Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Jungle Book (1967) at the TCM Classic Film Festival

Time for another entry in my ongoing series looking back at individual screenings enjoyed at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival!

This time we'll take a look at a wonderful early Saturday morning at the Disney-operated El Capitan Theatre. The El Capitan served as an additional festival venue for several screenings that day.

I'd been uncertain about my movie choice for the first time slot of the day but ultimately chose THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967) because although I'd seen it at a drive-in theater as a young child in the late '60s, I'd never seen it since. It's one of those movies where I would see or hear bits and pieces as my children watched it when they were small, but I usually had to take advantage of their Disney movie time to get some work done! just isn't a better way to start a day of movies than being serenaded with Disney tunes by Rob Richards, the El Capitan's great organist. I Tweeted at the time that the combination of the TCM Festival and the organ was "almost too much awesomeness to handle!" The minute that Disney music started playing I knew I'd definitely made the right movie choice to start my day.

Ben Mankiewicz was on stage to introduce the film, and he shared that he had never before watched THE JUNGLE BOOK until he was preparing for the festival. He said he wasn't sure whether or not his reaction was because he'd become a parent not long ago, but that the movie had made him cry. He called it "78 minutes of pure joy." movie is indeed a little slice of Disney perfection, from the beautiful visuals to the voices and the musical score by the Sherman Bros. and Terry Gilkyson (who wrote the Oscar-nominated "The Bare Necessities").

Mankiewicz's "pure joy" was an apt description of the film, and I admit that I teared up from happiness a couple of times myself.

How can a viewer not be happy listening to the unforgettable singing of Phil Harris ("The Bare Necessities") and Louis Prima ("I Wanna Be Like You")? Or to the utterly perfect character voicings of George Sanders (Shere Khan), Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera), and Sterling Holloway (Kaa)? The casting for this film was simply inspired.

There are a host of other wonderful voices, including Verna Felton, a mainstay of Disney's animated classics of the '50s, as one of the elephants. Additional actors were J. Pat O'Malley, Clint Howard, John Abbott, Ben Wright, and Bill Lee.

George Sanders fans might not be aware that he had previously costarred in a live-action film for Disney with Hayley Mills, IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962). Sanders' similar-sounding brother, Tom Conway, also had a Disney history, narrating PETER PAN (1953) and voicing the Collie, as well as the TV quiz show host, in ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961).

Some fun additional trivia: Bruce Reitherman, who voiced Mowgli, was the son of the film's director, Wolfgang Reitherman. Bruce also voiced Christopher Robin in the classic WINNIE THE POOH AND THE HONEY TREE (1966).

Darleen Carr, who sings for the little girl at the end of the movie, is the younger sister of Charmian Carr (Liesl in THE SOUND OF MUSIC). She's been married to actor Jameson Parker (SIMON & SIMON) since 1992.

I was very glad I made the choice to finally sit down and watch THE JUNGLE BOOK from start to finish at the festival, and am grateful to TCM's programmers for reintroducing me to a wonderful movie. I very much recommend it to my readers.

THE JUNGLE BOOK is available in a combination Blu-ray/DVD Diamond Edition, as a standard DVD, and on a 30th Anniversary VHS release.

More reviews of individual TCM Festival screenings still to come! For the rest of my coverage of the TCM Classic Film Festival, please visit The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.


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