No fire alarms to speak of over the next two days worth of movies. Just plenty of friendly fans waiting in the lines and sitting in on a few conversations with the stars. I also finally make it into the Grauman’s Chinese Theater where many of our cinematic heroes have been immortalized in cement.
It was suggested to me that I start off Saturday morning by sitting in on a celebration of Vitaphone Shorts. For those who may not be familiar with these, might I suggest they are much like watching a Three Stooges 15 minute episode rooted in the early days of vaudeville. Of the seven shorts that were showcased, it’s amazing to know that two of them were being seen by an audience for the first time in over 80 years!
Baby Rose Marie got the show going with a song and dance routine of three numbers and a rousing applause from the packed house at the Egyptian theater. There were three others that really stood out for me. George Burns and Gracie Allen proved once again how smooth and graceful their comedy routines could be. She continually steps in on George’s punch lines with her nasally delivery. Pure delight.
The other two that had the crowd in stitches was the duo Al Shaw and Sam Lee in a song and dance routine called The Beau Brummels. Old school vaudeville show here that I can’t wait to see again. Their timing was pitch perfect and the songs had everyone laughing aloud. The Vitaphone spotlight wrapped up with the funniest show of all when Jimmy Conlin spars on stage with Myrtle Glass and generally takes a thorough thrashing as she sits him down in front of a piano so she can belt out a number for the viewing audience…… “Hey!”
The story on just how these shorts have been rescued from obscurity is quite fascinating in itself. It’s a combination of private collectors of both film and records that have brought these to fruition. I suspect there’s a good script in there for a movie all on it’s own.
For more information on these 15 minute gems check out The Vitaphone Project website.
At long last I entered Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Time to see Carl Reiner’s tribute to the classic era of Noir. The festival was playing Steve Martin’s 1982 black and white murder mystery, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid that Reiner scripted and directed. It’s an ingenious idea that allowed Martin to play opposite so many of the 1940’s screen icons including Bogart, Ladd, Bette and Joan and even Vincent Price. Rachel Ward turns up proving she could compete with the glamour girls of the forties as she looks stunning throughout in glorious black and white.
I wasn’t sure for a while if I was even going to get in to see this one. My ticket number in the line up which stretched out to a side street wayyyyy behind the theater was #564. Thankfully I did as 93 year old Carl Reiner was on hand to entertain the crowd with stories of this movie’s production as well as his career in general. From writing and costarring on The Dick van Dyke show to his many projects with pal Mel Brooks, Reiner offered us an insight to comedy history over his thirty minutes on stage. Like any comedian, he even worked in some political gags as well.
Next up it was time to sit in on an hour plus long interview at the Roosevelt Hotel. Holding court was Alec Baldwin as he sat down and chatted with Elliott Gould. The majority of the conversation focused on Gould’s early career from the mid sixties through his most prolific years into the mid seventies. Up for discussion was Mash, Bob and Carol, The Long Goodbye where Elliott played private eye Philip Marlowe, and his working with directors like Altman and Bergman.
Gould was very down to earth, engaging and seemingly honest with his answers. I liked him. He seemed to be truly happy with his place in cinema history and appreciative of what his career choices have brought him. When the time came for questions, yours truly raised his hand (remember I have a duty as an official media credential holder) and quickly fell under the gaze of Mr. Baldwin to ask the first question of Gould. I’ve always had a fondness for the film Capricorn One and asked Mr. Gould if he had any recollections of it or working with Telly Savalas.
He didn’t say much about the film but got the crowd chuckling over Telly the Gambler on set.
Back to The Egyptian once again to see Gould introduce The Long Goodbye. It’s rather unlike the other Marlowe films that featured a tougher performer like Bogie and Mitchum. Not surprising as Gould is more of a sarcastic performer. But it works. He fits the role perfectly in a case that involves Sterling Hayden in a role originally slated for Dan Blocker. Blocker of Bonanza fame died just before production got under way. Gould moves at his own pace, never seemingly in a hurry to get an answer. He just lets the mystery unfold around him while looking for his missing cat. Even David Carradine and Arnold Schwarzenegger briefly turn up in this 1973 throwback to the days of the Noir movement.
A good film from Robert Altman and worth seeking out. I have it on an MGM DVD release from years back and thinking I might pick up the new blu ray hitting the market soon.
One more film on this Saturday.
Midnight. A classic screwball comedy from that wonder of years, 1939. It’s Claudette Colbert tangling with the crazed eyes of John Barrymore and love interest Don Ameche. In true screwball fashion, there’s plenty of mix ups and people who aren’t as they seem. All in the name of romance with the popular backdrop of high society in Paris. Colbert is of course stunning and I am quite sure giving us her best side throughout. Hard to believe that Ameche guy would make a popular comeback in the 1980’s culminating with an Oscar for Cocoon.
Actress Bonnie Hunt was on hand to introduce this comedy I’ve had my eye on for a while as I picked it up on DVD. What better way to see a laugh out loud Colbert classic than with a packed theater in the heart of Hollywood. Now I’ll look forward to a rewatch here at home.
Elliott and Alec pics kindly supplied by Speakeasy pal Kristina.
One day to go……….