Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 #TCMFF Wrap Party

Anyone who knows my email writing style knows that I love to use bullets.  So, here's a review of the films I saw at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, each with a few quick notes.

If you were at TCMFF and we didn't connect, I'm sorry...I hope to meet you at future festivals.  If you didn't get a chance to go to TCMFF, I hope you can some day.  It's a great 'family reunion' for a lot of classic film friends each year.

Some fun facts from this year's fest:
  • I didn't see any films at the Chinese theater
  • I didn't see any films intro'd by Ben Mankiewicz
  • Total count: 19 films and 1 special presentation (Republic Preserved clips)
Now...on to the films...

Thursday

LOVE CRAZY (1941)
  • Dana Delany (who intro'd) wore quite a lovely dress (she also had a great deal of information on the film that she shared with us)
  • Great William Powell/Myrna Loy situational comedy, Jack Carson is a nice addition


THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934)
  • Not my first pick (REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT), but TCM staffers kept telling me "just go to this...you won't be disappointed"
  • Thursday afternoon it was announced that Martin Scorsese would intro the film...case closed!
  • Scorsese (who got a long standing ovation) spoke briefly, but passionately about nitrate film and preservation efforts.
  • Change from original schedule

Friday

RAFTER ROMANCE (1933)
  • I've seen this before, but hey...Ginger on the big screen in a pre-code was a delight


BEAT THE DEVIL (1953)
  • My first time watching
  • I probably didn't enjoy it as much as others did
  • Nice intro by 'script girl' Angela Allen, interviewed by Cari Beauchamp
  • This ended up being one of the TBA films on Sunday


PANIQUE (1946)
  • So, so fabulous...would love to see this again
  • Good intro by Bruce Goldstein and son of author of the book that the film is based on
  • Very intense tale about 'outsiders' (main character is Jewish) and mob mentality
  • Would love to see this air on TCM in the future if possible


SO THIS IS PARIS (1926)
  • Nice Lubitsch silent situational comedy with live piano accompaniment


RED-HEADED WOMAN (1932)
  • Reminded me a lot of pre-code BABY FACE
  • Sound was either turned up too loud, or the film was a bit shouty...funny, nonetheless


LAURA (1944)
  • The favorite of the three nitrate films that I saw
  • I was really impressed by the depth of image because of the nitrate stock
  • Kind of a rough 35mm print...reel lead-in and lead-out were (understandably) pretty beat up


ZARDOZ (1977)
  • One of the worst films I've seen
  • ...but surrounded by friends we laughed ourselves silly throughout most of the film
  • Zardoz cookies supplied by Beth and Miguel were a terrific idea

Saturday

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944)
  • My first trip to Multiplex house 4!
  • Intro by Tiffany Vazquez, who did a great job including a humorous joke where she said "I don't need to explain much about this, so enjoy the film" and fake-walked off.
  • Great seeing this in a packed theater.
  • This was announced as a TBA even before screening on Saturday


DAVID AND LISA (1962)
  • Reminded me a lot of last year's ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO (60s, indie, B&W, low budget, important subject)
  • Emotional ending
  • Nice interview of Keir Dullea who stayed and watched the film (I always love when stars do this)


THE UNDER-WORLD STORY (1950)
  • Noir film intro'd by Eddie Muller who admitted he just created a Twitter account
  • I had seen this for the first time a few weeks before the fest (TCM aired it) and wasn't too impressed by it
  • Second viewing was better


THEODORA GOES WILD (1936)
  • Intro'd by Illeana Douglas (her grandfather Melvyn stars in this.)
  • She had the entire Egyptian theater stand up for a "seventh inning stretch"...we sang "Singin' in the Rain"
  • Someone took a flash photo of the screen when Irene Dunne appeared in her black costume....grrr (thought this year there was a lot less of this)


THE INCIDENT (1967)
  • My favorite screening of the fest
  • Great intro by Bruce Goldstein of director Larry Peerce and stars Martin Sheen & Beau Bridges. Also the guy who did music for the film was in the audience.
  • Both Sheen and Bridges stayed and watched the entire film, Sheen shaking hands and engaging in chit-chat with film-goers as we filed out.
  • I skipped BLACK NARCISSUS (one of my original 'must-sees') to watch this...for me it was the right decision...magnificent film-making.
  • Change from original schedule


THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977)
  • I was worried this film would offend some with its nudity...what was I thinking?! Zardoz was much worse in this regard.
  • Hilarious intro by Jim Abrahams, Zucker brothers and John Landis who discussed how the movie came to be
  • Sketch comedy...some sequences are funnier than others...good applause for "Catholic High School Girls in Trouble"...one of the funnier sketches

Sunday

COCK OF THE AIR (1932)
  • What amazed me most in this pre-code was the camera movement...lots of 'floating camera' in opening shots and then lots more moving camera throughout the film


LURED (1947)
  • Very nice whodunit film with Lucille Ball, Charles Coburn and George Sanders
  • Lucy gets to wear a variety of lovely gowns
  • Nice twist ending
  • I got to sit in VIP seats in house 6 of the multiplex!


REPUBLIC PRESERVED
  • Very short clips review of restored Republic film clips
  • Cliff-hanger reel at the end (featuring tons of cars going off cliffs, exposions, etc.) was worth the price of admission
  • Left before Q&A to grab a few slices of pizza across the street from the Egyptian


WHAT'S UP DOC? (1972)
  • Nice interview of Peter Bogdanovich by Dave Karger
  • Bogdanovich does really good impressions
  • Delightful 'modern' take on the screwball comedy, the film holds up over time
  • Madeline Kahn steals the film (but you knew that.)  Also great performance by Kenneth Mars


LADY IN THE DARK (1944)
  • Interesting way to end the fest, in hindsight I might have chosen another film (probably SPEEDY)
  • Bizarre combination of bold Technicolor dream sequences on nitrate & patriarchal mansplaining...there were a lot of out-loud comments along lines of 'what?!'
  • First time in the balcony at the Egyptian

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

2017 #TCMFF Picks...or..."If you need me, I'll be in line at The Egyptian"

This year's schedule has been one of the most difficult to work through.  Here are my tentative picks for the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival.  (All this might change five times in the next week...we'll see.)  My picks are in bright green, films new to me followed by '(N)'.

Trends: For the first time I won't attend any films at Grauman's Chinese theater. (Don't even tell me it's called TCL now. I will fight you.)


One thing I won't be doing this year is bringing new buttons.  Last year I suffered from "button burnout" (there's got to be an ICD10 code for that.) So this year, no new buttons...I may bring some leftovers from years past, though.



Thursday

  • Love Crazy (1941) - We start the whole shootin' match off at The Egyptian theater. Introduced by the effervescent Dana Delany (reason enough for me to catch any film at TCMFF) this is good way to start the fest.  Beth's catching Some Like It Hot - I'm not sure I'd survive the larger-than-life anatomy of Marilyn Monroe. (Egyptian, Dana Delany, 35mm) (N)
  • Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962) - Eddie Muller (appropriately) introduces this dark film about the end of a boxer's career.  It's my favorite Mickey Rooney performance (and nothing like his usual musical roles.)  It also includes excellent performances from Anthony Quinn, Julie Harris, and Jackie Gleason. (M4, Eddie Muller, 35mm)



Friday

  • Rafter Romance (1933) - Back at The Egyptian to catch Ginger Rogers in a pre-code.  Intro by Leonard Maltin is the icing on the cake. (Egyptian, Leonard Maltin, 35mm)
  • Beat The Devil (1953) - Honestly, I originally had scheduled One Hour With You, but I'm not the biggest Maurice Chavalier fan and I've read some other schedules where folks are attending "Beat". (M6, Angela Allen/Cari Beauchamp, DCP) (N)
  • Panique (1946) - My first foreign film of the fest.  Though The Princess Bride at Grauman's was a strong pull, I've seen it dozens of times and always ready to catch a new foreign film. (M6, Bruce Goldstein/Pierre Simenon, ?) (N)
  • So This Is Paris (1926) - Ernst Lubitsch silent film? Sounds fun! (Egyptian, Cari Beauchamp/Donald Sosin, 35mm) (N)
  • Red-Headed Woman (1932) - Pre-code with Jean Harlow and Chester Morris.  It seems that TCM event staff got the memo from last year's debacle that was house 4 at the multiplex. Glad to see more pre-code films in larger venues. (Egyptian, Cari Beauchamp, 35mm) (N)
  • Laura (1944) - This is one of those 'tough slots': Cat People on the big screen would be great, Mel Brooks interview before High Anxiety, and Twentieth Century...the quintessential screwball comedy.  Very tough choice here.  But this will be my first time seeing a film on nitrate stock.  Add to that, it's a wonderful film. I hope High Anxiety (with Mel Brooks intro) pulls enough folks away so that I get into this one. (Egyptian, nitrate)
  • Zardoz (1974) - Just a general rule of mine: always attend the midnight screenings. They're usually fairly well attended and always a laugh riot. (M1, DCP) (N)

Saturday

  • Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) - This was hardest slot for me. I really wanted to see This Is Cinerama at the Cinerama Dome (I mean, when will I get another chance to see the first Cinerama film screened in one of the 2 or 3 remaining Cinerama theaters in the world?!) Ultimately, I decided that the Cinerama experience was too costly in time (knocking out two other slots) and legwork (literally, if I walked to and fro' the Cinerama Dome.) (M4, 35mm)
  • David and Lisa (1962) - Looking forward to this, especially intro with Keir Dullea. This is a film I'll get to see by foregoing This Is Cinerama. (M4, Cari Beauchamp/Keir Dullea, 35mm) (N)
  • The Underworld Story (1950) - While in Guatemala, my Dad told me how much he liked the film America America. So imagine my surprise when the schedule was released and there it was. It's kind of long though, so I'll catch it another time.  "Underworld" is being shown in 35mm, introduced by Eddie Muller, and it has an interesting sounding story. And...it gets me to the Egyptian where I'll be the rest of the day. (Egyptian, Eddie Muller, 35mm) (N)
  • Theodora Goes Wild (1936) - Not my first choice--that was Best In Show with the amazing panel of stars from the film.  This pick was more for 'strategy'.  I think the following slot contains the hottest ticket of the weekend, so I wanted to be close to the line after this slot. Introduced by #TCMParty friend Illeana Douglas whose grandfather stars. (Egyptian, Illeana Douglas, 35mm) (N)
  • Black Narcissus (1947) - This film (IMO) will be the hardest ticket of the festival.  The combination of nitrate, Technicolor and the amazing color palate here should easily pack the theater. If you want to see this, I'd suggest you queue up early. Hopefully I'll be able to exit Theodora Goes Wild and re-queue with enough time to get a decent entry number. (Egyptian, nitrate)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) - This is a very funny (and lewd, and irreverent) sketch comedy film.  If you're easily offended by nudity, racial stereotypes or bad language...you might want to get an extra 2 hours of sleep tonight. Huge bonus is that Jim Abrahams, the Zucker brothers and John Landis will be on-hand to intro the film.  Looking forward to Big Jim Slade and "Catholic High School Girls In Trouble" :) (M1, Jim Abrahams/John Landis/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker, digital)



Sunday

  • Cock of the Air (1932) - An uncensored version of this pre-code film was found in 2007. Lucky us! (M6, Heather Linville, DCP) (N)
  • Lured (1947) - I've seen this before in 2015, but don't remember much about it. (M6, Sara Karloff, DCP)
  • Republic Preserved (2014) - A series of long-forgotten Republic Pictures clips? Count me in! (M6, Andrea Kalas, ?) (N)
  • What's Up Doc? (1972) - This was a film that was announced early and from early on I wanted to see it on the big screen. If I had to pick a 'must see' for this year's TCMFF, this would be the film. Intro by Bogdanovich should be great. The last time I watched this on TCM, I remember laughing harder than I had in quite a long time. Can't wait to see Madeline Kahn in her film debut. She's worth the price of admission. (Egyptian, Peter Bogdanovich, 35mm)
  • Lady In the Dark (1944) - For the first time, I'll not attend the closing film at Grauman's Chinese theater (or any film there.) This year it's Casablanca. Though I've seen it dozens of times, and more than once on the big screen...still it would be nice to see it on the huge screen at the Chinese. However, I've chosen the final nitrate film of the festival...one I haven't seen before. I hope I'm surrounded by friends. :) (Egyptian, nitrate) (N)



So, that's the plan for now. If you see me (I'll probably be wearing a Hawaiian shirt each day) please come up and say "hi", I'd love to meet you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

TCMFF 2016 Wrap-Up

#TCMParty friends (photo courtesy Will McKinley)


I mostly stuck to my original schedule. Six films were repeat viewings, twelve were new-to-me. I’m quite pleased with this year’s TCMFF. Here’s some quick-takes on how it all went down:



Wednesday
A group of us Uber’d over to the New Beverly cinema to catch a double-feature of Footlight Parade (1933) and Follow the Fleet (1936). I nodded off a bit during the films having just flown cross-country. One thing I’ll say is that The New Beverly cinema is a gem in the LA theater scene. Lovely house with spacious seating and friendly staff.



Thursday

  • One Potato, Two Potato (1964): what a way to begin the TCMFF. This film has a real “kick-in-the-gut” ending. I really wanted to see Barbara Barrie, but she was a no-show. Donald Bogle (who you should seek out at the fest) interviewed the film’s director. Unfortunately, the fire alarm was tripped at the Chinese Multiplex, clearing all three TCMFF houses down to street level. Most film-goers were at the emotional climax of their films. However, TCM and their band of volunteers did an excellent job of handling communication to fans waiting outside. We waited for about 15-30 minutes outside, before the “all-clear” signal was given, fest staffers came out and communicated what was going to happen once we re-entered the building: They would load us back into our original theater and restart the film a few minutes before the fire alarm. We filed back into house 4, and they showed the final reel (this being 35mm.) Overall doing the ‘restart’ wasn’t perfect, but obviously the best they could do under the circumstances.
  • Los Tallos Amargos (1956): Introduced by Eddie Muller, who promised that this was going to be as dark as any noir we had previously seen. He was so right. See this if you get the chance and don’t flinch from seeing subtitles.



Friday
I didn’t get into Double Harness (1933) because after leaving The More the Merrier, I went to the Roosevelt lobby to get my copy of “I Blame Dennis Hopper” signed by the delightful Illeana Douglas. I never know what to say to ‘stars’ (I put this in quotes, because she seems like the most down-to-earth person and has no problem hanging out with classic film fans) so I had some awkward chit-chat with her, got my picture taken and headed back to the Multiplex across the street.

I knew that Double Harness was airing on TCM later in May (5/27) so wasn’t too put-out by this. Interestingly, there were a lot of spotlight and VIP pass-holders (who get priority seating) which only allowed 40-some ‘standard’ pass-holders to get into the small ‘house 4’ theater that seats 177.

I also made a decision to skip Pleasure Cruise (1933) feeling the gap between it and The Passion of Joan of Arc would be too tight and I didn’t want to get shut out my festival “must see” film experience.

So, here’s Friday’s film recap:

  • The More the Merrier (1956): A great film..loved seeing it with a healthy crowd at the Egyptian theater.
  • When You’re In Love (1937): Surprisingly entertaining film with Cary Grant and lots of lovely opera singing. I was thoroughly entertained by this gem.
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): This was THE event of the festival for me and boy, did it deliver. Easily the most impressive thing I’ve seen in four years attending TCMFF.
  • Repeat Performance (1947): Slow-paced and quiet noir led me to doze through most of the first half of this. I’ll have to catch it later...really interesting idea for a film.
  • Roar (1981): Needs to be experienced once, but only once! Repetitive tale of why you shouldn’t live with 40 big cats in the middle of nowhere. Only interesting parts (to me) were seeing Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith playing themselves (and in the case of Griffith, showing off a lot of midriff.)


Saturday

My scheduled was exactly as planned earlier:

  • 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone: lovely review about challenges of sound syncing with film, early attempts, how Vitaphone worked, etc. Followed by six (I think) Vitaphone short subjects including Baby Rose Marie, Burns & Allen and more. I laughed a lot during many of these, the vaudevillian comedy was terrific.
  • A House Divided (1931): After Maria Falconetti, this was the next best acting performance I saw at the fest. Walter Huston plays an absolutely terrible brute to his son and mail-order bride. Great special effects at the end of the film as well. Seek this one out!
  • Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934): Ronald Coleman sending up early whodunit films. Terrifically funny and tons of great supporting actors (including Mischa Auer, Charles Butterworth & Una Merkel!)
  • Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968): A nice film with a theme similar to that of last year’s closer Marriage Italian Style (1964). Only this film also stars Phil Silvers, Telly Savalas, Peter Lawford and Shelley Winters. Ben interviewed Gina Lollobrigida before the film. It occurs to me that he had some tough interviews this year, with non-native English actors Lollobrigida, Anna Karina and Salvatore Cascio.
  • The Song of Bernadette (1943): My favorite pre-film interview of the festival. Illeana Douglas interviewed Sister Rose Pacatte on how she got into film reviewing and comparisons between church and the movies. At the end of the interview Sr. Rose asked the audience if anyone had a birthday today...someone said they had a birthday this week, she said “see me outside after the film, I have a gift for you.” Such a warm person.
  • Band of Outsiders (1964): I wanted to like this film, but dozed off a little during it. I’d say it’s easily not one of my favorite Jean-Luc Godard films.
  • Gog in 3D (1954): Super turn-out for this film, the largest midnight crowd I’ve seen in four years. While waiting in line, another (ahem) older passholder asked what we were in line for:
                Passholder: “What’s this film?”
                Me: “Gog”
                PH: “Dog”?
                Me: “Gog”
                PH: “God”?
                Me: “Gog”
                PH: “Oh” [walks away]

    Great 3D effects amidst a bad story and cheesy 50s sci-fi SFX. My take-away? Herbert Marshall with a flame-thrower. No...for real.



Sunday
My schedule was also exactly as planned:

  • The Fallen Idol (1948): Absolutely fascinating British drama. Catch this if you can.
  • Law and Order (1932): Introduced by Leonard Maltin (who’s great at film intros, by the way. In fact I’d suggest you seek out Maltin, Eddie Muller and Donald Bogle for any film intros.) Nice early telling of the Wyatt Earp story with Walter Huston in the lead role. Complete with Tombstone setting and shootout at the O.K. Corral.
  • Horse Feathers (1932): A packed house. Introduced by David Steinberg (who was good, but brief.) Great seeing this in a packed theater...lots of uproarious laughter.
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949): Very excellent to see Technicolor on the big screen. We sat near an exit wanting to make a quick departure to get good queue-card numbers for Cinema Paradiso. Something I felt we didn’t need to worry about. And boy we didn’t have to worry...this was the most sparsely attended closing event at Grauman’s Chinese theater I’ve experienced in 4 years. My guess is that there were 300-400 people in the 900+ seat theater.
  • Cinema Paradiso (1988): The actor who played young Toto was on hand for the intro. Ben Mankiewicz interviewed him via a translator.  I admit there was ugly crying during the end of this film. I agree with critics of this film that the end is overly sentimental. The director purposely puts things in the film to elicit tears. But I also admit that I still love that it’s sentimental and I love that this was the fest closer for me (and many friends.)


Finally
Although TCMFF is a time to see wonderful classic film on the big screen. And also the chance to ‘get close’ to people you see on TV (like Ben Mankiewicz, Illeana Douglas, Kate Flannery, Keith Carradine, etc.) the best part is meeting up with friends I’ve made on Twitter. Truly great people who share my passion for classic film. Thanks to all who said ‘hey’, exchanged buttons, offered a hug, etc. I cherish you people.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Picks for 2016 #TCMFF


Beth and I arrive Wednesday around lunchtime (look out In-n-Out!)  But here's what I'm planning on seeing during the fest proper.  Each film includes a few comments on why I chose it.



Thursday

  • One Potato, Two Potato (1964) - Star Barbara Barrie and director Larry Peerce will be in attendance.  (Fans of Breaking Away [1979] know that Barrie plays the mother in that film.)  Also Donald Bogle will be onhand for the intro...and I love Donald Bogle, he's so informative.  This will be my first time seeing this.
  • Los Tallos Amargos (1956) - An Argentine noir film?!  If you know me, you know I love foreign film.  This is a no-brainer.



Friday

  • The More The Merrier (1956) - One of the few 're-watches' I'm seeing this year at the fest.  This is simply a great film.  If you've never seen it, please consider watching it...get there early, fans 'in the know' will fill the Egyptian Theater.  Coburn won Oscar for his role...well deserved.  "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!"
  • Double Harness (1933) - Hopefully I can get in and out of the Illeana Douglas book signing in time to get to this screening.  She's delightful on Twitter and I'm looking forward to letting her know (...and getting my book signed!)  James Cromwell is intro-ing this...and it's a pre-code I haven't seen before.
  • When You're In Love (1937) - Hey, there's opera in this film!  And I hear the lead actress does a mean version of "Minnie the Moocher".  A Cary Grant film I've never seen.
  • Pleasure Cruise (1933) - Roland Young & Una O'Connor in a pre-code I haven't seen.  (Thanks for the correction @PreCodeDotCom!)
  • The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928) - This is one of two films that were on my 'must-see' list.  Gladly the other film wasn't screening in the same time slot.  I agree with many critics who call this perhaps the finest acting performance in the history of film.  I've see it before, but never on the big screen with live orchestra.
  • Repeat Performance (1947) - Since this is a restoration from Film Noir Foundation...it'll likely be intro'd by the 'Czar of Noir' Eddie Muller.  Another first-time watch.
  • Roar (1981) - This first midnight screen look terrifyingly terrible!  One quote from the re-release trailer said "It's like Walt Disney went insane and shot a snuff version of Swiss Family Robinson."  I mean...how can you not see this film?!


Saturday

  • 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone - These 'film history classes' that they do at The Egyptian are always worth going to see.  I was amazed last year with the early Technicolor presentation.  Looking forward to this.
  • A House Divided (1931) - Young Walter Huston in an early William Wyler talkie.
  • Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) - Una Merkel.
  • Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968) - Gina Lollobrigida to introduce this...looks interesting.  My first film at the Chinese Theater this fest!
  • The Song of Bernadette (1943) - So I was watching the trailer for this earlier this morning (I was finding a YouTube link for my friend who asked about the fest.)  Sitting at my desk...eyes welling up with tears.  This is such a beautiful film and Jennifer Jones is so good in it.  It's been a long time since I've seen it...looking forward to it being on the silver screen.
  • Band Of Outsiders (1964) - Reading the notes on this film...all I needed to see was Jean-Luc Godard & "love letter to Paris".
  • Gog in 3D (1954) - Could it be worse than Roar?  I'll find out!



Sunday

  • The Fallen Idol (1948) - This looked rather interesting...initially I had thought of seeing All That Heaven Allows, but I opted for the new-to-me film instead.
  • Law And Order (1932) - (The TCMFF website says this is the 1953 version...but based on the write-up, it's the 1932 film.)  Looking forward to this western I've never seen before.  Script by John Huston, starring Walter Huston, Harry Carey, Andy Divine, etc.
  • Horse Feathers (1932) - Among the tears...I need a few laughs.  The Marx Brothers should provide them for me.
  • She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) - This was a weak slot for me...give me your thoughts on Fat City or TRACTRAC.  I've seen "Yellow Ribbon" more than once before...it's a good film...and on the big screen it should be great, what with all that Monument Valley lush footage.
  • Cinema Paradiso (1988) - Another year where the festival closes with a foreign film?  An Italian foreign film?  Yes, indeed.  And what a way to end the festival with--what is essentially--a love letter to the movies.  You can talk about the over-sentimentality...while you're talking, I'll be eating it up with fork and knife (and likely bawling my eyes out in the final frames.)  In case you didn't read yet...Salvatore Cascio will be onhand to intro.  (He played young Toto in the film.)

So, that's the plan for now.  Hope to bump into you while in line for a film!

Monday, December 14, 2015

TCM Remembers 2015

Here's a list of all the folks listed in the 2015 TCM Remembers memorial clip along with a link to Wiki info:



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Una O'Connor


I’m writing this brief post as part of the fourth ‘What A Character’ blogathon. Many thanks to Paula, Aurora and Kellee for doing this again this year and putting in the work to promote beforehand and during the ‘push week’. 





Character actors are often the glue the holds a film together. Without them, there’d be a hole in many films.



There’s a reason I proudly proclaim ‘UNA!’ on twitter whenever this fair maiden of scream appears on my TCM screen: She’s delightfully charming and slightly off-key. And while--at five foot, two inches--she’s slight in stature, she makes up for it with a unique voice, great facial expressions and (last but not least) a great high-pitched screech of a scream.




Young Una O'Connor



The New York Times biography aptly describes her as having “...the body of a scarecrow, the contemptuous stare of a house detective, and the voice of an air-raid siren…”


I’d be remiss if I only talked about her elastic face and screeching voice, because there were performances that were quieter. Take for example her role as Mrs. Wilson in Ernst Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown (1946). In this film she gives a subtle performance without one line of dialog.

Cavalcade w/Herbert Mundin


Una O’Connor was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1880 as Agnes Teresa McGlade. Her early career began on the stage in Ireland and England. Appearing in productions like “The Starlight Express” and “Autumn Fire”. In fact her work on the stage continued through her entire career. On the screen she was frequently cast as the meddlesome housekeeper and was frequently used for comic relief.


Let’s look at some of the amazing films and stars she worked with:




That’s an impressive list of talent to be working with.


Like many actors, her later career included a lot of television roles including shows like “Martin Kane”, “Hopalong Cassidy” and “Tales of Tomorrow”.

Witness For The Prosecution


In Witness for the Prosecution, O’Connor reprised her role from the stage. ‘Witness’ was her final film, she retired after making this film in her 70s and died two years later in New York City having never married and having no children.



The next time you're watching a classic film and see Ms. O'Connor in the film...don't be shy.  Shout out to the Twitter world "UNA!" :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

I'll Be Seeing You

I want to take a moment to tell you all about a great film that I first saw on TCM on Christmas Day in 2013.  The film is I'll Be Seeing You (1944), directed by William Dieterle.  He's a director I'll admit that I don't know a lot about.  He directed The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and a handful of other films I've seen.

Since then I've seen the film a total of five times.  Here's my complete watch list for this film if you're curious.  




Before I dive into the details of this film, I need to say this post is being written as part of the "TCM Discoveries Blogathon" hosted by the passionate 'The Nitrate Diva' who for years I thought was blonde and smoked.  She may not know this, but she's an inspiration to me.  Young and so very knowledgeable about classic film.  Quick with a smile or a kind word...it's a pleasure to call her a friend.


Enough mush...onto the film!


This isn't grand cinema by any means...it's a small film about two people who meet and fall in love.  A 'nice little romance' if I had to sum it up.

The film has three stars in it:
  • Joseph Cotten, who plays Zach, a WWII soldier who's returning home on a ten day leave from an Army hospital where he's recovering from 'combat fatigue' (what we'd today call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.)
  • Ginger Rogers, who plays Mary, a woman who's in prison for homicide and is on a ten day furlough for the Christmas holiday.
  • Shirley Temple, who plays Mary's younger cousin, Barbara.




Along with these are the wonderful Spring Byington who plays Ginger's aunt.  A quick word about Ms. Byington...she's one of my favorite character actors and usually plays a slightly offbeat character, but here she's the solid rock that Mary needs.

Shirley Temple is quite good in this, too.  One of her great adolescent roles, I'd say.  There's an interesting story about how George Cukor was brought in to pull a performance out of Temple in the most dramatic scene in the film.  Cukor was tough on her.  They shot the scene twelve times.  In the end, Cukor got what he wanted...emotion.  But the experience rattled Temple.


Many folks know I'm a huge Ginger Rogers fan.  I like her dance films, but I particularly like her dramatic films like this one.  A few others to check out (if you've never seen them) are Stage Door (1937), Bachelor Mother (1939) and Kitty Foyle (1940).  





So what makes this film so special?  Two things:

First, it's one of the first films about men returning home from war...some in a delicate condition...all with their lives having been changed forever.  It was released two years before that sub-genre's ultimate film: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).  I think it must have given the movie-going public an idea of the horrors of war and what can do to a man's psyche.

Next, it's a story of two people, each with a secret that they're trying to keep from each other (and the world at large.)  Each whose lives have been altered...maybe permanently.  Sadly...while they try to keep their secrets in, what they really need is to share their struggles and offer their support and empathy of the other person.



The two of them slowly fall in love, but I won't give away how it turns out (I have a strict no spoiler policy on this blog...ha!)

If you've never seen it, try to catch it when it airs on TCM...usually around Christmas.  Or just watch it on YouTube here.

Happy viewing!