Friday, April 3, 2015

2015 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival Recap: Day 2

Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp
The second and first full day of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, was Friday March 27. And
what a full day it was. I quickly found out that you had to choose what you most wanted to see because there could be up to five films playing on or around the same time. I decided I wanted to see films I hadn’t seen in a long time or never before.

My first choice was John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946) starring Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, and Victor Mature. This was not a new film for me. I’ve seen it several times and even own the DVD. But I love westerns and the opportunity to see it on the big screen was a chance I didn’t want to pass up. Introduced by Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine, who brought some perspective and insight to the film, including what it was like working for Ford. The film looked beautiful. I don’t think it could have looked any better in color; the western vistas were magnificent and every image was suitable for framing. The performances were good all-around. Fonda is steady and strong as Wyatt Earp, Mature is tough (and tender) as the hard-drinking Doc Holliday, and Linda Darnell as Doc’s fiery girlfriend, Chihuahua is lively and beautiful. Other impressive performances are had from Tim Holt, Ward Bond, John Ireland, Alan Mowbray, Jane Darwell, Cathy Downs, and a very menacing Walter Brennen as Old Man Clanton. If you love westerns, Clementine has to be in your top-ten.

Olivia de Havilland, David and Alan Ladd
The next movie I watched was a movie I hadn’t seen in at least 25 years (probably more like 35). I remember seeing The Proud Rebel (1958)  as a young boy and really enjoying it. I probably identified with David Ladd, who was about ten years old when he made the film with his dad, Alan Ladd. The film directed by the legendary Michael Curtiz was presented in a world premier restoration. The film also stars Olivia de Havilland. The story goes that Curtiz coaxed de Havilland (a star he directed in about a dozen films while under contract at Warner Bros.) to appear in this film. The two-time Oscar-winning actress hadn’t been in a U.S. feature film in three years. Well, I must say I enjoyed this film immensely. It was a heart-tugger, but it benefited from great performances from both Ladds and de Havilland, plus some beautiful cinematography from Ted D. McCord. The biggest surprise to me was that the film was in color. I only remember seeing it on TV in black and white. Hardly remembering anything about the plot, this was basically a new film for me. The story revolves around John Chandler (Alan Ladd), a Confederate veteran trying to find a cure for his son. After witnessing a traumatic event during the Civil War, David Chandler (David Ladd) became a mute. The Chandlers travel around going from one doctor to the next, hoping for a cure. They come in contact with a single farm woman Linette Moore (de Havilland), who takes John and his son on as workers at her farm, partially out of sympathy and partially out of self-preservation. Linette is being pressured to give up her land to the Burleighs, headed by father John Burleigh (Dean Jagger). Burleigh has two sons: Jeb (Harry Dean Stanton, billed as Dean Stanton) and Tom (Tom Pittman, billed as Thomas Pittman). The growing relationships between Linette, John, and David make this film stand out in my opinion. So glad I chose to see it as an adult. I saw this film with Laura and Kristina who also really enjoyed it.

The iconic scene that made half
of the crew walk off the set
Next up was a film with tons of nostalgia value: Pinocchio (194). I saw this Disney classic as a small boy. I remember being absolutely terrified by several scenes, including the boys turning into donkeys on Pleasure Island and the Whale sitting at the bottom of the ocean. For a kid it was like watching Jaws, knowing nothing good was going to happen. The animation was magical and viewing it in the El Capitan theater (now owned by Disney) was a treat.

My knowledge of silent films is pretty thin, so the next movie I saw was Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928). Apparently the film was a flop in its day, but it was a hit with this 21st-century audience. Another world premiere restoration, Bill looked new. Featuring some of Keaton’s most famous slapstick bits, including the wall of a house falling down on him, with an open window right where he’s standing is pretty amazing and was enormously risky. Apparently half the crew walked off the set in protest over what they thought was unnecessary risk-taking. The TCM Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis accompanied the film. Steamboat Bill, Jr. is a real gem and worth seeing, even if you’re not a silent movie fan.

Roman Holiday publicity picture
The last film of the evening was a movie that I’ve never seen from beginning to end: Roman Holiday (1953)! Hard to believe I know, but that’s the truth. I even have the film on DVD, but never watched it. Everyone knows the story of Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) escaping her princess duties for one glorious day in Rome with reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). This was another world premier restoration and like all the others, it looked brand new. The sound and picture quality were crystal clear. Showing the film in Disney’s El Capitan theater, where Cinderella is currently playing, seemed amazingly appropriate. Rome looked beautiful in glorious black and white, as did Hepburn, Peck, and Eddie Albert, who is wonderful. He really deserved his Oscar nod. The film that introduced Audrey Hepburn (Oscar winner for Best Actress of  1954) to the world is a delight.

Whew! I can’t believe I saw four movies in one day. Little did I know I would break that record on Saturday. Stay tuned!

P.S. On the second day I also got to share my love of movies via video thanks to the folks at #IHeartMovies. To check out my story, click on the link here.

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