Sunday, April 30, 2023

The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Five

All too soon it was the last day of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival!

I had originally thought I would see THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) and CASABLANCA (1942) on Sunday, but after my experience with the sound quality in the Chinese Theatre Friday night I decided I'd rather be in the more intimate multiplex theatres.

Instead I started off Sunday morning with Ernst Lubitsch's HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1943), introduced by Leonard Maltin (top photo). As has happened to me at past festivals, this last-minute choice ended up being one of the most meaningful viewings of the festival; I've seen it many times, but the story about passing through the various stages of life deeply connected with me this time around.

The film was both funny and moving, and the Technicolor print was gorgeous!

Next I chose THE RED SHOES (1948), which I'd last seen at UCLA in 2015.

THE RED SHOES was introduced by Eddie Muller and director-cinematographer Ernest Dickerson. As with HEAVEN CAN WAIT, I responded to THE RED SHOES quite emotionally. Few things ever have been as lovely as Moira Shearer in this film.

After those back-to-back Technicolor screenings, I took a rare break from a viewing slot just to have a little time to absorb and think about the pair of movies I'd just revisited.

I'm very happy to say that though this year's festival had cutbacks, as I noted in a previous post, the shuttle vans from Hollywood and Highland up to the Legion Theater returned this year. They made all the difference in getting "up the hill" to the Legion quickly and conveniently, and I hope they will be a staple of all future festivals.

For my final film of the festival, I enjoyed an "in person" version of TCM's Silent Sunday Nights at the Legion, with Jacqueline Stewart hosting CLASH OF THE WOVES (1925).

CLASH OF THE WOLVES starred Charles Farrell and wonder dog Rin Tin Tin, and it was a great deal of fun. Stewart is seen below with Ben Model, who composed and performed the musical score. The movie, incidentally, will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in June.

Then it was on to the closing night party, which took place in the Hollywood Roosevelt lobby... well as in Club TCM, where the hardworking hosts relaxed together at a table. It's always a little sad to say goodbye to everyone!

This year's festival was a marvelous event, and I'm looking forward to doing it all again in 2024!

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Around the Blogosphere This Week...

...will not be appearing this weekend, as I am traveling.

The column will return on May 6th.

I've scheduled my final TCM Classic Film Festival overview post to run on Sunday, so please check back tomorrow for new content.

For the most recent news and links, please visit my April 22nd roundup.

Friday, April 28, 2023

The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Four

Day 4 of the TCM Classic Film Festival on Saturday began with my first pair of films at the beautiful Hollywood Legion Theater.

A sold-out crowd packed the Legion for a little-known pre-Code starring Claudette Colbert, Melvyn Douglas, and Franchot Tone. I loved that when Tone appeared there was a light ripple of appreciative applause.  

THE WISER SEX wasn't anything particularly special but a great cast and a speedy 76-minute running time made it an enjoyable film and a pleasant start to the day.  I'd add that the Legion is an outstanding venue, with top-quality projection, sound, and seating.

Next up was WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951), which I had actually seen at the festival in 2019, with star Barbara Rush in attendance. I was delighted to revisit it with a presentation by festival favorites Ben Burtt and Craig Barron, who team annually to share the production history and special effects for beloved films.

I've previously seen their programs on films such as IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934), THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), and, in Lone Pine, GUNGA DIN (1939).

Sound designer Burtt treated us to a version of Sensurround he jokingly called "Bensurround," which had the theater rocking in the scenes when the world was blowing up and the spaceship took off. It was great fun and one of the most memorable screenings of the festival.

On Friday I hadn't had time to do more than eat the snacks I brought, but happily there was a hole in the middle of my five Saturday films which allowed time for a burger!

Next it was back to the Chinese Multiplex for a fun "B" mystery, THE CRIMSON CANARY (1945), introduced by Jeremy Arnold. It starred Noah Beery Jr., and what made this 64-minute movie particularly notable was the performances of musicians Coleman Hawkins and Josh White. It was almost as though a pair of musical shorts had been dropped into the middle of the movie, but it worked! What a great opportunity to watch them perform.

I was one of the last three people to get into the packed screening of SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948).  It was introduced by Eddie Muller and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who seemed to be having a ball discussing the film together. (I saw Eddie introduce more films during the festival than any other TCM host.) This was my first time to see SORRY, WRONG NUMBER, with Barbara Stanwyck heading the cast, and I enjoyed it.

The last film of the day was UNFINISHED BUSINESS (1941) introduced by Sloan De Forest, author of TCM's THE ESSENTIAL DIRECTORS. This is a rare film starring Irene Dunne, Robert Montgomery, and Preston Foster which to my knowledge has never been released on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray. (It's a Universal Pictures film I've been hoping might turn up from Kino Lorber some year.) I last saw it at UCLA a decade ago and very much enjoyed revisiting it.

Then it was time to return to the hotel and get ready for the final day of the festival, which always seems to come too soon!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Tonight's Movie: The Paradine Case (1947)

Note: This review is my contribution to the Master of Suspense Blogathon hosted by Maddy this weekend at Classic Film and TV Corner. This blogathon celebrating the word of director Alfred Hitchcock is taking place on April 29th and 30th. Please visit Maddy's blog for additional blogathon links!

THE PARADINE CASE (1947) is one of three '40s Alfred Hitchcock films I'd never seen, the others being LIFEBOAT (1944) and UNDER CAPRICORN (1949).

The subject matter of LIFEBOAT hasn't particularly interested me, but there's no particular reason I hadn't seen THE PARADINE CASE or UNDER CAPRICORN other than periodically having read that they were sub-par Hitchcock.

I decided it was finally time to check THE PARADINE CASE off my Hitchcock viewing list, and I'm happy to say I actually found it quite interesting; it proved considerably more enjoyable than I'd been led to believe over the years.

I did think it ran a bit overlong at 115 minutes and could have stood to have its courtroom scenes shaved down -- more on that later -- but otherwise this was an absorbing drama.

As the movie begins, Maddalena Paradine (Alida Valli, billed here simply as Valli) is arrested for the murder of her wealthy, blind husband.

Her solicitor, Sir Simon (Charles Coburn), arranges for Maddalena to be represented in the criminal case by hotshot lawyer Anthony "Tony" Keane (Gregory Peck, who previously starred in Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND).

Tony promptly finds himself strongly attracted to Maddalena, causing his loyal wife Gay (Ann Todd) to feel uneasy. When Tony realizes Gay is right in her concern he offers to give up the case, but Gay encourages him to continue; she feels that he needs to see the case through to the end in order to get Maddalena out of his system.

In the courtroom Keane tries to scapegoat the late Colonel Paradine's manservant Latour (Louis Jourdan) as the murderer, with very unexpected results in more ways than one.

With its large cast and a couple of twists and turns, THE PARADINE CASE perhaps plays closer to something like WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) than the typical Hitchcock film. That said, despite the courtroom drama the film was also really more about relationships than it was the actual murder case, and I wonder if that's why some viewers have come away dissatisfied.

I actually think trimming the courtroom scenes and focusing even more on the various characters' lives outside the courtroom would have been to the film's benefit; Jourdan's courtroom testimony begins to feel repetitive, while poor Ethel Barrymore seems to have mostly been left on the cutting-room floor.

Barrymore is touching as a woman seeming to teeter on the emotional edge, and her relationship with her husband (Charles Laughton), the lascivious judge presiding over the case, was rather interesting. Even so, I was surprised by her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination given the brevity of her part.

I don't dislike Peck but at times I can take or leave him, finding him attractive but an actor of limited range; he did hold my attention here and came off well enough, though I suspect other actors could have given his conflicted lawyer greater nuance and depth.

In one of the most striking scenes, Peck's lawyer visits the Paradines' country home in hopes of unearthing clues to exonerate his client. Tony's walk through Maddalena's bedroom very much calls to mind a similar scene from Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940), with a touch of Dana Andrews searching the apartment in Otto Preminger's LAURA (1944) on the side.

Incidentally, in that charming way of classic Hollywood, Peck's lack of a British accent isn't explained, and the same applies to Coburn.

Todd at times rather resembles Eva Marie Saint and seems to foreshadow Hitchcock's classic "cool blondes" of the '50s and '60s. She's a woman who's simultaneously brittle and warm; we see in her first scene with Peck that she is quick to chide him yet equally easy to praise her husband. She deftly conveys a long-married woman who perhaps takes her husband a bit for granted, but at the same time she is fully invested in keeping romance alive. Gay proves to have great insight into Tony's obsession with his latest case -- and how to solve it.

Joan Tetzel is also appealing as Sir Simon's daughter Judy, who serves as a sounding board for both her father and her best friend Gay. Tetzel and Coburn's scenes are quite good and help illustrate that the film's scenes focusing on various characters' relationships eventually outweigh interest in the court case. When the climax of the trial comes to pass, it's rather less interesting than how it will impact the surrounding personalities.

Returning to the subject of the running time, I was surprised that the movie ran only 115 minutes -- closer to 114, but I always round up -- given that both IMDb and the DVD box said it was 125 minutes. I learned that there have been a couple different edits over the years; according to various online references it originally it ran 132 minutes and then 125 before being trimmed down to its current running time.

The cast includes Hitchcock regulars Leo G. Carroll and John Williams; also appearing in small roles are Patrick Aherne, Isobel Elsom, and Leonard Carey.

The movie was beautifully photographed in black and white by Lee Garmes. The score was by Franz Waxman, and the gowns were designed by Travis Banton.

THE PARADINE CASE was written and produced by David O. Selznick from Alma Reville Hitchcock's adaptation of a novel by Robert Hichens. Additional dialogue was provided by the uncredited Ben Hecht.

I watched this film via a Kino Lorber DVD I purchased a few years ago. The print quality is beautiful, and there are impressive extras including a 1949 Lux Radio production with Valli, Jourdan, and Joseph Cotten in Peck's role.

I'm glad that this blogathon prompted me to finally catch up with this film; given that I enjoyed it, perhaps it's time to try UNDER CAPRICORN soon as well?

The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Three

Day 3 of the TCM Classic Film Festival on Friday, April 14th, was the first full day of screenings.

In my case I managed to squeeze in five movies -- okay, technically four and a half, as I made a rare move to leave during the day's final movie. I'm finishing OCEAN'S 11 (2001) at home this weekend!

My day began with HARVEY (1950), which I'd not seen since it was on local commercial television when I was a teenager. I enjoyed it, especially the chance to see the delightful Peggy Dow in another of her too-few films.

The movie was introduced by director Joe Dante -- after the "seating" of a very special invisible rabbit in the front row.

While I was at HARVEY my husband saw THE WILD BUNCH (1969) at the Legion Theater, introduced by Eddie Muller. Talk about a contrast in movies!

Next up for me was Bruce Goldstein's special presentation of FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) in the Chinese Multiplex.

Goldstein, of New York's Film Forum, always gives very informative information on pre-Code censorship and other issues -- he even pointed out a swimmer in the "By a Waterfall" number who started going in the wrong direction!

Then it was right back into the same theater where George Feltenstein of the Warner Archive Collection introduced a "Warner Night at the Movies" presentation of THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941), including a trailer, short, and cartoon. There was also a sing-a-long at movie's end which the audience participated in enthusiastically.  

We all owe Feltenstein a great debt of gratitude for his work restoring and making so many movies available for home viewing.

Next up for me, Eddie Muller introduced THE KILLERS (1946). The opening sequence with William Conrad and Charles McGraw is soooo good.  I was glad to revisit the film for the first time in a decade.

My husband finished the evening seeing the delightful Dana Delany (TOMBSTONE) introducing Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper in BALL OF FIRE (1941).

Meanwhile, I got in line at the "big" Chinese.... see George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh introduce OCEAN'S 11 (2001). As I was sitting some distance away my own photos can't do it justice, so here are press photos courtesy of Turner Classic Movies:

Clooney is one of the few "modern-day" actors who could have pulled me away from BALL OF FIRE, MAN'S CASTLE (1933), or seeing Frankie Avalon poolside at a screening of BEACH PARTY (1964).

As I mentioned during my initial festival overview, I made the decision to leave the screening partway through as it got started very late and the sound quality high up in the theater was not the best. It is extremely rare for me to leave a movie partway through but I think it was the best decision, which allowed me to have a good night's sleep before the next busy day.  

Coming soon: Day Four, another five-film day which included a very special screening of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951) in "Bensurround," thanks to the talents of sound effects magician Ben Burtt.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Two

On to Day Two of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival!

Thursday morning breakfast at Mel's has become an annual tradition, and this year was no exception, with seven of us gathering for a hearty breakfast before the day's events.

After breakfast a couple of us took a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and checked out the current state of construction at the Eygptian Theatre (above). It's rumored to be opening late this year.

We also took a look at the red carpet being set up at the Chinese Theatre for the opening night screening of RIO BRAVO (1959):

We found more movie memorabilia in the Chinese Multiplex! I don't remember it offhand, but this is said to be one of Grace Kelly's gowns from TO CATCH A THIEF (1955):

And it was amazing to see Rita Hayworth's famous "Put the Blame on Mame" gown from GILDA (1945):

I attended another TCM panel in Club TCM, this time aimed toward all festival-goers.

We also participated in the annual photograph of the #TCM Party Twitter group. This photo was taken by David Byrne of Turner Classic Movies:

Soon it was time for the first film of the evening -- my first time to see Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) on a big screen. It was nice to have the second ticket in line and be assured of getting in!

There was an excellent discussion between Dave Karger and actor John Hawkes preceding the movie. Hawkes knew the movie inside and out, even referring to Janet Shaw's unique deadpan performance as Louise, the cocktail bar waitress. He described Joseph Cotten's performance as a "combination of subtlety and sledgehammer."

It was marvelous seeing one of my very favorite Hitchcock films in this world premiere of a new 4K restoration.

After that, it was back in line for the second and final film of the night, THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962) introduced by Alicia Malone:

I hadn't seen THAT TOUCH OF MINK in years, and it was a wonderful film to see with a crowd. Cary Grant and Doris Day provoked plenty of laughs from the delighted audience.

Coming soon: A five-film Day Three, including the unexpected festival appearance of George Clooney at OCEAN'S 11 (2001). The festival crowd was abuzz when our phones lit up with the announcement he'd be at the Friday night screening!

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