One of the most glamorous things about TCM Classic Film Festival is getting the opportunity to see and, occasionally interact with, classic movie stars.
Every year, TCM manages to book an astounding number of accomplished talents from the industry. I saw some amazing legends this year, before screenings, and at special interviews and this year's handprint ceremony. I have more to say overall about all the events and films, but I wanted to start by focusing on these charismatic, fascinating people--all of whom lived up to my expectations:
The first festival news that got me really excited was the announcement that Ann-Margret would be making an appearance. I love the too-much-is-not-enough verve of this lively actress/singer/dancer. I got the chance to catch her interview with Ben Mankiewicz in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, and though the crowd was too noisy for me to catch most of the interview, it was fantastic to see her up close. She looked much younger than her 73 years.
Before the interview was over, I dashed over to the Egyptian Theater to get a spot in line for Cincinnati Kid (1965), before which the actress would also be interviewed by Mankiewicz. Though I knew that Ann-Margret has always been shy, I was struck by how soft spoken she was. The gentleness of her demeanor was very much at odds with her daredevil ways. In the most demure, hushed voice, she stunned the audience with a story about a 120 mph motorcycle ride she took down windy Mulholland Drive at 2am one morning.
Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret's costar in The Cincinnati Kid, was also addicted to thrills, and the two bonded over their love of motorcycles. When Mankiewicz asked for her opinion of the actor, she paused for a moment and then purred, "he had such animalism…he was like a cobra…Like me he loved speed--not the drug speed."
I loved Mankiewicz' story of how their entourage had rushed there from the interview at the Roosevelt, but that Ann-Margret stopped in her tracks when she saw a hot bike parked at the Egyptian. That's a lady who has her priorities straight!
Having only caught a glimpse of this talented and still very handsome actor at the opening night red carpet, I was especially excited to see the Christopher Plummer handprint ceremony on Friday morning. I was not disappointed. The elegant actor still gives me butterflies in my stomach just like when I watched him in The Sound of Music as a child.
Plummer has gotten a bit of a sourpuss reputation for understandably feeling constricted by his enormous success as Captain Von Trapp. It's tended to obscure the fact that he is actually very grateful for his lasting success in such a challenging industry. He was funny, touching and clearly very honored to join the other stars in the forecourt of the Chinese Theater.
I'll write more about this one-in-a-lifetime experience in a future post.
I hear one of the hottest tickets of the festival was MacLaine's conversation with Leonard Maltin in Club TCM. While I missed that wild event, I was still able to enjoy seeing the actress a few times. I caught my first glimpse at the handprint ceremony, where she was very sweet (in her charmingly irreverent way) and funny. I also caught part of her interview with Ben Mankiewicz in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, though it was too noisy to catch much of what she said, her presence was satisfying enough on its own.
I most enjoyed Leonard Maltin's interview with MacLaine before The Apartment (1960) in the TCL Chinese Theater. She shared more about the making of the movie than most of the other celebrities I've seen and her thoughts on Wilder's process were fascinating. I loved how easy she was with the adoration of the crowd, and how appreciative of the adulation. I've always liked her naturalness before the camera, which must be genuine, because she said, "I never had an acting lesson in my life, except for life. That's quite a lesson."
With all these appearances, I felt strangely blasé about seeing MacLaine. I'm a huge fan of the actress, and seeing her was one of the things I was most looking forward to about the festival, but I didn't get all wound up in her presence the way I did all the other stars.
I mean that as a compliment too; there's something about the actress that puts you at ease. Even though she is hugely accomplished, world famous and wittier than just about anyone, she is so casual about it all, so much like your wild great aunt who has affairs with men younger than you, or like the lady down the hall from your apartment who chit chats with you at the mailbox, that you feel comfortable with all her fabulousness.
The only other celebrity I can think of who gives me that feeling is Robert Osborne. The first time I saw him, when he strolled into the press conference at last year's festival, I immediately thought, "well there's Uncle Robert." It's a remarkable gift to have the aura of stardom and yet make people feel that way.
Watching Bond number two and Grade A cad George Lazenby regale the crowd with outrageous stories was a festival highlight for me. The Australian actor seemed delighted that his tales of sexual conquests and arrogance were such a shock for the audience gathered for a screening of his one outing as Bond, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
This was the one conversation I regretted not recording. There wasn't a dull moment. With all the affairs, fights, lies and adventures he related, I can't imagine the life this guy has led if he could pack that much action into a ten minute conversation.
In a conversation peppered with boasts about his womanizing, Lazenby talked about how he lied about his resume and prospective acting jobs to get the role of Bond. When his tricks won him the part, he panicked and claimed he couldn't act, but was told that if he had fooled two of the toughest producers in the film business, he most certainly could act.
Lazenby was entirely upfront about his arrogance, claiming that after an argument on the first day of shooting, he never spoke to director Peter Hunt again. He also put an end to a blossoming romance with costar Diana Rigg when she caught him "having an affair," as he put it, with a secretary in a tent on the set.
While the actor clearly had a blast doing whatever he pleased, he admits that he ruined his career with his attitude. Whenever he thought he'd made a new breakthrough there would be "a phone call" and his difficult reputation would lose him another job. His last chance at a big opportunity, a movie with Bruce Lee, was lost when the martial arts star died three days after they arranged to work together.
It was a good thing the movie to follow was so full of action, because it was clear the crowd had a hard time settling down after this amazing conversation, the most candid celebrity interview I've ever seen.
I've always admired Madeline Stowe, and was looking forward to seeing her introduce The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Illeana Douglas, but I had no idea what a classic movie nerd she was. Too bad she's too glamorous to have blended in with the crowd and join us all at the festival.
The actress talked about how watching classic films on television helped to brighten a difficult childhood. I'm sure there were a lot of people in the theater who could relate. I hope that TCM will take advantage of Stowe's knowledge and feature her on the channel some day. She would be a great co-host for The Essentials.
Zach Galligan and Tom Schiller
I was about ready to collapse when it was time for the midnight movie Nothing Lasts Forever (1984) on the third day of the festival, but I'm glad I was so determined to push through. This is partly because the film's star, Zach Galligan, made a charming appearance before the screening.
Still looking youthful and handsome decades after his teenage screen debut in the film, Galligan did a wonderful job talking about the film, its troubled release history and his own experiences auditioning and acting. It was wonderful to see how thrilled and honored he was to be there.
To make things even better, he announced that the film's director, Tom Schiller was in the audience. I grew up watching Schiller's short films on Saturday Night Live and it was so exciting to see him in person. He seemed very shy, and only had a few words to say. Which of course made him even more adorable to me.
There was no one I was more excited to see at TCMFF 2015 than Sophia Loren. I've always adored the zest for life that she exudes. I thought it would be wonderful to see her in person. She ended up being exactly as I imagined her.
I was so anxious that I somehow wouldn't snag one of the 850 seats in the TCL Chinese theater that I worried about it the entire festival! I made it in easily though, one of the first three hundred even.
The star was absolutely stunning in a white suit and white wedge sandals. She charmed the pants off Ben Mankiewicz, who seemed understandably quite flustered by the magnetic star. Their conversation covered a wide range of topics, from work and family, to her confident, sexy walk. Mankiewicz started to say, "When you walk in a movie…" and Loren cut in to say, "I dance."
Loren also talked about her connection with Marcello Mastroianni saying of their partnership, "I don't think you can work on chemistry. There is or there isn't. With Marcello, there is." I couldn't think of a better way to describe this legendary screen pair.
The actress was treated like a queen, and though she was humble and even a bit shy, when she was given a bouquet of red roses, she accepted them like a winner in the pageant of life. I could have listened to her all night, especially whenever she broke into Italian. So ridiculously glamorous.
Also at the festival, the TCMFF All-Stars, celebrities who stepped up and took on additional screening introductions in order to help cover for Robert Osborne. It was always great to see Illeana Douglas, Leonard Maltin (who was everywhere during the festival, despite suffering from bad ankle sprain), and noir czar Eddie Mueller before a screening.
And of course Ben Mankiewicz, who must have been under enormous pressure serving as the sole face of the festival without Robert Osborne in attendance. He performed his duties beautifully and made it all look easy.
I'll also have more stories to share about William Shatner, Alex Trebek, Christine Ebersole and the stars I saw on the red carpet for opening night in future TCMFF posts.
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