TCM Classic Film Festival: Sally Field and Robert Benton among multiple Oscar winners across 4 days

The 9th Annual TCM Film Festival recently ended its takeover of Hollywood’s famed Chinese Theater and its vicinity. For four days the festival filled the large theater as well as the small upstairs multiplexes with classic films from many decades as well as a plethora of Oscar winners discussing their work — and of course tons of film fans from all over the world. The festival still seems to be finding its feet a bit after the tragic loss of Robert Osborne last year. (I had to wonder what Osborne would have to say about raunchy films like “Animal House” and “The Big Lebowski” being the prime attractions on the main screen on two evenings.)

While no match for Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz has become a great host for the festival and provided many in depth interviews. On the negative side it is still baffling why Illeana Douglas is so critically underused at the festival and on the channel in general. She provides humorous conversations, a deep knowledge of film and inside stories from her grandfather Melvin Douglas’s career as well as her own. Every day was filled with Oscar winners sharing stories, so check out Part 1 of my report below.

Robert Benton (Best Director and Adapted Screenplay 1979 for “Kramer Versus Kramer,” Best Original Screenplay 1984 for “Places in the Heart”) recalled the single worst interview he ever had with an actress auditioning for one of his films was a young theater actress who had only had one film released at this point in her career.

Benton said the conversation was just dead and that neither of them could think of anything to say to the other. That young actress was a woman named, you guessed it, Meryl Streep. Benton elaborated that he felt the key to the success of “Kramer vs. Kramer” was Streep’s ability to bring sympathy to the role of the mother and not have it be just a one-sided story as was depicted in the original book.

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Sally Field (Best Actress 1979 and 1984 for “Norma Rae” and “Places in the Heart”) joined Benton for a screening of the Benton directed “Places in the Heart.” Benton referred to her as the consummate actress and Field stated that the reason the acting worked so well in the film (enough to win an Oscar for her and gain nominations for John Malkovich and Lindsay Crouse also) was that the cast had an extensive period of rehearsals and shot the film in chronological order. When asked what it was like to have two co-stars (Ed Harris and Amy Madigan) fall in love and get married during the film Field jokingly exclaimed, “DISGUSTING!”

At a screening of one of his films Douglas proclaimed that the best advice that her grandfather Melvin Douglas (Best Supporting Actor 1963 and 1979 for “Hud” and “Being There”) ever gave her about acting was to always order the club sandwich from room service! Acting will take you around the world and put you in many different places but Douglas felt the one consistency was that every hotel always has a club sandwich you’re safe to order.

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