by Bill Dudley
This year’s event respectfully reflected on the passing of longtime TCM host Robert Osborne. The touching tribute was highlighted by his best friend, actress Diane Baker, who said Robert “was not only a film historian, but a great friend to the old time Hollywood stars.” Apparently he spoke over the phone every Sunday with Bette Davis right up until her death in 1989. Ben Mankiewicz said “Robert O was the Walter Cronkite of TCM, and there will never be another.”
Several days of tributes to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher took place, with Debbie’s son Todd showing how appreciative he was for the huge fan base of sympathy displayed after their passing. A screening of “Postcards From The Edge” brought out Richard Dreyfuss, who was very close to Carrie, and quite emotional in discussing her passing. Debbie’s best friend Ruta Lee (who looks great), attended a screening of “Singing In The Rain,” and told us of Debbie’s great charity work.
Director Martin Scorsese made a surprise appearance to tell us the history of Nitrate films, four of which were screened for the festival, including Alfred Hitchcock’s original release of “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” The preservation of the highly delicate and flammable film is one of Scorsese’s current projects, and he is totally dedicated to it.
Michael Douglas has beaten his stage 4 cancer, and gave a very candid 2 hour interview which should run later this year on TCM. Director Peter Bogdanovich attended a screening of one of his very best films, “The Last Picture Show” starring Ben Johnson (who won an Oscar for his role), a very young Jeff Bridges, and Cybil Shepherd. After the first ever father and son footprint ceremony at the Chinese Theater for both Carl and Rob Reiner, I also learned that one of Rob Reiner’s most cherished films is “The Princess Bride.” Both Rob, and male lead Cary Elwes attended that one. Reiner’s also told us that when Rob was a kid he wanted to change his name because of his famous father. Not the last name Reiner, he wanted to change his first name to…Carl ! A great father & son love story.
Vintage comedy films were featured with Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Bros, Harold lloyd, and WC Fields. Mel Brooks had the audience in stitches telling the story of making his 1977 “High Anxiety.” Even Mel started laughing when he told the story of Cloris Leachman’s first appearance as “Nurse Diesel” sporting a mustache. Poolside screenings at the Hotel Roosevelt included the original “Planet Of the Apes,” “Willie Wonka,” and what is now becoming the most in demand of classic horror films, “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane,” starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. These two faded stars came together years after their respective heydays to make one film together, and absolutely hated each other. This pairing, which was built up and also brought down to street level by the director, studio heads and gossip columnists of the era, is now the basis for one of this year’s hottest TV mini-series “Feud: Bette and Joan.”
As I often do, I also met two very interesting people on the sidelines of the festival. One was a very hard working and mature African-American woman named Mary, who was working security, and listens to The Wave. I also met a young college student from Spain named Jorge, who loves American music, and tried like hell to find me a “TCM Staff ” T-shirt. Upon failing to do so, he gave me his. Thank you Jorge, and Mary. You both made my festival experience even better.
All in all, another great year to live in Hollywood. This festival never lets me down.