Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Big House (1930)

The Big House (1930)

"They all want to throw people into prison but they don't want to provide for them after they are in. You mark my words Pop. Some day we're going to pay for this shortsightedness." - Warden (Lewis Stone)

MGM's The Big House (1930) came at a time when Hollywood was still transitioning to talking pictures and experimenting with cinematography, set design and storytelling. This was all in addition to tantalizing audiences with sound. It's one of the earliest prison films and set many precedents for future films in that genre. The Big House explored many facets of prison life: the alliances, betrayals, hierarchies and the deep animosity between prisoners and authority figures. It was one of the first films to depict a prison riot. It broke ground, pleased the critics, won awards and almost ninety years later still holds up as an enjoyable drama.

The film opens with Kent Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) being escorted to prison. He's been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years. The prison, run by warden James Adams (Lewis Stone), is overflowing with prisoners. Cells made to hold one person now need to accommodate three. Marlowe is placed with career forger Morgan (Chester Morris) and the prison's most notorious inmate, convicted murderer Butch (Wallace Beery). Marlowe is scared, Butch is greedy and Morgan must keep a level head throughout it all. There is a protest, time in solitary confinement, a prison escape, a riot and even a love story, with sole female lead Anne Marlowe (Leila Hyams), thrown in for good measure.

Cedric Gibbons set design - The Big House (1930)
Cedric Gibbons set design - The Big House (1930)

This critically acclaimed and award winning movie brought audiences stunning visuals and crisp sound. I love to call this the "Art Deco Prison Movie" because of the beautiful and minimalist set design by Cedric Gibbons. Recording engineer Douglas Shearer brings the sounds of prison to life and won the Academy Award for Best Sound for his work. Screenwriter Frances Marion researched prison life at San Quentin and wrote the original screenplay for the film. She won the Academy Award for her script. Her husband George W. Hill expertly directed the film and some of the scenes with prisoners en masse are beautifully choreographed. I love how cinematographer Harold Wenstrom plays with light and shadow especially in the earlier part of the movie.

This film came at a time when Robert Montgomery and Chester Morris were launching their careers in Pre-Code era Hollywood. They had just made The Divorcee (1930) with Norma Shearer, a very different film from The Big House. Wallace Beery had been suffering a career slump. Frances Marion spotted Beery at the MGM commissary and thought he would be the perfect actor for the role of Butch. This part revitalized Beery's career just in time for the new wave of talking pictures.

I watched The Big House recently with my husband who usually shies away from films of this era. He loves the prison genre classic The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and I pitched The Big House as a precursor to that film. He enjoyed making connections between the two films and seeing how this early talkie film might have influenced others of its kind.

I wrote about this film back in 2010 around the time when Warner Archive had released it on DVD. They re-released the film several years later as a two-disc set with the French and Spanish versions of the film included. In the early days of talking films, MGM would produce foreign language versions of their big movies. This was the era before subtitles and after silent film title cards which could be swapped out for different text. MGM made El presidio in Spanish, directed by Ward Wing who also worked on the original version. It stars José Crespo as Morgan, Juan de Landa as Butch and Tito Davison as Marlowe. The French version, Révolte dans la prison , was directed by Pal Fejos, one of the most interesting figures from the early film era and director of one of my favorite films Lonesome (1928). Charles Boyer, who wasn't quite yet a household name in the states, has the title role of Morgan.

Chester Morris as Morgan in The Big House
Chester Morris as Morgan in The Big House
Charles Boyer as Morgan in Revolte dans la prison
Charles Boyer as Morgan in Revolte dans la prison

Jose Crespo as Morgan in El presidio
Jose Crespo as Morgan in El presidio

I watched the Spanish and French versions as was quite impressed by both. If you look closely you can see where MGM did recycle some of the scenes from the original and took some shortcuts to save money. The different actors added nuances to their performances that help distinguish those films from the original. I was so relieved that these films were shot with fluent actors and not with the original cast using phonetic Spanish or French. As a Spanish speaker I can tell you that watching a film with phonetic Spanish is a painful experience.

The Big House is not a perfect film. When Marlowe is stripped of his possessions and given a number I thought the movie would explore the loss of identity. It doesn't really happen. The numbers are not referenced much throughout the film. If you're new to early talkies, the lack of a soundtrack and the eerie quiet in the background might be a bit off putting. I'm used to this so it's no problem for me.

Robert Montgomery as Kent in The Big House
Robert Montgomery as Kent in The Big House

André Burgère as Kent in Revolte dans la Prison
André Burgère as Kent in Revolte dans la Prison

Tito Davison as Kent in El presidio
Tito Davison as Kent in El presidio

The Big House is my favorite prison film. I love the era, the performances, the characters and the story. I adore Lewis Stone, Chester Morris and Robert Montgomery so having all three in the film didn't hurt. I also love how The Big House set the bar for films to follow. If you're interested in film history, it's a must see.

The Big House (1930) two-disc DVD-R set is available from Warner Archive.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to the Warner Archive for sending me The Big House (1930) for review!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Panique (1946) with Pierre Simenon at #TCMFF

Pierre Simenon and Bruce Golstein at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival
Pierre Simenon and Bruce Golstein at TCMFF

Based on Georges Simenon's novel Les Fiançailles de M. Hire, Panique (1946) is a thrilling French Noir directed by the great Julien Duvivier. This rarely seen film was screened at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival . Last year I had attended the screening of the Argentine Noir Los Tallos Amargos (1956) and followed it up this year with an equally dark film. One could say that Panique, like Los Tallos Amargos, puts the Noir in Film Noir.

Panique stars Michel Simon as Monsieur Hire, a lonely voyeur. When murder of a local woman rocks a small town community, Hire has a hunch who did it. He tries to warn Alice (Viviane Romance) about her boyfriend Alfred (Paul Bernard) whom he suspects as the killer. Hire doesn't know that Alfred has already confessed the crime to Alice and fully intends to get away with it. Smitten with her beau, she battles internal conflicts then decides to lure Hire into a trap. The film is relentlessly dark with an ending that is an emotional punch to the gut.

Rialto teamed up with TCM to host a rare screening of Panique, kicking off a tour of the newly restored print. Rialto's Bruce Goldstein was on hand to interview special guest Pierre Simenon, the youngest son of Georges Simenon. Goldstein made it a point that although the novel is in French, Simenon was Belgian. He went on to give the following intro to elder Simenon:

"Simenon is best known for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring detective Jules Maigret. But he wrote nearly five times as many books making him a towering figure in French language literature. Simenon was the most translated French language author of the 20th century. And the 17th most translated author of all time according to UNESCO. He died in 1989 at the age of 86."

Both Goldstein and Pierre Simenon shared some interesting facts about Georges Simenon's writing career. He was the most prolific French-language Belgian author of the 20th century. 70 film adaptations and 350 TV adaptations have been made from his novels. Estimates say that Simenon's books have sold 750 million copies, in 55 languages across 44 countries. He wrote his first book at the age of 16 and the last at age 80. It would only take him 7 days to finish one novel.

Georges Simenon
Georges Simenon

Simenon had a love-hate relationship with the movies, with an emphasis on hate. As Pierre Simenon explains, "at the time he was a young writer. [He said,] 'I'm going to write the screenplay, I'm going to give my insight.' He was full of ideas. But of course as we know in Hollywood that's the last thing a producer wants. He wants to do it his own way. So the results were mixed."

The early adaptations included Jean Tarride's The Yellow Dog (1932), Night at the Crossroads (1932) and La tête d'un homme (1933) directed by Julien Duvivier who was also the director for Panique. Pierre Simenon explained, "my father was not happy with the industry. He quickly discovered that there was a lot of meddlers in the project. When you're a writer, you are just alone with the page. When you dabble in movies, there are hundreds of people with something to say and my dad didn't like that."

At one point Simenon refused to sell film rights to his books and this embargo lasted six years. Pierre Simenon joked that his father was as prolific a writer as we was a spender. There were two things Simenon wanted: money and artistic control. During the 1930s, authors made quite a bit of money with newspaper serializations. Sometimes these papers would trim the novels so sections would fit perfectly on the last page. In essence they were editing down the book; something Simenon despised. He knew there was a lot of money to be made in film and he picked the lesser of two evils by abandoning serialization altogether.

Georges Simenon with son Pierre
Georges Simenon with son Pierre, circa 1980. Photo source: Film Forum

Simenon struck up friendships with many key film industry figures including Jean Renoir, Charlie Chaplin, Frederico Fellini and others. Pierre Simenon shared a potentially apocryphal story of when the great Alfred Hitchcock called up his father. The secretary told Hitchcock that Simenon was too busy to come to the phone because he had just started a new novel. Hitchcock's reply, "It's okay, I'll wait."

Then there was the time Georges Simenon was the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury. His buddy author Henry Miller was on the jury and according to Pierre Simenon pleaded with Georges, "I'm here to see you, to see friends, to see the ladies and to drink a lot. Just tell me who you want me to vote for." Frederico Fellini's La Dolce Vita was up against a lot of other amazing films including L'Avventura which was the favorite to win the Palme D'or. Simenon lobbied for La Dolce Vita and it won. According to Pierre, his father was met with many boos and whistles in opposition. Pierre Simenon reflected, "[my father] was trashed by the critics and he became friends with Fellini. And if you watch the movie now it hasn't aged a bit. It's a masterpiece." Simenon had a life long friendship with Jean Renoir and Pierre remembers sitting on Charlie Chaplin's lap. At this point in the conversation, Bruce Goldstein points out that Norman Lloyd, who worked with both Renoir and Chaplin, was in the audience.  Lloyd stood up for his usual standing ovation. I was so glad to see him again!

Panique (1946)

Goldstein called Panique one of the best adaptations of a Simenon novel and asked Pierre if his father ever saw it. Pierre's response, "nobody knows. And if he did nobody knows if he liked it or not." Panique opened on Thanksgiving day 1947 at the Rialto theatre in New York. According to Goldstein, it got rave reviews in the states but got trashed by French critics. Pierre Simenon noted that in post-WWII Europe, many artists were under serious scrutiny. You were either seen as a collaborator with the Nazis or if you fled you were considered a coward. There was some push back against both stars Michel Simon and Viviane Romance. I'm not sure if Pierre meant it was because of their possible connections to the Nazi regime or not.

The original novel, translated into English as Monsieur Hire's Engagement, is very different from the film. Pierre Simenon explained that in the book there is a lack of intense action and that the lead character was very ambiguous. His voyeuristic tendencies were more pathological. Duvivier and screenwriter Charles Spaak added "social commentary about mob justice and prejudice" according to Pierre. The book was published in 1933 but the film adaptation speaks more to the post-WWII era.

Rialto continues it's nation-wide tour of Panique starting next month. Check out the full schedule here. I hope a North American Blu-Ray/DVD release is in store for this title so a wider audience can have the pleasure of seeing the film.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The 50th Anniversary of The Graduate (1967)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the cultural phenomenon that is The Graduate (1967). Prior to this month I had never watched the film in its entirety. Key scenes are so ingrained in our collective pop culture knowledge that there's no escaping them. And no one could spoil the movie for me because I knew the famous ending well. Why did it take me so long to watch The Graduate? I must have been holding out for just the right moment and that opportunity arose I attended this year's TCM Classic Film Festival.

Author Beverly Gray

On the first day of the festival and a couple days before the screening, I had the opportunity to speak to author Beverly Gray on the red carpet. She's been hard at work writing a new book all about The Graduate. Here's what she had to say:

On day three of the festival, Ben Mankiewicz interviewed screenwriter and actor Buck Henry on stage at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Buck had suffered a stroke and Mankiewicz was the kindest and most patient interviewer helping Buck when we was struggling with answers. Mankiewicz reassured Buck that he was in front of the most patient crowd in the world and it was true. But we didn't have to be too patient because Buck had many clever and witty responses to Mankiewicz's questions and had us all laughing with delight.

Mankiewicz and Buck Henry discussed the making of The Graduate at length. Based on the novel by Charles Webb, Buck Henry along with Calder Willingham the story for the screen. Buck also has a small part as a hotel clerk in the film. According to Mankiewicz, Webb's book only sold a couple thousand copies. Buck had read it previously but it took producer Lawrence Truman to get the concept to director Nichols in order for the project to move forward. Buck joked that he was one of the "brave two thousand" to read the novel.

Director Mike Nichols had his eye on Robert Redford for the lead role. Looking back now it seems impossible that anyone other than Dustin Hoffman as Ben Braddock. According to Mankiewicz, Redford's persona was closer to the depiction in the book than what was presented on screen. When asked whether Redford would have been wrong for the film role, Buck Henry replied "according to Redford, yes." Nichols desperately tried to woo Redford. They had discussed the part and Redford told Nichols that he just couldn't understand the role. Nichols offered to fix anything Redford didn't like. Nichols said "Bob you must have made dates with girls in your long career as an eligible male and had them stand you up?". Redford replied, "what does that mean?" And that was the end of that.

Dustin Hoffman was under contract to be in stage production of The Producers and was let go to make The Graduate. Mankiewicz joked that Mel Brooks being married to the film's lead actress Anne Bancroft probably helped a little. Hoffman was considered by many to be an odd choice for the lead role. Buck Henry once said about Hoffman, "the reaction in Hollywood was that his nose was too big, he was funny looking, his voice was too strangled, he walks funny and he has odd cadence."

Gene Hackman was originally supposed to be in the film but he was fired three weeks into filming. Buck thought Nichols was "slightly insane" for letting him go. Mankiewicz pointed out that because Hackman was not in The Graduate he was able to make Bonnie and Clyde.  As they say, when one door closes another one opens!

Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate (1967) - Photo credit: Rialto Pictures

Did you know that the iconic shot of Anne Bancroft's leg framing Dustin Hoffman was storyboard artist Harold Michelson's idea? After you watch The Graduate for the 50th anniversary make sure you watch Daniel Raim's documentary Harold and Lillian to learn about Harold Michelson and his wife film researcher Lillian Michelson (who happens to be one of my personal heroes). Harold and Lillian opens theatrically later this month in NY and Los Angeles and will be playing in more cities soon.

Rialto's 4k restoration of The Graduate is part of Fathom Events and TCM's Big Screen Classics series. It will be screened across the US in theaters on April 23rd and 26th.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

TCM Classic Film Festival 2017 Red Carpet

Conducting red carpet interviews has always been a dream of mine and I can't believe I've been able to do it. Twice! I had the privilege of being on the red carpet again for this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. The opening night premiere was for the 50th anniversary of In the Heat of the Night (1967). 

I was at the end of the line and not in the best spot for capturing quality audio, I did manage to get five quality interviews and lots of photos. Unfortunately Sidney Poitier didn't walk the red carpet so I didn't get to see him. However I saw plenty of other stars and special guests and I snapped a lot of photos.

Interviews with:
Film Critic Leonard Maltin
Actor Stathis Giallelis, America America (1963)
Author Beverly Gray
Director Producer Todd Fisher
Talk Show Host Dick Cavett

And here are some photos of who I saw on the red carpet.

TCM's Sean Cameron and TCMFF red carpet spectators

Wyatt McCrea

Angela Allen

Stathis Giallelis

Producer Walter Mirisch

Keir Dullea
Beau Bridges

Lee Grant

John Landis

Dick Cavett

Todd Fisher
Fred Willard

I had a great moment with Fred Willard. As I saw him walking down the red carpet I yelled out "Hey handsome!" He stopped to pose for me and I got a couple quick shots. I said "looking good" and thanked him.

Bob Balaban

Ruta Lee
Then came the beautiful Ruta Lee who looked absolutely stunning. I called out to her and told her she was beautiful and she quickly posed so I could get a shot. Doesn't she look fantastic?

Special shout out to Danny Reid who helped me with equipment, photography and live tweeted my red carpet interviews and to Marya Gates of TCM who helped guide Dick Cavett down the line to my spot. And thank you to my friends in the bleachers especially Kate Gabrielle, Millie and Casey who cheered for me from the stands and to Nikki and Brian who took photos of me. I appreciate your support!

Monday, April 17, 2017

America America (1963) with Stathis Giallelis #TCMFF

Alicia Malone and Stathis Giallelis TCM Classic Film Festival
Alicia Malone and Stathis Gialellis at the TCM Classic Film Festival

"I am a Greek by blood, a Turk by birth, and an American because my uncle made a journey." 
Elia Kazan

What's a more American story than one of immigration? America America (1963), Elia Kazan's three hour epic was the most personal of all of his films. Inspired by his family's emigration from Turkey to America, Kazan adapted his autobiographical novel to screen. America America tells the story of Stavros, a young Greek man living in Turkey when Greeks and Armenians were suffering under Turkish oppression. He sets out for America with the intention of bringing his family there one by one. But his journey is filled with many obstacles that test his will and determination. Shot on location in Istanbul, Turkey and parts of Greece, it stars a young unknown Greek actor Stathis Giallelis in a part of a lifetime.

When the opportunity arose to watch America America at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival I could not turn it down. Given our current political climate this film is now more relevant than ever. The UCLA TV & Film Archive provided a beautiful print and Filmstruck host Alicia Malone was on hand to interview the movie's star Stathis Giallelis before the screening.

Malone started the conversation by noting that America America is about an epic journey and that Giallelis had his own epic journey to get the title role of Stavros.  The main character is in every scene in the film and carries the movie on his shoulders. It was no small feat and Giallelis needed to convince Kazan he was right for the part.

Elia Kazan and Stathis Giallelis America America (1963)
Elia Kazan and Stathis Giallelis on the set of America America (1963)

Giallelis remembered the audition process as being "a long journey." He auditioned for Kazan who responded with a letter telling him that he had to learn English. Giallelis met with producer Charles H. McGuire and while things seemed to be moving forward Kazan wasn't ready to commit. Determined to impress him, Giallelis enlisted his friend Vassillis Vassilikos, author of the novel Z, to write letters in English to Kazan on his behalf. They sent letters back and forth and Kazan finally replied saying that there was a visa waiting for him at the American Embassy. An invitation? Not quite. Giallelis remembers, "but he didn't send me any money and I had no money so I borrowed some money from my uncle, from some friends and I got the cheapest ticket to come to America. And I didn't tell him I was coming to America."

When Giallelis arrived he surprised Kazan in New York City. Kazan gave him fifty dollars to find a room in the city to stay in. Still not fluent in English, Giallelis told the audience that he tried gesturing to a taxi driver what he wanted and tried to pay him with the fifty dollars but had no luck. Finally Giallelis got settled. He was assigned an English tutor and Kazan and Giallelis meet with each other every day. Just when things were starting to progress Kazan introduces Giallelis to a French actor who was also a candidate for the part of Stavros. This didn't stop Giallelis who kept trying for the role. He remembers, "[Kazan] was very elusive about who was going to get the part. He gave me a red book and it was the script. He says to me read this... One day he came up to me and said the French actor went back to France."

Over the years Kazan changed his story of how he cast Giallelis, who joked that the older Kazan got the more the story changed.

Alicia Malone and Stathis Giallelis TCM Classic Film Festival
Alicia Malone in conversation with Stathis Giallelis

Malone went on to say, "you must have had incredible determination to get that role and that of course mirrors your character. Such grit and hope and optimism. How would you say this film sums up the immigrant spirit?"

Giallelis replied, "you have to give up everything. Mine looked like an easy journey. All of us are from somewhere. Our grandfathers, our fathers they came here."

For Kazan, this message was everything and it's so beautifully and harrowingly expressed in his film. Malone asked Giallelis if he got a sense of how special the film was to Kazan while they were on set. Giallelis replied, "yes many times. Sometimes after a scene he'd be hiding on the set. Sometimes you would see him crying. It was very emotional for him."

Kazan would communicate with his actors what he wanted but wasn't very demonstrative. Giallelis remembered, "he would say "I want you to give me this emotion for the scene" [but] he would never show you how to get it... He always knew about his actors. He knew about our lives and what moves us. And sometimes ... you would let him use his knowledge because it would help you as a performer. That was his secret."

The set of America America was a small one and Giallelis remembers there being a lot of camaraderie and love among the group.  Kazan remained friends with Giallelis up until Kazan died in 2003. Giallelis also became good friends with America America cinematographer Haskell Wexler. On Wexler Giallelis said, "he was my best friend.. Every two years we'd come and stay with him for a while. Haskell was a very special man. Not only a great talent and fantastic cinematographer but he was also a great human being. His political views were very hopeful for everybody. And sometimes people thought he was too far to the left. He was a man who always fought for justice. For justice for the under dog. He was always fighting." Giallelis shared with us a funny story of how Wexler was shooting some test footage to see how Giallelis' face would photograph and asked him to shave his mustache. He directed Giallelis to the wrong bathroom. When he opened the door a gang of Italian women started screaming and chased him out of there.

Stathis Giallelis America America (1963)
Stathis Giallelis in America America (1963)

After America America, Stathis Giallelis went on to make a smattering of films. He was in The Eavesdropper (1966) by legendary Argentine director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson and producer Paul Heller. He then made a couple of political films and the war movie Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) with Kirk Douglas, Yul Brynner and John Wayne. He worked with Jules Dassin on The Rehearsal (1974) and remembered it being "another great experience because [Dassin] was very much like Kazan." Giallelis didn't say why he gave up acting but I imagine it was difficult to eclipse the work he did on America America.

Giallelis left us with one last tidbit before the screening began. Malone asked him what the audience should be looking out for when they watch the film. He pointed to his favorite scene when his character Stavros is on a boat on his way to America. He contemplates the tough journey that brought him there and says when he arrives at his destination that he will be washed clean again.

Out of all of the films I saw at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival, this was the one I was the most excited about. I wish it had been a packed house but the film was in a tricky time slot and a three hour drama will have steep competition from shorter, lighter fare. However I hope everyone who did attend was as moved by the film as I was. I had seen the film before and reviewed it some years ago but hadn't revisited since then. When I saw it announced on the TCMFF schedule and that Stathis Giallelis would be in attendance I made it a priority to go. The film blew me away for new and different reasons than it had the first time. If you didn't get a chance to attend this screening or if you've never seen the film before, make it a point to watch America America. You won't regret it.

Raquel Stecher and Stathis Giallelis, TCM Classic Film Festival

I had the honor of meeting and briefly interviewing Stathis Giallelis. Stay tuned for my TCMFF Red Carpet coverage coming soon.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Carl and Rob Reiner Hand and Footprint Ceremony #TCMFF

Carl and Rob Reiner

There are few father and son teams who love and adore each other more than Carl and Rob Reiner. I had the privilege of attending the first ever father-son hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre courtyard (formerly known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre). The event was a family affair but also an opportunity to celebrate two entertainment icons.

This is my fifth hand and footprint ceremony and my fourth covering the event for my blog. It's also the very first time I was seated with the guests. For a few moments I felt like I was one with Hollywood royalty.

I got to share this event with other writers and good friends including Karen who was covering for Citizen Screen, Anne Marie of Classic Movie Hub, KC of A Classic Movie Blog, Carrie of and others too.

Karen, Raquel and KC

We sat in our designated seats and watched as the guests arrived. It's always a surprise who will be in attendance and that's half the fun of this event.

Norman Lear

Kevin Nealon

Cary Elwes

Cary Elwes giving Norman Lear a hug

The guests of honor Carl and Rob Reiner with Tom Bergeron

Cary Elwes

We didn't have the best view but we made do with what we had. Actor Cary Elwes, best known for The Princess Bride (1987), sat right in front of me and I strategically had to take photos over his shoulder.

TCM host Ben Mankiewicz

The ceremony kicked off with three speeches. First off was TCM host Ben Mankiewicz who opened the event with some jokes and much praise for the two honorees. He said, "few fathers and sons are as accomplished as Carl and Rob Reiner and none are as funny." As we all know Carl Reiner has had a long and impressive career. He's not only a comedian but he's also an actor, writer, director, producer and even a political activist on Twitter. Mankiewicz noted that Carl Reiner has been in the business for 70 years and "his version of slowing down is writing one book a year." He's currently working on another memoir and a children's book.

Then there is Rob Reiner who forged his own impressive career. Mankiewicz sang Rob Reiner's praises noting his work on All in the Family, This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride and more as well as his production company Castle Rock. Rob Reiner has two political films coming out soon: LBJ and Shock and Awe.

Mankiewicz joked that the combined age of the Reiners is 165 and brought up this tweet by Carl Reiner.

Tom Bergeron

Up next was TV personality and host Tom Bergeron. He joked that to prepare for his speech he Googled "top things to say about a dear friend soon to be immersed in cement." You can imagine what the search results would have been. Bergeron went on to say, "turns out you don't need Google to find the perfect thing to say about Carl. You go to the source." Carl Reiner once said: "The absolute truth is the thing that makes people laugh." Bergeron points out that this "speaks to the rich source of Carl Reiner's genius. He went on to say "this gave us his alter ego Rob Petrie and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Absolute truth turned into comedic beauty. And fifty years later we're still laughing."

Billy Crystal

To pay tribute to Rob Reiner was actor and comedian Billy Crystal. But before he got to Rob he started with a hilarious joke about Carl Reiner: "I realized that Carl was also a prophet. In 1966 on film he screamed “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” And he also made The Jerk."

Crystal believed it was fate that brought him and Rob Reiner together. He remembered performing at the Comedy Store in 1975 and having a chance meeting with Norman Lear and Carl Reiner. Carl introduced himself saying "Hi I'm Carl Reiner" and Crystal jokingly replied "and what do you do?" Norman Lear called Crystal up with an offer to play Rob Reiner's best friend on All in the Family. Crystal was impressed with how Rob was inclusive and asked him for his opinion and insight. He remembers "the show did very well and we just said, we played best friends why don't we keep that going?" Their working relationship and friendship led to Crystal having the plum roles of Morty the Mime in This is Spinal Tap, Miracle Max in The Princess Bride and what Crystal calls "the part of a lifetime " Harry Burns in When Harry Met Sally. Crystal went on to say, "between them [Carl and Rob] is 120 years of great comedy, entertainment and  amazing drama. They are stretching always looking for something new to do. And that’s because the two of them are geniuses."

Carl Reiner

Carl and Rob Reiner
Carl Reiner warmed up the crowd with praise for his son by saying "Ive known this guy for almost all of his life" and went on to compliment him on his photographic memory and his terrific work on The Princess Bride. In fact, Carl Reiner likes to introduce people to three movies in particular: The Count of Monte Cristo, Random Harvest ("if you don't have a tear in your eye or a smile on your face at the end of it you're not human" and The Princess Bride.

This is the first time a father and son had a dual hand and footprint ceremony and Rob Reiner quipped "I think we should not only put our hands and feet in cement, we should put our bald heads. And that's never been done!" I really wish they had done that, it would have been hilarious.

Rob Reiner had much praise for his dad. He said, "my father was my idol. I looked up to him. He stood for everything I wanted to be in life." He remembered when he was 8 years old wanting to change his name. His parents were concerned that he didn't want to live in the shadow of his famous father. His dad asked him what he wanted to change his name to, Rob responded "Carl!" Rob Reiner pointed out Norman Lear who has been like a second father to him.

To his kids he joked, "I wouldn't be here for him having sex with my mother and then you being supportive of me. And you wouldn't be here if I didn't have sex with YOUR mother. TMI. T.M.I."

Then it was time to make their mark in cement. Carl Reiner brought up Mel Brooks, his best friend and fellow genius, who wasn't at the event but there in spirit. Brooks had added a false pinky to one of his hands during his imprint ceremony making him the only one with 11 fingers marked in cement.

Flip through my Instagram post to find a brief video.

Carl and Rob Reiner writing their names in cement

Carl and Rob Reiner just after putting their hands in cement

Carl and Rob Reiner making their footprints in cement

I wish I could have gotten a photo of all the guests with the Reiners and the freshly imprinted cement. Unfortunately the security at the ceremony mistook some of us low-level media for regular passholders and unceremoniously kicked us out before we could get a word in edgewise. It was a rather negative end to what was a quite fun event. I've tried to get that out of my mind and focus on the positives of my experience but haven't been able to do that so far.

I'm still grateful to TCM for the opportunity to cover another wonderful hand and footprint ceremony. Whenever I'm back in Hollywood and I see the imprints of those ceremonies I've covered in the past, I feel a rush knowing I was there for that historic moment.

I hope you enjoyed this armchair experience!

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