Where else on earth can you find such exceptional eccentrics about film? Morlocks: a singularly strange group of film fans crossing paths with husbands who have lost the coin toss on “where do we spend our anniversary...honey?” Where college students, who are younger than most of their idols grandkids, spout detailed information about the works of great filmmakers. Crazed “Film Geeks” take to the streets of Hollywood Blvd and N. La Brea in frenzy of film fanaticism. It is a breathtaking event that takes place in a surprisingly snow globed environment provided by the epically famous Roosevelt Hotel and the Mann Theatres.
Club TCM at The Hollywodd Roosevelt-Rocked!
Hollywood Blvd- on a slow day is a mélange of Batman, Superman, Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe look-alikes who rather rudely demand "a tip" to get a pic with them. Couple these (often badly) dressed up mental patients with some energetically crazed film fans looking to shoot “real” legends… and it is better than Rio during Madi Gras on speed!
During the TCM Classic Film fest the game rises and the reality that you may get to snap the “real” stars, draws record breaking crowds to this genuinely innovated idea of having a classic film festival in the “Mecca” of classic film – Hollywood! Where stars who have not trotted down the red carpet in decades-cascading like a a bejeweled cloak of film legendery.
The opening night red-carpet event is epic. Stars that take the long stroll in the hot afternoon sun, are as varied in age and talent as the audience (press included) that lace the L-shape-block-long classic red carpet that runs in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now Mann’s) Throngs of fans from every hemisphere-cascade down the street. The pressing crowd pours toward to coveted “bleacher” section. In true Oscar night fashion, fans wait for their favorite stars seated in stadium seating. Where fans wildly shout and cheer as stars like Leslie Carone, Mickey Rooney and Peter O’Toole make their way toward the pulsing mob of anxious fans.
Mickey Rooney and his wife Jan Chamberlin
Moments of touching nostalgia were in abundance when actors who had not “done the red carpet” for decades drank deep of this heady stuff called - love. From as far back as 1939’s “Gone With The Wind” Ann Rutherford (below) who played Scarlet’s sister Carreen. Rutherford, in matching bright red ensembles with her pal actress, Anne Jeffreys, walked the length of the carpet rolled out to honor them and many others. Greeting fans and press alike with eager delight.
Anne Jeffrey's and Ann Rutherford- "Sisters in Red"
My moment came when Eva Marie Saint stopped and talked to me for a bit. She and her husband were graciously gushing about the festival and the importance of classic film, especially for the young. She and her husband were rather like teenage sweethearts as they stopped and spoke to press and fans alike.
Eva Marie Saint with her husband Jeffrey Hayden
By the time Ben Mankiewics descended the red carpet armed with Chris Isaacs as his slick-side-kick (in an eye-popping buff suit and slicked back hair) we knew the game was on! The two rallied racous banter like a brilliant tennis match. It felt like an homage to classic Hollywood comedy. Gleefully gagging one another. One trying to top the other in a style that would compete with a Burns and Allen stand up. Ben playing straight man to Chris Isaacs’s wise guy.
Mrs. Gene Kelly (Patricia Ward Kelly) was stunning in a slim black suit and her signature lapelled Camellia. She spoke of her husband, of his commitment to excellence and the pressures of being both choreographer and star of the 1951 film, “An American In Paris”. Patricia reflected his love of the dance.
Mickey Rooney sparked down the red carpet hooting and gaily blowing kisses and shouting love to adoring fans. “Hey! I love you!”
The next few days quickly unfolding in a blazing trail of films, actors like, Julie Andrews, Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Warren Beatty, Leslie Caron, Kirk Douglas, Angela Lansbury, Hayley Mills, Peter O’Toole, Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Barbara Rush,Mickey Rooney and many, many more. Parades of fans up and down Hollywood Blvd and in the buzzing lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel gave me a deep sense of nostalgia. Of the days when we would run to the corner of Wilshire, to see the parade of convertibles on Oscar Night humming down Wilshire toward the Santa Monica Civic Center. There was the same overwhelming sense of welcome and cameraderie. The feeling that each person belonged and a feeling of community one usually finds in a church.
For many this is church. The film-faithful gather here once a year and like a snow globe are in a world of their own. Like-minded Movie Morlocks, Film Geeks, and The Classic Film Union, mingle with other fabulously fearless TCM Fans as they congregate to celebrate the brilliance of “Classic film."
I often think, “Who would I be without classic film?” Seeing the world in times of war and peace, from many perspectives. The world foreign and domestic. I used to sit on the floor of my families living room when we moved to Atlanta. TCM was then TNT/CH 17 and I sat there watching 42nd Street at 6am on a 19” black and white TV…falling in love with Ruby Keeler and the Busby Berkley musical. Where else and how else could I have that experience? Classic film is like a snow globe of who we are, who we were. We get to see ourselves as we evolve. The TCM Film Fest is like the Island of Misfit Toys for film fanatics. It is the Disneyland of the film obsessed. And every even is an “E Ticket” experience. All you have to do is hold on and enjoy the ride! Fasten your seat belt as the 2012 TCM Film Fest sets sail again April 12-15 2012.
(Go to www.tcm.com/festival)