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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCM Classic Film Festival: Day 1

A newly restored version of “A Star is Born” was given the red carpet treatment, while Esther Williams and the Aqualillies appeared poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Although the big ticket yesterday at the opening of the TCM Classic Film Festival was the red carpet gala premier of a newly restored 1954 version of “A Star is Born”, not all pass holders had access to that event (including me). The event was really something to see, even from a distance and through the plastic tents set up for the rain that never came. Most of the classic stars scheduled to appear during the festival walked the carpet, as well as some of Hollywood’s younger talent. Eli Wallach (“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”) looked extremely dapper with his hues of lavender and purple, while Anne Jeffreys (Tess Trueheart of the “Dick Tracy” series) and Ann Rutherford (Polly of the “Andy Hardy” series) looked lovely in their matching peach ruffled pantsuits. And of course there was Ernest Borgnine, Eva Marie Saint, Alec Baldwin and many, many more.

The extravagant treatment for “A Star is Born” was a real crowd pleaser and an appropriate introduction to the much-anticipated screening of what Warner Bros. is calling a stunning restoration of the 1954 classic. It breaks my heart that I couldn’t be a part of the audience to watch this new release on the big screen for the first time, but the event was exclusive to the higher tier pass holders and certain members of the press. I, like most others, will have to wait until the film debuts on Blu-ray Disc June 22 before I can see just how impressive a job Warner Bros. was able to achieve.

However, festival attendees unable to attend the big event over at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre were not completely shut out of an exciting opening night. TCM provided a rather spectacular alternative over at the historic Roosevelt Hotel – poolside no less. Screen Legends Esther Williams and Betty Garrett introduced a screening of the 1949 aquatic musical “Neptune’s Daughter”. TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz was on hand to aid the ladies as the Aqualillies (, a team of synchronized swimmers, gave a live water ballet performance before the screening.

I have to say it was really quite enchanting to see six beautiful young women paying such a dynamic homage to two great classic stars. Even the swimsuits the Aqualillies wore were vintage in style based on bathing suits from the film designed by Williams herself. The poolside crowd audibly gasped as the performers completed Busby Berkeley-like patterns and occasionally leapt from the water. As an alternative to the gala event across the street, it wasn’t a bad way to start off the weekend. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the festival.

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