It was with a bit of trepidation that I faced the annual TCM Classic Film Festival. With nearly 12 hours a day of programming, the question of whether or not I could sit still for that many hours popped into my head more than once. The general excellence of the choices TCM chose to treat guests to quickly erased that worry. On the last day of the 2017 festival, held earlier this month in Hollywood, it was a common refrain among attendees how we were all so tired even though all we did was watch films!
In addition to the film screenings, TCM had a great many stars and filmmakers on hand to reminisce about their work. The first night of the festival was devoted to a screening of “In the Heat of the Night.” While at first it was a bit of a disappointment when scheduled guest Sidney Poitier did not appear with the panel prior to the screening, one can assume the 90-year-old film legend may have not been up to the task health-wise to speak. He did, however, remain in the audience for the whole screening and eagerly shook hands with audience members as the crowd filed past him to exit the theater. Director Norman Jewison and co-star Lee Grant filled in for Poiter on the lecture stage and their clear affection for the film was evident. Grant was even still able to quote lines from the film which she made nearly 50 years ago.
Some further highlights from the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival include these memorable moments:
Diane Baker on Robert Osborne — Baker was a lifelong friend of the late TCM host who passed away in March. Ms. Baker provided touching memories of her final visit with her friend and repeatedly emphasized that Osborne left this planet on his own terms and did not want to linger as a helpless vegetable. While the festival went on without him, the spirit of Mr. Osborne was still very much in place at the gathering.
Mel Brooks is “interviewed” by Ben Mankiewicz — The TCM host had a rough time keeping up with the 90-year-old Brooks, who arrived with stories of his own that he delivered stand-up comedy style. Brooks clearly was relishing being back on the stage and spoke so much and so unassisted that eventually host Ben threw his index cards in the air and let Mr. Brooks just go unassisted.
Dick Cavett being “torn apart” — When the famed talk show host was asked who’d be interviewing the man who usually does the interviewing, he responded to this reporter that he would be on the receiving end of the questions and comically described it as “being torn apart.” Clearly Mr. Cavett prefers to be the one asking the questions. Being stuck waiting for the notoriously slow elevators of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel may have added to the dread Mr. Cavett seemed to be having regarding his interview.
Richard Dreyfuss and Todd Fisher mourn Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds — Emotions were high when Dreyfuss and Fisher screened “Postcards from the Edge.” The film was a fictionalized version of Fisher and Reynolds’ relationship, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Both men seemed to want to stress that the competitiveness that the mother character has toward the daughter in the film was the idea of director Mike Nichols. Dreyfuss touchingly described Reynolds as not at all competitive with Fisher and that Debbie was always willing to figuratively “hold Carrie’s coat” while letting Fisher bask in attention. Todd Fisher did surprisingly confirm though that the infamous “it twirled up” quote MacLaine has in the film regarding her dress, a children’s birthday party and a lack of underwear did actually happen. Fisher joked that he survived the incident okay, but Carrie was traumatized by it enough to include it in her screenplay many years later.
Albert Brooks on Oscar campaigning — Albert Brooks and director James L. Brooks jokingly remembered how in 1987 when their film “Broadcast News” was released, Sean Connery was the favorite for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “The Untouchables” while Brooks was considered to be in second place. Connery shockingly gave an interview to Barbara Walters saying he felt it was sometimes okay for a man to hit a woman. James L. Brooks teased Albert Brooks about how during the entire voting period of that Oscars Albert would bring up the subject to everyone they met (“Hey, have you heard Sean Connery beats women?”) in a humorous way of possibly swinging a few votes away from the former James Bond and toward himself.
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