Hey there! I’m back to regale you with the rest of the TCM Classic Film Festival weekend! When we left our protagonist (me), he – I – was preparing for Saturday’s events. Ha, yeah, well, I was arranging and re-arranging my schedule for the day. Saturday was particularly confounding because the choices were nigh impossible to pick. Check this out: it was between Doctor Zhivago(1965) with Omar Sharif & Julie Christie, The Man Who Would be King(1975) starring Sean Connery & Michael Caine & Christopher Plummer, Why Be Good?(1929), They Won’t Forget(1937) with Lana Turner, They Were Expendable (1945), with John Wayne, or, a conversation with actor/director for 80 years, Norman Lloyd .
Ok, seriously, how do you choose between these? At the very least, you’d think that I’d go listen to Norman Lloyd, who is 100 years old and worked with Alfred Hitchcock, and oh, well, everybody. But something drew me to The Man Who Would Be King, because in attendance was actor Christopher Plummer. I decided I couldn’t pass up seeing him live before the screening of that great John Huston film. Plummer plays Rudyard Kipling as he recounts the tale of two men, scoundrels, per se’, that decide to go to Kafiristan, where no white man has set foot since Alexander the Great, and install themselves as Kings. It’s a great adventure film, and a delight to watch Connery and Caine work together.
Now, following this screening, the next choice was – JUST AS FREAKING DIFFICULT. Ugh, the musical 1776 (1972), with actors and director in attendance, Malcolm X (1992), with director Spike Lee Q&A, Rebel Without A Cause, the John Ford film, Air Mail (1932), The Miracle Worker starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke (the Helen Keller story), OR, my choice of going to see legendary actress Sophia Loren interviewed by her own son for two hours. Yeah, that sounded like something I should do. Malcolm X and Spike Lee was a close second, but c’mon, this is Sophia Loren we’re talking about here.
Just to say this up front, once again, a woman at age 80 that looks a LOT younger, and could easily convince me to be a kept man, is Sophia Loren. She looks ridiculously gorgeous, and is chock full of class and is really the embodiment of old Hollywood. She never moved here to Los Angeles however, and has always stayed in her native Italy. Her son is writer/director Edoardo Ponti. She talked about her growing up, how she got into acting, her mother, how weird was it to be an actress in on of her sons films, and how important family is to her (the most important). Mostly the usual stuff, but I’m not terribly familiar with her and her work so I thought it was interesting.
Now, as challenging as the choices are at this point, the standout was a screening of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment with Shirley MacClaine and Jack Lemmon – Q&A with Shirley MacClaine? Kind of a no-brainer. You just shut up and go to that, no questions asked. And she was funny, and a straight shooter. All pro, and a bit of spit and vinegar. She sits down and within a minute says, “There’s feedback coming from one of the monitors up here – fix it!” You can be sure someone from the TCM crew was on that shit IMMEDIATELY. Shirley MacClaine tells you to get your shit together, you get your shit together NOW. But she was awesome and had great stories to tell about Lemmon and Wilder. And once again I got that feeling like, if there was any doubt as to why I still live in Los Angeles, those doubts settled into my movie theater seat with a tub of popcorn, eyes riveted front and center and forgot all else.
And THEN, if that weren’t enough for Saturday, those doubts disappeared in a puff of smoke because that next film, my choice against films like Adams Rib and Imitation of Life, neither of which I’ve seen (for shame!), was The French Connection, followed by Alec Baldwin interviewing director William Friedkin! WTF? This is the kind of incredible stuff that Turner Classic Movies makes happen at these festivals. I never want to miss one, ever.
This is one of those classic police dramas, starring Gene Hackman and Roy Schieder. And Friedkin talked for almost an hour! He had great bits of info, like Hackman was the LAST guy on the list he wanted to play Popeye Doyle. In fact, they basically hired him right after seeing his audition, and becasue they were pretty much out of choices. And that legendary car chase under the train? They couldn’t afford to pay the city to close as much road as they wanted, so when you see Hackman driving and almost hitting other cars in the way, it was all real and not planned. Those weren’t stunt cars, they just used as much street as they needed to shoot it, everyone else be damned. Turns out, a LOT of The French Connection was shot without permits. Yeah, that’s guerilla film making, people. Amazing.
Stuff like this, you can’t get just anywhere. Hollywood? Uh, yeah. All the time.
That took me to just after midnight, Saturday. There was a late screening of a little known film called Nothing Lasts Forever (1984), a Saturday Night Live produced sci-fi comedy film written/directed by Tom Schilller. “Zach Galligan stars as an aspiring artist in a futuristic New York run by the Port Authority. When he fails a drawing test, he’s forced to direct traffic in Holland Tunnel, which puts him in touch with a group of homeless people who secretly rule the world.”
‘Id never even heard of this film, but they got Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray to be in it, along with a few recognizable people like, Mort Sahl, Eddie Fisher, Lauren Tom (Friends), and the great Larry “Bud” Melman (Calvert DeForest) of the Letterman show fame from the 80’s and 90’s. Anybody remember him? Well, it’s a funny satire, but not amazing. I was really debating whether to stay and watch it, seeing as it would keep me up until about two AM, and I wanted to be back at nine AM to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton. Alas, the best laid plans…
I woke up Sunday morning at about 7 am, and immediately knew I wasn’t going to make it. Too tired, not enough actual meals – there really isn’t much time between screenings – and I was beat. Well, ok, you COULD make time for a full meal, but screw that, I wanted to see these films. So, I decided to sleep in a bit because there wasn’t a Q&A I wanted to see until later in the day. Then, of course, the day got away from me, and I still needed a full square meal. So I decided to finish my weekend of classic films with a Sophia Loren great that I’ve never seen: Marriage Italian Style.
From 1964, Marriage Italian Style stars Loren, and the great Marcello Mastroianni. She is Filomena, a 17 year old girl that becomes a prostitue and falls for Mastroianni’s Domenic. He falls for her, too, but he likes women too much to be kept by just one. He keeps Filomena as a mistress for years, then finally plans to marry a younger woman. Filomena has plans of her own, however. Loren is pretty amazing as she progresses from a naive 17 year old, to a bitter and angry woman of 40. This is a must-see film, with elements of drama and humor, and really Loren’s great performance. Oh yeah, then Sophia Loren was interviewed right after! Yay!
All in all, a great way to cap off a fantastic weekend of classic film. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to participate in this festival. Oh wait, yeah, I CAN tell you – I just did. At great length. Ok, so listen, if you are one of those people that haven’t really given the classics a chance yet because you think they’re just too dated, or you think those are movies your parents watch, why would you want to do that? – then you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Well, actually you’re just being a close-minded dumb-ass. These are the films – and the talent – that paved the way for films that you love today. And they did it all with so much more class, style and grace – even the comedy had more grace.
Check out the TCM channel on your cable/dish/streaming, whatever. There are SO many incredible films to be seen that don’t have people like Adam Sandler or Katherine Heigl in them. Do yourself a favor, go back and watch the films that made all the great actors, directors, writers, etc., fall in love with film in the first place.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, never feeling average when I’m at the TCM Classic Film Festival.