By Lara Gabrielle Fowler
Well readers, the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival has come to a close. It has been a busy and very exciting 4 days, and your author is at once exhilarated, exhausted, and ready for next year!
In my humble opinion, this 4th day held the best lineup of the festival. Gilda was first on the agenda at the Egyptian Theatre, and though I had seen it on the big screen once before I was all too eager to see it again. The movie tells a story that is complex and hard to follow, but in all truth, the movie is not about the story. The audience is too busy watching Rita Hayworth to have any time for following a plot anyway. It is the ultimate noir, almost a caricature of the genre, and it really seems as though everything that happens when Rita Hayworth is offscreen is just filler. Rita is the heart and soul of the movie, and because of her, the film is considered to be one of the great noir films of all time. Instead of trying to describe Rita in this movie with words, I will give you some clips so that if you haven’t seen this film, you will see what Gilda is all about.
Hayworth’s performance is rendered even more stunning when one examines who she was offscreen. By all accounts sweet, quiet, and timid, Rita Hayworth was the antithesis of the character of Gilda. She only gave a handful of interviews in her life due to paralyzing shyness, and Louella Parsons (who had met Rita as a teenager just starting her career) noted that she could barely look strangers in the eye. Here she is sultry, sexy, steamy, and an all-around tiger with every man she meets. Suffice it to say, I am of the opinion that Rita Hayworth was robbed of an Oscar nomination for this role.
Our next event happened in Club TCM, a discussion with Cari Beauchamp about women writers in early Hollywood, focusing specifically on Frances Marion. Beauchamp has produced a documentary on Frances Marion, and offered fascinating insight into who she was as a woman, as a writer, and as a member of a fledgling industry. Marion was extremely prolific–one surprising trivia bit Beauchamp related was that out of the 9 pictures nominated for Best Picture at the 1st Academy Awards, Frances Marion had written 7 of them. She eventually left the industry as it became increasingly production- and output-oriented, and she decided to pursue other tasks in which she did not have to compete. She became an accomplished sculptor and painter in her later years.
I must say that I find Cari Beauchamp to be one of the most fun, enthusiastic, and accessible film historians I have ever come across. She is a renowned scholar, and has written highly respected biographies and documentaries, yet her presentations are always down-to-earth and casual, with plenty of humor and no shortage of one-liners. As an example of a classic Cari Beauchamp utterance, she referred to the papers of Fred Thomson (Frances Marion’s husband), noting: “His stuff on de Mille is freaking hilarious.” She is very popular among us young classic film bloggers, enthusiasts, and devotees!
Next up was It Happened One Night, introduced by Cari Beauchamp once again. She pointed out a number of the continuity errors in the movie, ones which I had never noticed in my literally dozens of times seeing this movie. For example, in the famous “Man on the Flying Trapeze” number, the inside of the bus is rocking back and forth while the outside stays still. At one point, Claudette Colbert’s handkerchief disappears and reappears a number of times. The road Clark Gable drives on sometimes has a line, sometimes does not. Regardless of these errors, this movie remains the cream of the screwball comedy crop–one of the very first, and one of the very best.
The next movie was one I was very excited to see–not only is The General (1926) Buster Keaton’s best known film and arguably (or not arguably) his best, but the movie was to be shown at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, giving it the majestic treatment it deserves. The movie is about a young engineer in Georgia during the Civil War who wants to enlist in the army but is rejected because he would be more use to the South as an engineer. However, when he sits on the wheel of a train to think, the train starts and he is carried to an army base. Buster Keaton antics ensue, and he ends up foiling deserters, hearing enemy plots, and derailing trains from the North. It is Buster Keaton on a grand scale, and his antics are more polished and refined in this movie than they are in his shorts or even his other feature films. I am used to a Buster Keaton whose comedy is mostly slapstick, but this film highlights his ability to create subtle humor through facial expressions. One scene in particular stands out for me–when Buster sees yet another obstacle in his path, he expresses his incredulity through blinks of his eyes. It gives the audience a clear view of what he is feeling, yet Buster never for a minute lets go of his famous deadpan face.
Keaton was also known for dangerous stunts that he performed himself. Here are some stunts from the movie that demonstrate what he was capable of.
The General marked the final event of the TCM Classic Film Festival. A closing night party tied off the festivities, during which we said goodbye to friends and acquaintances that we met here, and even made plans to meet up again before the next festival. I always have fun at the TCM Classic Film Festival, and I can’t wait for next year!
Thank you, dear readers, for following along during these 4 days that seem to have gone by so quickly. I hope you enjoyed this coverage, and I will be resuming regular blogging duties upon arrival back home, including catching up on the Carole Lombard Filmography Project.
See you soon!