Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Amazing Evening at the Noir City Film Festival

It's been a wonderful couple of weeks at the Noir City Film Festival at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre. Thanks to the support of my family of classic film fans, I managed to see 14 movies in 7 trips in 15 days! I was accompanied by family members to some of the screenings, and I also dashed up to L.A. on my own for some of the movies while my husband and kids were busy with other activities. (Things like volleyball games and color guard practice don't stop for a film festival!) Three of the films were second viewings, and the other 11 were enjoyed by me for the first time ever.

Although the festival continues through Wednesday, April 20th, last night was my final visit to this year's festival, and the most special experience was definitely saved for last.

Last night was a double bill of Glenn Ford films which included Glenn's son Peter signing his new biography of his father. Peter used his father's diaries and wrote what looks like a very detailed book of over 300 pages.

Below, Peter busy signing his book. The entire stock of books provided by Larry Edmunds Bookshop sold out.

I enjoyed briefly meeting Peter and having the opportunity to tell him how much I admired the work of not just his father, but his mother, dancer Eleanor Powell. Peter smiled as he told me his mother was "an angel."

Peter announced the arrival of his friend Paul Peterson (THE DONNA REED SHOW) to those of us in line...little did I know how many more people were due to arrive to enjoy the movies and help celebrate the launch of Peter's book.

Alan K. Rode introduced the films, FRAMED (1947) and MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949). He then announced that a number of Peter's friends were in the audience, beginning with a great friend of the Film Noir Foundation, actress Marsha Hunt. Longtime readers know that I'm a big fan of Miss Hunt, and I've reviewed many of her films here over the years.

Also in the audience were Ruta Lee, who I had the pleasure of meeting at a screening of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954) some years ago; Patty McCormack of THE BAD SEED (1956); Daniel Selznick, whose legendary father owned the home across the street from Glenn Ford when Peter was growing up; Yoshihiro Tomita, from the cast of BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955); and Peter Mark Richman, known to those of us of a certain age as Andrew Laird on DYNASTY. Alan also mentioned that Ann Rutherford was expected but hadn't arrived yet.

During intermission, Alan interviewed Peter, who said he had so much material -- including his father's diaries -- that originally the book was 30,000 words longer, but the publisher insisted he edit it down.

Peter touched on a variety of topics, including growing up in a Hollywood wonderland with Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire as neighbors, and the difficulty of being the child of actors; he cited as one example his high school classmate Michael Boyer (son of Charles), who killed himself. He said he was determined not to go down that kind of path in life, and also said that he came to appreciate that while his parents hadn't always been there for him when he was young due to their work, they had had a wonderful impact on countless people, which he really valued. He also said that while his father wasn't a particularly good hands-on father when he was young, they later became great pals and enjoyed each other's company.

After their talk I went out to the lobby, where I found Eddie Muller and Marsha Hunt. It was so nice that Eddie remembered meeting me on the festival's opening night and greeted me, and I had the opportunity to listen to Eddie and Marsha reminiscing about her friend, the late Hugh Martin.

I then had a really special opportunity to chat with Miss Hunt one-on-one for a few minutes, which I will always remember. She shared how difficult it was to sing off-key as Mary in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940) and said she had to practice for weeks because she was actually very musical. I told her one of my favorites of her films was THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA (1942), and she said it was also a favorite of hers. I also told her how much I love her beautiful book of fashion stills from her films, THE WAY WE WORE. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Marsha Hunt, MGM movies in general, or fashions of the '30s through '50s.

My apologies to Eddie Muller for catching him with his eyes shut in the hurriedly snapped photo below, but I wanted to share this picture of Marsha Hunt with Eddie and Alan Rode, as I think it reflects how lovely she is, both inside and out. She radiates happiness and serenity.

At one point she clasped my hand and said "I've had a wonderful life!"

For me, the chance to briefly talk with someone I admire so much was a very memorable experience.

But the evening wasn't quite over! As I was leaving, I realized that I'd just walked past Miss Hunt's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE sister, Ann Rutherford.

I also love Miss Rutherford and paid tribute to her on her birthday last year. As I saw Daniel Selznick greet her with a kiss, my mind registered that they knew each other, and then I did a mental double-take, as it clicked into focus that in front of me was one of the last surviving principal cast members of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), talking with the producer's son. And they had just finished watching a film starring Evelyn Keyes, who played Rutherford's GWTW sister.

The lights were being switched off, the crowd was filing out, and Rutherford was busy chatting with Peter Ford and Daniel Selznick, so I didn't feel it appropriate to approach her, but I did snap a quick non-flash photo from a distance; Rutherford is in the background between Peter and Daniel. The lady in red in the foreground is Peter's wife of over 40 years, Lynda; they met as students at my daughter's alma mater, USC.

What a memorable conclusion to a great couple of weeks! My thanks to everyone at the Egyptian and the Film Noir Foundation, especially Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode, for putting on such a wonderful festival. I hope it will return next year, and I'll definitely be there!

Links for my reviews for all 14 films seen at the festival can be found in this post. Coming soon: reviews of FRAMED and MR. SOFT TOUCH.

Update: Here are links for the reviews of FRAMED (1947) and MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949).


Blogger Missy said...

Sounds like you had a great time! Thanks for sharing!


11:38 AM  
Blogger grandoldmovies said...

the 1940 Pride & Prejudice is one of my favorite films, & both Marsha Hunt & Ann Rutherford are splendid in it - they give wonderfully comic performances - how nice to know that they both are still with us.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Robby Cress said...

Thanks for the run down of the screening. Sounds like it was a wonderful event! I wish I could have made it out for this one. I'm also really looking forward to reading Peter Ford's book. I'm quite shocked that nobody has written a book on his father (at least that I can think of) and it sounds like Peter's is going to be a really interesting read. Great to see the photos too!

2:38 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Tremendous experience, and so happy for you. I love that about Marsha Hunt struggling to sing off key for "Pride & Prejudice", one of my favorite bits in that movie is her determined warbling. Thanks for letting us share in the excitement of the evening.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I'm so jealous! Wow. That's wonderful you got to meet Glenn Ford & Eleanor Powell's son! And Marsha Hunt?! oh wow. Then you saw Ann Rutherford?! TRIPLE WOW!

I don't know what else to say but WOW. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with your readers. :-)

7:50 PM  
Blogger A said...

Sounds like a wonderful time. How cool is it to meet such great legends.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to all of you for the very nice comments!

I have been quite fortunate to attend a significant number of events over the years with the chance to see or meet actors from cinema's "Golden Age," but this chance to talk with Marsha Hunt was very, very special to me. I deeply admire not only her work but the remarkable woman she continues to be today. And to see wonderful Ann Rutherford at the same event, on top of meeting Peter Ford at his book signing...well, as Raquelle aptly said, "TRIPLE WOW!" :)

Best wishes,

8:09 PM  
Blogger Audrey said...

You got to meet Marsha Hunt?!?!? Oh wow, I am so jealous! :D I read every page of her wonderful book 'The Way We Wore' last summer and loved it. She does come across as such a lovely woman.

Sounds like there were a lot of neat people there. I've heard an interview with Paul Peterson before and it sounds like he is one of the few child stars who has managed to elude the pitfalls of fame. If I remember correctly, I think he even started an organization to help child stars.

Thanks for the great post!

8:57 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Wow, just fantastic! Wish I could have joined you there! Maybe next year!

5:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your notes! Isn't THE WAY WE WORE a remarkable book? I put the program she autographed for me inside it. :)

Deb, I hope you can be there next year too!

Best wishes,

2:00 PM  
Blogger DorianTB said...

Sounds like a swinging time, to say the least! Having enjoyed Marsha Hunt, Ann Rutherford, and Ruta Lee variously in film and TV roles (our family especially loved Rutherford in Red Skelton's WHISTLING... movies, as well as in TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE and THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY), it was great to see you discussing them in this blog post.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE is a movie I really enjoyed. But I like them all! Ruta Lee's special since she danced in my favorite movie, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS.

Glad you enjoyed reading about it! :)

Best wishes,

10:42 AM  

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