Friday, April 17, 2015

Sound of Music (1965) Red Carpet Event at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

On March 26th, 2015 TCM held a special 50th Anniversary screening of The Sound of Music (1965) complete with a red carpet event and an interview with stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. While I didn't attend the screening I did get to sit in the bleachers for an excellent view of the red carpet event.

I was 12th in line for the bleacher seats which held around 80 people or so. These are the best seats in the house if you want to gaze at the stars.

A view of the red carpet from the bleacher seats
Walking the red carpet were Spotlight Passholders, VIP media, TCM staffers, TCMFF special guests and presenters, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and more.

Alan Hait on the red carpet
Bloggers Kristina of Speakeasy and Karen of Shadows and Satin on the red carpet
It was great to see familiar faces like Alan Hait, Kristina, Karen Burroughs Hannsbery and Lou Lumenick on the red carpet!

Eddie Muller

TCM's Sean Cameron served as our MC calling out the various guests and doing short interviews.

This woman, I believe her name was Dawn, works for TCM. She handles the talent. Sean Cameron asked her when Doris Day would be coming to TCMFF. She replied that she was going to Doris Day's birthday party the following week and she'd try to convince her to come. I couldn't help but be incredibly jealous of this woman! I'd love to go to Doris Day's birthday party.

Diane Baker

TCM's Charlie Tabesh

Keith Carradine

Robert Morse

TCM's Genevieve McGillicuddy

Leonard Maltin

Julie Andrews is somewhere under the umbrella
Can you see her?

Greg Proops

Shirley Jones

Annie V. Coates

Marty Ingels. Yes he is holding his crotch.

Errol Flynn's grandson and daughter: Sean Rio and Rory Flynn

Ben Mankiewicz poses for the crowd.

Norman Lloyd

I love this candid I got of Barry Pearl

Grease lightning! Michael Tucci, Barry Pearl, Jamie Donnelly and Kelly Ward

Christine Ebersole

Illeana Douglas

Here comes Peter Fonda!
There goes Peter Fonda!

Red Carpet Selfie
I hope you enjoyed my photos!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) with Millie Perkins & Diane Baker at #TCMFF

Scene from The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day and I thought it fitting to share with you the details of a special screening of The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). When I initially saw this screening listed on the TCMFF schedule, I had a strong emotional reaction, one that I wasn't expecting.

 Growing up, I entertained myself with TV shows, toys and books but I didn't watch very many movies. However, The Diary of Anne Frank was a movie I remember seeing several times as a child and it had a great impact on me. I credit the movie, the book and Anne Frank's legacy as an early influence and what set me on the path to become an empathetic adult. This incredible story taught me so much about good and evil and what it means to have hope even when reality is grim. The emotional education I received from Anne Frank's story as well as many other stories of the Holocaust was invaluable to me as a child and as an adult.

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

It's impossible to watch The Diary of Anne Frank and not have any sympathy for the people involved. We know this happened. We can't say "it's just a movie". This was real life. During the film there were numerous moments when the characters had to be very quiet so they wouldn't be discovered by a nosy neighbor or intruder and reported to the Gestapo. In that theatre you could hear a pin drop. None of us wanted to make a sound. Why? It's not as though we were in the situation itself. Making noise wouldn't have affected the outcome of the story. We know young Anne Frank dies. We know this from the very first scene in the film which takes place after the liberation of the camps. However, as an audience we still hold onto the hope that the families won't be discovered. This was sympathy in action.

Illeana Douglas interviews Millie Perkins and Diane Baker

Illeana Douglas, Millie Perkins and Diane Baker
On the last day of TCMFF, Illeana Douglas interviewed stars Millie Perkins and Diane Baker before the start of the film. Baker brought 13 members of her family to the screening and they were sitting right behind me.

Douglas starts off the discussion by noting that director George Stevens was greatly affected by WWII and afterwards his films became deeper and more somber. He was compelled to tell the story of Anne Frank and the film gave young actresses Millie Perkins and Diane Baker their film debut.

What made Perkins and Baker perfect for these coveted roles? Perkins responded, "inexperience. Not knowing who we were." She was a model at a young age and although she had been approached several times about movie roles she always turned them down with the reply "I don't want to be an actress." When she found out about George Stevens' interest in her for The Diary of Anne Frank she quickly changed her mind. She loved Stevens work, especially A Place in the Sun, and she tested for the film. Perkins remembered, “I was so independent in my mind and in my feeling. No one could tell me what to do. Or how to do it. And that was Anne Frank.”

Diane Baker, who plays Anne's older sister Margo Frank, said, “I think George [Stevens] wanted naturalness. He didn’t want us to be affected by films. He wanted some people that were more real that we didn’t have any affectations for having been in movies.” Simplicity, innocence and naturalness; those were the key elements to these pivotal roles.

The conversation lingered on George Stevens for most of the interview. This wasn't just another picture he directed; this was an extension of himself. Perkins and Baker referred to Stevens as brilliant, kind and wonderful. Baker reflected, "[Stevens] wouldn't let his actors feel pressure. He coddled us and made us feel comfortable." Perkins was effusive in her praise calling Stevens "one of the best directors Hollywood ever had." Stevens thought highly of both Perkins and Baker as well. According to both actresses, he was delighted with their performances

Stevens wanted to make small, intimate movies about real people. He was the head photographer during the liberation of the concentration camps in WWII and this was an experience that would change him forever. Did Perkins and Baker know how much this had affected him? Perkins said she didn't know until after the film but Baker knew right from the start.

It was important for the actors to connect with the time period. Baker remembers abandoning make-up and wearing the clothes from the film for the whole nine months of shooting. During climatic scenes Stevens would play records in the background of German songs and Hitler's street marches. He had the set rigged so it would shake during the bombing scene. The actors weren't expecting this which resulted in a more genuine reaction.

Both actresses had fond memories of the other stars of the film including Gusti Huber, Joseph Schildkraut, Lou Jacobi, Ed Wynn and Richard Beymer. Shelley Winters was another story. Perkins said, “Shelley Winters was a wonderful actress and a pain in the neck." Winters carried around ammonia tablets on set because she used these to induce crying. The playful prankster she was, Winters would crack these under the nose of the unsuspecting target, Diane Baker.

Winters would watch Perkins work, "she’d stand behind the camera... and she would ask 'how’d you do that? What kind of upbringing did you have?'" The day they filmed the Hanukkah scene Perkins remembers, "she invited me to her dressing room to talk about it. And she got me drunk... I didn’t know any better. “

Although The Diary of Anne Frank is set in a very specific time period the story is indeed timeless. Illeana Douglas posed the question: why do you think the film holds up today?
Baker's response was “it keeps happening in the world. That smart brilliant little Anne Frank said she truly believed in spite of everything that people are good at heart. I would like to believe that all people are good at heart. I’m not so sure. But I do know one thing. We here, all of us in this room, all of us can try to be good at heart. We can’t control everything."

Perkins recounted the story of her 17 year old grandson who asked her, “when you were young were people as mean and corrupt as they are now?" She had done a lot of acting work over the years but claims that nothing has affected her life as The Diary of Anne Frank. Both Perkins and Baker go to numerous events at schools, festivals, etc. to talk about the film. Perkins has even gone to Israel on numerous occasion to speak.

We just try to be as good as we can. That’s all we can do... All we can control is us.” - Diane Baker

“And that’s why George [Stevens] made the movie. He wanted to show real people with real heart going through real things. He didn’t want this... to happen again." - Millie Perkins

Thank you to Millie Perkins, Diane Baker, Illeana Douglas and the folks at TCM for a wonderful event.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Reign of Terror (1949) with Norman Lloyd and Eddie Muller

Press photo of Norman Lloyd and Eddie Muller
Norman Lloyd is a treasure. This is a sentiment echoed by many including Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation who was these same words at the end of his interview with Lloyd at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. Norman Lloyd is full of stories he can easily bring forth from his 100 year old brain. But it's not just the clarity of his mind that is a wonder; it's the way he can deliver a story from the distant past with wit, charm and a little bit of mischievousness.

Illeana Douglas introducing Reign of Terror (1949)

A packed house at the Chinese Multiplex had just been treated to a screening of Reign of Terror (1949), also known as The Black Book. Illeana Douglas introduced it as "Film Noir meets the French Revolution" and that's exactly what it was. The "Reign of Terror" was a time period of great violence during the French Revolution and is known for torture, executions and rival factions. The film representation of this era is suspenseful and dark but not without a good dose of humor. Art director William Cameron Menzies was not afraid to get the camera right up to the actor's faces creating some very dynamic shots. My favorite scene in the film is when Charles D'Aubigny (Robert Cummings) meets Tallien (Norman Lloyd) for the first time. Lloyd is in the foreground with his back turned away from Cummings and he's methodically eating cherries one by one out of a jar. The scene is strikingly shot and quite erotic in how Lloyd is devouring those cherries without a care in the world.

Norman Lloyd coming down the 39 Steps (plus a few more)
After the film I got another glimpse at the man who just made me squirm in my seat as the great Norman Lloyd descended the stairs. My seat was in the front row at the far right which was terrible for viewing the movie but perfect for getting very close to the man himself. I was very grateful for this spot because when he left I had the opportunity to say "thank you" to him. And you know what happened? He looked me in the eyes and said "thank YOU". I almost fainted. But enough of that. Let's get to the interview.

Eddie Muller interviews Norman Lloyd

Eddie Muller sat down with Norman Lloyd and first asked him about working with Anthony Mann and William Cameron Menzies. Now let me stop for a moment and preface this by saying that all the interviewers at the TCM film festival always ask legends about other people. Sometimes the entire interview is about other people. I find this a shame. Why ask someone only about other legends when you have a legend right in front of you? But that's a discussion for another time.

About the film Norman Lloyd said:
 “The making of the film is very interesting. David Selznick who had made a picture called Joan of Arc [1948] with Ingrid Bergman... The sets that Selnick had built for the picture remained but the actors took off. Selznick being a very enterprising and smart fellow kept looking at these sets. There was working with Selznick, one of the great men in the history of pictures, as an art director William Cameron Menzies, and he proposed one day to David Selznick that they make use of these sets and just find a script for which we can use the sets. Now you talk about a creative project. Here was all this wood and canvas sitting around and someone had to accomodate it.” 
Norman Lloyd has us all enraptured with his fantastic stories.

Muller interjected to call Reign of Terror "a set-driven movie". This seemed to please Norman Lloyd because it encapsulated exactly what he was trying to say. Writer Aeneas MacKenzie was hired to write for the film and Lloyd pointed out that MacKenzie specialized in period pieces.

Lloyd continued:
"[MacKenzie] was hired to develop this story… And the story was put into the sets. So if any of you have ideas about crashing motion pictures and how you do it: build a good set. One is often asked “what is your impetus?” “what was your inspiration?”... You say to the “sets”. “I had an inspiration with the most beautiful piece of wood you have ever seen and the canvas is untouched." 
Someone banged out the idea that we should behead somebody. And they thought of the French Revolution… Very very brilliantly directed by Tony Mann. And one of my favorite actors Robert Cummings with whom I made Saboteur for Hitchcock. A gentleman if there ever was one. Wonderful fellow. They had a very interesting cast. Somehow I stumbled into it. We made the picture and Cameron Menzies’ perception was justified. The sets did work very well. I think the actors came off pretty well. And there was this picture."
Reign of Terror was cobbled together in bits and pieces in a way that only made sense for this era. What resulted was this curio of a film which is as entertaining as it is dark.

The conversation between Eddie Muller and Norman Lloyd drifted away from Reign of Terror and to other things. Lloyd told us about a writer who went up to Louis B. Mayer with an idea for a film. Lloyd recounts the story like this:
“LB I have an idea for a picture.” “And what is it?” “Gable, Tracy, Jeannette MacDonald, San Francisco, the Earthquake.” Mayer said “make it”. True story. Which no one believes.”
Norman Lloyd first worked with Anthony Mann on the very early TV movie The Streets of New York (1939). Yes, you read the year correctly. 1939!

You can tell Lloyd was having some fun telling this story:
“At your urging I shall share it. Though I’m very embarrassed. Which is just a big lie. If any of you are so moved, and I know none of you will be, you would attend the museum here in Beverly Hills of TV and Radio. Does anyone remember there was a thing called Radio? They have archives of various television shows and they made the big mistake of doing an archive of a television show that I was in that Tony Mann directed. It was based on the Dion Boucicault play “The Streets of New York”… When I got finished with it, it was over. And we made this in the days when they would keep a record of it called a “Kinny/Kine”; a Kinescope of what you shot on film... George Coulouris and Johnny Call and myself and actress named Phyllis Isley, she changed her name to Jennifer Jones. And we made this “thing.” All that exists is a 5 minute piece, that is the oldest piece of Kinescope on record of television. Five minutes of me. The worst piece of acting you have ever seen. It is so bad that it could be good. I mean there’s a reason for looking at it... because it’s so bad. I look at it with wonder. I think 'Norman you’ve gone the wrong way.' You try to give a good performances, okay. But you are that bad you are great! It’s there. I could give you one or two gestures from it.”  [He then proceeds to do those gestures.]
The audience was cracking up at Lloyd, the great storyteller, as he charmed us with wit and humor. One of the things I noticed while transcribing Lloyd's interview is that he never says "movie" or film"; he always calls them "pictures". Very old school.

Muller and Lloyd had been discussing Spartacus (1960) earlier in the green room. For those of you who are not aware, the world premiere restoration of Spartacus was to be a top event at this year's festival but it wasn't completed in time. Instead, we got a behind-the-scenes story about the picture.

Lloyd shared this story about Anthony Mann, Charles Laughton and Laurence Olivier as told by Peter Ustinov:
“They were involved in rewrites. And they were sitting around a table for what they call, a latter day phrase, a table read... And a rewrite was brought in of a single page for Charles Laughton. Laughton reads aloud. Tony Mann at this point, if not him it would have been Stanley Kubrick who replaced him. Because Tony Mann had to resign. He resigned because he said “I can’t work with these actors they pay no attention to me.” 
But apparently Olivier used to assume the role of director. I hope I’m not telling tales out of school ... but I’ll tell it anyways! So Laughton read this page aloud that was to go into the script. And as I say this was a rehearsal. When he finished reading the page he said “I don’t understand. I just barely understand what this is all about.” He didn’t understand it. Olivier spoke up. He said “Charles, I think it is perfectly clear. Do you mind if I read it for you?” That’s like putting your head in a noose. Laughton said “by all means”. So Olivier read the speech. When he was finished Laughton said “if I just barely understood it before... I understand it not at all!” I’m giving you a behind-the-scenes. I don’t want you to think I make up these stories. This story was told to me by Peter Ustinov who had a great humor... Actors tend to be uncooperative.”
Bless Muller for sneaking in one last question before time ran out. In fact, time had already run out but everyone in the audience wanted to stretch the experience as far as it would go. Muller asked Lloyd who his favorite actors to work with were. Lloyd replied "Chaplin, an unbelievable genius", Pierre Fresnay who starred in Le Grand Illusion (1937) and Louis Calhern, who played King Lear in a production Lloyd was once in.

Norman Lloyd receiving a standing ovation
I've had the privilege of hearing Norman Lloyd speak on three different occasions, including a 90-minute interview with Ben Mankiewicz at the Montalban Theatre. I cannot express how much of an impact these events have had on me as a classic film fan and as a person. Norman Lloyd is a treasure.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Who I Met, Who I Saw and My Thoughts on the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival

This year's festival theme was History According to Hollywood but it might as well been something else. My nomination? Stars on the Red Carpet. TCM pulled out the big guns with their line-up of special guests this year. Not only that I got to see even more of my online friends at the festival than the past two years. And to me those friends are stars themselves. 

Here's who I saw at TCMFF 2015.

Friends, bloggers and social media gurus:

Alan of TCM Party
Angela of Hollywood Revue
Ariel of Sinamatic Salve-ation
Aurora of Once Upon a Screen...
Carley of 
The Black Maria
Casey of Noir Girl

Chris of Blog of the Darned
Christina Rice, author and
Danny of PreCode.Com
Diane of Classic Movie Blog

Elise of The LA Rambler
Emily of The Vintage Cameo
Eric of Classic Era Movies
Jeff of 
TCM Party
Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood and her parents!
Jill of 
The Black Maria
Joel of Joel's Classic Film Passion
K.C. of A Classic Movie Blog

Kaci of Hollywood Time Machine
Karen from The Dark Pages and Shadows and Satin
Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled and her husband!

Kendra of Viv and Larry
Kim of I See a Dark TheaterKristen of Journeys in Classic Film and ClassicFlix
Kristina of Speakeasy
Lara Gabrielle of Backlots
Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings and her husband Doug!
Lindsay of Lindsay's Movie Musings
Marya of #AYearWithWomen
Matt from Warner Archive
Nora of The Nitrate Diva and her mother Colleen
Paula of TCM Party and Cinema Detroit
Robby of Dear Old Hollywood

Stephen of Classic Movie Man
Trevor of TCM Party

Vincent of Carole & Co 
Wade of The Black Maria
Will of Cinematically Insane
and more...

If I forgot you, I apologize! I'm happy to add anyone I missed. 

I also met plenty of people in line before events and I ended up having really in-depth and quite lovely conversations with them all. Where else but TCMFF could you strike up a conversation with any stranger in line and immediately bond over shared interests? Everyone I talked to was an absolute pleasure.

Special guests:
Alex Trebek - Jeopardy! (okay not really but TCMFF but still...) and the Plummer Imprint Ceremony
Ann-Margret - Club TCM and The Cincinnati Kid (1965) screening
Anne V. Coates - Red Carpet
Christopher Plummer - Red Carpet and Plummer Imprint Ceremony
Diane Baker - Red Carpet and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) screening
George Lazenby - On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) screening
Keith Carradine - Red Carpet
Millie Perkins - The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) screening
Norman Lloyd - Red Carpet, The Reign of Terror (1949) screening, A Conversation with Norman Lloyd filming at the Montalban Theatre. 
Peter Fonda - Red Carpet and Club TCM
Robert Morse - Red Carpet
Rory Flynn - Red Carpet and Club TCM
Scott Eyman - Club TCM
Shirley Jones - Club TCM
Shirley MacLaine - Roosevelt Hotel, Club TCM and the Plummer Imprint Ceremony
Sophia Loren - Marriage Italian Style screening
William Shatner - Plummer Imprint Ceremony
Part of the cast of Grease - Red Carpet

TCM staff/rock stars:
Noralil Flores, Ben Mankiewicz, Charlie Tabesh, Genevieve McGillicuddy, Scott McGee, David Byrne, Sean Cameron and more. We missed Robert Osborne!

My thoughts:

This year's festival was fantastic. But not without its problems.

In comparison to the two previous years, this TCMFF excelled in guests and special events where it might have disappointed some in the selection of films. 

TCM had the highest attendance on record this year but the festival still felt very intimate. There was more competition for events which made for a lot of shuffling around figuring out what to do next. I had never been shut out of a screening before but it happened this year. And waiting in line for 2 hours? Not my thing. I could easily do without that.

The execution was still very good. Few events started late and there weren't many projection issues from what I heard. The volunteers do a great job handling the lines and the social media producers often kept us entertained with photo ops, quizzes and other opportunities to earn buttons. The Chinese Multiplex lines are not great, especially when people got out of line after receiving their numbers. Handling lines of people is no easy task and I commend the TCMFF volunteers for doing what they can to keep order amongst the chaos.

Every single event I went to was amazing. No event was even remotely close to being mediocre; they were all spectacular. In fact I found myself overwhelmed by going from one amazing event straight to another without enough time to bask in the glow of the first one. These are wonderful problems to have.

The social experience at TCMFF is second to none. Classic film fans are one big family. When you arrive at the festival you feel like you found your people. The TCM staff are a friendly bunch and very approachable. I said good morning to Ben Mankiewicz, I thanked Charlie Tabesh, I met Scott McGee, I chatted with David Byrne and Sean Cameron and Jessica and I had a great talk with Noralil. TCM embraces their fans with open arms and you feel like your part of their family.

Thank you to everyone at TCM and all my friends both new and old ones for making the 2015 TCMFF an experience I'll never forget.

Now on to some pictures...

Social Media screen at Club TCM. It was plastered with familiar faces.

Aurora, Laura, myself, KC and Casey at Formosa Cafe

Marya's annual Formosa Cafe get-together

Jill, Jessica, Laura, KC, Doug, Matt and me

Fun fact: I have more TCMFF photos of Jessica than of anyone else.

Well-dressed Angela going old school by snapping away at her disposable camera

Trevor with Casey and Lindsay. I spy Nora in the background.

Trevor had some room for more ladies so Jessica and Marya jumped in.

My partner-in-crime, my husband Carlos.

Anne-Marie, social producer extraordinaire 

Jessica, Nora, myself and KC at the Plummer Imprint Ceremony. We were missing Daniel!

See you at TCMFF 2016!

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