Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Four

Saturday morning, April 12th, I was in line at the El Capitan Theatre bright and early for a 9:00 a.m. TCM Classic Film Festival screening of THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967).

Here's a great night shot of the El Capitan marquee which was released for media use by TCM:

I had contemplated seeing Barbara Stanwyck's STELLA DALLAS (1937) in that time slot, especially as it has a supporting cast which includes Tim Holt and Anne Shirley, but the pull of Disney was too strong!

THE JUNGLE BOOK was the third film I ever saw on a big screen as a child, and it was the first film I saw at a drive-in, paired with BLACKBEARD'S GHOST (1968). (In fact, I suspect I could count the films I saw at a drive-in on one hand!) THE JUNGLE BOOK is one of those movies I saw in bits and pieces when my children were younger, but I don't believe I'd sat down to watch it all in a single sitting since that drive-in screening of the late '60s.

I jokingly Tweeted at the time that the El Capitan organist serenading us with Disney tunes at the TCM Classic Film Fest was "almost too much awesomeness to handle." It really was a delightful way to start a day in which I would see four excellent films plus the legendary Maureen O'Hara.

Ben Mankiewicz joined us to introduce the film, which was shown in a digital format. He shared that he had just seen the film for the first time as part of his preparation a few days prior. He said he wasn't sure if his reaction was because he's now a parent, but that it moved him and made him cry, and he also described the movie as "78 minutes of joy." And that it was. (Update: Here's an extended review of the film.)

Still a bit teary from the happy glow of THE JUNGLE BOOK, I went back across the street to the Chinese Multiplex for another great experience, seeing a restored digital print of Frank Capra's MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936). I had seen the film on a big screen years ago, but not as long ago as THE JUNGLE BOOK! You simply can't go wrong with Jean Arthur paired with Gary Cooper.

MR. DEEDS was also the first of three sightings that day of everyone's favorite extra, Bess Flowers. There are many shots of her in the courtroom sequence in MR. DEEDS; she was a party guest in WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) and a dancer at a restaurant in HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946). The latter is my second Flowers sighting in the last few months which hasn't yet made it to her IMDb entry, where at present she has 843 credits listed.

After MR. DEEDS my friend Lindsay and I raced back across the street to join the huge line at the El Capitan, where Maureen O'Hara was introducing HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941).

A shot of the packed house inside the El Capitan:

Robert Osborne came out to introduce Maureen...

...and they had a short but spirited chat. Miss O'Hara may be a bit frail now but she is as fiery as ever. When Mr. Osborne asked her a question about working with John Ford, she quipped "I thought we were here to talk about me!"

In all seriousness, though, it meant a great deal to be part of the crowd expressing our love and admiration for the truly legendary actress, and she appeared to be deeply moved by the prolonged standing ovation. I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to be there.

O'Hara told the adoring crowd "Don't be fooled into thinking I do magic things." I think the audience would disagree.

Here's a great close-up from Maureen, released to the press by TCM:

After the interview I did something I've never before done at the festival and slipped out of the theater without seeing the movie, as I'd just seen -- and loved -- HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) last New Year's Eve. I was also concerned that if I watched HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY I might not be able to get in line early enough to see the next film on my list, WRITTEN ON THE WIND, which I hadn't seen for roughly a decade.

I'd initially thought of going to see Kim Novak introduce BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958) at the Egyptian Theatre in that time slot, but since I was fortunate enough to see her in person at the festival's opening night, I decided instead on WRITTEN ON THE WIND.

I anticipated this Douglas Sirk film would be a visual feast on a big screen, but in all honesty this 35mm print was probably the most disappointing of the festival. It didn't have any skips or major flaws, but the level of dark graininess was not what I would have expected. Despite the fact that the movie wasn't as visually dazzling as it otherwise might have been, I love this film in all its glorious excess, starting with its fantastic title sequence, and I still enjoyed it immensely.

I ended my moviegoing day with one of my favorite screenings among the many great movies seen at the festival, Edgar Ulmer's little-known PRC film HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946).

The movie was engagingly introduced by the director's well-informed daughter, Arianne Ulmer Cipes, and Jan-Christopher Horak of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

I'll be sharing an overview of the festival's final day in the near future, and I'll also be sharing more about the films referenced above in individual posts.

In the meantime, be sure to also read this great festival overview recently posted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen.

For more links to my coverage of the festival, please visit The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura, interesting that you had a less-than-perfect experience with WRITTEN ON THE WIND in 35mm. I had a similar feeling about a few of the 35mm prints I saw. I love that TCMFF is committed to 35mm as a format, but it's important that people understand that the experience of seeing a film on film at this point may not be as flawless as seeing it in DCP. And I say that as someone who avoided digital prints entirely the first year of the Festival. How things have changed in 5 short years!

5:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Will!

It's also interesting because I'm finding that it can be mixed bag with 35mm *or* digital. A couple of the digital prints I've seen blown up on the Chinese Theatre screen were disappointments (MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS this year and ON THE WATERFRONT last year). Yet I was very impressed by the digital screenings of TOUCH OF EVIL and THE WIZARD OF OZ in the same theater.

When it comes to 35mm, flaws and all, I do have a feeling that it's "alive" and shines in a way that digital doesn't...I really appreciate TCM's commitment to keeping this format alive, to the extent of bringing in Boston Light & Sound to temporarily install 35mm projectors in the Chinese Multiplex! Most of the nine 35mm prints I saw this year were excellent, and I was also happy with four of the five digital screenings I saw this year.

Best wishes,

6:05 PM  
Blogger Robby Cress said...

I'm amazed how well The Jungle Book holds up. It was always a favorite of mine growing up and now my daughter loves it. Let alone some great animation, you couldn't ask for a better voice cast! And let me not forget some of the most unforgettable songs ever written :) Sounds like another fun filled day.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Robby, you're so right, the JUNGLE BOOK voice cast is terrific, and what songs! It was certainly a great way to start the day. :)

Best wishes,

12:06 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I'm starting to catch up on your posts. It's funny how our TCMFF plans change based on what draws us (away) or what happens. Glad that you were at that How Green Was My Valley screening, at least to see Maureen O'Hara!

12:34 PM  

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