Monday, February 18, 2013


Vera and Giuliano Gemma

Sunday night was the opening night of the 8th Annual Los Angeles, Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest.  The year 2013 has been declared the Year of the Italian Culture in America, by both U.S. President Obama and Italian President Monti, and the Fest is inaugurating the Jack Valenti Legend Award, named in honor of the long-time President of the Motion Picture Association of America, and former special assistant to Lyndon Johnson in the White House.   The first recipient of the award is Best Actor Oscar winner, for SCENT OF A WOMAN, Al Pacino, who will be seen next month as the title character in PHIL SPECTOR, and will soon be heard as a voice in DESPICABLE ME 2. 

Rachel Hunter

The Fest encompasses all genres of filmmaking, from documentary to history, romance to comedy, horror to animation – last night saw the premiere of the animated feature GLADIATORS OF ROME 3D – and, thank goodness the Western.  The very first film screened, at nine on Sunday morning, was a documentary about Sergio Leone.  There are a pair of documentaries by off-spring of Spaghetti-Western stars; GIULIANO GEMMA: AN ITALIAN IN THE WORLD, directed by his daughter, Vera Gemma, which screened last night, and FRANCO NERO: THE MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES, directed by his son Carlo Gabriel Nero, which will screen on Tuesday night.  Also screening during the festival are classic Spaghetti Westerns TEXAS, ADIOS (this morning),DJANGO, and KEOMA, all starring Franco Nero, RINGO THE KILLER, starring Giuliano Gemma, and DJANGO KILL…IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!, starring Tomas Milian.

Kat Kramer

The Fest is held in the Chinese 6 Theatre, on the 3rd floor of the Hollywood and Highland Complex, whose Dolby Theatre is the home of next Sunday’s Academy Awards.  When I arrived last night, the first faces I recognized in the crowd were producer Harvey Weinstein, whose DJANGO UNCHAINED and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK have a load of Oscar nominations, and producer-director William Lustig, whose Blue Underground distributes most of the westerns being shown at the Fest.  I took my spot along the red carpet, between reporters from Canada and Dubai, and soon (okay, actually not that soon, but eventually) the stars came by.  First was beautiful model and actress Rachel Hunter.  Next came actress Kat Kramer, daughter of actress Karen Sharpe and producer/director Stanley Kramer, whose centennial is being celebrated this year.  I asked her which were her personal favorites among her father’s work.  “I like IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD, and HIGH NOON, of course.  I think INHERIT THE WIND is my personal favorite through, and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, because my godmother was Katherine Hepburn, and that movie is still relevant today.  And he also made a film in Italy, which I should reiterate, it’s a good time for tonight: THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA, with Anthony Quinn, Anna Magnani, Giancarlo Gianni – I believe that was his debut, and Virna Lisi, and Giuseppe Rotunno was the cinematographer.”  I asked what she was up to.  “I’m working on lots of things, trying to follow in his footsteps, and do my own thing at the same time.  My own one-woman theatrical show which is singing, characters and monologues, about my own search, has a music theme to it.  And there are films and television programs that I’m working on.  I’m really happy to be here tonight for the honoree, to celebrate Al Pacino, who I’m a big fan of, and (actor) Michele Placido as well.  And Jack Valenti was a good friend of my father’s.”

Dennis Christopher and Paul Dooley

I next spoke to Dennis Christopher, whose break-away film was 1979’s BREAKING AWAY.  He’s worked steadily ever since, but got much attention this year playing Leo DiCaprio’s consigliore  in DJANGO UNCHAINED.  He was delighted to be working with such a high level of performers.  “It was fantasic, it was a feast to be sitting around that table with those actors like Leo, Christoph, Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx.  Amazing.”   I asked him how he liked working with Franco Nero.  “Oh, fantastic!  We were in the same hotel, so we would have a couple of cocktails together, and he’s just somebody that I’d loved for so long -- and he was the original Django!  It was an honor to meet him.  And he’s a great guy.”  I asked if he watched a lot of spaghetti westerns to prepare for DJANGO UNCHAINED.  “I actually did.  And Quentin likes to show them on the weekends, so I did.  And of course I got DJANGO right away.  And there are so many versions – there’s SUKIYAKI DJANGO, and the original, and I watched them all – absolutely amazing.  Plus horseback-riding lessons.  Which I didn’t get to use, but I did take them, and then they decided to put us in a carriage.”  I asked him if he’d want to do another Western if he got the chance.  “Well, I did when I was much younger.  I did THE OREGON TRAIL (1976 series starring Rod Taylor), and I was in DEADWOOD for a season.  But not a cowboy; I was an actor.” 

Dennis Christopher, Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley

I saw next coming down the red carpet actor Paul Dooley, and asked Dennis if Dooley hadn’t played his father in BREAKING AWAY.  “Yes; we have a famous father-son act, as a matter of fact.  (Laughs) You know if Paul works, they can get me at a discount.”  Paul Dooley was with his wife Winnie Holtzman, creator of MY SO CALLED LIFE and playwright of WICKED.  Paul told me, “We’ve also written a play for ourselves.”  Winnie added, “We’re going to open it here in L.A. in April at the Odyssey Theatre.  It’s called ASSISTED LIVING.”  Paul added, “We’re in rehearsal now.  But about BREAKING AWAY;  I’m very close with Dennis ever since then.  And we’ve actually worked together after that.  He got a job on LAW & ORDER, they needed a father, he told them about me, I got the job.” 
“That’s great,” I said, “because you made such a great father and son relationship; charming movie, and so many of the cast went on to do so well.”
“Oh yeah!  Jackie Earle Haley, a new career.   Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Barbara Barrie.” 

Maria Christina Heller

Next up was Italian actress Maria Christina Heller, who is in Dario Argento’s upcoming DRACULA 3D.  At the Fest last year, Dario showed forty minutes of clips, which looked terrific.  I asked Maria about working with Argento.  “It’s great!  He knows what he wants; he’s very nice on set.  It was a great experience.  There was also the double-camera thing, because it’s 3D; it was the first time for me.  You look down, there’s the regular camera, and there’s the mirror reflecting into the other camera.” 

Larry and Shawn King

Soon Larry King and his wife Shawn were making their way down the red carpet.  He was asked what his pick was for the Best Picture Oscar.  “This was a great year for movies.  I loved ARGO.  I loved LINCOLN.  Another great movie was FLIGHT.  SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is terrific.  I wasn’t that crazy about the one about the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  It was okay, it wasn’t great for me.  My favorite movie, which (my wife) has not seen yet, was DJANGO UNCHAINED.  I loved the performances.  I loved the theme.  It was hysterically funny, and exciting and violent.  It was everything about filmmaking.”  I asked him what his favorite Western was.  “Good question.  A tie.  SHANE and HIGH NOON.”  Mrs. King said, “I was going to say BLAZING SADDLES,” and Larry agreed.  “That’s right up there, too.  Mel Brooks.  ‘Me Mongo.  Me misunderstood.’”

Al Pacino

A few minutes later Al Pacino, the man of the evening, appeared, and I chose not to embarrass him by pointing out that he had never been in a Western.  

Giuliano Gemma

All the press had been given photo cheat-sheets in advance, showing pictures of all the expected celebrities.  A few had come who were not on the list, and a few had not shown up.  My one big disappointment was that Giuliano Gemma had not appeared.  We all started putting away our equipment, and I walked away from the red carpet, when who did I see, on the other side of a mirrored pillar, but Giuliano, looking very elegant in his tuxedo.  I asked him which of his Westerns are his favorites.  “You know, I made about seventeen Westerns, but I don’t know the titles in English.  A PISTOL FOR RINGO, THE RETURN OF RINGO.”
“I was just watching ARIZONA COLT last night.  That’s a delightful picture.”
“How do you like your daughter’s documentary?”
“She made a good work; it just brings about twenty years of my filmography.   We have to do a second part.”
“And when are you going to do another western?”
“Ahh…the Western, it is finished.  We don’t have the opportunity.  But maybe Tarantino will call me – why not?!” 

George Pennacchio, David O. Russell, Harvey Weinstein

The press had largely dispersed when who should arrive on the red carpet but SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK director David O. Russell.  I asked him when he was going to make a Western.  “You know, I wrote a western, and I don’t know if that will get made.  And the wonderful Irwin Winkler, who’s a wonderful producer, who produced RAGING BULL, showed me a really great Western script that he has, that I was honored to look at, so I think it’s a matter of time.  My favorite westerns would be THE SEARCHERS.  This is an interesting story.  Harvey Weinstein called me up on the set of this movie (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK), and said, ‘I think you need to have a moment at the end that feels like the door is closing on the American family, and they’re in their home.  Like at the end of THE SEARCHERS.’  I’m standing on the set with Robert De Niro in Philadelphia, and I said (to Havey), ‘That’s a western.  I don’t understand.’  He says, ‘No-no.  The door closes and John Wayne leaves, and you feel the family at home in their home.’  And I said, ‘Okay, I think I get it.’  And that’s why we ended up with the ending we have for that movie.  Inspired by a Western, so there you go, brother: thank you John Ford.”    

I’ll have more about the festival in next week’s Round-up.  Los Angeles Italia continues through Saturday.  For details on screenings, all of which are free, on a first-come, first-served basis, go HERE.  


Quentin Tarantino has decided to pair up his Western with a clever choice of 2nd features.  On Fri. and Sat., Feb. 16 & 17, it plays with BUCK AND THE PREACHER (1972), directed by Sidney Poitier, starring him and Harry Belafonte as a wagon-master and a con man helping freed slaves.  On Sun., Mon. and Tues., Feb. 18-20 it’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, a revenge tale whose parallels are obvious.  On Wed. and Thurs., Feb. 21-22, it’s SKIN GAME (1971), starring James Garner and Lou Gossett as con men running an ‘escaped slave’ scam.   


As part of the build-up to their annual Los Angeles Film Festival, TCM is making stops across the country with various classic movies, featuring live appearances by stars.  On Tuesday, February 19th, at 7:30, Dallas, Texas will welcome Angie Dickinson to a screening of RIO BRAVO at the Historic Texas Theater at   231 West Jefferson Boulevard.  Ben Mankiewicz will host.

That'll be it for tonight!  Have a great week, and come back next Sunday for more about the L.A. Ital Fest, a great new Spaghetti Western collection that's about to be released, and more!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents -- and this week it's ALL original -- Copyright February 2013 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved!

1 comment: