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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

South Pacific Experience at the 2013 TCMFF

I came, I saw, I wish I were three people so I could have seen more at the 2013 Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. At right France Nuyen, Ben Mankiewicz and Mitzi Gaynor chat poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel before the screening of South Pacific.

I have just returned from the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. I am tired (from the long trip home), I am sore, (but that is another story) and I am so glad for seeing every one of my film choices… but it would have been so nice to have been able to see two or three times as many movies, the selections for this year’s TCMFF were that appealing.

Opening night I was at the Roosevelt Hotel for a special poolside presentation of SOUTH PACIFIC. In previous years I have found other opening night events more enticing. However, this year it was a terrific substitute for those of us who did not have passes for the grand gala happening over at the Chinese Theatre. Personally, I enjoyed the experience far more than I would have seeing the 45th anniversary screening of Funny Girl. That may just be a personal preference, but it really was a very entertaining evening where we were made to feel like VIP guests.

Before the show there were Polynesian dancers – fire dancers no less – and live music and even waiters with trays of canapés (because I never can spell that other word for great little bites of food). I was ensconced on a comfy lounge chair with a perfect line of sight with nothing but the length of the aqua colored pool between the screen and me. In addition to that there were lovely people from far away states on either side of me to get to know. After a sweet, funny interview between host Ben Mankiewicz and the film’s stars France Nuyen and Mitzi Gaynor (and the sun was down sufficiently) the film started.

It’s not like any of the music was new to me, but I had only ever seen the film with a modest sound system, such as on my TV. Now it was on a big screen and presented with the kind of sound the producers had intended. And with the presence of a live audience there were claps, an occasional cheer, and even serious applause with each succeeding song woven around the classic tale of lovers facing cultural walls placed between them and their happiness. I think everyone realized the singing voices of several of the leads were not their own, but I suspect few of those present knew that when gorgeous Rossano Brazzi opened his mouth to sing, Ezio Pinza’s voice (the opera star who played opposite Mary Martin on Broadway) was the creator of the wonder that poured forth. Oh my! What an awesome experience to hear him sing SOME ENCHANTED EVENING with that deep, rich fabulous voice thick in the air, bringing the audience to cheers and, indeed some to their feet to shout approval.

It was an “enchanted evening” despite the chill in the air. When it got too nippy the hotel graciously handed out blankets, so the audience could cuddle down and watch on. There was a helicopter that circled twice over-head (from above it must have looked like an odd triage taking place). Maybe it was the paparazzi trying to sneak a peek at our glamorous party, or maybe they were there for the red carpet event taking place across the street. But then again it was Hollywood Blvd. Apparently a helicopter hovering is a daily event according to my daughter who lives just a few blocks away from the iconic thoroughfare. Either way, the presence of a helicopter added to the mystique of the evening. It was certainly different from my usual Thursday night back in Oregon.

When I left the Roosevelt that night I had the feeling that it was going to be hard for the festival to continue to deliver such a high level of experience. But I’m glad to say I was wrong, as TCM managed to keep the good feeling going right on through to the very last film. Of course, it helped that I had such a terrific beginning. Now, I look forward to see what they have in mind for the TCMFF 2014. More than likely I’ll be joining them at poolside once again. In fact, I’ll be the first one there, stretched out all comfy on the lounge, waiting for the magic to begin.

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