Day two of my 2017 TCMFF adventure was much different than the previous year. It was Thursday the official start day of the Festival.
Brian, my friend Angie and I all went to Starbucks for a snack and coffee before we attended a morning Q&A with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. As we stood to wait for our coffee, I noticed the man behind us was a sunglass-wearing Ben Mankiewicz. All three of us stood staring at him trying not to act as giddy as we were. He looked at us and our passes and starting talking to us like we were old friends. He asked if we were attending the Q&A and thankfully we were. Last year I spoke to Ben and had my photo taken with him, but this year after chatting with him at Starbucks I really got a feel for who he was. He came across as down to earth, kind, generous with his time and not at all as pretentious as he should be. I mean this man’s uncle wrote Citizen Kane, he’s big stuff to us film fans. His family's also a big deal to the political fans (me too), but that's for another day.
We bid our goodbyes and went to stand in line for his Q&A. We were among the first and had front row seats for the interview. It was great to learn more about the man who comes into my home nearly every night. He loves baseball, his wife (who he met at a TCM Film Festival) his daughter and his work. It was worth getting up early to attend and get to know more about our Ben Mank.
After the Q&A we immediately got in line for the ‘Remembering Robert,’ program. We were in the spillover line outside and from what I’ve heard, more people had to attend another theater and listen to the whole thing. I think TCM underestimated how much people truly loved Robert Osborne. The staff of TCM gathered and shared their memories of the legend who had recently passed away. I cried, everyone around me cried, I'd say 95 percent of the people there cried. It was a beautiful tribute full of personal stories and great memories. Someday I will write more about it because it was such a beautiful tribute.
My friend Scott had recommended we hit up Johnny Rockets for lunch, so we did, and it was a perfect way to start our first big day. As we discussed our next move for the day, the announcement came that changed our plans for the night. We had planned to attend the screening of Requiem for a Heavyweight, but when word got out that Martin Scorsese was going to introduce the nitrate print of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, we dropped our previous plans. We had to rearrange our entire schedule.
The fun thing about the festival is also the most infuriating. If you change one film you're probably going to end up changing your entire night. Because one little glitch in the system can make it all go haywire. So far that hasn't worked out poorly for me. Ensuring we would get into that screening, we decided not to see Love Crazy (I kind of regret that) and instead see red carpet arrivals instead.
The opening film was In the Heat of the Night and rumor was that Sydney Poitier would be on the red carpet. He wasn’t, but he did sneak in the back, so people behind us did catch a glimpse of the legend. It was pretty disappointing for us. We had front row seats for other arrivals such as Lee Grant, Dick Cavett, Todd Fisher, Keir Dullea, John Landis, Beau Bridges, Ruta Lee, Chris Tucker and my friend Lauren Semar.
We left the red carpet a little early to grab some dinner at Miceli’s Italian Restaurant. After dinner, we walked to the Egyptian Theater to get in line for The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was a good thing too because everyone there wanted to hear Scorsese introduce this beautiful nitrate print. Anyone who loves or appreciates film was there. Nitrate film stock has been praised for the beauty of its images and for truly allowing cinematographers to use the light artistically. Whites pop off the screen and blacks are deep and rich, grey tones shimmer, but its also incredibly flammable. I heard later that those who saw other films in color nitrate say it was breathtaking. To play Nitrate films, the Egyptian Theater had to bring their film projection booth up to code because of how dangerous nitrate is.
The print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we saw was once part of David O. Selznick’s personal collection. The print on nitrate was as incredible as everyone said it would be. It was crisp and in impeccable condition. It was my first time seeing this version of the film. I had seen the Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day version years ago and when I read it on the list of films being played I had thought that what this version would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn't the film I had previously seen. I ended up liking this one better. After a long-standing ovation, Scorsese introduced the print, and it was apparent how much he truly loves classic movies and nitrate.
“Retrofitting a theater to make it capable and safe to project nitrate is an enormous undertaking,” said the Oscar-winning director, who is also founder and chair of The Film Foundation. “This stock was used in the earliest days of cinema. It’s known for its deep, richer blacker and grey tones. They glow.”
During his remarks, Scorsese also remembered Robert Osborne, who passed away last month. “I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate him,” Scorsese said. “He was a real lover of lm, and seeing the films in the original way they were meant to be seen.”
Getting to see Scorsese introduce a film that ended up being a total surprise to me was a fabulous way to end my first night of the Festival.