TCMFF 2019: Day 2 for the Classic Film Fan
As is tradition, the second day of the TCMFF kicks off with a hand and foot print ceremony of an acclaimed celebrity. This year the iconic Golden Globe-nominated actor and comedian, Billy Crystal was granted this prestigious honor in Hollywood's world-famous Chinese Theatre forecourt. Ever the entertainer, Crystal chose to make his block of cement stand out by including the paw of his Monster's, Inc. character, Mike.
Although this was another event I was unable to attend due to more unforeseen circumstances (I'm on a hell of a roll), the festivities included an introduction by TCM host, Ben Mankiewicz and speeches from long-time friend and former TCMFF honoree, director Rob Reiner. Crystal's daughters, grandchildren and wife of 48 years were also in attendance. I have in the past attended the ceremonies for Peter O'Toole, Jane Fonda and father and son Reiners. Assuming this ceremony was similar to those past, fifty or so chairs are actually set on the prints of such luminaries as Gary Cooper, Shirley Temple and Kirk Douglas. These are for the celebrity friends of the honoree. The media stands upon a series of raisers that block the view to most of the public lined along Hollywood Boulevard. But a lucky group of about a hundred fans squeeze into an area roped off to the side of the forecourt. It all lasts about an hour or so, but it does cut into two screening times, so it's a tough decision for most TCMFF pass holders to make - see a luminary receive a special honor or watch two movies (beloved or brand new to the viewer) on the big screen. It's usually a tough choice for me.
However, this year my day started around 12:30P when I drove into the parking lot at The American Legion Post 43. Steeped in Hollywood history, the historical building is a new venue for the TCMFF and has a newly renovated theater which was finished just in time for this year's festival. It was chartered in 1919 by World War I veterans who worked in the motion picture business and became the local Post for those who fought in WWII and beyond. Post 43's notable members include Clark Gable, Gene Autry, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, and Stan Lee, just to name a few. Since I missed the beginning of the program, What's Not to Love About Republic Serials?, I spent my time poking around the facilities. It's quite remarkable with a mosaic high ceiling entry and a really cool retro bar downstairs. Sadly, the bar wasn't opened for service yet, but I hope to make a return visit before the festival is over. And even if I don't, I'm an Auxiliary member (my grandfather served in WWII) so I can come back whenever I want (lucky me).
I then made my way to another Hollywood institution, Mels Diner on Highland just a door or two from Ripley's Believe or Not museum. I gave up a couple of more screenings in order to meet up for lunch with a TCMFF friend made a couple of years earlier. I drank many cups of tea with lemon and honey in an attempt to sooth my worsening throat. But sadly, after over an hour of waiting, my friend never showed. This day was looking to be another let down, but I did have the TCMFF Ten Timers Party to look forward to. I would be giving up more screenings, but how could I possibly pass it up?
However, like the rest of the day so far, my timing was off and I showed up too early for entry. One of the elevators in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel was going to be taking us to the penthouse suite, but could not be used until just before the event. So I waited. As it happens, the lobby of the Roosevelt was being used for an hour to record entries for the 2019 Guest Programmer Competition. I had no intention of participating, but it was fun to watch person after person take the stage and face the camera as they spoke about a favorite film. They were all very engaging and I found myself getting in line to be one of them. It was fun, and I felt a bit giddy when it became my turn. I was uncertain about participating as I had a horrible voice, but I'm always telling my students to not be afraid of trying things as it helps you get ready for the more difficult things you must do. I talked about Goodbye, Mr. Chips but can't remember what, or how I said anything. It doesn't really matter though, because the experience was really about being a part of the festival, and enjoying it to the fullest, and it's a lot easier than trying to record your own entry at home. I highly recommend it.
Then there was the rooftop party. It was well worth all the bad luck I had up to that moment. The elevator went as far as it could, which was down the hall from the penthouse suite named after Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. The two had supposedly spent their honeymoon there and the decor resembled the style of the era. It really was a sight to see, with a sizable living room, kitchenette, and complete bar. From there a steep and narrow staircase led to an upper bedroom, which was even more lush in its decor than the rooms below. From there it was just a step through a side door and you're on the rooftop of the Roosevelt Hotel. In fact, the giant neon sign for the hotel was virtually close enough to touch. There was an open bar capable of serving anything you asked for, and all of the on-air hosts mingled amongst the relatively intimate crowd of a hundred or so festival goers who had attended all ten years of the TCMFF. It was particularly nice to talk to others who joined the party. Everyone was so excited to be a part of this celebration of the longevity of the festival, and the festivals appreciation of the dedication of its hard core fans. In fact, it was one of those fans who for a whole year had pursued and eventually persuaded the TCM staffers to host a party like this. His perseverance really paid off.
By the end of the party I pretty much had lost my voice again so I thought my day was done, because for me, half the festival is about talking to those in line for the same film, and those sitting next to me in the theater. However, I I finally caught up with my favorite festival friends, so it wasn't necessary to speak much. This was my only real film watching experience so far, and watching Road House (1948) at the Egyptian Theatre turned out to be the best film experience of the fest. It was truly a nice surprise as I had never seen it before even though it stars two of my favorite actors, Ida Lupin and Richard Widmark. It was sort of like a lite film noir set at an isolated road house (thus the title). Lupino is in great form as a sultry singer who has been transplanted from the big city by the smitten Widmark. He appears to be misplaced in the tranquil surroundings, but ultimately reveals himself as a hardboiled ruffian obsessed with jealousy when Lupino shows more interest in his best friend, Cornel Wilde. Naturally a love triangle develops and things become sticky in a way that only a noir can. At a quick paced 95 minutes and on 35mm Nitrate it was a great way to end the day.
And there are two more days to enjoy the fest, and still hope my voice will recover. At least I really hope so!