Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 5

Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 4

Technically, there is no Day 5 for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). Everything had ended the night before, but since just about everything that happened the Monday afterwards was TCM related, I figured I'd talk about it. First thing in the morning, I had booked a spot on the TCM L.A. Film Locations tour. Turns out that day, April 14, was the actual anniversary date for TCM, and this was the last tour they were running. Hopefully, they will bring it back next year.

The tour was at 9:30, but I wanted to get there at least 10 or 15 minutes early, and since I was checking out that day, I had to pack and have the people at the hotel store my luggage. Now, I'm not much of a morning person, even less so after I have been drinking. Then again, the only alternative was to sleep in and miss the tour, so that wasn't happening. It turns out, several of the people I'd been hanging out with over the weekend were taking the tour as well: @willmckinley, @Paula_Guthat, @EliseCD, @CitizenScreen, and @ClassicMoviesTO.

The tour was awesome, the guide was someone who does Hollywood tours all the time, and he was a fountain of knowledge and corny jokes, but not in a bad way, okay, only real bad some of the time. To me, it seemed like the tour was kind of a normal movie location tour that had been tweaked for classic movies, but that was fine. As we went through the different locations, a monitor at the front of the bus showed clips of the movies and then you would see the actual spot where the clip was filmed, so that was pretty cool. My only real complaint had nothing to do with the tour per se. It was just hard to get decent photos out of the bus window.

The tour started from the Chinese theater in Hollywood proper, passing several major studios:

  • Chaplin Studios, now the home of Jim Henson Company, hence the photo of Kermie dressed up like Chaplin. An interesting story about this was that when Chaplin bought the land and announced that he was building a new studio, residents complained because studios tended to be big ugly structures. Chaplin promised to make his studio look like a quaint country cottage and pretty much lived up to that.
Chaplin/Henson Studios
  • Red Studios, the former home of Desilu, where everything from I Love Lucy to Hogan's Heroes to Ally McBeal were filmed.
  • Paramount Studios, including the famous Bronson Gate where Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim arrived in Sunset Blvd. in her Isotta Fraschini.
Paramount Studios, Bronson Gate
But also there other things including:
  • The "Full Service!" gas station from L.A. Story. A really cool old Art Deco designed gas station that has gone completely derelict. Really kind of a shame to see it this way. My picture came out bad, but with some research I found a decent picture (screen grab from Google maps, street view):
Gas station from L.A. Story
  • The Ravenswood Apartments, which was the home to May West, Clark Gable, and Ava Gardner, May West moved in when she first came to Hollywood in the early 30s and lived there until she died in 1980.
Eventually, the tour made its way to Downtown L.A. Although it went past lots and lots of locations, mostly what stands out at this point are the things I got decent photos of:

  • General Otis statue in MacArthur Park, where Buster Keaton hid from the police in Hard Luck.

Buster Keaton and Statues

  • The Second Street tunnel, under Bunker Hill, which has appeared in Blade Runner, The Terminator, Sneakers, and Independence Day.
Second St. tunnel

There were only two stops on the tour, the Bradbury Building and Union Station. The first was the Bradbury Building, where the last part of Blade Runner was filmed. That alone would've made the tour worthwhile. Getting to go inside the Bradbury was a rare treat, such a cool old building. The iron work alone made it worth seeing.

Inside the Bradbury Building

Left to right, Aurora (@CitizenScreen), Paula Guthat,
and Will McKinley
Me with some homeless guy
After The Bradbury, we continued through downtown ultimately heading for City Hall and Union Station. On the way, we passed a bunch of old theaters, I don't think one of which was still showing movies or live theater.

The State Theater, now Spanish-language church
Another highlight was the Warner Brothers Office Building, where Warner Brothers once ran the business end of their movie business. There's very little left to indicate its former heritage, just and an inscription in the stonework just under the roof cornice, and hiding behind a sign for a jewelry wholesaler, you can still see the Warner Brothers cast iron shield.

Warner Bros. Office Building: Under the
diamond you can see the Warner Bros. shield

The other stop was Union Station. I was tempted to buy my train ticket home, but I really didn't know how long after the tour ended it would take to get back there. Union Station has been in probably hundreds of movies through the years, numerous film noir classics, and just about anytime they needed something that could pass for an airport or evening Spain or Morocco because of the architecture. 

Union Station
Paula Guthat and Will McKinley pose before getting
on bus for return to Hollywood
After Union Station, the bus made it's way past Olvera St., where if you needed something that could pass for Mexico, Hollywood use it. On the way back to Hollywood, the bus went through some of the older neighborhoods like Echo Park. We also drove past the Music Box stairs, when Laurel and Hardy once had a heck of a time moving a piano. Apparently, Laurel and Hardy fans meet there every year on both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's birthdays. You couldn't see the actual steps from the bus, and the guide said that if they drove the bus down that street, it was so tight, they'd never get out.

Also as the tour wound down, they asked some trivia questions for TCM swag prizes. I ended up winning a TCM journal, for mostly answering a question. They wanted to know what the five different categories were for stars on Hollywood Blvd. Since no one wanted to try to answer, I gave it a shot and came up with four out of five: Film, TV, Radio, and Music. Someone else supplied the fifth one, Live Performance, but they gave the prize to me anyway. We made our way back down Hollywood Blvd. to the Chinese Theater. As we got off the bus, they gave everyone a copy of TCM's Now Playing magazine. I said my goodbyes to Aurora, Paula, Elise, and Will. It was the perfect way to end a perfect trip.

I went back to the hotel picked up my bags, much heavier now, and headed back to the Metro station. Next year, if I'm not driving, I'm bringing a Priority Mail box to mail stuff home. On the way, I stopped and picked up a bagel and a piece of fruit for lunch. Since I had no idea how much time I would have to get my train, I wanted something I could eat on the train if need be. Turns out the first train I could catch left at 3:00, and I had about 20 minutes to sit and eat before making my way to the platform.

I got on the train and was on my way home. They announced that we should take out our tickets, for the conductor. I started looking for my ticket and freaked out. It was nowhere to be found. Not in any of my pockets, was wearing a sportcoat, so there were a lot to check, and not in either of my bags. Obviously, I figured they wouldn't throw me off the train, but I didn't want to have to buy new tickets or go through the hassle of having them look me up. When the conductor got to me, I apologetically explained that I had no idea where my ticket had gone. He asked for my ID, took out an envelope out of his pocket and compared the name on it to the name on my ID. He then handed me back my train ticket. Apparently, I had dropped it on the platform and someone turned it in. Whew.

Now I have to say something  at this point, I'm 51 years old, and I do go to a lot of comic conventions. At a place like Comic-Con, I feel like I'm old enough to be everybody's dad, because basically, I am old enough to be everyone's dad. At TCMFF, I felt like almost everyone I talked was more or less my own age. Yes, there were definitely a fair amount of people who were younger than me, but I didn't feel like I was the only person my age, which is often the case at comic conventions. That's one of the the things that made TCMFF so cool for me.

On the train, I sat across from a woman who was coming from Sacramento to visit family. We made random bits of small talk. I mentioned that I had been in Hollywood for the TCM Film Festival. At this, the woman across the aisle from me mentioned that she had been up for TCMFF as well. She was you guessed it, about my age, and we ended up talking the entire rest of the way home. She like me had never been to TCMFF, but had wanted to go for years. Since her daughter was now in college in L.A., she had a place to stay and could go to TCMFF on standby for practically nothing. Just goes to show that you don't necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy TCMFF. 

The woman on the train and I really did hit it off, and it was good having someone to talk to about TCMFF, while you were still on the high of coming from TCMFF. When we got to the Solana Beach station, where she was getting off, she suggested we exchange numbers and go out sometime. Tempted  though I was, I explained that I was kinda married, and I probably shouldn't take her number. Still, it had been a lot of years since a woman had asked me out, so that wasn't a bad way to end the trip either.

My station was about another 20 minutes away, but fortunately my house is only a 5 minute drive from there. It wasn't long before I was back at home, eating my first normal meal in almost.That night (being the anniversary), TCM was playing Gone With the Wind. I melted into the couch, too tired to unpack, too tired to go through the pictures I had taken, too tired to tweet, almost too tired to watch, but watch I did, because I didn't get a chance to watch Gone With the Wind at TCMFF.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 4

Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 3

Day 4 at TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) was the day that almost all of my well-laid plans went out the window. First up, I had planned to see Fiddler on the Roof, a film I had never seen before, not on TV/dvd/nor in the theater. I had a chance to see it when it came out with my mom and sister. I would have been about 9 or 10, and as a 9- or 10-year-old boy, i.e., stupid, a musical was a tough sell. I have always felt bad that to this day I still haven't seen it. I know it has come on TCM, but the last time I didn't have the three hours to spend on it. This was my mindset coming into TCMFF. This was my chance to right a great classic film injustice.

Then I started hearing people talking about, The Adventures of Robin Hood and how the presentation beforehand was supposed to be really good. That and by this time, the Sunday TBAs had been announced and in the second block, an encore of 5th Avenue Girl was scheduled. Just about everyone I spoke to who had been to the first screening raved about it. Because Fiddler was so long, it would be next to impossible to make 5th Avenue Girl. That tore it, The Adventures of Robin Hood was in, and Fiddler, once again, would need to wait for another day.

The presentation before Robin Hood by Craig Barron and Ben Burtt was great and probably the most interesting and informative of the whole weekend. Just to keep it light though, the two of them came out wearing green Robin Hood Sherwood Forrest hats. They did a really great visual presentation. Highlights of things that jumped out at me:

  • An early preproduction publicity photo of James Cagney from when he was slated to play Robin. I'm kind of thinking that would have been a different movie.
  • Some home movie footage that Basil Rathbone had taken, mostly of the cast horsing around on set. Olivia de Havilland in Alan Hale Sr.'s arms and Errol Flynn hugging and basically rubbing himself on Patrick Knowles who played Will Scarlet. You go, Errol.
  • Looks at some of the technology associated with the film, things that you probably knew in the back of your head but never really thought about:
    • How the matte paintings worked. You always think about things like the castle on the hill being a matte painting, but there were others like the shot where Errol Flynn is hanging on the vine covered wall talking to Olivia de Havilland. He is actually standing on a ladder on a short wall. Then a matte painting was added to the bottom of the screen to make it look like he is 40 or 50 feet in the air.
    • The Technicolor three strip process and how separate red, green, and blue strips of film were combined to create the color.
    • Even though they filmed the outdoor material on location, a rarity in those days. You couldn't always count on things like trees being in the right location, so they showed one of the prop trees they built that could be moved around as filming demanded.
    • Filming on location also demanded that sound be recorded in a mobile sound truck. This is one of the remaining restored Warner Brothers sound trucks form the era:
Warner Bros. sound truck

Then of course, you had the movie itself. Seeing The Adventures of Robin Hood on the big screen with a group of people who love it like you was great. Brilliant adventure movie made that much better by the theater/TCMFF experience. As a side note, The Adventures of Robin Hood was playing in The Egyptian, which according to the TCM Tour I took  the next day, is where Robin Hood played for two years when it was first released. Yo, James Cameron, how many theaters did Avatar play at for two years? None? Oh, okay. Then take you $760 million and shut up.

Next up was the added screening of 5th Avenue Girl at the Chinese Multiplex. My concern about not being to make it had I gone to Fiddler on the Roof was well founded. I left The Egyptian as soon as Robin Hood ended and was one of the very last people seated (in the very front row) for 5th Avenue Girl. Note to self: if this ever happens again, sit on the side (easier to look to one side and up than just up). The introduction was by Cari Beauchamp, but about the only thing I remember her saying that it was one of the few starring roles that Walter Connelly ever had. He made a lot of films in the 1930s, but always played supporting roles, like the father or the boss. You probably know Connelly as Claudette Colbert's father in It Happened One Night.

Cari Beauchamp. Special thank you to Ariel
Schudson @sinephile, whom I met/talked to
several times was able to supply Beauchamp's name

I have to say that 5th Avenue Girl was my favorite and most pleasant surprise of the weekend, and I really don't think I can discuss the movie without talking about the plot. Thus I offer this:

*** Extremely mild Spoiler Alert; you don't want to know, scroll past this bit ***

I know that I had seen the last bit of 5th Avenue Girl. I remember the part about the beef stew, but I'm just as sure that I have never seen it start to finish. Now, 5th Avenue Girl is a 30s romantic comedy, and as such, it is everything that you would expect from a 30s romantic comedy, charming, witty, very funny in spots, and very touching in others. But what made 5th Avenue Girl so great was that the plot was completely different than just every other 30s romantic comedy I had every seen. It wasn't, Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Girl Goes Off to Reno, Boy and Girl Get Back Together Before the Divorce Is Final. 5th Avenue Girl was about Walter Connelly, a middle-aged man who works too hard to make money to support a wife and two good-for-nothing grown-up children, none of whom appreciate what he does for them. He uses what is ultimately a platonic relationship with Ginger Rogers to repair his relationship with his wife and children. That little twist made a very good example of a genre I love into way more than I ever would have expected. It was awesome.

*** End of Extremely mild Spoiler Alert ***

The decision to see 5th Avenue Girl had also messed up my early afternoon block, so my only real choice was to keep going to the TBA block of movies. Next up was, On Approval, a British comedy from 1944, from which had come very highly recommended by @AlanHait. On Approval was introduced by Jeffrey Vance, and he explained that the comedy was very broad in spots and very outlandish. He also said, that it was likely that you would either love it or hate it. In fact, a couple of people did leave after about 15 minutes. Me, I didn't love it, but I didn't really hate either. In spots, On Approval was belly-laugh funny, and the story line of a trial marriage was interesting. I think that my problem was that I didn't really care about the characters in the movie. 

Am I upset that I watched it?  No. Do I wish I had walked out like the people I mentioned? Not at all. When it was funny, On Approval was very funny, and that alone made it worth watching. But when it was not funny, I found it a little boring, mostly because I didn't have characters I could really get behind. Still, the humor was so outrageous and off the wall, it made me think that maybe this is what the Monty Python guys cut their teeth on.

By the time, On Approval got out it was getting close to 4:00, and I hadn't eaten since breakfast.  Now, at this point, I could've gone back to my original plan and jump theaters for The Quiet Man or stay on the TBA track for the pre-code film, Employees' Entrance. Either way, I only had 45 minutes to get there. I decided on Employees' Entrance mostly because it gave me a bit more time to get to my final screening of the festival. However, Employees' Entrance was in one of the smaller theaters, meaning I had to immediately get back in line at least long enough to get a queue number before I could run out and get some food. Food turned out to be a sandwich place, a short way from the theater. Got a BLT and wolfed it down in the theater cafe before having to get back in line. Fortunately the theaters were pretty cool about you bringing in outside food. 

The intro to Employees Entrance was by Bruce Goldstein, a really good presentation about pre-code films. He showed a presentation of certain pre-code films and and talked about how far they pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on screen, but what I found most interesting was how the studios simply ignored the code for the first several years after its inception. The Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America agreed to abide by the code in 1930, but then simply reneged on it. The film industry had been hit pretty hard by the Depression. People didn't have the money to spend on movies that they once had. Studio bosses knew then what everyone knows now. Sex sells, and since the Hays office had no real power, movies became even more racy. It was in this environment that Employee's Entrance was made.

Employee's Entrance is about a man who runs a large department store with an iron fist, the Mussolini of Macy's. What I found interesting about it was that the main character (William Warren) had absolutely no morals. Now, this in itself is not all that unusual. What was unusual was that had Employee's Entrance been made a few years later, a character like this would always get what he deserves. But before the enforcement of the code, that wasn't required, and in Employee's Entrance, Warren is a total a-hole for the entire movie, and at the end of the movie, he goes on being an a-hole with no retribution. If anything, he's even worse. It was awesome.

I had about an hour and fifteen minutes before the next showing, so I figured I would have time to go back to the hotel  to change clothes for the evening. Even though I had eaten before Employee's Entrance, I didn't want to chance not having time to eat later, especially since I was bound to be drinking at the Sunday night closing party. I went to Fresh and Easy for another sandwich in a bag. I figured I would have enough time to eat quickly and maybe grab a quick shower. When I got in my room and looked at the clock it was already 6:43. Crap. My last showing was at The Egyptian (farthest theater away). No shower. No clothes change. And I would be eating the sandwich in line, again. I ended up grabbing my skateboard. It ensured that I was to the showing on time and helped on the turnaround clothes change after the screening and before the party.

In retrospect, I probably had more time to get to my last screening (The Lodger) than I thought. Still, I had never seen a silent film with live music, and I had to skip Why Worry for Double Indemnity/Blazing Saddles on Day 2, so I really didn't want to take any chances. Thanks to my skateboard I got to the theater easily about 10 minutes before they started moving the line. I definitely could've got there later and still been okay. The Egyptian is a big theater, and I don't even think they opened the balcony. I got in line, ate, and talked to a woman from Kansas City. Not not the same one from the previous night. 

Ben Mankiewicz did the intro to The Lodger. I know I've said this before, but he has a good way about him, kind of a dry acerbic sense of humor. He announced the winner of some tickets to the 2015 TCMFF that they were giving away in hopes that the winner would be in the audience. When she wasn't there, he said something to the effect of, "Oh, great, she's probably in the theater that Robert Osborne  is introducing. Ah, screw her."

He also told a funny very self deprecating story. He mentioned how much he enjoyed being at TCMFF, and how great the fans were, and how they really made him feel like he was a celebrity for these four days, something he doesn't normally get outside of TCMFF. During the festival, he gets in a habit of nodding, saying hi, how you doing to everyone, shaking hands, etc. as he walks around. On his way to The Egyptian for The Lodger that night, he saw a line of people waiting at the El Capitan. So naturally he went into the, hey, how you doin', good to see you, hi, ... thing. As he was doing this, it dawned on him that there were a lot of kids in the line. Strange, that there would be that many kids at TCMFF this year. Then, he realized that they had nothing to do with the Festival. They were just waiting in line for the new Muppets movie that opened that week, and that all of people he'd been greeting probably didn't know him from Adam.

Ben Mankiewicz did also talk about The Lodger. The thing I remember most is him talking about the star of the film, Ivor Novello, and how he was a huge star in England when The Lodger was made. Within a few years after making The Lodger, he took a contract to write and star in films for MGM in Hollywood, but they never really found much of anything to do. His biggest claim to fame in those years was he wrote the dialog, for Tarzan, The Apeman, so, yes, he wrote the line, "Me, Tarzan. You, Jane."

The Lodger had these great Art Deco, dialog cards

I had seen The Lodger a handful of times. The closest I ever came to the big screen was 16 mm in a film class in college. All of the versions I had ever seen were straight black and white. This restoration had reproduced the color tinting that the original film had. In particular many of the night scenes were tinted blue for an eerie effect. Also the film featured live accompaniment of a new musical score performed by the Mont Alto Orchestra, a quintet featuring keyboard, trumpet, clarinet, violin, and cello. That made this just such a great viewing experience.

My second choice on in that slot had been The Wizard of Oz in 3D, which I had already seen in the theater (not in 3D of course) years and years ago. I figured that Wizard of Oz might conceivably get distribution, so I might get  a chance to see it anyway. I think I made the right choice with The Lodger:
  • Getting to see Hitchcock in the theater
  • An early silent film, Hitchcock's first suspense thriller
  • A new absolutely beautiful restoration 
  • A new score performed live in the theater
All of these things added up to make this way way cool. On the way out of the theater, I did hear someone say that he like the original score better. My thoughts were, Thanks, guy, for pissing on my cornflakes. I mean, on a film this old, how do you even know what the original score was. Yes, I do understand that there is probably some piece of music that is considered the definitive score, but for me having only seen it three or four times, I can't even say for sure that it even had the same score every time I watched it. The first time I saw it in college on 16 mm, I don't even thing there was a score with it. Whatever the case, I liked Mont Alto Orchestra score. It worked. It fit. And I didn't have enough other experience with the movie to color my opinion.

Next, I skated back to my hotel to change clothes and head back out on foot to the closing night party. At this point, there were still a few people that I knew twitter #TCMParties that I still hadn't met. Actually, it turned out to be more than a couple. I vow here and now to catch up on the ones I missed next year. I ran into @ciniebugz. She was a bit upset because she had left her backpack with @joelrwilliams1. Now, Joel was one of those people who I was talking about, so Cindy and wandered around the entire place looking for him. After not finding him, we decided to split up (do more damage that way). About 15 minutes later, we finally ran into Joel. He is one of those people who is always online talking about whatever is on TCM on a #TCMParty. Like me. Don't think either one of us get out much. It was really great to finally meet him.

TCMFF pin set
At some point in the evening I also ran into Nora who does social media for TCM (@tcmfilmfest). She said, she'd put aside some TCMFF buttons for me. She didn't have them on her, but she said she would catch up with me later. They had a thing going on where you could collect these by doing certain social media activities: You could get one by posting about TCMFF to facebook, another by tweeting, another by doing a vine video, and so on. Now, I like swag just as much as the next guy, but when I have to do something to earn it, I'm thinking laziness is a much better idea. I did tweet and post to facebook during TCMFF, but I don't even have a vine account, much less know how to use it, so Nora putting some aside for me without me having to do anything, way cool. I ended up not seeing her again, but she contacted me the next week and mailed them. Even more, way cool. Thanks, again, Nora.

I also met @MonsterResort. Actually, it was a bit surprising that I didn't already know Miguel, seeing how as we are both from San Diego and are into more or less the same things. The degrees of separation between the two of us is like one. To give you an idea, I added him as a facebook friend the other day, and about half the mutual friends I had with him had nothing to do with TCM. In fact, I ran into him the other night at a screening of Godzilla: The Japanese Original and when I introduced him to my wife, he looked at her and said, "Wait, don't we already know each other." My wife gets around. Oh, wait. That kind of came out wrong. My wife is a fine upstanding figure of a woman..., who gets around. Better.

In addition, I also met @MiddParent. I only spoke to her only for a couple of minutes, wandered off, and never made it back. Need to remedy that next year. Miguel (@MonsterResort) was also recording a podcast live by the pool with a bunch of the TCMParty regulars and he invited me to join them. Awesome, I'm so in, I agreed. Then, I wandered off and never made it back there either. Note to self: Stop wandering off all the time. Don't go walkabout you freakin, idiot. Go get a beer and come back. The podcast would've been fun and @MiddParent was cute. Of course, I was kind of drunk. I know I had to have at least four or five pints of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, a very very strong beer, so wandering off, was not really all that out of character for me at that point.

By the way, Miguel's TCMFF podcast is located at http://www.monsterislandresort.org/tcmff/.

I know I talked to a ton of other people that night, and it really was a great time all around. The ones, who stand out, and I haven't mentioned before in any of my blogs were @jaxbra@suesueapplegate, and @ClassicMoviesTO, who was giving out these classic film buttons he'd made for TCMFF. Turns out a number of us were going on the TCM L.A. Film Locations tour the next day, and @ClassicMoviesTO didn't have a pass, so I offered the extra one I had. By strange fortune, late in the evening I ended up back at the bar with that same woman from KC from the night before, but we ended up doing the same dance as the night before. She said that I was her third offer of the evening. Of course, I did have to say that I was probably better than the first two. Ultimately, I did end up getting the iron again.  If you don't get the iron reference, you probably need to read my Day 3 blog.

That pretty much wraps up Day 4 and more or less TCMFF as a whole, but I gotta say, I go to a lot of conventions, comic conventions, science fiction conventions, steampunk, you name it, and most conventions end with a whimper, not a bang. Things tend to close at about 5:00 the last day, and people pack up and get out. I must say, I like the TCMFF way much better. Having a big party to talk to the people you just met, share the experiences you just had, and celebrate what just happened, much much better. Great way to end a great event.

Do stay tuned. I am planning to do a TCMFF Day 5 post (covering the TCM tour and trip home) and an Aftermath post (covering the surprising number of TCMFF-related things that happened in the month or so following TCMFF. On my current schedule, I should get these done sometime before TCMFF 2015.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 3

Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 2 

Saturday at the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) started at the Chinese Multiplex for City Lights. As I entered the theater, I noticed some of my TCM Party pals, who I had met earlier, but by the time I got there, the row was pretty much full.  I took a seat a few rows back. City Lights was introduced by Jason Scott Lee, and I have to say, he was my favorite of all the celebrity presenters. Okay, second favorite behind Mel Brooks. The reason I think I liked Jason Scott Lee so much is that he totally geeked out about City Lights. I mean he was a real fan of the movie, and it showed. I'd go into detail, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll just link to the video here. It really is worth watching.

Now, before the screening I would have bet money that I had seen City Lights before, but within a minute or two of the start, I realized that I must have been thinking of another Chaplin film. Of course, I had seen bits and pieces of it, but never the whole thing. It was great, funny, charming, and at times very moving. I'm almost embarrassed that I had never seen it before, but what kept me from going down that road was that I don't think I could do any better than seeing it the first time in the theater at TCM with the best people in the world to be watching it with.

As I left the theater, I met one of my Twitter #TCMParty friends, @AlanHait. I don't think we had met before, or at least if we did, it was only briefly. Since we were both on our way to The Egyptian for Godzilla: The Japanese Original, we walked together, and it was good to finally talk to him in real life after so much time trading comments a hundred forty characters at a time. Alan suggested we stop for coffee at Starbucks, but I thought should get right in line for the screening. Godzilla was another of my must-sees (would have to be if I passed up Mr. Deeds Goes to Town for it). Alan had one of the higher level passes that included priority seating, so he offer to get me one and then found me in line to give it to me. Thanks, again, Alan.

The intro for Godzilla: The Japanese Original was by Gareth Edwards and Eddy Von Mueller. I remember mostly them talking a little about the production of this version and how it became a franchise. They briefly talked about how the film we were about to see was literally gutted to make room for Raymond Burr, which set the stage for 60 years of bad schlocky giant monster movies. One of them made a joke about how at one point Godzilla even became a troubled single dad.

Godzilla: The Japanese Original simply put is not the same movie we grew up with. I think they said that 28 minutes of the original film was edited out, so that new footage of Raymond Burr, talking with Asian American actors dressed in similar clothes as their Japanese counterparts could be intercut with the original. Thus, the American version had lots of scenes with Raymond Burr watching Godzilla from the sidelines. Godzilla: The Japanese Original was movie about human suffering with a strong anti-nuclear message. Godzilla was the result of man exploding the Hydrogen bomb, and there was even a short scene where a young woman told how she had survived the Nagasaki bomb, and she was going to survive this (Godzilla). None of this made it into the American version.

Godzilla: The Japanese Original showed not just Godzilla destroying Tokyo,  but the aftermath as hospital wards were filled with injured and burned survivors, mostly woman and children. This had to be a raw nerve for the Japanese people, coming less than a decade after their defeat in World War II. Also there was a scene where Godzilla was wading through the harbor, and the wake he caused pushing boats around. I'm certain that Director Ishiro Honda was tapping into the collective Japanese Psyche, and their fear of Tsunamis. There was another scene, where a mother was holding a baby in her arms and had two children under three with her. She told her kids that they would be with Daddy soon, and I almost fell out of my seat crying. Brilliant movie.

After the screening, Bruce Goldstein gave a presentation about what was cut  to create the American version. He showed how poorly the scenes with Raymond Burr were blended with the original. Once the American version was finished, that became the version that was dubbed into other languages for International audiences. And the final insult, they even dubbed Raymond Burr into Japanese and re-released the American version in Japan, calling it 100 times more exciting than the original

Next up was another sandwich in a bag from Fresh and Easy and a trip back to the Chinese multiplex for Stormy Weather. I picked Stormy Weather not so much because I was dying to see it, but because it was short and ended earliest in that block, giving me time to pick up some real food and get back to my hotel to change clothes for the evening.

The introduction for Stormy Weather was by Donald Bogle. He gave a brief history of black movies in the Hollywood studio system. He didn't mince words about Stormy Weather. One problem was the casting, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was in his 60s when he made Stormy Weather, while his love interest Lena Horne was 25. Bogle also freely admitted that there was virtually no story in Stormy Weather, but was just an excuse to string together a bunch of musical numbers, but oh what musical numbers. He also promised that there would be an additional presentation following the screening with special guests.

Donald Bogle was right on the money about the thin plot, but the musical numbers were indeed spectacular. Bojangles despite his age was in great form, and Lena Horne was beautiful in both voice and to look at. For me it was also a treat to see Dooley Wilson, who played Sam in Casablanca in a supporting role. Also just being able to see people of color from the era, interact more-or-less normally, and not only as chauffeurs and maids. And yes, all of the musical numbers were great. I had never seen or heard much Fats Waller, but immediately knew I needed to find some of his music. Katherine Dunham had a great voice and a wonderful style. Then there's Cab Calloway; he had to be the coolest guy in the 20th Century. Back in the late 80s/early 90s he played at the San Diego Zoo free with admission two or three summers in a row. I'll always kick myself that I didn't take advantage of it. Finally, Stormy Weather ends with what has to be the most spectacular dance number ever filmed by the Nicolas Brothers:

After the screening, Bruce Goldstein introduced special guests, several members of the Nicolas Brothers family were in attendance. Mr. Goldstein also showed some rare footage of the Nicolas Brothers, one from a TV variety show in 1964, where they replicated the last part of that dance number. In 1964, Harold was 42, and Fayard was 50. They could still do the splits like that. Also he showed a home movie that showed one of the sons Tony (who was there in the theater) doing a running sliding splits, between his dad's legs when he was three years old.

After Stormy Weather, I went to Baja Fresh and picked up a couple of tacos. Oooh, hot food this time, go figure. Then back to my hotel to eat and quickly change clothes. Then back to the Chinese theater for Hard Days Night. I immediately got in line and ended up with a queue number in the mid-200s. I ended up in line with @WeRecycleMovies, whom I met on Wednesday night. Since I had a bit of time, I went and got some "penny" candy and offered it to the people around me in line. 

When we got In the theater, I sat further down front than I normally would have for a movie. This was my one concession to celebrity the whole weekend. Introducing Hard Days Night, was Alec Baldwin interviewing Don Was. Now, while I like Alec Baldwin and do admire his work, I was really there for Don Was. He's been a record producer for years and years and the list of people he's produced reads like a who's who of popular music from the last 40 years. He's currently president of Blue Note Records, but for me, he's one of the two driving forces behind one of my favorite bands from the 80s, Was Not Was:

Now, having said all of that, I really got the impression that Don Was was not used to being interviewed nor to public speaking, and Alec Baldwin did an excellent job keeping it about The Beatles and about music. The video posted here is probably less than half the entire interview, and I have to say Alec Baldwin brought out the best of him, so good job, Alec, and good job TCM for having him.

Alec Baldwin introducing Don Was

Alec Baldwin asks Don Was a question

Don Was