Things happen fast at a festival depending on pace that you set for yourself in the amount of films you wish to see. You can’t see everything. The following are some first day rapid impressions from 2014 TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL
I write this at a Hollywood party of sorts near people waiting for the red carpet reception to happen and club Tcm to open up. It is the evening of the first day of the festival. Many types of people here from those that wish to put on their personal version of the Ritz to people that don’t. It makes no difference yet for some it is a necessary part of the experience if you enjoy a look of Hollywood glamour.
The Roosevelt Hotel has a history of hosting such events so what better place to have it happen then where the academy awards were first staged.
Next day.one of the fun things about film festival is sitting sleepy eyed in theatre about to watch the quintessential western John Ford’s STAGECOACH (1939) with John Wayne. Cool to see in a 35mm print on large screen in the correct aspect ratio. It is the youthful, broody, feral beginning of John Wayne flipping his rifle, carrying his saddle. This was not my first time seeing it. Wayne’s character could be classed as support character as he comes in around a quarter in the film. I would suggest that there are no leading roles in STAGECOACH as it works as a wonderful ensemble cast featuring among others Thomas Mitchell, Claire Trevor, John Carradine. It is an essential picture to see as it does set so many standards for camera work, stunt work and style for the Western Film.
Next up after some deciding was the science fiction classic THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS made in 1956 by Don Siegel with Kevin McCarthy. I had seen this before yet again not on the big screen. This was ably introduced by Joe Dante who mentioned that this print was in super scope loaned by Martin Scorsese, which was another of those large screen processes created to get people back in cinemas from television in the fifties. It was free entertainment so people stayed home. Super scope print was clear and huge. The world of fifties small town America under siege came to life with clear dialogue and wonderfully naive images. I still don’t know how or why the cars in these movies rock back and forth when they stop.
One of the unspoken aspects of TCM festival is the people you meet while attending. The staff that get you into the venues all have smiles or the best that they can manage in the heat and crowds They always offers cheery comment, insightful direction on something you may ask or even if you are just standing there.
One person who interjected into one of these conversations said that ‘STAGECOACH was over rated. The people would all have been killed in the chase scene.” They went on to expound on the realistic acting in THE HEIRESS (1949) with Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift. I would suggest that this person enjoys the William Wyler style of film creation more then t a John Ford western which is basically constructing fables and metaphors against a Western background.. That’s what makes it interesting with the people you meet at the festival, some many varied options exchanged in the spirit of caring for film.
You meet people who are film goer’s in line, in restaurants sometimes even in hotel lobbies. People seem to ask you what you have seen, what you have tried to see which always begins a conversation. Its also pretty cool to talk to someone who is seeing a picture that you have for the very first time That has happened a number of times and it is like extra real butter on your popcorn. Good feeling are what it is all about.
The final screening we attended as the 1927 silent film WHY WORRY? wth Harold Lloyd. The featured the live world premiere musical score by orchestra conducted by composer Carl Davis. Leonard Maltin introduced the picture who complimented us on our smart choice to attend and then introduced Harold Lloyd’s grand- daughter Suzanne Lloyd who was a driving force in getting the picture restored.
She related to the audience that Harold Lloyd thought ahead and preserved his pictures from decay of time. He also did not allow his films to be broadcast on television which in some cases kept careers going. Therefore the career of Harold Lloyd was faced with the task of being rebuilt which does off advantages as whole new generation will now see the work in proper form. Mary Pickford also withdrew her films from circulation after she retired. Pickford did suffer as a result of this as her image was one of the perpetual “Girl with the tiny curls” playing orphans ignoring her vast body of work as she grew older on screen. Lloyd and Pickford were both shrewd business people.
I was fortunate in 2011 to see Buster Keaton’s picture THE CAMERA MAN (1927) with original score by Vince Giordano and His Nighthawks Orchestra so this was something to be looked forward to. WHY WORRY? Featured an excellent print with little frame damage, or water marks. There was some minor image fluctuation when reels changed ye it was a brilliant experience. The timing, the ambience, the power of the music made the picture come even more to life. The picture closed with a wonderful portrait of Harold Lloyd smiling at us from a bygone era of film making. The theatre erupted into a standing ovation for booth Lloyd, composer/conductor Carl Davis and the players. It was a wonderful end to a day as one walked home down Hollywood Boulevard.