Saturday, May 7, 2011

TCM Classic Film Fest Day 3

Ashley and I went separate ways again Saturday morning, and I caught a 9am screening of The Third Man (1949) starring Orson Welles. TCM personality Ben Mankiewicz awkwardly introduced the screening, telling a long story about how we were seeing the version with the US voiceover at the intro, which was changed from the British version to appeal to American audiences. Then the film started and oops, it was the British print! Nevertheless, it looked beautiful on film. A script superviser from the film (and also the only woman on the crew) attended to talk about the experience of working with Orson Welles on one of the greatest noir films of all time.

Ashley and I then met up for a screening of Hoop-la (1933), Clara Bow's last film and one of her few talkies. This was the first time I'd ever heard her talk, so it was really exciting for me! We were the first audience to see this brand new pristine print of the film that was rediscovered in MoMA's archives, and it did not disappoint. I love her already (she's the current obsession in our apartment), but this could be my favorite performance of hers. Such a wonderful, happy movie and her performance was funny, strong and heartbreaking.
Katie Trainor and David Stenn (who wrote the book on Ms. Bow) gave an informative intro to the film, which is really one of the benefits of going to the festival. It's awesome to hear archivists and scholars contextualize the films and tell stories about their directors and stars. If you get a chance, you should really read Stenn's book about Clara Bow. She was the bossest lady ever.

I went to Citizen Kane next on sheer principle. It was playing at Graumans, I have a huge crush on 1941 Orson Welles and, anyway, how do you pass up seeing one of the biggest, greatest films of all time at this theater?!
Answer: You don't. It was awesome as ever, despite the digital projection. 
(I'm really obnoxious in my film purism, I know.)

The last screening of the day was also the #1 moment of the entire festival for me. It began with a screening of a 1929 Vitaphone short starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. It's on YouTube and you should watch it:
Then Buster Keaton's silent comedy The Cameraman (1928) was shown on film at the Egyptian Theatre with Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks playing a live prearranged score of 20s and 30s music! This wasn't some pianist playing along to a silent film. The score was incredibly thoughtfully composed and the band was bursting with life and energy. Seeing this film on the big screen, I could really make out all of Buster's facial expressions and the subtlties of his hilarious performance. The band's energy and timing enhanced the funny moments and the tender moments, and breathed new life into a film I've seen countless times. That's the incredible thing about seeing old movies in the theater, especially when they're presented by people who care about them -- not only do they often hold up over time, but they remind you of the universal human feelings and experiences that transcend time and medium. 
The band paid tribute to Buster at the end by wearing the style of hat he made famous. Vince had the honor of wearing Buster's actual hat from the movie. How cool is that?! The crowd went crazy with cheers and a long, rousing standing ovation. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

After The Cameraman we went to Club TCM briefly. We were hoping to dance and listen to some great jazz, but the singer was terrible and mixed 40s hair with a 50s dress and we just couldn't take it. I got a picture of Ashley sitting under a picture of Barbara Stanwyck, who she loves, and then we took off.

Before heading back to our little room we made a stop for my roommate to finally pay homage to Joan Crawford's imprints in front of Graumans. Ms. Crawford is the subject of Swinny's thesis and her unofficial spirit animal. It's a love that knows no bounds, fire of a thousand suns, pure and true like newfallen snow... all of those things. I went hoping to take some cute pictures and make some jokes about spirit animals, but it was actually a really tender, lovely moment for my old souled friend, and a perfect end to Saturday.


  1. Thank you for sharing with us, Brittan. It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm totally with your purism--I can still remember screenings from when I was a kid. There is something about the print, the large screen and the anticipation of being in a theater that changes the experience--and digital cannot replicate the texture of a print.

    Those are also great photos--I love the ones of Ashley visiting Joan's handprints.

  2. I'm totally jealous about eveything! First of all- you being AC- thats rad and then all these posts -its just driving me mad.
    I just got out of a class watching Sir Arne's Treasure, you seen it? It's a film history class, so no doubt it's stuff you dig.

    Okay, hope you are really well.

    I am coming to NYC next month (!)