Saturday, May 7, 2016

2016 #TCMFF: The First Full Day

Decisions, decisions. Friday, April 29, the first full day of the TCM Film Festival, was chock full of great movies. The morning schedule was especially strong featuring three movies I wanted to see on the big screen: The More The Merrier (1943), Shanghai Express (1932), and Love Me Or Leave Me (1955). I thought that Shanghai Express was the most likely candidate to be one of the TBD features on Sunday, films that proved popular enough to be repeated, so I had to choose between The More The Merrier and Love Me Or Leave Me. I decided on George Stevens’s The More The Merrier with Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn. Seeing this classic on the big screen with an audience was a delight. There’s nothing like a movie theater filled with laughter and Arthur, McCrea, and Coburn gave us plenty to laugh about.

I really wanted to see this movie, but I couldn’t be in two places at once.

After the screening of The More The Merrier, I ran into my first disappointment of the festival (last year I didn’t get to see Too Late For Tears). I was in line for Double Harness (1933), but the film, in one of the smaller venues, sold out almost immediately. Being a fan of William Powell and Ann Harding, I really wanted to see this film (I’ve never seen it). With nothing else on my schedule, I went to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to buy a copy of Illeana Douglas’s book, I Blame Dennis Hopper. I waited on line to meet Illeana and to get my book autographed. I asked her what we have to do to get Theodora Goes Wild at the TCM Film Festival? She said we just have to keep “pestering” them about it. She lamented that when she brings it up, they remind her that she’s only doing so because her grandfather is in it. The nerve! With plenty of time before the next movie, I had a rare sit-down meal, so I had a nice lunch at Mel’s Diner before I went to see The Conversation (1974).

The charming Illeana Douglas and me

The Conversation featured an interview with its director Francis Ford Coppola by Ben Mankiewicz. I have to say I enjoyed the Coppola interview more than the movie. Coppola came across as very humble and likeable. I expected him to be more brash and full of himself (not sure why I thought this). The Conversation wasn’t my type of movie, but I can now check it off of my list. After the heaviness of The Conversation, it was time for something different.

Snow making on the backlot for It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) was playing at the Chinese Theatre, an event I couldn’t pass up. I have this film on DVD and have seen it dozens of times, but to see it on the big screen with 900 + people, how could I pass that up? Craig Barron and Ben Burtt introduced the film. They shared how they made snow for the film, which was a new process at the time. Prior to It’s A Wonderful Life, movie snow was made from bleached corn flakes. The problem with the corn flakes is that when stepped on, you could hear them crunch, requiring the filmmakers to re-dub the dialogue, something, director Frank Capra didn’t want to do. The new snow was a mixture of fire retardant foam and glycerin, which looked real on screen and didn’t crunch. Barron and Burtt also treated us to film of a picnic wrap party that included the cast and crew, including star James Stewart and director Frank Capra, participating in sack and three-legged races, eating ice cream and watermelon…just like the rest of us.

Angela Lansbury watches James Gregory on TV in The Manchurian Candidate.

After the heartwarming tale of George and Mary Bailey, it was on to more serious fare with The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Ben Mankiewicz interviewed Dame Angela Lansbury before the screening. She explained how she got the role (Frank Sinatra originally wanted Lucille Ball) and the impact it made on her life and career (she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar). The performances of all the principals: Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey, and Janet Leigh were excellent. The movie, filmed in black and white, looked beautiful, which contrasted with the film’s serious tone and subject matter.

Well, that was the end of the first full day. Four movies!

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter from
the first day of the festival

Films seen after two days:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Brief Encounter
The More The Merrier
The Conversation
It’s A Wonderful Life
The Manchurian Candidate

2016 #TCMFF: The Festival Begins
2016 #TCMFF: Saturday, The Second Full Day
2016 #TCMFF: Sunday, The Third Full (and Last) Day

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