Posts tagged: classic films
I apologize for the delay. Right after the festival, I had several shows to perform and finals. Here is my review of the last day at the festival.
After we finished up with A Trip to the Moon and Other Trips, my sister and cousin caught up with us to see Charade with me and my parents.
Charade was a truly wonderful treat. It was certainly a jump in time from our previous film experience, but a wonderful one. Charade featured an older, wiser, but still just as beautiful Audrey Hepburn as a widow being pursued by her late husband’s murderers who are in search of the money he’d stolen from them, all while developing an untrustworthy romance with a much older Cary Grant.
Audrey has such a naive yet sophisticated presence in every movie that she really does her best work when she’s paired alongside some of those well-established, best-of-the-best actors, like Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart, many of whom were 13-30 years her senior. Here, she is 34 and Cary Grant is 58, but the chemistry between the two of them is just phenomenal and comes just at the perfect time in their careers. Cary had originally turned down the opportunity to appear with her in Roman Holiday and in Sabrina, and almost had to turn down this one as well, but he realized how terrible the script for his previous engagement was and practically crawled back to Stanley Donen to do Charade instead. And the dialogue in the script allows for the relationship to be more believable, making light of their age difference and develops a great game of cat and mouse between the two, Audrey doing the chasing this time.
Also supporting Audrey is the great Walter Matthau, who’d later go on to do such films as Hello, Dolly!, the original Taking of Pelham 123, and Grumpy Old Men. Previously, he’d done many of the Hitchcock Presents… which brought the element to the film that made it, what many called, “the best Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made.”
The film is probably my favorite of Cary Grant’s comedies. There is something abouthim in Charade that is just absolutely carefree and unafraid to let loose. Cary has these hilarious faces! The only other time I can remember laughing as hard at a Cary Grant film would be in Arsenic and Old Lace, almost twenty years prior. I suppose that goes along with one of his lines from Charade, “You’ve just said a horrible word: Serious. When a man gets to be my age, that’s the last word he ever wants to hear. I don’t want to be serious.”
NOTE: You can actually watch Charade online, on Hulu or Netflix.
Afterwards, we caught up with my sister to catch the Women, with Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Crawford, as well as more big names. This film was made in 1939, but many of you may be familiar with the 2008 remake, also featuring a mess of big name actress such as Bette Midler, Annette Bening, Cloris Leachman, and Carrie Fisher, to name a few. You may also recognize it as the film adaptation of the Broadway hit of the same name by Clare Booth Luce, originally performed (and appropriately so) at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.
The Women is a brilliant film for women. When you’re told that this film is called The Women, they aren’t joking around with the title. This film features absolutely nothing BUT women. Not once do you see anything resembling the opposite sex, besides a coat belonging to the main character’s husband. The animals, the portraits in the background, prop books’ authors, everything that has a sexual orientation is female, which I believe is appropriate as this film is all about women’s issues and their relationships. Of course, it is centered around Mary Haines and her subsequent divorce after her husband cheats on her, but even then, it isn’t his infidelity that’s the issue, its Crystal Allen’s presence in their relationship that is the point. The love that is talked of between Mr. and Mrs. Haines seems absolutely mutual, but his struggle with doing what’s right and wrong is Crystal’s manipulation, and as we women know, man is slave beneath woman’s whip of influence.
Of course, the film’s star is Joan Crawford, who plays the film’s terrible other woman. She is mean, manipulative, and does well opposite a sweet Norma Shearer. By this time, she is still stuck in roles that are more vampy, before she hits it in a serious roles like Mildred Pierce. Through the whole film, there is nothing I’d like to see more than for Mary to rip the fancy clothes her husband has bought her right off her back and push her into the street naked, but maybe thats just my feminine side talking. Joan doesn’t make you hate her but her actions. She is that woman that all women know of. She is the manipulator.
The film is definitely long and definitely filled with a lot of hormone-induced bad decisions, but I loved it. I don’t think I’d watch it again any time soon, but I respect it for its genius. I would strongly suggest that all females find time to watch it at least once.
The last film on our trip was another Cary Grant film, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home, featuring Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas, as a part of their architecture series at the festival. This film struck so well in the hearts of many Americans who just wanted a place to call their own. In fact, I remember watching and thinking, “This is just like George Washington Slept Here,” a film with Jack Benny of the same concept produced four years before Mr. Blandings. I quite enjoyed Washington Slept Here, but Mr. Blandings was just as wonderful to watch. I suppose it had more appeal the public simply because of its more famous cast. While Jack Benny carries the screen well, Mr. Blandings is more equally balance between Cary, Myrna, and Melvyn. Also placing Mr. Blandings on a higher pedestal would be RKO’s advertising department. According to our presenter, a some 40 replicas of Mr. Blandings’ home were built all across the United States.
An interesting realization I had while watching this film, it being the third Cary Grant film I’d seen throughout the festival, was realizing a necklace that Cary wore under his shirt. We didn’t see it in I’m No Angel, as he doesn’t take his shirt off, but I noticed it both in Charade and in Mr. Blandings. There’s fifteen years between the two films, but there is no mistaking that its the same necklace, a small, gold, coin-shaped pendant on a long thin chain.
All in all, the festival was a fantastic chance to see great films on the big screen, experience a slice of history, and hear what went into making these movies. Despite a bit of personal drama that when on while we were attendance, there weren’t any other people I’d wish to have attend the festival with. I could only gush to my cousin over Charade and Stanley Donen, and then only gush with her when we realized that Stanley Donen was sitting right in front of us during the film.
If you are interested in classic film or a history of films, this is definitely a place to be. If only I could go again, I would LIVE there, nestled between a hundred other people in uncomfortable seating (though I think if I even smell popcorn one more time, I might throw up). My theatre professors noticed that they’d never seen me so excited as when I came back from the festival and I think thats because, as an actress and artist, there is nothing more I’d rather be doing than making films like the ones I saw this weekend.
If you do have a chance to go, here is my advice: Bring snacks and energy drinks because you will not have time to eat nor the energy to stay awake. Bring a good camera if you wanna snapshot of any of the celebs because an iPhone will NOT do anyone justice. If you’re attempting to do a blog, blog in between films and not at the end of the day like I did or you’ll never get any sleep. And speaking of which, if you want to get the full experience, here’s my last piece of advice: SLEEP LESS, WATCH MORE.
(reposting with pictures)
First on today’s agenda would have been Bringing Up Baby, but we were all terribly worn out yesterday. So instead, we saw I’m No Angel with Mae West and a very young Cary Grant. Oscar-nominee costume designer and costume historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis introduced the film, pointing out some of the great fashion Mae West portrays in the film. Incidentally, Mae was only 4’6” and wore huge platforms to compensate. To appear normal, she would only wear floor length costumes, including her lion tamer’s outfit, which could account for her odd walk. Mae West is a true artist in this film, having come up with the story and dialogue for I’m No Angel. The sexual dialogue is comedic genius. And the young Cary Grant shows us a side of him from before he blossomed as a versatile actor. There is a humbleness that he loses quickly after hitting it big.
Second on our list was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was introduced by Ben Mankiewicz and Kirk Douglas. Mr. Douglas was charming and very entertaining for the short time he was there. He talked some about breaking the Black List, his wife, and sang a Whale of a Tale. He was somewhat hard to understand, but for a 95 year old man, I don’t blame him. The movie itself was the single greatest movie-watching experience I’d ever had. The giant squid was even more real than the kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I really couldn’t guess how they made it look so real. Not only that, but I could see where other ocean-related Disney movies drew inspiration from the classic. For instance, the cannibals chasing Captain Jack Sparrow or the shark chasing after Ariel and Flounder when they go searching for treasure on a sunken ship, as my mom pointed out. I laughed at Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre’s relationship, I held on for dear life when the squid attacked (especially when the tentacles came in the Nautilus, I jumped), and I cried when James Mason died. Such a wonderful experience.
Right after, we grabbed some Hard Rock cafe to go with us to Vertigo, introduced by Robert Osborne and Kim Novak. She looks great! And I really wish we had time to watch her handprint ceremony tomorrow at Grauman’s, but I have my movies planned. Kim looked beautiful and talked, of course, about her grey suit and working with Alfred Hitchcock. Apparently, she didn’t quite agree with some of his ideas and she was terribly uncomfortable in the suit. The movie was a masterpiece, really. The storyline was great, but what really is considered is Jimmy Stewart’s psychological journey. It’s just in Hitchcock’s style, combining supernatural suspicion and psychological mayhem into one great thriller. Both the lead actors show just how well they can stretch themselves as well. The difference between Charlotta/Madeleine and Judy was so striking that for a good ten minutes, even though I could plainly see it was the same woman, I kept expecting her to be an entirely different actress. And Jimmy Stewart, his variety is always pleasing while still keeping a hint of his humor in all his work.
The last movie was terribly difficult to choose from. It was Swing Time or Young Frankenstein. I eventually settled on Young Frankenstein as Mel Brooks presented. He spoke mostly on his best friend, Gene Wilder’s genius and the process of getting the film together. He too is looking great for a guy in his 80’s. Now, I’ve seen this movie a billion times, but I still found so many new things to laugh at. I knew Marty Feldman did a lot of stuff in the background, but I didn’t realize how much I was truly missing, like when they’re transferring the brain fluids, he’s up on the platform, shuffling! With the big screen, you see so much more detail and with the whole audience, it was like watching it for the first time again. And just as Mel says, it’s Gene’s best performance ever.
**Fun Realization: When we sat down to see I’m No Angel, I realized that Deborah Landis, you know, the Oscar Nominee and costume historian, was the same woman who commented to me on how much she loved my dress on Friday. I may or may not be purposely seeking her out the rest of the festival to show off my other amazing outfits I brought this weekend!
(I decided to repost this with pictures.)
My sincerest apologies for being late on this one. It was a LONG day so I’ll just jump in.
Today was a day of comedy genius! We started out with a short film, Who Dun it? with the Three Stooges playing bumbling detectives trying to solve a murder. Hilarious, of course, but I think I found them way funnier as kids. Slapstick gets old hat, you know, but it was still very entertaining. Sadly, this particular film occurs sometime after Curly’s unfortunate stroke on set of Half-Wits Holiday so everyone’s favorite Stooge is absent. Still, Shemp is a fantastic comedian and really pulls this movie together along with Moe and Larry.
During the same screening, we watched another, longer film entitled Who Done It? featuring Abbott and Costello as two soda jerks attempting to solve a murder at a radio broadcasting station. It’s after their famous Who’s on First? sketch and they address it with a great laugh. Also in this film is Mary Wickes, who plays the nurse in The Man Who Came to Dinner. She holds her own very well with the two, where many of the other actors seem to fade into the background as they usually do when you have two great comedians up there. William Bendix also holds his own again Lou with some great, witty back and forth dialogue as the police leuitenant’s detective sidekick. The great thing is that even after Who’s On First, they haven’t lost their appeal; they certainly havent passed their prime. The film also has noir elements that go along with one of the festival’s themes. It’s just great that Abbott and Costello, while comedians, can be so versatile with their comedy, dipping their hand into horror, mystery, adventure, and romance. What I love most is that unlike the Stooges or Laurel and Hardy shorts, it uses dialogue to its every advantage. Not “smart, sophisticated” dialogue, but it is most certainly not dumbed-down. It does not underestimate the audience, nor does it confuse them.
Continuing this train of comedy, we saw several Laurel and Hardy shorts, Busy Bodies (pictured above), Helpmates, and County Hospital. The presenter from UCLA explained that most of their films were cut up and divided and put together in other combinations so originals aren’t found in their entirety. These were all fully restored, all scenes in the correct order and in the correct short. I loved watching these guys. Laurel is so absolutely sweet, caring, and loyal, to a fault, of course. Hardy is just that grouch who loves Laurel but probably loves to use him just as much. Even with the ability to speak, they allow expression and gesture to rule. I found so many elements of these comedies still being used today, noticeably the way Hardy looks at the camera every time Laurel does something silly is almost exactly how the cast of the Office interacts with the camera when Michael Scott is up to his shenanigans.
We interrupted our comedy day with a Disney princess I feel gets little respect nowadays, Snow White and her seven dwarves. Not only did Leonard Maltin introduce Disney’s first feature-length cartoon, but he interviewed Ginnifer Goodwin from ABC’s Once Upon A Time, who’d had a life long love of Snow White, AND announced that the original motion model, Marge Champion, was in the audience. It amazes me how well these actors look after 75+ years. The film was, of course, a masterpiece. Out of all the Disney princesses, I feel her character moves the most realistically. She really looks like someone took a video of Marge Champion and colored over it. She’s the perfect example of the purity and innocence of children that Disney tries to capture in all his movies.
Back to comedies, we went and saw a Harold Lloyd film, Girl Shy, that was presented by his granddaughter who was raised by him. The film was accompanied by a full orchestra that really made the entire experience ten million times better. Girl Shy is his first endeavor into producing his own films and what a way to start off! The cinematography is amazing and the stunts were too crazy! For a period of film where cinematography hadn’t fully been recognized, it is too fantastic. Harold Lloyd does so many crazy stunts, jumping from a broken carriage to the horses pulling it and then taking off on one after unhitching them. He is driving motorcycles through itty bitty trenches and through grocery stores and driving cars like a mad man! And of course, he did these all himself. I’m not even sure how he got permission to do all this stuff. The most impressive stunt is when he drives the two horses and carriage right over the camera. You can even see him trying to aim it just right so that he doesn’t damage it. Nowadays, we see that kind of thing all the time in films, but there are extra precautions taken to ensure the safety of the camera, where this is just a huge risk. After it cuts to another angle, you can see where the camera was set in the street. Harold Lloyd is just too perfect in this movie as well. Many of his gestures and behaviors are very modern. It almost seems as if a good friend of mine set up all this and made a period film with an old camera just yesterday, instead of the film being almost a hundred years old. He has such a great, timeless presence that brings in audiences of any generation.
We took a last break from comedy to see The Black Cat with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Introducing the film was their children, Bela G. Lugosi and Sarah Karloff. They told us about the sweet, sensitive sides of their fathers, spoiling them, telling jokes, and being all around loving parents. They never brought their work home with them and so they weren’t quite aware of their iconic images as Hollywood’s most frightening movie monsters. The film started and it was very interesting. Not bad, but some of the writing seemed forced. Boris is just perfectly charming and creepy at the same time. He really gets a chance to show himself without all that crazy make-up on and really is a handsome man. Bela actually plays a sort of tortured hero, attempting to rescue a young couple from Karloff’s Satanic ritual. It’s a very refreshing role to see him in. His face is softened, almost sweet, and he shows an emotional vulnerability that you don’t get when he plays the monster. I wish I could have seen him in more roles like this because it really shows his range as an actor. Despite this heroic efforts, he is very vengeful, which creates a beautiful dynamic between him and Karloff. Their chemistry is absolutely perfect onscreen. Neither one outshines the other, or should I say, overshadows the other? Though, I feel the censors got in the way of what could have been a great script. The ending was cheesy and a vain attempt at tying up loose ends. And parts that we knew would be gory, had to be worked to where you couldn’t see what was happening, which made it a bit confusing. There were many movies that clearly had problems with censors, but the Black Cat, I think, suffered the most because of it.
Broke for dinner before last movie at Musso & Franks. Was a little disappointed in the service and food, but Sandra O and a few other celebrities were also there.
The last movie to end our night was the four Marx brothers in Duck Soup. These guys were absolutely OUT OF THEIR MINDS! Crazy! Loco cabeza! Insaaaane! This particular film was made right when tensions were building in Europe over World War 2 and incidentally reflects dictatorship and war, much like Charlie Chaplin’s the Great Dictator, but not intentionally. Groucho becomes dictator of Freedonia, Zeppo is his secretary, while Harpo and Chico play two spies from Sylvania who are constantly switching sides. Zeppo isn’t quite as hilarious as his other three brothers, perhaps because he looks like he should be on the cover of GQ. Wowee wow wow. When the sleeves of his shirt get blown off, his arms are like hello mama! He really doesn’t have a distinguishing characteristic though, like Grouch’s mustache and eyebrows, or Harpo being silent, or Chico’s accent, which is why, I suppose, he eventually left the act. Harpo’s prop and destructive comedy make up most of the ridiculous comedy, burning hats and randomly cutting off pieces of people’s clothing. Groucho and Chico are more dialogue and situational comedy. The great thing about the movie is how it not only uses ridiculous gesture and slapstick, but dialogue. They hardly ever made sense and really just made comedy by pissing off people. This movie also features the famous mirror scene, that has been recreated in so many shows since, such as Scooby Doo and even Spongebob Square pants. You don’t get a sense of how much they all really look alike (being real life brothers) until you see them imitating one another in this scene. You can barely tell, except for the slight difference in their noses and even then it’s hard to keep up!!
*** Fun Story: During the Black Cat discussion, they still had time and opened it up for questions from the audience. No one raised their hands so I decided I’d asked one. I hadn’t really prepared one so I kind of stumbled asking, “How do y’alls kids feeling about coming from such a handsome lineage?” And they just stared at me, bewildered, before Bela asked me, “… What?” and the whole house laughed. Sarah Karloff translated for me, “She’s speaking Southern. She wants to know how our kids feel about being related to Dracula and Frankenstein.” As dumb as my question came out, I was surprised by how involved the great actors grandchildren were so involved with the monster scene, going to conventions and film festivals like these. To this day, I’m still embarrassed.
Jumping right in, this was our last day at the festival so there was no missing any films today.
My parents and I got up early to go see A Trip to the Moon and Other Trips Through Time, Space, and Travel. This was a compilation of the earliest silents films, some with stories, others just some film from back in the day. These were all courtesy of Serge Bromberg, a film historian whose Lobster Films, restored, I believe, all of the ones we saw and also provided music by playing the piano for the films that needed them.
The first we saw was called a Trip Down Market Street (1906), made by the Miles Brothers. It is basically just a camera put on a trolley and taken down San Francisco’s Market Street a few days before the great earthquake that destroyed the city. It really is a trip through time. The road is just open, no organization, early cars and horse-drawn carriages weaving in and out of traffic, people walking in between these vehicles. Incidentally, you can see one of the Miles brothers popping in and out occasionally in his car to make the street look busier. The town is beautiful, the people, the buildings, all perfectly preserved on this film. The greatest thing, maybe just in my opinion, are the amount of little attention getters. There are so many children who see the camera on the trolley and just try to get noticed in the shot. They jump on the back of cars and wave back, they run alongside it, and when the ride ends, they all are there, trying to get noticed. No dialogue, no plot, just a trolley ride down Market Street. Its just a shame to know that many of the “stars” of this film wouldn’t survive to see the next day.
The next film in this series was only two minutes long, but showed a full 360 degree view of the aftermath of the great earthquake that literally reduced the town to rubble. Some exterior parts of a few buildings still stood, but everything is just rubble. There is nothing in this film but piles of rock and ash and people walking down the street, unsure what to do but follow the other to whatever safety they could. There is nothing left of what we saw on Market Street, no buildings, no carriage, no children trying to get attention, just rubble.
Taking a lighter turn, we saw a series of fun shorts, such as an Acrobatic Fly (1910) that juggles a tiny dumbbell, a rock, and even another fly. Its impressive, but I believe the fly is probably glued to the cork it’s sitting on. Another fun short featured a colored stencil of a family of “Japanese” circus performers. I sometimes wonder how gullible audiences were back in the day, as these are clearly caucasians dressed to look Japanese, lying on a black carpet, to create the illusion that they are standing, holding each other up in crazy acrobatic positions. Its adorable in that it’s too silly to be believable, but they really do try to be believable.
Next was an erotic film by George Méliès, Après Le Bal (1897). It features his second wife, some 15 or so years before he married her, and really can only be called erotic because you see the woman’s butt, which compared to today’s standards of erotica, is a homely backside. It’s really just a woman removing her clothes up until her very last piece of underwear (five layers down) that graciously covers everything but her legs, arms, and of course, butt, when she then gets in a small tub and her maid pours some water over her. Thats the entirety of the film, very short, nothing really erotic, but interestingly enough, the water is really a black kind of dust because, according to our presenter Serge Bromberg, was done so because real water was too translucent to show up on film.
We also see one of the first “sound films” predating the Jazz Singer by about twenty years. Mr. Bromberg explained that because everyone knew that the first sound feature would be a huge success, many attempts were made in vain. This film by Alfred Duskes’s features a terrible Enrico Caruso lipsyning to La Donna e Mobile. The poor man has no idea what to do, but does his best. For some reason, though he does a fairly good job of lip-syncing, it still feels like an accompaniment to a silent film.
Next was a fully restored Buster Keaton film he did, released in France and his final silent short called The Love Nest. The film is restored using a negative that was only recently found, filling the blanks left behind by another reel. Buster just has this lovely face that always shows a sincerity.
Lastly, we come to A Trip to the Moon (1902). Not only did we get to see the film, but it was in color and the most complete version known to man. Just as they talk about in Martin Scorsese’s love letter to film, Hugo (2011), the reel has been colored by hand, frame by frame. This one is believed to commissioned by a Spaniard because the black and white French flag is colored just the way the Spanish flag is. Everyone told the owner that this reel was completely lost because of the way it had deteriorated in the reel can, but Serge Bromberg and his team at Lobster Films were able to restore it just in time for the Cannes Film Festival and of course, the TCM Film Festival. According to Bromberg, Méliès made the film “a la mode,” meaning that the music accompaniment would be whatever was popular at the time the movie was shown. So we watched it while listening to the band AIR. It was surprisingly appropriate for how new-age the music is, a true testament to the timelessness of the film and really how revolutionary it was for science. George Méliès perfectly captures the view of Earth from the Moon without having ever been there, inspiring those early watchers, “Will we someday see this is real life?” And of course, we did and proved Méliès right.
Hello followers! I figured for those of you fellow film lovers who follow me for some silly reason, I might entertain you with some tales from the TCM Film Festival in LA at the Roosevelt Hotel that I am attending this weekend with my family. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, you may know, has serviced many stars over the years such as Douglas Fairbanks, Shirley Temple, Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Marylin Monroe, who is actually said to haunt the place, and many more. It also hosted the first ever Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. Situated in the heart of the Hollywood Walk of Frame, it is right across the street from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater where many of the movies of the festival will be screened. Specials guests and screenings this year include Kirk Douglas presenting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Liza Minnelli presenting Cabaret, Kim Novak, who is also getting her handprints cemented at the Chinese theater, is presenting Vertigo, and Debbie Reynolds will present Singing’ in the Rain and How the West was Won. Tonight we will be viewing the poolside screening of High Society and also be seeing Sabrina at Grauman’s. Not only is Audrey’s wonderful film be showing, but the famous dress she wears is also on display here at the festival. Pictures coming soon! ** Fun fact: Robert Osborne has a big, square head!