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« Turkey Does Not Heart Julianne | Main | Beauty vs Beast: Mommie Knows Best »
Monday
Mar302015

TCMFF Wraps with Hollywood History & more Shirley MacLaine

Anne Marie here in Hollywood, reporting on the end of the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The 6th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival came to a close last night after four days. Though the theme of the festival was History According to Hollywood, the diverse programming of the festival showed that not only was TCM celebrating historical events and the films that portrayed them, it was also highlighting the this histories of the films being made, and - most importantly - the shared histories of the audiences that watched them.

It's impossible to cover everything the TCMFF screens (though The Black Maria did try), so instead I attempted to focus on the diversity of the programming. I watched Greta Garbo kiss a woman and renounce her throne for a man in Queen Christina. I watched two Pre-Code Hollywood musicals, Lubitsch's The Smiling Lieutenant and 42nd Street. I saw Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in a Tennessee Williams-penned movie called Boom! that was so bad that it made Lindsay Lohan in Liz and Dick look like Meryl Streep. I saw Christopher Plummer honored twice, but as a result missed Sophia Loren. I had three festival highlights: the French Revolution film noir Reign of Terror, a program of single reel films run using a hand-cranked projector from 1905 (have you seen a short called The Dancing Pig?), and the newly restored 1919 Houdini film The Grim Game, constructed from the only surviving complete print.

But by far, the most valuable asset to TCMFF is its star power. Reader's choice film discussed after the jump...


The most popular events of the festival were the interviews with such actors and actresses as Sophia Loren, Normal Lloyd, Spike Lee, and Shirley MacLaine. Thursday's Reader Poll asked that I attend Shirley Maclaine's discussion preceding her 1960 film The Children's Hour. I don't know if I'm glad or upset that you all requested that film. William Wyler's The Children's Hour (directed by William Wyler, starring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, and Jame Garner) is a brutally honest film about the fear, self-loathing, and hatred inspired by even the barest hint of homosexuality in 20th century America. Watched by more tolerant current audiences, the film becomes a bitter reminder of how far we've come and how far we have yet to go.

TCMFF is a festival about second chances, and not just for obscure films. When Shirley MacLaine was asked why William Wyler remade the film (the first version had been filmed in the 1930s). Maclaine replied that she thought that he was upset that he had screwed up with the first one by chickening out about the subject matter. Despite this, MacLaine described Wyler as

"...a terrific terrific man. He was silent and didn't say much. It could have been because he didn't have any words. He forced us to think deeper about what his job was. "

MacLaine painted two pictures of William Wyler: one was a warm man who carried on an affair with Miriam Hokins. The other was a serious director who was so exacting in his direction that during MacLaine's climactic last scene, he told her which eye should cry first, and where it should fall to. At the end of the interview, Miss MacLaine gratefully thanked the audience and TCM for supporting and celebrating classic film.

Audiences watching Houdini for the first time in 100 years.

Celebrating is exactly what the crowds did after the last films of the day. At the end of 4 successful marathon days, the TCM Classic Film Fest closed at the stroke of midnight. Like the festival theme, TCMFF 2015 has become another piece of Hollywood history.

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Reader Comments (7)

Miriam Hopkins? Did MacLaine mention Bette Davis' name when talking about Wyler? I don't think he was known for being taciturn in the '30s and '40s.

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul Outlaw - Shirley MacLaine didn't mention Bette Davis, but her experience with Wyler was only during The Children's Hour. MacLaine described his affair with Hopkins during filming as "adorable." Apparently there was lots of flirting mid-dramatic scenes. I'd imagine it lightened the mood.

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

"[wyler] had screwed up with the first one by chickening out about the subject matter"

in 'the celluloid closet' shirley admits they didn't understand what they were doing on the second one, she and audrey didn't even discuss the relationship - did she address that?

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

par - She didn't address working with Audrey specifically, but MacLaine did talk about how the taboo nature of the subject matter made filming fraught. Apparently there were originally more scenes of Martha doing things for Karen, but Wyler balked at showing Martha's affections too obviously.

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

thanks am

March 31, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I know "Boom!" gets a bad rap, but there's a lot that I love about the Burton-Taylor bomb: the haunting John Barry score, the sets and photography are striking, some great Tennessee Williams lines drawn from his own mid-life crisis, and a lively, funny performance from Liz as Sissy Goforth.

March 31, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterrick gould

I LOVED "BOOM". It was so beautiful, everything. It's a jewel of a film, I love anything offbeat anyway. Wonderfully quirky. The costumes, the scenery, Taylor and Burton ! Amazing.
1960's are my favorite film period. I'm crazy about Hollywood but not so much regarding the past few decades or so.

April 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLorri

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