It Happened at the TCMFF
Guest writer Amanda Glenn recalls some of her most memorable moments during the 2013 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. Which includes family, friends, munchies and a favorite film she’d seen many times before, but never on the silver screen. It was a week that could only happen in Hollywood.
This last April I did what I’ve done for the past three years, I went to the TCMFF (Turner Classic Movies Film Festival), and did my best to overdose on a bunch of great old films. While there I caught up with hugs and news with my twin daughters, I got my Chinese fix at Genghis Cohen and had an annual coffee date with my friend Tom. Another part of my yearly LA experience is having a whisky sour at the Formosa while looking at all the pictures of celebrities. This year during the festival I actually ate a whole bag of movie popcorn by myself, and had a white wine spritzer at the theater bar (my first wine spritzer since the mid eighties). I also managed to do a face plant on the sidewalk that resulted in a lovely purple-ly spot above my right eye. I had tripped over a grain of sand; my feet drag a bit when I am tired or distracted (when you’re 70 you’ll understand what I mean). It was one of those scant instant long events that played out in slow motion. My mind was wandering about the movies I had seen, the movies I would see, the book I was working on, and somewhere in there I went flying.
I was walking alone down Fountain, a four lane, relatively busy avenue where, as you would expect, the cars speed by intent on their destinations. But one car, in the middle of all that traffic, squealed to a halt pulled almost to the curb and a nice man got out and came running toward me. For my part, I was busy getting up and being embarrassed, and checking my face for blood (there was none). I’m not sure I thanked the man sufficiently. After all, it was very reassuring to know that in the midst of all the personal LA hustle someone took the time to be concerned about a gray haired lady doing a bad pratfall. That nice man played an important part in helping to keep my week in Hollywood a memorable one, and gave me a great story to tell while waiting in line for a movie or to share with seat mates in the theater.
Every screening was notably enjoyable, however it was the next to the last movie on my “dance card” on the last night of the 2013 TCMFF that stands out for me this year. Of course, it was a movie I have seen (a lot). In fact, I can almost recite the scenes. But like so many of my favorite classic oldies I had never seen it on the big screen, until that afternoon. Nor had I seen it presented in such a pristine restoration. It was the wonderful Frank Capra classic, It Happened One Night. It’s a runaway bride story, not the first, nor the last, though I would say arguably the best. Although Claudette Colbert was no sweet young thing of a starlet she was suppose to be when the movie was made, and Clark Gable was a grown man (very nicely grown) the two of them sure could act, giving the romantic comedy the same effort they produced in bigger budgeted, more serious films. The sparks that flew, the wit, and twinkle as the spoiled brat (she) got her life lessons from the hard hearted, experienced reporter (he) was crisp and delightful. These two super stars made it fun. They had the audience laughing out loud, and they had me smiling in the dark knowing full well that those around me were doing the same.
And it’s not just the cast that makes this film so memorable. The movie has some great visual moments: the hitch hiking scene when Claudette raises her skirt and shows off a leg gorgeous enough to compete easily with today’s thin and rubbery crowd. Then there’s the back end of the car going off down the dusty road with their suitcase but without them, and the flap of a delicate unmentionable on the “walls of Jericho”, and the trail of a wedding train floating out behind as the bride escapes with her father’s blessings. And last, but never least, is the calm quiet outside view of the final little motor court cabin as a toy horn blows and every imagination in the audience takes it from there. No wonder it was the first film to sweep the top five categories at the Academy Awards (1934 for Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay). It’s a gem of a film. The kind you can watch over and over and find something you have never noticed before that enriches the story or enhances the scenery. Now if I can only figure out how to watch it over and over on the big screen with a hundred or so ardent fans, including Stuart and Dennis from WI, with whom I’d gotten to know before the film started. The film was a highlight of the festival for them too.
So, even with the unexpected little accident I have to say it was a lovely week I spent in LA. I saw so many great films, and made so many new friends. I can’t imagine missing this valued experience. It only comes once a year, which is just about the right amount of time to wait for my next full bag of popcorn and wine spritzer. I plan to do it all again next year, and every year as long as I can. Well, everything except the face plant. I prefer Black & White to black and blue, but then I’m funny that way.