TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 - Press Conference with Ben Mankiewicz

"You want to make them a little uncomfortable in their seat but you don't want to knock them off the chair." Ben Mankiewicz on interviewing

Here are some highlights from the press conference with Ben Mankiewicz at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival. Note that this is paraphrasing and not direct quotation unless quotation marks are used.

On how TCM has affected his life - Mankiewicz says that TCM has given him a career he didn't expect to have and has changed everything for the better.

On the Mankiewicz connection - Mankiewicz jokes that while no one is looking to continue the legacy of his family he would be lying if he didn't admit that his family connection helped him get his job at TCM. It wasn't the only reason though because he had to prove that he could deliver for that position. 

On cinema and politics -  TCM doesn't want to alienate people. It's a channel where conservatives, liberals, progressives and libertarians can all unite to celebrate movies. However, politics can't be left completely out because certain people in Hollywood had strong politic beliefs. Politics do matter.

On celebrities who leave him star struck - Mankiewicz was really intimidated by Max von Sydow who he interviewed at last year's festival. "He turned out to be the nicest guy in the world but you know he was faking it." He was also intimidated by Peter Bogdanovich. At this year's festival he was terrified about interview Jerry Lewis. Mankiewicz over prepared for his interview with Lewis so he wouldn't miss anything. He's also been star struck by George Clooney. Mankiewicz has good memories of meeting Kate Flannery, Eli Wallach and Illeana Douglas for the first time.

On TCM's audience of young people - TCM has done the research and they discovered that 66% of their viewers are from the ages of 18-49. They were surprised by how many young people attended the first festival. That encouraged them to spend some money to find out exactly who was watching their channel. "The stereotype of who our audience was, wasn't consistent with what the research showed."  Films are more readily available to young people than they were before thanks to the digital age. Mankiewicz says that young filmmakers, who don't have the money for special effects, have access to a library of movies that are all story and character-driven. Also, the young generations who love classic films and TCM will be the ones who pass on their passion to the next generation and the love of old movies will continue.

On the young presenters at the festival - Bill Hader and Jason Lee were mentioned. Mankiewicz was excited to find out why actress Anna Kendrick loves The Women (1939) so much that she decided to be a presenter at the screening. He went on to show his admiration of Kendrick who he thinks has a classic quality about her and her acting style. He's not surprised that these young Hollywood actors love classic films.

On Mickey Rooney - Mankiewicz says he had his best and worst interview in the same interview with Mickey Rooney. He also remembers a couple years ago when Rooney was 91 years old and was on the TCM Cruise. He had fallen down and couldn't make his last scheduled appearance. Mankiewicz sat with Rooney for 90 minutes and Rooney was very sad and apologetic.  He felt that he had let Mankiewicz and Osborne down. Mankiewicz remembers him as being incredibly sweet. Of Mickey Rooney he says, "you see him on screen and you can't take your eyes off him." A magnetic personality, Mankewicz jokes that Rooney got Ava Gardner and that means anything is possible.

On preparation  - Mankiewicz says he never shies away from enormous preparation. Don't rely on casual, off-the-cuff conversation. Prepare yourself because when you give yourself a trove of information then you can say something off-the-cuff but it's well-informed. Mankiewicz immerses himself as best he can in research. The problem with the festival is that there are so many things to immerse oneself in in a short period of time. Mankiewicz was very candid with us and shared a story from last year's festival. He was on the red carpet and met William Wyler's kids but didn't know who they were. You try to prepare yourself out of potentially embarrassing moments. However they can still happen in situations where there is a lot going on and too much to remember.

On Eva Marie Saint - Mankiewicz joked that for his next prank he'll be totally nude. For those of you who might not understand the joke it's a reference to something that happened last year. Eva Marie Saint used to make fun of Mankiewicz for being too casually dressed. At last year's festival, Mankiewicz wore jeans to the interview and stripped down in front of Eva Marie Saint and the whole audience revealing the suit pants he wore underneath.

On the TCM Classic Film Festival - "This festival means something to people. It's not just a chance for them to come to see movies… There's a connection to their heart and their soul to these movies." Mankiewicz says that fans really care about TCM and what they put on the air. It took viewers a while to warm up to him but he's glad they did. The fans are part of the TCM family and the festival gives them something tangible. Mankiewicz is really candid at this point and reveals that although he's not directly involved in the finances, he's pretty sure TCM makes very little, if any, money off of the festival. The festival is their signature event. It's good for the network, it raises their profile and "it's an opportunity to connect on a very, very base level with fans." 

TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 - Press Conference with Robert Osborne

"I didn't know being a nurse was going to be part of the job." Robert Osborne

Here are some highlights from the press conference with Robert Osborne at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival. Note that this is paraphrasing and not direct quotation.

On how TCM has affected his life - TCM has given him a great life. and it's given him a job he was born to do. The job didn't exist before and was created for him. What he didn't realize with this job and with TCM is that they would be a nurse to so many people. TCM is a "place" where people can be cheered up or be involved in something other than their own problems.

On TCM as family - Osborne reflected on being very close with the staff at TCM, many of whom he's worked with for 20 years. He's worked at other companies before where people don't get along. Osborne worked at a movie channel where there was a staff member who didn't even like movies. At TCM, everyone loves movies and is knowledgeable about them and that makes a big difference.

On movies - Movies are a necessity and they really add something to our lives.

On Lucille Ball and Maureen O'Hara - Maureen O'Hara was Lucille Ball's biggest competition. They were both red-heads and O'Hara was more traditionally beautiful but Lucille Ball had a lot to offer too. They were both under contract at RKO at the same time and when O'Hara showed up Ball thought of herself as "chopped liver".

On Lucille Ball being funny - Osborne shared with us that the real Lucille Ball wasn't a funny person. She didn't act funny and she didn't say funny things. Someone like Carole Burnett was naturally funny but Ball wasn't like that at all. But Lucille Ball could be funny on screen because she was that talented as an actress. Lucille Ball had a tough life. She was the main breadwinner for her family at a very young age. She went to New York to become a model at the tender age of 15. She was beautiful but up against many other beautiful young women. She couldn't tap dance like Eleanor Powell. She couldn't sing like Barbra Streisand. Her genius was that she was so talented at making people laugh.

On Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz - They had a tough marriage because she was so successful and he wasn't quite at the same level. Osborne also jokes that Arnaz was Cuban and had a wandering eye. After Lucille and Desi separated permanently, they remained close friends. Osborne remembers when Lucille Ball was performing on stage, Arnaz threw an opening night party for her even though at that point they were divorced and married to other people. Ball visited Arnaz at the end of his life and was with him when he died.

On Jane Darwell - Osborne met Darwell in Seattle when he was doing a play. Darwell advised him to not go to New York to do theatre but to go to California instead. Osborne didn't know anyone in California and stayed with Darwell. She got him an agent and he got a contract with 20th Century Fox. Osborne got the opportunity to watch actors like Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper and Orson Welles perform. Darwell was instrumental in Osborne meeting Lucille Ball, who was a big influence in Osborne's life and career, especially since Ball was fascinated with Darwell and intrigued by Osborne's connection with her.

On character actors  - TCM loves character actors and the staff were talking recently about how to do more programming on the channel with them as the highlight. It's difficult to do a Star of the Month with a character actor because you need a few films in which they have a significant role in order for the month long highlight to work.

On his wardrobe - Robert Osborne confesses that he has no style or taste in fashion at all. His stylist Holly Hadesty is responsible for putting together all of his outfits. Hadesty is very young and has a great eye for colors and patterns. It's her full-time job to get all of his outfits ready, to label them by day and time of day and to ship them off to locations where Osborne will be making public appearances. His personal style is just okay and a lot of what he wears he bases off of what's been given to him which makes putting together outfits easy. His wardrobe is such a part of his job that it really requires someone's time and effort to make sure he looks good and that he represents the channel properly.

On TCM's audience of young people - Osborne says he doesn't know how TCM acquired their audience of young people and was surprised how many young folks attend the TCM Classic Film Festival and Cruise. At least 50% of people who attend the events are below the age of 30 (he said 25-30). It really pleases Osborne that young people respond to classic films and used Rita Hayworth and Gilda as an example. Osborne thought originally that TCM would be nostalgia for people who remembered the classic films.

On TCM's Festival and Cruise - Osborne is impressed that TCM sells out both the festival and cruise so quickly and they don't need to rely on the announcements of big names or big films in order to draw interest in either. Festival and cruise-goers trust TCM enough that they'll buy tickets without knowing the full schedule.

On Osborne's influence on the festival programming - Charles Tabesh handles the programming and Osborne says that he is wonderful about taking suggestions and being open to ideas. Osborne suggested The Great Gatsby (1949) which eventually became part of the 2014 festival schedule. There were some rights issues with that one but they made the screening happen. Osborne remembers it being a good movie but missing a good Daisy.

On Olivia de Havilland - TCM came very close to having Olivia de Havilland at the festival. They were going to do a Private Screenings with her as well as have her attend the festival for the 75th anniversary of Gone with the Wind. De Havilland is 97, turns 98 in July, is as sharp as a tack but has been having health issues that come with being at such an advanced age. She visited her daughter in Malibu a few years ago and the trip was such a strain on her body that it took her a year to recover. She lives in Paris so traveling across the Atlantic and then across the U.S. is very trying on the body. TCM did travel to Paris to do a Private Screenings. They were all set up and ready to go at the famous Hotel George V but it was cancelled when de Havilland contracted pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital to recover. Osborne and de Havilland have a very close relationship and have been friends for many years. De Havilland was very apologetic because she really wanted to do both the festival and the interview however it just didn't work out because of her health. They did discuss having her come to Atlanta but de Havilland refused because of some bad memories. There were definite plans this February to have her come to New York but she had a health flare up and those plans eventually fell through. It wasn't for lack of trying on both the part of de Havilland and TCM but it just didn't happen.

On how movies have changed - There is a distinct difference between films of the studio system era and films of today. Back then there were heroes and actors and actresses were presented as larger than life. Today we want reality and real people. Today's audiences don't want any artifice. Also, so many classic films end on a positive note. Osborne uses the Humphrey Bogart film High Sierra (1941) as an example. Even though the hero dies and we see that his faithful companion, his dog, mourns the loss of his owner, Ida Lupino's character proclaims that the hero is now free. Just the addition of that one scene and a few lines of dialogue changes the ending from negative to positive. The filmmakers didn't want you leaving the theatre depressed. They wanted you to come back next week for a new movie. Osborne then compares it with depressing contemporary films such as No Country for Old Men or 12 Years a Slave.

On his favorite films - His has three big favorites: A Place in the Sun (1951), he saw it in college and is still in awe of the film years later; The Razor's Edge (1946), which he's seen many times; and This is Spinal Tap (1984), which never ceases to lay him on the floor laughing. He also throws in Sunset Blvd.  (1950) as a top favorite. There are very few films he doesn't like. He can find something enjoyable about pretty much every film he watches. His job at TCM is to show you a movie, even if it's an okay movie and not a great movie, that you may not be familiar with but is worth seeing. If you know what was going on in an actors life or what was going on in the world at that time, you'll understand the context and that can make any movie interesting.

Who I Met, Who I Saw and My Thoughts on the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

This year's festival theme was Family in the Movies: The Ties that Bind. While the movies screened fit this theme, this idea of family goes beyond just the schedule. The people who attended the festival are like one big family and the tie that binds us is classic movies. When you go to the TCM Classic Film Festival, you're with family. It doesn't feel like you're with a bunch of strangers because you are with your people. Whether you're seeing a familiar face, meeting someone for the first time after talking with them online for years, or bonding with a complete stranger in line for an event, you know you're with like-minded people who want to celebrate a shared love of classic movies.

Laura, Jessica, me and Aurora

I really felt the family vibe even more so this year than last year. And leaving the festival was especially painful because it hit me all at once that these wonderful classic film fans were not going to be making the trek back to Massachusetts with me. They were going back to their homes, all over the country, all over the world, all hoping to reunite for next year's festival.
Carlos, Robby and me

Max and me

The last film I saw at the festival was the 75th anniversary screening of The Wizard of Oz (1939) in 3D at the TCL Chinese IMAX. It was the perfect way to end the festival because it really spoke to what was happening to all of us at that very moment. We were all in the land of Oz, with new friends whom we feel like we've known for a lifetime, but now it's time for us to go back to our own Kansas.

Casey and Jessica

Me with Casey and Sarah

This year I was more excited to see folks I had met at last year's festival and to meet people I've only known online. The other friends I made were an added bonus!

Here are some of the wonderful folks that I got to spend some quality time with.

Angela of Hollywood Revue
Annmarie from Classic Movie Hub
Ariel of Sinamatic Salve-ation
Aurora of Once Upon a Screen...
Carley of The Black Maria and The Kitty Packard Pictorial
Casey of Noir Girl
Daniel of Celebrity Cafe
Diane of Classic Movie Blog
Drew of The Black Maria
Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood
Jill of The Black Maria
Joel of Joel's Classic Film Passion
K.C. of A Classic Movie Blog
Karen from The Dark Pages and Shadows and Satin
Kate Gabrielle of Scathingly Brilliant
Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled
Kristen of Journeys in Classic Film
Kristen of Eat Cinema. Drink Coffee. Live Forever.
Lara Gabrielle of Backlots
Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings and her wonderful husband Doug!
Lindsay of Lindsay's Movie Musings
Lou Lumenick from The New York Post
Marya of Cinema Fanatic
Matt from Warner Archive
Millie of ClassicForever
Nicola of Vintage Film Nerd
Nora of The Nitrate Diva and her mother Colleen
Paula of TCM Party and Cinema Detroit
Raquel of Now Watching
Robby of Dear Old Hollywood
Sarah of The Wicker Bar
Trevor of TCM Party

If I forgot to include you, let me know and I'll add you to the list!

Candid from the TCM Tweet-up

Here are some of the special guests I got to see:

Bo Hopkins - American Graffiti (1973) screening poolside
Candy Clark - American Graffiti (1973) screening poolside
Jane Seymour - TCM at 20 Exhibition
Jerry Lewis -  Jerry Lewis Hand and Footprint Ceremony
Kim Novak - TCM at 20 Exhibition and Bell, Book and Candle (1958) screening
Leonard Maltin - A Conversation with Quincy Jones at Club TCM and in the Roosevelt Hotel
Margaret O'Brien - Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) screening and twice in the Roosevelt Hotel
Maureen O'Hara - How Green Was My Valley (1941) screening and On Air interview
Mel Brooks - Blazing Saddles (1974) screening and On Air interview
Merrie Spaeth - The World of Henry Orient (1964) screening
Paul Le Mat - American Graffiti (1973) screening poolside
Paula Prentiss - The World of Henry Orient (1964) screening
Quentin Tarantino - Jerry Lewis Hand and Footprint Ceremony
Quincy Jones - A Conversation with Quincy Jones at Club TCM

And I can't even count how many times I saw Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz! I was also happy to regularly see the fantastic staff of TCM including Scott McGee, Tom Brown, Genevieve McGillicuddy, Charles Tabesh as well as Nora and Katie!

Press Photo. Source: Getty Images

My favorite moments from the festival:
  • Watching my #1 favorite film Bachelor Mother (1939) on the big screen.
  • Meeting Robert Osborne for the first time. He's just as friendly and generous as you'd imagine him to be.
  • Getting the opportunity to spend so much time with friends (both new and old). I treasured every hug, every conversation, every moment.
  • Talking to Margaret O'Brien in the Roosevelt Hotel bathroom
  • Seeing Jerry Lewis for the first time
  • Greg Proop's introduction to Bachelor Mother (1939).
  • Cheering for Kim Novak at the Bell, Book and Candle screening.
    Shaking hands with director Quentin Tarantino at the Jerry Lewis Hand and Footprint Ceremony
  • Everything about the Charlton Heston Stamp Dedication Ceremony
  • Watching The World of Henry Orient and discovering this film as a new favorite.
  • Watching Quincy Jones fist bump Leonard Maltin
  • Laughing as Jerry Lewis gave us all the middle finger.
  • Seeing Maureen O'Hara twice. It wasn't enough for me to see her once. I needed to see her again!
  • Making friends and chatting with my new buddies Max and Eva.
  • Going to the El Capitan theatre for the first time.
  • Every single appreciative applause from the audience. We all applaud before and after the interviews and introductions, several times during the credits, after wonderful scenes or musical numbers, when we see a notable star for the first time in the movie and at the end.
  • 20 Years of TCM on Air panel at Club TCM which featured a lot of the TCM promos.
  • Seeing The Wizard of Oz (1939) in 3D IMAX on it's 75th anniversary and in the same theatre where it premiered.
  • Crying buckets of tears during How Green Was My Valley (1941).

My least favorite moments from the festival:
  • The line for The World of Henry Orient. The lines are managed very well but this one was a little tricky. Kudos to the TCM staff who managed to fix the problem.
  • Being sick most of the festival because of an irregular eating schedule.
  • Having to leave the screening of Blazing Saddles early because of said sickness.
  • Falling asleep during two films because I forgot to have some afternoon caffeine.
  • Missing out on the Ask Robert Osborne Q&A which ended up being something completely different. Jill St. John was there! ::sobs::
  • Seeing comedian Jamie Kaler and choking up. I wish I could have been calmer so I could tell him how much I loved his character on the show My Boys.
  • The Genworth charging station. I couldn't charge any of my devices there. The overall lack of places to charge devices is an issue especially when you take photos/videos and share on social media! I bought a Mophie which extended the life of my iPhone battery. It helped immensely!
  • Saying goodbye to all my wonderful friends.
Overall the experience was glorious. It was even better than the 2013 festival and that one was hard to top! I'm sure next year's festival will be even more wonderful and I'm saving my pennies now so I can go to that one too.

TCM Classic Film Festival Day Five Recap

My last day at the TCM Classic Film Festival was a lot less hectic than the previous days. I unfortunately missed the screening of The Fiddler on the Roof and didn't get an opportunity to see director Norman Jewison in person. I really needed some extra sleep if I was going to make it through the last day.

On our way to catch the bus to the festival, Carlos and I made a short detour and stopped by Robert Mitchum's star. Mitchum's grandson, actor Bentley Mitchum, helped me find the star last year. I didn't do much on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year but I really wanted a photo with Mitchum's star. He truly is my favorite and it's always a joy for me to watch his films and to hear stories about him.

I found out today that Robert Mitchum's wife Dorothy Mitchum passed away on Saturday evening at the age of 94. My sincerest condolences to the Mitchum family for their loss.

Carlos and I headed to the Chinese Multiplex to check out the Genworth area. Genworth Insurance is one of the official sponsors of the TCM Classic Film Festival along with CitiBank and Delta. Genworth had a photo area with a big TCM display, a living room/charging station and a coffee and tea bar. The area was really neat and I hadn't had a chance to spend any time there earlier so I'm glad I did on the last day. Genworth also had a contest that you entered for a chance to win two Spotlight Passes to the 2015 festival. I entered Carlos and I in the contest but alas we didn't win! I loved this set-up and my only complaint was that they had no electrical outlets and the only cables they had for charging didn't fit my iPhone 4 or my Android Mophie phone charger. So it was pretty useless to me.

We were too early to get one of the official printed photos of us in front of the TCM display. However, one of the TCM festival volunteers was gracious enough to take photos of Carlos and I in front of the display.

We headed back to Club TCM and Carlos took a few photos of me in front of some festival signage. I love this billboard of George Cukor and the stars of The Women (1939). It was by far my favorite of all the lovely TCM festival signage.

I also really loved this behind-the-scenes photo of Joan Bennett and Spencer Tracy from Father of the Bride (1950). Here I am with the sign, my official festival bag, my social media buttons and my media pass.

Carlos and I stopped by the TCM Boutique to do a bit of shopping. I bought a copy of the Conversations with Robert Osborne DVD. He was signing copies later in the day.

I wasn't feeling well so I mostly hung out in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel. I briefly attended the Judy Garland program in Club TCM but had to leave because my stomach wasn't doing so great.

Later on in the day I did get a chance to catch part of the 20 Years of TCM On-Air panel. I plan to do a short post on this so stay tuned! I left early because… 

At 4 pm Robert Osborne was interviewing Maureen O'Hara for Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival. I really wanted another opportunity to see O'Hara again! Because they had previously announced the time of the interview there were a lot of people who camped out early to get close to the front. They gave us an opportunity at the end to photograph the lovely Maureen O'Hara before her grandson Conor Beau escorted her away. 

I loved this interview because it was a lot more in depth than the one before the How Green Was My Valley screening. O'Hara discussed her leading men, working with Charles Laughton and John Ford, her working relationship with John Wayne and even talked about how much she loves watching soccer. She left us with a little limerick at the end.

Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings got in line for Robert Osborne's signing of his DVD. Here is Laura with Robert. He gave her a kiss before she left. I wish I had gotten a picture of that! 

I was so happy to get a chance to meet Robert Osborne, to shake his hand and to thank him for all he does. This signed copy of Conversations with Robert Osborne is now a treasured possession.

Still feeling sick on the last day at one point I decided not to attend The Wizard of Oz (1939) in 3D IMAX screening but I'm so glad I changed my mind! It was a magical way to end the festival. The movie worked perfectly as the last film of the festival. The festival has been like Oz and now we are all heading back to our own Kansas. There's no place like home!

I went to the Closing Night Party to say goodbye to some friends. The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I had even more fun than last year and that festival was a blast too. I'm very sad it's over and it was difficult to say goodbye to friends but I look forward to next year and to do it all over again!

Me and K.C. of A Classic Movie Blog

Me with Angela from Hollywood Revue

Me and Diane from Classic Movie Blog


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