Not available on DVD, and you get to see Hayley Mills in person, and on screen before she became on Disney icon.

larry aydlette said...

Glad to see you getting this opportunity again, Dennis.
And, oh yeah, Loretta Young was always that beautiful.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

DID: I opted for Seven Brides instead of The Connection, which is the one Anders was hosting. My mental energy just wasn't up to the task of an experimental Shirley Clarke fake doc about heroin addicts.

Peter: I am on the pre-code Loretta tip, for sure! And though I did eventually miss Whistle Down the Wind I will put it on my "must-see" list. I didn't miss Hayley though. While I was waiting in line for the Marlene Dietrich film on Thursday night many of the stars who were in attendance at the An American in Paris screening made their way to the parking area through the hallway and lobby of the Chinese multiplex area. One of the first things of note that happened to me at the festival this year was Hayley Mills walking right past me on her way out. I was so excited that I didn't realize (someone told me right after) that Juliet Mills was walking right beside her! Two of my first big childhood crushes right there. Incredible.

Lary: This year was pre-code heaven. Lots of wonderful stuff including Taxi and Two Seconds. They are very highly recommended, and I hope Warner Archives does right by 'em soon. The one thing I didn't do this year was hang out much at the Hollywood Roosevelt. I made a perfunctory walk-through on Thursday before Dietrich. Maybe I'll have another chance to visit there soon? ;)

Dennis Cozzalio said...

By the way, time and exhaustion caught up with me over the weekend and I haven't posted the two updates I wanted to get to... yet. But I will, and hopefully today. Then it's on to the big piece about a festival that is going to be much more interesting to write about than I initially thought it would be.

Bob Turnbull said...

Jane Powell! I have to say, I'm quite smitten with her...Particularly in "Royal Wedding" where she's not only gorgeous, but just so much damn fun. And she enlivens otherwise pretty basic films like "Nancy Goes To Rio" and "Two Weeks With Love" to the point where I would re-watch either at the drop of a hat. She still looks radiant and even somewhat mischievous (I saw some of the photos of her at the TCM event resplendent in aquamarine).

"Design For Living" is wonderful as is Miriam Hopkins. Do I prefer her here or in "Trouble In Paradise"? Don't ask questions like that! How can I choose?

Dennis, do you know anything about the film she squeezed in between those two Lubitsch comedies called "The Story of Temple Drake"? The stills and publicity photos on IMDB have me curious and it sounds like it has pre-code subject matter all over it...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bob, Jane Powell was really fun to listen to, as was Barbara Rush--she spoke to Robert Osborne before a screening of Bigger Than Life. Both women were funny, charming and none too reverent, without being nasty-- Ms. Rush made it clear she didn't care for some of the methods of Mssrs. Brando or Martin Ritt, for example.

As for Miriam and The Story of Temple Drake, they showed it at the first TCM Fest last year, and it was marvelous. You can click on the link to my piece on the 2010 festival (found in this post) to read what I wrote about it. Interesting in that it was essentially the same story as the Brit noir No Flowers for Miss Blandish, and far superior to it too.

This year was a real treat for pre-code fans, by the way! Stay tuned for more details!

Julie said...

Two Seconds has been out via Warner Archive for a while now, I believe. Speaking of pre-Code, did you get a chance to catch This Is The Night? Simply delicious.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Julie, thanks for the info on Two Seconds. And yes, I did get to see This is the Night on the final day. The first screening was so popular that it garnered one of the TBA spots for Sunday afternoon, and I'm so glad I did. Riotously funny, sexy and so creative in its sound design, which the filmmakers embraced with the joy of a very smart kid getting a new toy and playing with it for all it's worth. Roland Young, Charlie Ruggles, Thelma Todd, Cary Grant (his first movie), all hilarious together. And I have a new-found fascination for the film's female lead, Lily Damita, whom I know next to nothing. She was completely entrancing. I'm really looking forward to writing about it!