Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (#TCMFF) Recap: The Fourth Day

Hollywood, Sunday April 9
Sunday! The last day of the festival! The last day is always bittersweet. Plenty of good movies to see, but you know it’s going to end and you don’t want it to. I had plenty of good choices for morning viewing, but once again, I opted for a comedy.

I chose The Egg and I (1947) as my first Sunday movie. It’s a movie I have on DVD, but haven’t seen in a long time. The movie was shown in a digital restoration in the Egyptian Theatre. It stars Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray and is based on the bestselling memoir by Betty MacDonald. Tiffany Vasquez interviewed Kate MacMurray, the daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver before the screening. MacMurray shared some insights into her childhood and what it was like having movie stars for parents. She had nothing but praise for her father and seemed to be a delightful person in her own right. MacMurray has a Master’s degree in film studies. She is an ambassador for Gallo of Sonoma’s MacMurray Ranch wines. Her family sold the MacMurray Ranch to Gallo in 1996. Back to the movie! The Egg and I is a funny film with its fish-out-of-water tale of “city folk” trying to turn a dilapidated, crumbling chicken farm into a thriving business. In the hands of comedy pros like Colbert and MacMurray, it’s hard to go wrong. This was the film that introduced audiences to Ma (Marjorie Main) and Pa (Percy Kilbride) Kettle to movie audiences. There’s also a young Richard Long (Jarrod Barkley from The Big Valley) as Tom, the Kettles’s oldest son. This was MacMurray’s first time seeing The Egg and I on the big screen; she was excited to be able to see it in such a beautiful movie palace like The Egyptian, and so was I!

Next up for me was another comedy—The Palm Beach Story (1942)—at the Chinese. This Preston Sturges classic is one of my favorite screwball comedies. Film historian Cari Beauchamp introduced the film and interviewed Wyatt McCrea, star Joel McCrea’s grandson. We learned from Wyatt that his grandfather started parting his hair on the right side of his head halfway into production. He saw some of the rushes and thought his hair looked as if he was balding when parted on the left side. He didn’t tell Sturges and I had never noticed it before. In the audience were relatives of Mary Astor who played a much-married princess and sister to Rudy Vallee’s straightlaced and incredibly rich J.D. Hackensacker III. Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea play a couple in financial straits, which puts a strain on their marriage so Colbert comes up with a crazy scheme to finance her husband’s inventions. Like The Awful Truth, the laughs were fast and furious, and once again, first-times missed about 20% of the jokes because of the continuous laughter. Presented in a beautiful digital format, The Palm Beach Story never looked better.

What’s Up Doc? (1971) was a movie I saw in the movies with my parents (I was 14). I thought is was hysterical. But now, knowing the movies—the great screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s—that inspired it has made me admire it all the more today. Director Peter Bogdanovich introduced the film and shared some of the behind-the-scenes goings on and the casting of Madeline Kahn as Eunice Burns. Even though the film stars Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, both at the peak of their popularity and fame, it’s Kahn who, in my opinion, steals the picture and in her movie debut no less. The laughs never stopped inside The Egyptian!

Oh no. It’s the last movie of the festival for me. I had the following choices: Casablanca (1942), Lady in the Dark (1944), Speedy (1928), Red-Headed Woman (1932), and Beat The Devil (1953). I’ve seen Casablanca a million times and I love it, but I’ve seen it on the big screen before. Speedy, a silent film that features Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and stars Harold Lloyd is a movie I would have liked to have seen. Red-Headed Woman I have on DVD and it’s far from my favorite Pre-code favorite. Beat The Devil is another movie I would have liked to have seen, but I chose Lady in the Dark for two reasons: 1. It’s rarely ever shown anywhere (I don’t think it’s ever been on TCM) and 2. it’s in Technicolor and it was the last of the nitrate screenings at The Egyptian. The Technicolor in Lady in the Dark was beautiful, almost eye-popping in its luminosity. The story concerns Liza Elliot (Ginger Rogers), the editor-in-chief of Allure magazine who seems to have it all, but is suffering from depression. She’s involved with the magazine’s married publisher (Warner Baxter) and she is constantly at odds with Charley Johnson (Ray Milland), second-in-command at Allure, who makes no bones about wanting her job. Liza goes to see a psychiatrist (Barry Sullivan) who suggests that something from her childhood has caused her to have such a serious take on life, which includes avoiding looking glamorous, even though she’s in charge of a fashion magazine. Putting it in the context of 1944, part of Liza’s problem is she hasn’t met the right man. And in today’s terms, she doesn’t have the proper life/work balance. The film directed by Mitchell Leisen has incredible production values. The costumes, the sets and Liza’s elaborate dream sequences are outstanding. The performances are uniformly good and Rogers is impressive and believable as Liza. The ending may be predictable, but it’s an interesting slice of life, love, and psychoanalysis 1940s style. I’m glad I saw it.

That’s it…until next year (Lord willing). Now it’s a rush to Club TCM to say goodbye to my fellow bloggers and social media pals, but not too late; I have to catch that early flight out of LA!

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