Somehow, throughout these last four days, time had continued progressing in a forward motion to the point that we now reached the LAST day of TCM Fest, a thought that seemed unimaginable on Thursday, or even still today. But we festival-goers now faced that terrible chasm of darkness after Sunday evening, determined to make the best of our final hours of movie geek summer camp.
I started out, again, at The Egyptian, which had quickly become my preferred home base for the festival, despite its (relative) distance from the main hub of Hollywood and Highland. As one of the larger theaters, it was able to accommodate lots of folks, which made everything a little bit less stressful, and meant I didn’t have to worry as much about getting shut out of a sold-out screening. Exiting the mall structure also meant you had a more diverse selection of foodstuffs and momentary amusements in between shows, including ample opportunity to stock up on your Vitamin D in the Egyptian courtyard before returning to your spot in line. I felt incredibly thankful that this festival is held in gorgeous Southern California as I sunned, lizard-like, beneath the palm trees.
But I digress: I had returned to the Egyptian for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which was the only movie I saw at TCM Fest that was not a first-time viewing for me. As Ben Mankiewicz shared in his introduction, director Richard Brooks had protested Metro’s initial decision not to shoot the film in color by saying: “For Christ’s sake, when you get a chance to shoot the violet eyes of Elizabeth Taylor and the blue eyes of Paul Newman, do you use black-and-white?” Well, when presented with the opportunity to see those brilliant eyes on the big screen, I considered it my same solemn duty. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a hot, fun, sticky movie, and watching it with an audience made the energy all the more palpable. I spent the rest of the day frantically searching “elizabeth taylor cat hot tin roof dress” and “elizabeth taylor pencil skirt” until those desperately just devolved into “how to transform into elizabeth taylor please,” because the clothing in the movie is just impeccable and probably impossible to attain. In any case, the audience was a wonderful addition to the film, gasping at Taylor’s beauty at times, chuckling heartily at Big Daddy’s orneriness, and maybe not audibly hooting and hollering at the closed door at film’s end, but certainly doing so mentally, en masse. Part of why I love this movie is that it’s just so incredibly bold, with big, huge characters—everybody says, pretty much, exactly what they think, and that lack of restraint is so utterly delicious to me, and very fun to experience with a group of like-minded people.
After that bit of Newman/Taylor steaminess, my next film—Easter Parade—regressed a bit back to a more innocent time. The Fred Astaire/Judy Garland musical, set in 1912, was playing over at the Chinese multiplex, and as it was one of the few Astaire pictures I haven’t seen, I had to make it happen. Seeing it on the big screen on a gorgeous print (one of only a handful remaining—which was one of the festival’s most common refrains) was totally ideal. However, partly because I’d just seen Taylor and Newman nearly setting the film prints aflame in Cat, but I didn’t really buy Garland and Astaire as a romantic couple, and I was actually expecting her to end up with Peter Lawford’s more agreeable Johnny character. Beneath the film’s pleasant veneer, Astaire is just kind of a mean old coot in this film! I was quite surprised to discover in the discussion with Leonard Maltin before the film that this version of the film was actually the result of an extensive rewrite. The previous iteration of the character was deemed TOO grumpy and TOO mean, so even this was scaled back. Of course, the pairing of actors meant the dancing and singing was divine, so I suppose I can forgive some of the character issues and the lack of romantic chemistry. Astaire’s dance in the toy shop is particularly fabulous. Ann Miller is also delightful as Astaire’s catty former partner, though, as so often is depicted in movies of this era, most of her cattiness is derived from sensible business decisions to benefit her own career aspirations. But no matter! Easter Parade was a charming and ultimately happy note upon which to end my festival experience.
I think I wandered around in a daze after this for a bit longer, but this film effectively concluded my experience at TCM Fest for the year! I will have one more post coming up with some of the lessons I learned from my trials and tribulations, and some hopes for festivals yet to come!
All photos courtesy of TCM.