Film festival attending can be a mixture of working the crowd, finding what you want to see, and having to make decisions when items are crossed booked. There are no bad decisions if you attend an event such is what is happening with us at the 2015 TURNER CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL in Hollywood. Hence, I would like to pass on some bits and pieces of what is happening.
I was fortunate to get into the 10 p.m. screening of the Mike Curtiz directed 1940 picture THE SEA HAWK. Why is that worth mentioning? Because it was on the big screen; a 35 mm print complete with reel changes. Organizers have respect for film of this nature and for me it was cool to see the curtains of today’s larger screens close to the smaller aspect ratio of the 1940s. This was not a print that was blown up to fill the huge surface but the wonderfully non- claustrophobic look at what the film makers intended. The image was clear with some obvious time worn troubles that affect us all. The sound on the print was crisp with Korngold’s magnificent score coming through. Dialogue could be understood without the pops and crackles that show up.
This screening of THE SEA HAWK featured a talk by Errol Flynn’s daughter Rory Flynn, who imparted some insights into her late father, such as “You see the swashbuckling hero, I see my father.” She also took the opportunity to introduce her son Sean Flynn with a good deal of Mother’s pride.
It was pointed out that the print was listed in the program as running time of two hours and seven minutes, yet actually the running time was be one hour forty nine minutes. Now for some people that is an abomination, some don’t care, and I admit I was slightly irked as I had thoughts of those ‘Real Art’ reissues of Universal Studios Horror pictures. Real Art cut the films often to sixty to sixty five minutes to get them on television. THE SEA HAWK print was cut to fit onto a 1947 double bill format along with THE SEA WOLF (1941) with Edward G. Robinson as the ship’s tyrannical captain. The scenes with actor Donald Crisp as the Queen’s advisor, Sir John Burleson, also were victim of editorial decisions.
The audience applauded when Flynn’s and Korngold’s name appeared on the screen. Clapping exploded when Flynn makes his entrance on the deck of his ship about ten minutes in. I found it particularly interesting that there was clapping for Una O’ Conner, who made a career of playing hand maidens, ladies in waiting, and other character types. Her Irish accent and facial expressions have been in countless pictures so it was good to see the grand person of theatre get noticed.
The SEA HAWK rollicked, swords clashed, ships fired cannons, the evil Spanish were somewhat vanquished, urbane dialogue was exchanged and unrequited love was returned all in glorious black and white.
It has been a while since I had watched the picture of the style which made the experience full of enjoyment. The current PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN franchise is the closest audiences have today to this style while it has its merits. It is effects dependent, which is what much of today’s audiences want. Not a bad time on the old high seas.