Sunday morning, I had a few things to attend to, so I only headed to TCMFF later to get in line to see Charade (1963). Verizon, the sponsor of the festival, had set up a station by the line at the Egyptian, where they had trivia contests and free Internet for pass holders. I was standing in line a bit away from the station, and I could hardly hear what they were saying. While I was chatting with some people in line, I suddenly heard the people say, “Rosalind Russell” and “debut film.” I wheeled around and shot my hand up. They called on someone before me, and that person got the question (which I presumed was, “What was Rosalind Russell’s debut film?”) wrong, and then they called on me. I said, “Evelyn Prentice” and won a DVD pack! It was Volume 7 of The Essentials, which has Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Producers, and Hud. I’m still not sure how I heard the question, but I’m so glad I did. It pays to be a Roz fan!
Not long after this, the line shuffled into the theater, and I sat down to watch Charade. This movie is a pure crowd pleaser – that’s what you get when you have Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn on screen under the direction of Stanley Donen. I’d seen it before, but the plot has so many twists that I had forgotten some of the details. The audience cheered for Grant and Hepburn as they made their first appearances, and even all the baddies of the movie got their cheers as well.
After the movie, we were treated to a conversation between TCM Host Robert Osborne and the man himself: Stanley Donen. What a pleasure to be in the company of those two! I had been hoping that Osborne would show up at one of the screenings I went to, and to see him chat with Donen was just wonderful. Donen talked about how marvelous it was to work with Audrey Hepburn (whom he directed in three films) and how he almost couldn’t get Cary Grant to be in the movie. He also mentioned that it was Grant’s idea to have Hepburn’s character chase after him because he felt he was too old to always be chasing younger women.
During the conversation – and the film – I was getting nervous about not getting in line in time for The Women (1939), one of my all-time favorite movies and the screening to which I was most looking forward at the festival. But I needn’t have worried. As soon as Osborne’s conversation with Donen finished, I raced out of the Egyptian and got in the line for The Women. This was the only screening I got to see with my friend who was also there, and he and another friend and I could only find seats in the very front, about five rows back.
Boy, what an experience this was. The Women is almost a larger-than-life movie in all regards. You’ve got the legendary cast (Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, etc). You’ve got witty lines spoken at a mile a minute, complemented by zany physical comedy that includes an all-out catfight. And you’ve got the big, melodramatic performance style of Shearer. Too witness all of these just yards away from the screen was something I’ll never forget.
Once again, I had the pleasure of being surrounded by an absolutely astounding audience. This is probably my second favorite cinema experience ever, right behind when I saw Gone with the Wind on the big screen for the first time. Since I was sitting in the front, I couldn’t see how many people raised their hands when they were asked who’d seen it, but I guess that at least half the audience must have seen it before.
This audience cheered for every character as she appeared on screen (except for Fontaine’s Peggy, though she first appeared in the background of a shot; I realized she was there too late to cheer, though there were scattered cheers behind me). After the famous brawl with the meltdown of Sylvia Fowler (Russell), there were cheers for Russell as she is dragged off screen shouting and crying.
Having seen Auntie Mame and The Women on the big screen in the same weekend, I can safely say that nobody makes me laugh like Rosalind Russell does. I have only begun to discover her work within the last year or so, but she has quickly become one of my top three actors of all time. I’d seen His Girl Friday on the big screen twice before, and at both of those screenings, the audience seemed to react more to Cary Grant than to Russell. But with Auntie Mame and The Women, it was Roz all the way. With each of these movies, I can’t help but crack up whenever she’s on the screen, and this was no more evident to me than when watching The Women with this audience. Every crazy scene she’s in – whether it is exercising with Fontaine’s Peggy, goading on Shearer’s Mary, or fighting with Goddard’s Miriam – is pure comic delight. You could tell the audience loved her.
When The Women finished, I was happy to hear that my friends, both guys who had never seen it before, had really enjoyed the movie. We spent a few minutes outside chatting about our favorite parts before leaving.
And that about sums up my weekend at TCMFF. Though I may not have gotten to see many of the big events, I am so glad I had the opportunity to go this year, and I hope to make it back next year. If you went to TCMFF, what were your favorite moments?