Saturday, June 24, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Five, Part Two

The last night of the film festival was coming to a close, and it's probably my saddest night of the year. I liken it to Christmas night. You look forward to it all year long and then its over just like that, and you know that you have a whole other year to wait.
The film I had been most excited about had been pushed back a few hours, and I had all but given up on seeing it. I wanted to make it to the closing party and see some friends, so I chose to see Red Headed Woman and forget my beloved film.
Call it luck or even fate, but Red Headed Woman ended as Speedy was being introduced. Brian and I ran as fast as we could to make it to the intro. Released nearly 89 years ago to the day, Speedy stars my favorite actor, Harold Lloyd. I've written several times about my affection for the local actor and how I came to fall in love with him.
Harold Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska on April 20, 1893. I’ve read nearly every biography about him and spoken several times with his various family members about his life in Nebraska. As I researched his life further in recent years, I found that he had lived in Pawnee City, Humboldt, Beatrice, and Omaha. Lloyd had enough affection for the home and town of Burchard that he and his famous co-star/wife Mildred Davis-Lloyd would come back to visit when they could. After doing some plays in Omaha, Lloyd ended up in California working with Hal Roach, known best for producing Lauren and Hardy and Our Gang films.
It took Lloyd a few years to establish his role as one of the greatest silent comedians of the era. In 1924 Lloyd and Roach parted ways, and Lloyd became the independent producer of his films. Lloyd worked through the silent era and dabbled in some ‘talkies’ before he retired from film. Lloyd became the director and host of the NBC radio anthology, The Old Gold Comedy Theater for a year before he devoted all of his time to the Shriners Hospital, his family and 3D photography.
What made Lloyd stand out from Chaplin and Keaton was that he kept copyright control of his films. He didn’t grant a cinematic release in the 70’s like Chaplin because he only wanted his films to be accompanied by an organ, not a piano. Therefore Lloyd was nearly forgotten until his granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd released several remastered shorts that were accompanied by new orchestral scores. Since their re-release in 2002, Lloyd’s popularity has soared.
Nearly nine years ago I held a function in Burchard at Lloyd’s home to raise money for his birth home. The people of Burchard take turns mowing and giving tours at his birthplace. They rely on donations to upkeep the house, and they sadly get little to no help from Lloyd’s family. So it has been up to the good people of Burchard and fans like myself and my friends Dan and Kathy Phillips and their family, to help raise money for the house. Our first event was a huge hit. We showed films on the side of the home at dusk, served food and had trivia and prizes throughout the day. The next event we lost money and decided that we were both not in a financial position to continue to lose our own money, so we halted the event for a while.
My love for Harold is still as strong as ever though. Speedy was the first classic film that I fell in love with. It led me down the path I’m currently on of wanting to see every film made before 1990. Speedy and Harold Lloyd showed me that not all silent films are cheesy or creepy. They are beautiful and required a special skill that not everyone has. Getting to see Speedy with a live orchestra and audience on the big screen was a dream come true.
Speedy is about chronically unemployed Yankees fan Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd). He dates Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), a girl whose beloved grandfather, Pop (Bert Woodruff), runs a failing horse-drawn trolley business, in a rapidly changing city where the railway is becoming king. When a crooked railroad official steals Pop’s last car, hoping to force him into a shutdown, Speedy must race against the clock to find the culprits, return the car in time, and keep the service running on schedule.
Speedy has beautiful shots of Coney Island, Manhattan and the old Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth makes an appearance as a scared passenger on a terrifying ride to the Stadium for a game.
Brian and I laughed at the same parts of the film that we had laughed at 15 years ago when we first saw it. I teared up a few times as it washed over me that I was getting to share my love of this film and Lloyd with so many other people. It was the perfect way to end the festival, and I am so glad I changed my mind and chose to see it and skip most of the closing party.
After the film, we made our way over to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to say goodbye to some of our friends. Brian was able to talk with Ben Mankiewicz. We spoke to our friends and told everyone goodbye before we went back to our hotel. It’s always so sad to see the festival end and say farewell to like-minded people who you spend at least 18 hours a day with for four days. We laugh together, eat together, cry together and understand each other. I can yell out ‘I love Chester Morris!’ and everyone will know who that is and agree that they love him too.
When I booked our trip, I chose the cheapest flight out of LA for the following day which was 8 PM that night. So we took the TCM Classic Film Tour, (I don’t recommend it) and hung out for a while before our shuttle picked us up. It was nice to just take things slow for a few hours before we went home. We made it to LAX four hours before our flight. For someone who hates to fly, I love the airport. I love watching people and eating.
Brian watched movies while I watched people. It was good until they bumped our flight to 9 PM, then 10 PM, then 11 PM. Leaving at 11 PM put us back at KC after 2 AM. After a long-delayed but smooth flight, we landed at 2:45 AM and drove two hours home.
Another end to another trip I never dreamed I’d get to take. Those four days in Hollywood are worth every weekend I sit at home and collect every penny I find. Every year is a new dream come true, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to travel and share it with you.
And I still didn’t get to see the ocean. Maybe someday I will.

Monday, June 19, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Four

Saturday, April 8, was a day Brian and I were both looking forward to the most. The day’s line-up was going to be amazing, and I was going to be spending most of the day in the famed Gruman’s Chinese Theater. Last year I didn’t see one film there, so I was excited to get the chance to see several movies there this year.
Brian and I got up around 6:30 a.m. after about two hours of sleep. We had spent hours trying to get into the theater to find Brian’s phone. We lucked out that morning because our first film was in the same theater that Brian had lost his phone the night before. We went back, and while I got in line, Brian asked if he could search around. He still came up with nothing.  Brian waited at the front desk for them to open and was relieved to have it waiting at the lost and found.
We hopped in line and waited for our next film The China Syndrome. There were several films that we wanted to see during this block. It was a last-minute decision to attend because Michael Douglas was going to do a Q&A after the film. We had primo seats for the film and the interview. Neither of us had seen the movie or knew much about it, so we had no idea what to expect.
Michael Douglas produced and starred in the 1979 film about a possible meltdown at a nuclear power plant. Douglas plays the cameraman for reporter, Jane Fonda. As they tour the plant, they witness an emergency shutdown. That event leads the supervisor played by Jack Lemon to uncover some significant problems in the construction that can trigger a ‘China Syndrome’ type of meltdown to occur. Douglas and Fonda try to help Lemmon publicize the issues and save California from a major nuclear incident.
Before the credits finished, I had gotten on my phone and bought the DVD of this film. It was the biggest surprise film of the festival for me. I love a movie that takes me on an emotional roller coaster, and this one did just that. I was angry, scared, and sad. My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. I cried my eyes out at the end; I really got into it. As I looked around I realized that I wasn’t the only one, several other people were crying as well.
Michael Douglas received a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage. He discussed how the timing of the film was unreal. Two weeks after the film was released, there was a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. He explained that this didn’t help box office ticket sales because the news was playing clips of the film during their broadcasts for weeks, so nobody showed up to see the movie.
It was an interesting interview and fun to hear a bit about how Lemmon was to work with (Douglas said he was great). Jack Lemmon should have won an Oscar for this performance.
Once we caught our breath and chased Douglas out into the hall trying to get a photo (I was immediately stopped), we went downstairs to see one of our all-time favorite films, The Awful Truth. Its hard to find someone whos seen this film and didn’t consider it one of their favorites. We were there very early and still ended up 306 and 307 in line. The screwball comedy stars Irene Dunn and Cary Grant. The film is so beautiful it looks like a work of art. Dunn and Grant are married and after a misunderstanding gets divorced and need to decide if they want to be together. It was beautiful to see on the big screen, but we had to leave again to head back outside the theater we were just in. Why leave one of our favorite films to get in line outside the same theatre? To be the first people in line for one of Brian’s favorite movies of all time, The Jerk.
Now The Jerk was a movie I hadn’t seen until Brian insisted I must. It has taken a few years to grow on me, but I now love it and laugh harder each time I see it. Steve Martin is hilarious and plays an idiot trying to make his way through life. That pretty well sums it up. We stood in the sun for over an hour just to get our numbers, one and two. Brian was excited to be first in line, and what we didn’t know was that it came with a perk. The first few people in line got to attend the book signing with Carl Reiner and get to talk to him.
We made our way in and found ourselves standing in front of Carl Reiner. I didn’t know what to say, so I just told him how to spell my name and smiled. Brian told him how much he loved his films, especially The Jerk and chatted him up like they were old friends. We found a primo seat and watched as my pal Jill walked up to Mr. Carl Reiner and tore her jacket open. From where we were seated it looked like she was flashing 95-year old Hollywood legend, Carl Reiner. Several people in the audience started to giggle. What Brian and I knew was that Jill was wearing a special shirt she had worn for the occasion.
In The Jerk, Bernadette Peters meets Martin’s character when she is searching for a five-year-old boy wearing a shirt that says Bullshit. Only it says the profanity and Jill was wearing the replica of that shirt. Carl Reiner’s face lit up as he saw her shirt and they began quite the conversation. After we had laughed our way through The Jerk, we went down to Jameson’s bar for a drink and some dinner, both were terrible.
Brian and I met up with our friend Angie so we could all attend The Graduate with special guest, Buck Henry. I say this about a lot of films, but I love The Graduate, and I am so glad I went to see it in that theater. Before I went to L.A., I had given Scott Schock a bit of a rundown of what films I would see. He agreed that there was something special about The Graduate and he made a point of letting me know that I should defiantly make time to see it. Now that film holds even more meaning to me.
We skipped the midnight show because all three of us had a tough time staying awake through Benjamin’s antics. I don’t regret missing the midnight film for one second and I still don’t.

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