Yesterday we had the pleasure of attending the TCM Road to Hollywood event at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA. Presented by Turner Classic Movies, hosted by Leonard Maltin and featuring special guest Jane Powell, last night’s event was nothing short of spectacular.
I have been excited about this special event ever since it was announced as part of the TCM Road to Hollywood lineup. As soon as tickets became available, I snatched two up as quick as I could and waited anxiously for the day to arrive.
Carlos and I arrived about an hour early to the event and there was already a line waiting to get in.
We didn’t have to wait long in the rain to get in. Once we entered, we handed over our tickets and picked up our complimentary TCM Film Festival postcards and TCM Now Playing Guide. There was a photographer taking pictures of us as we entered and this cool signage greeted us.
This event was sold out and the place was packed.
Tickets were compliments of TCM and the event was geared towards promoting the TCM Film Festival.
A representative from TCM spoke to us about the Road to Hollywood series and the Film Festival encouraging us to go. I thank TCM for being so generous and hosting these events across the country and allowing us to attend for free! Not only that but allowing us to be in the presence of a classic film star.
After the rep from TCM did her talk, Ned Hinkle, Creative Director of the Brattle, also spoke encouraging folks to go to the TCM Film Festival if they could and thanking TCM, Leonard Maltin and Jane Powell for making this amazing event happen. He also spoke some really kind words about Leonard Maltin and all he’s done for movie buffs over the years, especially in the days before the internet when a lot of us relied on his movie guides for information and film discovery.
Leonard Maltin came out and talked a bit about the TCM Film Festival some more before Special Guest Jane Powell. He referred to it as Movie Buff Camp and said that the energy at the festival was really wonderful. I also remember him saying that people from over 45 states attended the festival. Woah!
Maltin introduced Jane Powell and she was received by the audience with a standing ovation and an enthusiastic roar of applause. She looked really good! She had a lovely blue dress on and black high heel pumps and looked absolutely lovely. The talk lasted about 30 minutes and Maltin was a gracious and helpful host and Jane Powell was witty and charming and effervescent. You could tell the crowd was hanging on to her every word and were really excited to see her. There was lots of applause and laughter. A positive experience overall. Maltin also took a few questions from the audience.
Here are some of the anecdotes that Jane Powell shared with us:
- She referred to her younger self as a “country bumpkin from Portland, Oregon”
- She got her start tap-dancing for a radio broadcast. Yes, radio.
- She found out that MGM had changed her name from Suzanne Burce to Jane Powell from a phone call. She thought the name was boring and noted that other actors already had the surname Powell.
- She liked the Studio system, always thought of herself as an employee of MGM. She went to school at the MGM lot with Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O’Brien.
- She never turned down roles. Her only regrets were roles that were never offered to her. One of the roles she regrets not getting is Love Me or Leave Me which eventually starred Doris Day.
- She wishes she could have been offered more dramatic roles.
- The first time she met Clark Gable she was so star-struck she forgot his name.
- She remembers Fred Astaire as a very private person and felt she never really knew him. She described him as unique, kind and a rarity.
- The movie studio suffered from competing with TV. She remembered that if she had her picture taken that a TV set could not be included in the shot.
- She used to be on the road a lot and always took her 3 kids and 3 dogs.
- She always worked independently. Never had a secretary and still doesn’t.
- She had a good relationship with Louis B. Mayer and described it as a father-daughter sort of bond.
- She says she was never “chased around the desk” like other actresses were.
- She was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding and Taylor was a bridesmaid at her first wedding too.
- After leaving MGM, she went on to perform in theaters and night clubs.
- Her husband, actor Dickie Moore, isn’t doing very well health-wise so she has taken on the role of caretaker. She lives a very quiet life and refers to herself as a homebody.
- She thoroughly enjoyed everything she did with her career and sincerely loves people.
Something I noticed about Jane Powell was how appreciative she is about her career and the people she worked with. She only had nice things to say about everybody. She shared a sad memory she had of Louis B. Mayer’s final days at MGM, but otherwise she had a lot of happy memories to share.
The conversation wrapped up and Jane Powell thanked everyone and she and Leonard Maltin received another standing ovation. They took a photograph by the poster and we’re off. I wish the talk lasted an hour rather than 30 minutes or that perhaps there would have been a follow up after the movie. Oh well! I was at least happy to be sitting in a good seat (second row on the left with no one really blocking me!) and to have been able to experience what I did.
Royal Wedding (1951) came up on the screen and we were treated to a showing. The film stars Jane Powell and Fred Astaire as Ellen and Tom Bowen (respectively), a brother-sister singing and dancing duo. They are a big success in the states and were offered an opportunity to perform in London and to attend the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth II. The Bowens set off on a vessel across the Atlantic. On the boat she meets Lord John Brindale (Peter Lawford) and they find that they both share a propensity for leaving behind multiple love interests and that they both enjoy each others attention. A romance between them blossoms. While in London, Tom (Fred Astaire) accidentally meets Anne (Sarah Churchill – Winston Churchill’s daughter) a dancer who is auditioning for his show. There isn’t much of a conflict to drive the plot along but the movie moves at a very satisfying clip. It’s a fun movie to watch for various reasons. There are the amazing musical numbers. I especially loved the How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life (phew!) number:
It was really fun to watch Jane Powell as a sassy brunette! Then there are the famous Fred Astaire solo numbers, including Sunday Jumps in which he dances with a hatstand and the You’re All the World to Me number in which Astaire dances on the walls and ceiling of a rotating room (although it doesn’t look to be rotating!). Then there are the costumes, the comedy and the cultural musings of London circa 1950s.
The audience’s reaction to the movie was wonderful. We were all still feeling the energy from having just seen Jane Powell in person. There were applauses after most of the musical and dance numbers and an applause when Jane Powell’s name came up on the screen. I have been to many film screenings and I have to say I have never been to one with an audience as enthusiastic and as appreciative as this one. It was just hands down a wonderful experience.
Thank you so much to TCM, the Brattle, Leonard Maltin, Jane Powell and everyone else who helped make this amazing event happen!