Friday, April 7th, was the first full movie day of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival.
My day started in the Chinese multiplex, and I really love that my hotel, the Hollywood Celebrity, is just a couple minutes' walk away from the theater lobby. I took this photo looking back toward my hotel, midway down the street on the left, from where the street deadends at the back of the Hollywood and Highland Center. From there I turn around, walk through a parking garage corridor, and I'm at the escalator; up one flight and I'm there!
The Hollywood Celebrity may not be "updated," but it's very clean, spacious, and has a consistently friendly and helpful staff. I've stayed there for the past three years and always had good experiences.
Here's a shot of the Hollywood Celebrity's cheerful and sunny breakfast nook where I fortify myself with toast and juice each morning before heading off to the movies!
My Friday began with a program of cartoons by Ub Iwerks, a close collaborator of Walt Disney. There was a very nice crowd on hand for the show, especially given the early 9:00 screening time.
The program included a delightful Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon HUNGRY HOBOS (Disney, 1928); MERRY MANNEQUINS (Color Rhapsody, 1937), a wonderful Art Deco department store romance; and BALLOON LAND (ComiColor, 1935), in which a village of balloons is terrorized by the Pin Cushion Man.
BALLOON LAND was the favorite of Iwerks' granddaughter Leslie, who was briefly interviewed after the show by animation historian Jerry Beck.
Then it was time to quickly get back in line for the next film, BORN YESTERDAY (1950) with Judy Holliday, William Holden, and Broderick Crawford. The intro was by entertainment journalist Tamara McNamara, who was a new name to me.
BORN YESTERDAY was one of my "must see" films of the festival, given that I'd never seen it. It didn't disappoint! The audience was extremely receptive; what fun to laugh along with a crowd! I loved the way Holliday's character finds fun and freedom in education, and as for William Holden, wow, was he ever especially dreamy in this one.
Last year I wrote about having problems with people in the audience photographing the movie screens on their cell phones. This year I had just one bad experience with that, when a woman sitting right in front of me decided it would be a good idea to photograph multiple BORN YESTERDAY scenes on her cell phone, which needless to say was terribly distracting. I finally told her to put the phone down, and thankfully she did. Happily that was my lone problem with cell phones during movies at this year's festival. Perhaps the message TCM includes in every intro about turning off cell phones has had an effect.
Next I was interested in the French crime film PANIQUE (1946), directed by Jules Duvivier (FLESH AND FANTASY), but was unsure I'd make it into line in time after BORN YESTERDAY. At the end of the line I found myself in the company of Beth Ann Gallagher, the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode, and a few other hopeful folks who like me had just arrived. We were told no more line numbers were being given out but that we could wait and see if there was room to get in.
As it turned out there were just a few seats left; we had to sit in the front row, seen below, but it was worth it! This was as close as I came to missing out on seeing a desired film this year, which made for an even better festival experience than usual.
PANIQUE was very engrossing, and I was quite interested to see what was happening with movie-making in France immediately after the war. For one thing, the film was a little more risque than we're used to in '40s American films. The "mob mentality" theme reminded me more than a little of Cy Endfield's TRY AND GET ME (1950) a few years later.
The PANIQUE presentation also included Bruce Goldstein of New York's Film Forum interviewing Pierre Simenon, son of novelist Georges Simenon, whose book inspired the movie.
At that point I realized that if I was willing to potentially give up my lone post-breakfast meal, I had just enough time to get down the street to the Egyptian Theatre and fit in a 35mm print of the silent Lubitsch comedy SO THIS IS PARIS (1928). Lubitsch vs. food...Lubitsch wins every time! (And as it happened, I had about 20 minutes afterwards to squeeze in a quick stop at Baja Fresh as I headed back to the multiplex.)
SO THIS IS PARIS had live piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin and was completely delightful. I'm thrilled I had the chance to see it on a big screen. Last year I didn't see a single silent movie at the festival, but this year I made up for it by seeing two!
Next up, TCM host Tiffany Vazquez introduced a Carole Lombard drama I'd never seen, VIGIL IN THE NIGHT (1940), costarring Brian Aherne and Anne Shirley. VIGIL IN THE NIGHT was shown in 35mm.
This medical melodrama was a very engrossing film which I thoroughly enjoyed. Like many American films of the era, the actresses play British characters without much (if any) attempt at an accent, but it works fine anyway. I was quite glad I saw it.
As outlined in my planned schedule, I had originally thought that I would have to skip the nitrate screening of LAURA (1944) if I wanted to see VIGIL IN THE NIGHT, and I made the decision to see VIGIL because I'd seen LAURA on the big screen fairly recently. My initial plan was to end the day with CAT PEOPLE (1942), playing in the same theater where I'd just seen VIGIL IN THE NIGHT.
However, when I got out of VIGIL IN THE NIGHT about 15 minutes before LAURA was due to start, friends texted me that there were still seats available for LAURA and encouraged me to hurry down the street. LAURA is one of my very favorite films, so the chance to see it in nitrate was hard to pass up. I think KC texting "COME TO US!" in all caps was the deciding factor!
Somehow I made it through the Friday night crowds on Hollywood Boulevard and got from the Chinese multiplex to the Egyptian in just eight minutes, which I think probably bested the 2014 dash some of us made going the opposite direction to get to EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE in time!
I just made it and sat in the back row of the balcony, which was actually an excellent seat. The movie was introduced by Randy Haberkamp of the Academy Archive.
The nitrate print dated from 1945, when it was submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration. Nitrate prints tend to be a little rough at the beginnings and ends of reels, simply due to being screened multiple times over many decades, but this print was a little rougher than others I've seen, especially in the early going.
However, there were perfect scenes midway through the movie which were absolutely stunning in their beauty. Shots of Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney almost seemed 3-D at certain points thanks to the wonders of nitrate. These moments made the effort to see the film and watch an uneven print absolutely worth it, and I'm so glad I had the chance to see one of my all-time favorite movies in that format.
Afterwards I ran into TCM GM Jennifer Dorian in front of the theater. She was clearly exhilarated by having just seen LAURA, and I found it wonderful to know that the TCM execs experience the same "movie highs" as their viewers! I had the opportunity to thank her and TCM for helping make possible seeing my namesake movie in nitrate, a special festival moment for me.
And with that my Friday came to an end...five films and a slate of cartoon shorts, making it my busiest day ever at a TCM Classic Film Festival. And I still had two days of movies to go!