By Lara Gabrielle Fowler
Day 2 of the TCM Classic Film Festival got underway early this morning with screenings beginning at the 9:00 hour. Libeled Lady, my screening choice for this time block, began not long thereafter at 9:30, and this was one of the events I was most looking forward to. Libeled Lady is a read crowd-pleaser, and a personal favorite of mine. The all-star cast assembled for the film can essentially do no wrong in my book, and the combination of talent and skillful direction by Jack Conway makes for a tightly wrapped treat for viewing.
The story deals with the story of a libel suit filed by an heiress (Myrna Loy) due to an untruth written by a newspaper, the editor of which (Spencer Tracy) decides to frame her in an elaborate plot to avoid getting involved in the suit. The other factors in the framing are played by William Powell and Jean Harlow, with a significant supporting performance by Walter Connolly. The cast works so well together that the plot is completely seamless, the highlight of which is when William Powell goes fishing and gives one of the most hilarious screwball scenes on film.
After having a good laugh at Libeled Lady (including uttering a rather embarrassingly loud scream of laughter at 0:46 of the above video), I enthusiastically headed over to the Egyptian Theatre for a screening of Notorious. Arguably Hitchcock’s finest film, it weaves a fascinating web of intrigue within an elaborate plot to infiltrate a Nazi group in Rio de Janeiro. If you haven’t seen this film, you owe it to yourself to do so. I have seen it a number of times, but every time I watch it the suspense and finesse of the filmmaking keeps me on the edge of my seat. My favorite scene hinges upon the procurement of a key by Ingrid Bergman’s character to the wine cellar where there is thought to be suspicious material. In this video, begin watching at the beginning and continue to the 4:00 mark. Note Hitchcock’s use of magic technique to create suspense and to push the scene forward.
Next up was a screening of rare Hollywood home movies from the Academy Film Archive. Included were clips of stars from various classic eras relaxing on the set or at home, and they were a true delight to watch. Highlights included Marlene Dietrich in Austria, Joan Fontaine on the set of Gunga Din, a young Lucille Ball being carried on the set of an early film, and Mitzi Gaynor at the beginning of her career. Along to introduce the screenings were representatives from the Academy library, and Mitzi Gaynor herself introduced her own home movie clips. She looks wonderful, and is still full of pep at the age of 82.
After the home movies, I rushed back to the Egyptian Theatre for the screening of It. Clara Bow is my favorite silent star, and I was excited to see such an iconic movie on the big screen. It is a vehicle entirely for Clara Bow. The plot is rather irrelevant, as the movie was formed simply to center around her, and in that it succeeds magnificently. All of Bow’s bubbly charm is out in full force, and we see her as having an abundant amount of what the movie calls “it,” described as “self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not.” Clara Bow became known as the “It Girl,” and the term has entered the modern lexicon. This screening featured a brand new score by Carl Davis, performed with a live orchestra.
Clara Bow in It.
The friends with whom I am staying were very excited about A Foreign Affair. It was the highlight of the festival for many of them, and as I had never seen it before, I was very curious. I was disappointed that the film was screened so late, because I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I had not been so tired. Marlene Dietrich’s magnificent cabaret numbers were far and away the highlights for me–there is something about Marlene Dietrich that is inexplicable. Whenever she is onscreen, all eyes turn to her, and when she does her cabaret numbers, time seems to stop. I think she is one of the most fascinating characters in all of film history, and it is always magnificent to watch her.
Highlights tomorrow include Jane Fonda’s handprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, The Lady Eve, and Mildred Pierce. Stay tuned!