Showing posts with label Marvin Kaplan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvin Kaplan. Show all posts

Sunday, May 19, 2013

TCM Classic Film Festival - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

Cinerama Dome's Honeycomb Ceiling

On Sunday April 28th, 2013, I attended a special screening of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. Even though this film is played regularly on TCM and I have had many chances to see it, this was my first time I had watched the movie. It had never really interested me and I have heard many classic film fans say they didn't understand it or enjoy it. I really wanted to go anyways because I wanted to see the Q&A with the actors and watch the film in 70mm at the Cinerama Dome.

I didn't realize beforehand the importance of this event. The Cinerama Dome was built in 1963 for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It was built in 16 weeks and the cast of the film got to help break the ground for construction. 2013 is the 50th anniversary of both the film and the theatre. It was mentioned that the film premiered the same month JFK was assassinated and screened for 2 years straight at the Cinerama Dome. It was credited for helping heal a hurting nation with the medicine of laughter. It was really special to be at the Cinerama Dome for the film and to see the guests on stage.  I had to leave during the intermission which made me very sad. 

I wanted to stay for the whole thing given the significance of it all and the fact that I hadn't seen the film before and enjoyed what I had seen. 

Before the screening, TCM's Tom Brown introduced the special guests to the stage. They included actor Marvin Kaplan, the director Stanley Kramer's widow Karen Sharpe Kramer, actress Barrie Chase and actor Mickey Rooney. Carl Reiner was scheduled to appear but couldn't make it. Also actor Jonathan Winters was supposed to be there but he passed away shortly before the screening. They left an open chair for him which I thought was nice and showed a tribute on the screen before the film started.

Press Photo
I won't go through the entire interview but I'll share some highlights.

Director/Producer Stanley Kramer had been known for doing dramas so filming a 4 hour comedy was a new venture for him. Karen Sharpe Kramer shared an anecdote about this. A well-known critic who adored Stanley Kramer told him he could never do a comedy. Kramer took that as a challenge and set out to make "the biggest, extravaganza comedy of all time."

Tom Brown pointed out that every top-name comedian at the time was in that movie. Mickey Rooney went on to gush about comedians being wonderful people and had nothing but nice things to say about Stanley Kramer whom he had admired.

After Barrie Chase had seen the first screening of the film, actor Dick Shawn (who plays her boyfriend and Ethel Merman's son in the film) said to Chase that he was knocking himself out in his scene with her but no one will notice him because they'll all be staring at Chase's legs. Barrie Chase still has fantastic gams 50 years later!

Marvin Kaplan shared some anecdotes about the famous gas station scene with Jonathan Winters, Arnold Stang and himself. Kaplan was a replacement for Jackie Mason who was the original choice for the part and Kaplan had been up for the part that was eventually played by Doodles Weaver. Kaplan was sent the script which he said read like a Manhattan phone book. He was worried about being thrown through glass windows and drive heavy machinery. Kaplan was reassured by the fact that Arnold Stang, whom he called one of the biggest cowards in the world, had to do everything he had to do. Both Stang and Kaplan were hoping ex-Marine Jonathan Winters would get hurt so they would have to add stuntmen to protect them all. Winters hurt his back during rehearsal so they had added stuntmen. He notes that finding a stuntman for Arnold Stang was tricky considering he was very scrawny and had no chin . They gave Stang some shoulder padding so he would look a bit bigger.

Marvin Kaplan said that his real job in the movie was not an actor but being a babysitter to Jonathan Winters. They were filming in 107 degree heat and the only place that was cool was an air-conditioned trailer. Kaplan and Winters would play improv games with each other in the trailer to pass the time.

The film was edited down from 5 hours to a little under 4 hours with intermission.

John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were all supposed to go to the premiere and the grand opening of both the film and the Cinerama Dome but ended up having to go to Dallas. And we all know what happened there. Ted Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy came in their place.

Karen Sharpe Kramer shared her favorite parts of the movie: Ernest Gold's score, the stunts and the illustrated credits by Saul Bass. She says that those credits were copied after the movie. I think she is forgetting a few films from before 1963 that have illustrated credits. The one that comes to mind for me is If a Man Answers (1962).

Stanley Kramer discovered Jonathan Winters when he saw him on the Jack Paar show. Kramer offered Winters a part in the film. Winters had never been in a movie before and told Kramer that he was certifiably insane and had been institutionalized. Kramer replied that every actor he had ever worked with was certifiably insane so Winters would do just fine.

Marvin Kaplan said he worked with two geniuses in his time: Charlie Chaplin and Jonathan Winters.

Tom Brown had a huge crush on Barrie Chase and expressed that fact during the interview. I thought that was very sweet! Chase said the film hadn't done much for her career but people share their love of the film which she appreciates.

The interview ended with Mickey Rooney wanting to say thank you to any soldiers in the audience and a roaring applause from the audience. This was a great experience and I only regret that Jonathan Winters couldn't have been there and that I had left so early. I'm really glad I went and I think everyone else in the audience felt the same way.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

TCM Classic Film Festival Day #5 Recap

The last day of the TCM Classic Film Festival was bittersweet for several reasons as you'll see below.

I went to the Cinerama Dome to attend a screening of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

And I took the obligatory photo of the Honeycomb ceiling.

Press Photo
Tom Brown of TCM hosted and the special guests included actors Mickey Rooney and Marvin Kaplan, actress Barrie Chase and Director Stanley Kramer's widow actress Karen Sharpe Kramer. Carl Reiner couldn't make it and Jonathan Winters had recently passed away. They screened a short tribute to Jonathan Winters and left an open seat for him. It was very sad not to have him there.

At one point during the screening, I went to the bathroom and I saw Mickey Rooney on his way out! Thank you to my weak bladder because I had several run ins with classic film stars and TCM staffers (especially Ben Mankiewicz who I saw about a dozen times) on my way to and from bathrooms. The stars are well protected though and Mickey had staff members nearby who were shielding him from some curious fans. I was just happy to see him up close again.

I plan to do a more thorough post on the talk that happened before the screening!

One of the sad things about the festival is that in order to attend everything you have planned to attend and also eat food in between screenings, you have to leave a few screenings early. I left this film during the intermission to grab a late lunch and to head over to the Grauman's Chinese in time to see Three Days of the Condor (1975).

Press Photo
I really love Three Days of the Condor (1975). I had seen it for the first time shortly before the festival and was happy to see it again. I have to say, of all the films I saw at the festival, I kinda regret going to this one. I regret leaving in the middle of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) to come see a film I had seen recently. When Robert Osborne interviewed Max von Sydow before the screening, they barely even talked about the movie! It's not even worth it for me to do a separate post about it. Considering I had seen Max von Sydow the day before and the film wasn't brought up then either, I didn't see much value in leaving the Cinerama Dome screening to attend this one. Although it was still wonderful to see the film on the big screen and Max von Sydow and his wife stayed to watch it with us for a bit which was nice too.

I ended up leaving Three Days of the Condor just after one of my favorite scenes and before the film ended to get in line for The General (1926). The thing about watching two films back to back in the same theater is that by the time you get out of the first one, a line has already formed for the next one. They won't let you stay in the theater so you have to get into the new line. I really wanted to see The General and knew a lot of people seeing Three Days of the Condor were going to get back in line for The General so I hightailed it out of there early and got in line. 

Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings had written the seating capacity of each of the theaters. I copied her notes and this was incredibly useful. When you are in line, they give you a number and if you know the theater's seating capacity then you know how good your chance is of getting in. Grauman's Chinese seats 1,100 so I know that being #106 that I had the best chance of getting in. By the way, there are two lines. One for Spotlight and VIP passes. They go first. Then Media and the other passes get in. If you have a Matinee or Palace pass or no pass at all and it's after 6 PM, you have to wait in a standby line and if there are any leftover seats then you can get in for $20 (or $10 if you have a student ID). Carlos had a Matinee Pass and had his student ID and cash on hand and got into several night time screenings this way.

The General (1926) was the grand finale of the festival. Robert Osborne came out to introduce it. He read from notes which he doesn't normally do but did in this case so that he wouldn't forget anything. He thanked the sponsors, especially Porsche because he got to ride around in one during the festival (lucky!) and he also thanked all the TCM staff members who helped make the festival happen. Osborne  announced that there will be a TCM Classic Film Festival in 2014. In fact, April 14, 2014 will be TCM's 20th anniversary so the festival will be tied into that. He also announced that December 3rd, 2013 is the official starting date for the TCM Cruise which will be on the Disney Magic. Osborne said that TCM is very particular about which ships they'll host their cruise on and Conde Nast has ranked Disney Magic as the #1 cruise ship in the world.

Then came some sad news. This screening was the penultimate one before the TCL Chinese Theatre (Grauman's Chinese) converts to IMAX. That means they will rip out all that seating, put in stadium seating and an IMAX screen. They will be closed from now until the summer for renovations. There will be fewer seats and who knows what this will mean for the future.

Osborne told us to look around the theatre after the screening. To take a really good look around because it will be the last time we will see it this way. We all booed and he asked us not to throw anything at him. (LOL). Osborne said that he's been told that they will do a great job and TCM has faith in them. It was nice of him to say that but no one really knows how things will turn out. The way we saw the theatre that night was the same way it had been since 1926! They had held the Academy Awards there and Casablanca (1944) won for Best Picture in that theatre.

The 25 minute Buster Keaton short One Week (1920) was screened before The General as an added bonus which was really great. The Alloy Orchestra played music to both films and it was just a wonderful experience. Seeing Buster Keaton and his hilarious antics on such a gigantic screen, in a beautiful historic theatre that had been that way since the film was released and to be with a thousand other appreciative fans was an experience that just blew me away.

Take a look at the picture above. After the film ended and the Alloy Orchestra took a bow to a standing ovation, we all took Robert Osborne's advice and took a good look at the theatre. We snapped pictures and marveled at the theatre's beauty knowing that we were some of the last people to see it that way. It was a really bittersweet moment.

After the screening, I headed over to Club TCM for the Opening Night Party. It was quite chaotic. There were so many people there and I felt a bit suffocated. Also, they turned me away at one entrance but let me in at another. I ended up hanging out with Carlos and a few others at the Roosevelt Hotel pool which was open to everyone and a lot less crowded. I said my goodbyes to many of the wonderful classic film bloggers I've known for years but got to meet for the first time at the festival. It was sad but I was happy to have had this experience. It's one I will never forget.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TCM Classic Film Festival Day #1 Recap

The TCM Classic Film Festival doesn't officially start until Thursday but there was already plenty of interesting things happening on Wednesday. My day started with getting to meet several bloggers at the Club TCM lounge at the Roosevelt Hotel. It was great to meet Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, Jill of Sittin' on a Backyard Fence, Aurora of Once Upon a Screen..., and several others.

I got my Media Credentials and headed to a separate room for a Media Roundtable. I was expecting a roundtable but it ended up being more of a Press Conference. Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy (paired) took to the platform and fielded questions from us. I didn't end up asking any questions myself but a lot of the questions I had in mind were asked by others. I plan to do a separate post with much more detail about the questions and answers. I thought the conference went really well. Ben Mankiewicz was charming, it was quite wonderful to see Robert Osborne and he had a lot of great insights to share and Charles Tabesh and Genevieve McGillicuddy did a great job fielding lots of interesting questions about the festival and TCM programming.  One thing I took away from this is the realization that TCM is unlike any other channel on TV. It has a devoted following, one that TCM treasures and they feel like they have a responsibility to deliver their programming in the best way possible.

Robert Osborne

Ben Mankiewicz

After the press conference, I had lunch with Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings and Jill of Sittin' on a Backyard Fence. I got to see the amazing Roosevelt Hotel pool:

This is where they are holding tomorrow's South Pacific (1958) screening with special guests Mitzi Gaynor and France Nuyen.

From noon until 3:30 pm, the Club TCM at the Roosevelt Hotel filmed a few interviews. If you watch TCM, you may see me in the background of interviews between Ben Mankiewicz and Theodore Bikel and Marvin Kaplan.

Jane Withers being interviewed by Robert Osborne.

Marvin Kaplan being interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz.

Ben Mankiewicz and Theodore Bikel!

The TCM Boutique was open and they have lots of cool swag and other goodies for sale. For now I think I'll stick TCM Classic Film Festival tote bag which is pretty awesome.

Overall, a very good day! Today and tomorrow are really my only days to socialize and mill about. The  following days will be very hectic for sure. Stay tuned for more details! You can always follow me on Twitter @QuelleLove for pictures and more details on the festival as they happen.

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