As we came upon the end of March this year I though, “Cool, Monsterpalooza time!” Then I was like, “Wait, it’s Turner Classic Movie Festival time!” Oh, choices, choices. Though I love Monsterpalooza tons, the TCM Film Fest had an amazing schedule this year. Well, equally amazing and frustrating. Every single day this year was a series of torturous decisions on what film to see, which Q&A to be present for, what new film-going experience to have.
The TCM Classic Film Festival allows me to do two really great things: see some classic films that maybe I’ve never seen before, and experience some amazing discussions with stars, actors, directors – in the flesh. Yeah, right there, a few rows away. It’s sort of like when I first moved to L.A. and was star struck every time I saw someone famous. I mean, you get to see legends of film at this festival. It’s pretty cool.
I took Friday off work so I could get more of the festival in, and it was worth it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my press pass before Friday morning, so I missed the Thursday night choices, but no worries, I still had a full weekend. Friday began for me with an 11:30 am screening of Lenny, 1974, starring Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine. It had been years since I saw this film, and I surely found more appreciation for it now. I barely remembered much of it. It’s a great film based on the life and comedy of controversial comedian Lenny Bruce. Of course, by the time the film was made, he wasn’t nearly as controversial, and other comics, like George Carlin, were taking up Lenny’s cause of trying to demystify words while scaring the censors.
After the film, the audience was treated to actor Alec Baldwin interviewing Dustin Hoffman. WHAT. Yeah, it was awesome. It’s pretty surreal seeing these guys talking twenty feet from you. It’s also the kind of thing that makes you stop wondering why you moved to L.A. in the first place. Where the Hell else are you going to see this kind of thing? For a film lovers perspective, this is as good as it gets. And this was just the beginning.
After that, I saw The Cincinnati Kid (1965) with Steve McQueen and Ann-Margret. I’d never seen the film; a gamblers movie about a Hell of an up and coming card player looking to score big against the biggest fish there is, Lancy Howard (Edward G. Robinson). A little interview with Ann-Margret in person before hand was an absolute treat. And at 73, she looks fantastic. No, like, “I’d be happy to be a kept man”, fantastic.
From there I went over to the Roosevelt Hotel and watched author Scott Eyman talk to Peter Fonda about his dad Henry Fonda – well, all things Fonda, really. It was a pretty incredible interview. Peter got rather personal about his relationship with his dad, which, for those that don’t know, wasn’t what one might call “ideal” for most of Peter’s life. Henry Fonda wasn’t known for his warm fuzziness when it came to family. Apparently, saying “I love you” was no small feat for him, and he didn’t say it to Peter until his last few years. It got pretty emotional. Things like this really help to connect us to these actors. They certainly don’t have to open up in this manner, so it’s even more an experience when we get the opportunity to attend these kind of events. Dare I say, the open bar was the cherry on top? Yes, yes I do.
Among my choices after that were screenings of either The Party, starring Peter Sellers, The Bank Dick, with W.C. Fields, Apollo 13, Rebecca, starring Joan Fontaine, directed by Hitchcock, a seldom seen BBC documentary from 1965, The War Game, and a screening of the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with a Q&A with Bond himself, George Lazenby. Any one of these had some kind of special guest and Q&A, so any of them would have been amazing. But a chance to see Lazenby interviewed? Oh, yeah, we have a winner.
And it surely did not disappoint. It was great to see this film again after so many years. You forget how good it is, how much more humanity is given to Bond. And frankly, Lazenby is a hoot. Talk about Old School – this guy is pretty much a male chauvinist, and potentially a bit homophobic. But hey, he’s cut from a cloth from another time. There are just some things you can’t change about a previous generation, and I’m not about to try now. He was still funny, entertaining, and had great stories about how he got hired to be Bond: he never signed a contract – ever. Slept with most of the women on the set, and after a unintentional mishap, was not spoken to by director Peter Hunt for the whole of filming. Really great stuff.
All of this, and it’s just the first day of the festival! I will hit you with Saturday and Sunday next!
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, getting my classic film fix on!