Friday, April 21, 2017

The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Four

After a busy Friday watching five movies and a cartoon program, I was back at the Egyptian bright and early Saturday morning!

My second full day at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival consisted of five films, with the first starting at 9:00 a.m. and the last one starting at 9:30 p.m.

As I mentioned in my festival overview, RED RIVER (1948) was probably my favorite of many wonderful festival experiences. It was screened in a beautiful 35mm print on the Egyptian's huge screen.

A pause to admire the fabulous Egyptian ceiling. The theater will celebrate its centennial in 2022.

Despite being such a huge fan of Westerns and John Wayne, somehow I'd only seen RED RIVER once, so long ago I didn't really remember it. What a movie! The music, the locations, and all those great character actor faces had a big impact on me.

I was particularly impressed by John Ireland as gunslinger Cherry Valance, and I wish Hawks hadn't dealt with his character so abruptly at movie's end. If legend is true, Hawks was annoyed that Ireland was romancing Joanne Dru, who became Mrs. Ireland a year after this film was released.

RED RIVER also has a memorable scene for Coleen Gray, who would rib John Wayne for the rest of their lives "You should have taken me with you!"

Then it was time to head to the "big" Chinese Theatre for the first of two films I'd see there during the festival, THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. This was a digital print introduced by Alicia Malone, a host on TCM's Filmstruck screening service.

I'm a huge fan of both Grant and Dunne but this has probably been my least favorite of their films together. In the past I think I found their characters' split-up too immature to be fun, and I was a much bigger fan of the riotous comedy MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) and the dramatic PENNY SERENADE (1942). However, like the first night's screening of LOVE CRAZY (1940), this film plays much better with a big audience laughing along.

And just as the audience had applauded the entrance of Harry Carey Sr. earlier that morning in RED RIVER, Joyce Compton received enthused applause when she appeared for her memorable scene singing "Gone With the Wind." I love that about TCM Fests!

I hadn't seen BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963) for years, and at the time I selected it, it looked like it might be my only chance to see a musical at the festival. It was a digital screening in the Chinese multiplex.

I saw BYE BYE BIRDIE years ago at the Sherman Theater. It's a musical I keep returning to thinking maybe this time it will be better, but in the end it always strikes me as half of a good movie. Most of the good stuff has to do with Ann-Margret and the dancing. But there are some parts of it that are simply leaden; a romantic lead (Dick Van Dyke) who's a spineless mama's boy just doesn't work, and Maureen Stapleton's mother character stops the movie in its tracks every time she comes on screen. It would not be too strong to say that I loathe her character.

But then Ann-Margret lights up the screen with her powerhouse personality, and all is forgiven!

Next up, my second Irene Dunne film of the day, THEODORA GOES WILD (1936), shown in 35mm at the Egyptian.

THEODORA was introduced by Illeana Douglas, the granddaughter of costar Melvyn Douglas. At the pre-festival party I told her I wondered what he would have thought filming it in the '30s if he could have seen the future and know that a huge crowd would be thrilled to see it decades later -- and that it would be introduced by his granddaughter!

I'd seen THEODORA at the Vagabond Theater in the late '70s -- it's entirely possible it was in nitrate -- so this was my second time to see it on a big screen. Unlike BYE BYE BIRDIE, THEODORA is a film which I've found improves on further acquaintance; each time I like it more. Dunne and Douglas are superb, and I find the film's themes interesting, as first Douglas "saves" Dunne and then she returns the favor.

Finally it was time to head to the Chinese multiplex for Preston Sturges' UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948), which I very briefly reviewed here back in 2006. I wasn't a particular fan of it at the time, but I was intrigued that this film was Eddie Muller's contribution to the festival's comedy theme, and as a Linda Darnell fan I wanted to give it a second look.

In his introduction Eddie provided interesting background, including the information that Sturges wrote it in the '30s but wasn't able to film it until darker movies -- i.e., film noir -- were in vogue in the late '40s.

The 35mm print was absolutely beautiful, Linda was divine and her gowns by Bonnie Cashin and Oleg Cassini were gorgeous, and Rudy Vallee and Barbara Lawrence were fun, but this movie still doesn't work for me; it's a one-joke film which wears out its welcome early on. Still, I'm glad I saw it again under such wonderful conditions.

After that it was time to rest up for the final day of movies! My final festival recap post will be coming soon.


Blogger barrylane said...

Just a word about John Ireland and the story re Howard Hawks and REd River. No one ever need ane xcuse not to like John. He worked with me, and Cyd Charisse in Toronto in 1986 and was to all of our company, with the exceptions of Cyd and Barry, an unplesant nit picker. Cyd did not want him and neither did I, but he filled in for Ausatin Willis, a wonderful Canadian actor taken ill, and to that degree was satisfactory. But a jerk? Yes indeed.

11:56 AM  

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