Sunday, May 8, 2016

2016 #TCMFF: Saturday, The Second Full Day

Saturday the second full day of the festival offered some really great films. Fortunately, the choices were easier (for me) than on Thursday. The movie I chose to see in the morning was Bambi (1942). I only saw Bambi once before in the movie theater, but I love classic Disney. They always remind me of my youth growing up. My older sister always took me to the movies and we saw just about every Disney movie released or re-released between 1962 and 1970. Those were good times. Movies are like music, when viewed they can bring back past memories and emotions.

Donnie Dunagan was the voice and model for Bambi.
Author and filmmaker William Joyce interviewed Donnie Dunagan, the voice of Bambi, before the movie. Dunagan was an absolute delight. He charmed us with his stories about working at Disney (he also posed for Bambi’s facial expressions) when the studio facilities were brand new and how he squirted a grumpy Disney executive in the back of the head with his water pistol. According to Dunagan, he was the only Disney employee who didn’t like kids; he said everyone else was so nice to him. Dunagan went on to explain that being the voice of Bambi has given him many opportunities to meet people. He told the story of a young handicapped girl in a wheelchair brought to meet him by her parents. Dunagan introduced himself and he asked what her name was. She replied, “you can call me Flower if you want to.” Okay, we knew we’d be crying somewhere during Bambi, but we hadn’t counted on getting misty during the introduction. Joyce did a wonderful job interviewing Dunagan, carefully not making the interview about him (Alec Baldwin take note.).

Dunagan stayed around after the movie was over. I got to shake his hand and have him say, “enjoy your life!” What a treat; I will never forget that experience. Oh, the movie was good too!

Carl Reiner was interviewed by Illeana Douglas.
Next I was off to spend “An Afternoon With Carl Reiner” and the screening of Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982). The movie, a homage and spoof of film noir movies from the 1940s was a hoot. Hearing the entire audience howl with laughter inside the Chinese Theatre was contagious. Starring Steve Martin (looking so young) and Rachel Ward (looking so beautiful), the film was a technical marvel, splicing pieces of famous films noir starring the likes of Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Burt Lancaster, and Ava Gardner, to name a few. I enjoyed it more this time then when first released since my depth and knowledge of classic films is much deeper.

After the movie, Reiner was interviewed by Illeana Douglas. Reiner talked about his early career as a writer and performer and how The Dick Van Dyke show came about. He had some great stories, including how he chose Mary Tyler Moore to play Van Dyke’s wife Laura in the classic sitcom. He reminisced about working on movies like The Thrill Of It All with Doris Day and James Garner and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming with Eva Marie Saint (who would introduce the film Sunday afternoon) and Alan Arkin, in his first major film role. It was great to be able to see this living comedy legend in person.

Phil Silvers, Peter Lawford, Gina Lollobridgida, and Telly Savalas in Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell

The next set of movies presented itself with some more tough choices: Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), The Big Sleep (1946), The War of the Worlds (1953), which was newly restored, and The Yearling (1946), featuring Claude Jarman Jr. I had seen all of the movies before, except Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell. I really wanted to hear Jarman talk about what it was like working with Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman, but I opted to see Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell with Gina Lollobrigida. Lollobrigida at 87 is still beautiful and vibrant. She talked about how she never intended to be an actress (she studied art), but started out playing bit parts for money, which she needed and then being offered lead roles in Italian films, and then finally making it to Hollywood. The movie was delightful and what a cast: Lollobrigida in the title role, Shelley Winters, Peter Lawford, Phil Silvers, Janet Margolin, Lee Grant, and Telly Savalas! Lollobrigida kept the movie moving smoothly with great comedic skill and charm. Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, according to the TCM Film Festival guide was the uncredited inspiration for the musical Mamma Mia! Once again, the great Chinese Theatre was filled with riotous laughter watching some of the greatest talents from the mid-20th century. What a joy!

Deborah Kerr and Yul Bryner in The King and I presented in Cinemascope 55
Next up was the restored version of The King and I (1956). I think the last time I saw this movie was at least 30 years ago. The movie was introduced by Rita Moreno who talked about how she was cast and what it was like working on such a big budget film with stars Deborah Kerr and Yul Bryner. The Cinemascope 55 restoration was perfect. This was another movie on the Chinese Theatre’s great screen and it looked amazing. After the movie ended, I sprinted to the multiplex to get in line for Midnight (1939), one of my favorite screwball comedies.

The cast of Midnight; did I mention I didn’t get to see this one?
Another disappointment: Midnight was sold out! There wasn’t anything else I really wanted to see so I consoled myself the only way I knew how. I had a late sit-down dinner. I tweeted my disappointment and when I saw tweets from those mentioning Bonnie Hunt’s introduction to the movie, I wanted to scream, but I somehow managed to control myself. I’m so mature. Still I managed to see four movies. Not bad at all!

Sunday is the last day (boo, hoo) of the festival. Will my Friday strategy pay off? Check back and see.

Films seen after three days:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Brief Encounter
The More The Merrier
The Conversation
It’s A Wonderful Life
The Manchurian Candidate
Bambi
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell
The King and I

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