tcm spartacus

by Chris Morris

Saturday March 28th, 2015
Day Two (for me) of the TCM Classic Film Festival
(READ PARTS ONE AND TWO HERE!)

I was exhausted yet I was wide awake. I had arrived back at my hotel around 12:30am the night before, having survived my first day of the 2015 TCM Film Festival after viewing six different films (Inherit the Wind, Purple Rose of Cairo, Limelight, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steamboat Bill Jr. and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for those keeping track) tired yet I couldn’t sleep. I’ve never been a sound sleeper, some might call me an insomniac, so this is nothing new or baffling to me, just really annoying. I see the alarm clock next to the bed says 8:45am. I know I have to get out of bed at some point, even if it’s just to get some breakfast before the hotel’s 9:30am cutoff. Movies at the Festival begin at 9am but the night before I called an audible and I’m taking the morning off. After some breakfast I upload some photos to my Facebook page and to Twitter (being from Canada, the roaming charges are huge so I have to settle for hotel wifi to get the job done). I take my time getting ready, put some clothes on and then I am off, once again, to the TCM Film Festival.

I realize it’s very hot outside and for the first time it occurs to me “I didn’t bring any shorts with me, just jeans, on this trip to 80+ degree Los Angeles. Smart one, I am!” Of course I could go shopping for clothes but if they aren’t selling TCM shorts in the TCM Boutique, it’s probably not going to happen and I’ll have to settle for jeans on this trip, no matter how hot it gets.

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I make my way to Hollywood Blvd around 11am, head to the Chinese 1 and get in line for 42nd Street (1933), starring lots of people but including one of my favourites, Ginger Rogers and choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Now this is where I speak up about some of my disappointment with the selection of movies for the Festival this year. Before I say this, I admit off the bat that scheduling a Festival like this is an impossible job that will ultimately make no one happy and everyone of course has an opinion. I would have a hard time programming the schedule (although I am willing to try TCM!) and these next comments come from a place of love. But the movies selected this year were disappointing, I have to admit.

No Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? No Marx Brothers? No early Chaplin? No William Powell and Myrna Loy? How about film noir? No Howard Hawks? Only one Billy Wilder film? Okay, sure I got to see four or five of my all-time favourite films…so really what am I complaining about? There’s always next year…

Even after the dizzying Busby Berkeley dance numbers, I was again feeling tired so I decided to take myself up on that promise of an actual meal by heading down Hollywood Blvd to the historic Musso and Frank’s Grill. For those who have never been, this restaurant is famous as a hang out for Hollywood legends like Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and where Raymond Chandler wrote chapters of “The Big Sleep”. I got there, sat at the counter and ordered what would end up being possibly the best ham and cheese omelette I have ever had. It was so good that I thought about it again and again and would have had it again the next day if the restaurant had been open for business.

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I tried being more social and wanted to get to know more people at the Festival. Sitting next to me at Musso and Frank’s was Coleen Ellis, a movie fan from right there in LA, although she didn’t work in the movie industry (which shocked me, I thought everyone did out here!). We chatted about films and our highlights so far then we both headed back to the Roosevelt Hotel so I could finally do some shopping at the TCM Boutique and also to see what was going on at Club TCM.

For those of you who have never been, Club TCM is a place at the Festival where people can sit and relax, have a drink and also take part in various panels put on by TCM. Panels such as a Bonham’s Memorabilia Appraisal, interviews with special guests such as Shirley Maclaine and a retrospectives on Errol Flynn and Henry Fonda, just to name a few. There were no films that I was dying to see so Coleen and I sat in the lobby of the Roosevelt and decided, just based on what I had seen the night before, that the upcoming interview with stuntman Terry Leonard (that I talked about in Part Two) was worth checking out. I got to meet a few more TCM festival goers, got a few pictures taken with a Robert Osborne bobble-head, and got to buy a few TCM T-shirts to boot.

Terry Leonard was again full of great stories, such as how he almost drowned making Romancing the Stone and burned to death on the set of Apocalypse Now. He was asked if he was going to write an autobiography and he flat out said “No”, which is a shame as I would love to hear more stories.

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Then about 5:30pm I headed back out to Hollywood Blvd for my first film in Grauman’s, er, the TCL Chinese IMAX Theater; Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine and Fred MacMurray. As I headed across the street, fighting off tourists and politely declining artists trying to hand me CD’s of their latest albums, I tried to figure out where the lineup started to get into the TCL. I was told it was up the escalator, so I went there and then could see the start of the lineup as it slithered like a snake all the way around one side of the Hollywood and Highland mall all the way out the back to where the Starline Buses where hibernating for the night. Trust me, it’s a long way. I worried as I got to the end of the line but ended up with number #348, which in a theatre of 1,000 seats, I was getting in, I just had to stand there and wait, in the hot sun with no shade. Luckily the line started to move quickly and soon we were inside the movie house mecca.

I found a seat fairly easily and looked around the movie palace, as it was totally different than the last time I attended the Festival in 2012, as the new TCL owners had renovated the place. it now had stadium style seating and seemed to still honour the same aesthetics as before. As I headed back up for a washroom break and to get some popcorn, I spotted director Edgar Wright sitting in the crowd (of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim) as a regular film fan, just like the rest of us. Very cool. I returned to my seat and I had ended up sitting next to a lovely lady whose name I never got but seemed very familiar to me, perhaps an actress from a soap opera my mom watched or something like that, but I only thought of that afterwards, at the time I only enjoyed our great conversation about, what else, classic films.

Then out came Leonard Maltin and Shirley Maclaine to introduce the film. Maclaine was on fire with great stories, reminiscing about working with legends like Lemmon and Wilder and only saying about Fred MacMurray “I never once saw him pick up a cheque.” Then the movie was about to start and a bunch of the audience went to leave, including the lady sitting next to me. Apparently Ms. Maclaine was the star attraction for some, not the film itself. But I settled in and watched a great comedy about adultery (of all things) with one of the best last lines in movie history “Shut up and deal”, rivalled perhaps only by Billy Wilder’s other great movie last line from Some Like it Hot – “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

proopsGreg Proops at the Egyptian Theatre on Saturday 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival In Hollywood, California. 3/28/15 PH: Adam Rose

I headed back to the Egyptian for Greg Proops’ presentation of Adam’s Rib (1949). Now I like this film but the fact I circled it on my schedule is due to Proops, honestly. He’s a hilarious comedian and a film buff. Lately I’ve become a big fan of his podcast “The Greg Proops Film Club” (available on iTunes and his website). Proops will show a film at a revival house in Hollywood (usually Cinefamily on Fairfax), have a thirty minute or so opening monologue that occasionally is about the film and it’s stars (sometimes he just goes on a rant about LA traffic, for instance or talks randomly about other films and it’s stars, all of which is usually hilarious), then shows the film and then has a Q&A afterwards. I’ve always wanted to attend one of these but we keep missing each other on my trips to LA. Proops shows newer films (Groundhog Day, Wonder Boys and Rushmore) modern-ish films (a lot of 70’s movies like Taking of Pelham 123, Serpico and Annie Hall) as well as classics like My Man Godfrey, Gilda and The Big Sleep. I highly recommend listening to the podcast, especially this one as if it’s released.

This is where I make a big confession. I could be wrong, but I think I fell asleep during Adam’s Rib. I remember the beginning with Judy Holliday shooting her husband, banter between Tracy and Hepburn, Tracy finding out Hepburn will defend Holliday and the end of the film but not much else. Either I blacked out or I fell asleep. The worst part was that I was seated across the aisle from Proops and his wife Jennifer, who I believe had picked this film to show. I had initially picked a spot near the front so maybe I could introduce myself to Proops after but not after I might have been THAT GUY. I did feel refreshed, if not a bit shameful. I just really hoped I hadn’t snored. No one was giving me the stink eye as I left, foregoing my shot at meeting Proops and heading back to the Chinese theatres, as there was ONE MORE FILM to go!

After that embarrassment, confirmed or not, I decided right then that I was sleeping in Sunday morning. The morning block had The Hunchback of Notre Dame vs. Patton vs. Calamity Jane (among others) but I needed sleep. I didn’t want to risk being THAT GUY again. I headed to the midnight film as it was one I had to see; Nothing Lasts Forever.

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For those outside the TCM bubble, Nothing Lasts Forever is a film no one should have heard of, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t. It was produced by Lorne Michaels, starred Zach Galligan (from Gremlins), Dan Akroyd, Eddie Fisher and Bill freaking Murray. It had aired on TCM Underground a few months earlier and it was a hit among the people who watched it. I had DVR’ed it and meant to watch it, but once the schedule came out and it was being shown as a midnight feature here, I waited so I could see it fresh. I sat near Will McKinley and he introduced me to a few other cool people, one of which was Joel Williams (I need to write down people’s names in the future apparently) and we all had a nice chat until they introduced Galligan, not as young as he is in the film of course, and he told stories about having two casting sessions in one day, this one and for Risky Business. After the casting session for Nothing Lasts Forever went so well, he sort of coasted during the Risky Business session, thinking it would bomb so what was the point? He even introduced the director, Tom Shiller, who said ‘Thank you’ and then left to take his seat a few rows from us.

The movie started and, well, it’s bonkers. In a good way. There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments at this post-Apocalyptic film that follows Galligan in his quest to be an artist that eventually lands him on the moon, being chased by Murray and some thugs. My favourite moment of the film is when the evil Murray catches up with Galligan, slaps him and pauses to apologize to him, then goes back to being evil. It’s such a wacky moment, maybe you had to be there. The film starts in black and white then moves to colour, so a lot of people compared it to Wizard of Oz, but it reminded me more of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which came out a year later. But most importantly, I didn’t fall asleep. But someone else did. A person a few rows from us could be heard snoring, which in itself isn’t too bad, but he was sitting two seats away from Tom Shiller, the director. Finally Will McKinley, the hero on this day, woke the man up, although it took two or three tries, so he must have been really tired. I felt bad for him, especially sitting so close to the director. Mostly I think I was glad that wasn’t me!

I walked out with Will and had a nice chat as we headed back to the Roosevelt. I then headed back to Sunset Blvd looking forward to some sleep, Saturday was over (it was technically Sunday at that point), I had seen four films that day (ten total) and I was kind of sad that Festival was almost over. Only one more day to go.

Stay tuned for Part Four…

by Chris Morris
@trilogycomesin3

Follow Chris Morris on twitter, here!