Sunday, April 5, 2015
MOVIES REWRITE HISTORY AT TCM FEST! PLUS SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST UPDATE, WILLIAM WELLMAN FEST AT UCLA, AND MORE!
MOVIES REWRITE HISTORY AT TCM FEST!
The theme of the sixth annual TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL was “History according to Hollywood,” and a fine time was had by all who attended. This is the third year that I’ve attended, and nowhere else do I meet so many people so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about movies. The center of this cinematic orgy is the fabled Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, it’s next-door multiplex, and the Roosevelt Hotel across the street, but the screenings spill out to quite a few other venues.
The fun started at 5 pm on Thursday, March 26th, with a Red Carpet before the Chinese Theatre, leading to the premiere of the new restoration of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, with stars Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and several portrayers of the Von Trapp kids present. I enjoyed covering the red carpet the first two years, but could not convince myself that THE SOUND OF MUSIC was a Western. So I skipped it in order to attend a screening of John Ford’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, introduced by a son of one of its stars, and a major star in his own right, Keith Carradine. Keith Carradine began his professional acting career with MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, and went on to play Jim Younger in THE LONG RIDERS, Buffalo Bill Cody in WILD BILL, and many others. He created the role of Will Rogers on Broadway in THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES, and was sorely missed by DEADWOOD fans when, as Wild Bill Hickok, he drew aces and eights after only five episodes – dumbest mistake the series’ producers could have made!
Keith Carradine introducing THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE
He was delighted to see the theatre entirely packed. “I cannot tell you what it does for my heart to see this many people here to see this movie – oh my gosh! I am a huge John Ford fan, and he only made two more feature films after this, DONOVAN’S REEF and CHEYENNE AUTUMN. I have a particular attachment to this film for a number of reasons. It has an amazing cast, obviously, with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Lee Marvin, who was a pal ever since we did EMPEROR OF THE NORTH together – the incomparable Lee Marvin. And in fact I just paid homage to him. We did a concert production, the Encore series in New York, of PAINT YOUR WAGON, in which I played Ben Rumson (note: Lee Marvin’s role in the film). Anyhow, as Orson Welles said when he was asked who his influences were, “Well, I studied the great masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.” This is one of his great works, and in addition to that great cast, and my friend Lee Marvin, my father is in this film. I can’t thank you all enough for being here to support what TCM has been doing so brilliantly now for lo these many years, burnishing, maintaining; preserving the legacy of the motion picture. Thank goodness for them, and for what they do. This stuff is where all the movies came from. And to give us the opportunity to see them the way they were originally meant to be seen, in a theatre, surrounded by other people, on the big screen – it’s incomparable. So, enjoy THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, and I’ll see you down the road.”
Andy Devine and Woody Strode in LIBERTY VALANCE
As many times as I’d already seen LIBERTY VALANCE, I’d never seen it on a big screen before, and there are a thousand little details that are invisible on a smaller image – like how many flies were on Andy Devine! Incidentally, Andy’s son Dennis has some fascinating details on the making of this film in his book YOUR FRIEND AND MINE, ANDY DEVINE (read my review HERE), including why it was shot in black and white – to try and hide the advanced age of Wayne and Stewart in the ‘young’ sequences.
As always, the TCM Fest is an embarrassment of riches, and you cannot possibly attend all of the events you wish. At 9:45 pm, the Australian Western-ish film BREAKER MORANT screened, introduced by its director Bruce Beresford, whose other credits include TENDER MERCIES, BLACK ROBE, and AND STARRING PANCHO VILLA AS HIMSELF. Fifteen minutes later, Rory Flynn, daughter of Errol Flynn, was introducing one of her dad’s classics, THE SEA HAWK.
Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine for CLEMENTINE
Friday was the big Western day, starting at 9:30 am with Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, featuring an introduction and audience Q & A with Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine, again sons of the stars. At 12:30 pm, THE PROUD REBEL screened, introduced by David Ladd, who co-starred with his father Alan Ladd in the film. At 2:30 pm, while Rory Flynn discussed her father at Club TCM, Peter Fonda was introducing another Ford classic, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, starring Henry Fonda. Two blocks to the east, at Sid Grauman’s other great Hollywood theatre, The Egyptian, Ann Margaret was introducing her Steve McQueen co-starrer, THE CINCINNATI KID, to a packed house – I know it was packed because I couldn’t get in!
PINOCCHIO stars Dickie Jones and Cliff Edwards
study character sketches
I headed back to see what I could squeeze into, and entered another movie palace that they were using, the El Capitan, to see Walt Disney’s PINOCCHIO. I was halfway through the movie before I recalled that Pinocchio was voiced by Dickie Jones, later to star in many Westerns, including Errol Flynn’s best, ROCKY MOUNTAIN, and the series THE RANGE RIDER and BUFFALO BILL JR. He also had a small role in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, showing in another theatre at the same time. Jones just passed away a few months ago. And Pinocchio’s sidekick, Jiminy Cricket, was portrayed by Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards, who sidekicked for Charles “Durango Kid” Starrett and Tim Holt.
Another tough choice came at about 6 pm. Legendary stunt man Terry Leonard was introducing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, where he recreated Yakima Canutt’s famous under-the-coach whip-drag and climb-up from STAGECOACH. Instead I attended FONDA THE ACTOR, FONDA THE MAN, with Peter discussing his father Henry with Scott Eyman, author of PRINT THE LEGEND – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN FORD, and JOHN WAYNE – THE LIFE AND LEGEND. Put kindly, Henry was not the best or most consistent father, but his son still had many positive memories, and shared them with startling candor; several times he had to stop when his emotions overtook him.
Here are some of the highpoints. The first movie he saw his father in was CHAD HANNA, made in 1940, the year Peter was born. “I think I was five, and there was my father on-screen. And he wasn’t in the Pacific theatre (of the war) – he’d run away with Linda Darnell to the circus! We had home movies, but my dad was never in the home movies, because he was operating the camera. This is the first movie I’ve seen on the big screen. So I didn’t know about Linda Darnell. I didn’t know about the circus. So all these questions are building up in this little boy’s mind. The moment I remember best is (when) Chad went into the lion’s cage to clean it out. What Chad didn’t know, and which I could see and the rest of the audience could see – it was a small screening room at Fox – is that the lion was in the cage. So by this time I don’t think it’s Chad, I think it’s Dad. And my God, he’s gonna get Dad. I got so upset I ran down to the screen yelling, ‘Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! The lion’s there!’ Of course they had to take me out of the theatre.” His mother calmed him down, telling him it was not Dad, but Chad Hanna, a character in the movie. At the time, Henry Fonda was away at war, in Naval Air Intelligence. When he came home on leave, he went by Peter’s school to pick him up. “I saw the family’s ’38 Buick limousine. It opens, and out steps Chad Hanna. I had a tremendous problem, because here was Chad with the family car, and I sure as Hell did not want to drive with someone who was so stupid that he’d get into a lion’s cage. So I hid in a bush. I was a skinny kid and they couldn’t get me.” Later he gained a much better understanding of his father from watching him do theatre, particularly MR. ROBERTS, rather than in movies.
He described his first visit to a film set. “I actually went on the set of FORT APACHE. I went driving on the set and it was amazing – I told this story to John Wayne, Duke, and he was amazed that I could remember the detail of the car he was driving. It was a crème-colored Cadillac, with red leather seats, and me and my sister (Jane) sat in the back, which was a smaller seat than in front, with John Wayne driving, my dad, and Ward Bond. This was the first time I’d gone on a set. And it didn’t mean anything; nobody explained it. But I remember the car, John Wayne’s lovely Cadillac, and it was beautiful – four door, convertible, top down. Now people say, what was it like growing up as Henry Fonda’s son? My fast remark is, did you see FORT APACHE? Do you know who Colonel Thursday is? Do you know what kind of a man he was? I’m joking – but unfortunately some people think, ‘Oh, he hates his father.’ I loved my father. I love him now. I miss him.”
James Stewart was a good friend of the family. “Jimmy Stewart was my godfather, and we all called him Uncle Jimmy. He and my father were very close friends, and before they got heavy into filming, they were flying around in airplanes. Although politically at opposite ends, they were very tight friends. Whenever (Dad) was off in the Pacific, Jimmy would come back from his tours in the European theatre, flying a B-17, and come and see us all. You have to understand that in 1945, ’46, Los Angeles was very small, and the air was extraordinarily clean. My sister and I used to climb up on the roof – it was a pretty steep roof, on a very big house, but my sister and I had a way of getting up there. And my mother would freak out if she knew.
“ One day, it’s Christmas Eve, there’s Uncle Jimmy. He’s at the house, having a wonderful time. We all knew him, all loved him – he was a funny man. We were sent up the stairs of course, because it’s Christmas Eve. We don’t get out until they let us in the morning. Jane’s in her room, I’m in mine, and I hear some banging around on the roof. I went to her room, I said, ‘Santa Claus is here, I think!’ We got out the window, on the roof, and there is Santa, at the chimney, with the Santa hat, the big bag. But on closer observation, it was Uncle Jimmy. Ho-ho-ho-ho! But we’re on the roof, no one else is gonna hear this, so this performance is just for us. And that’s when I stopped believing in Santa Claus, but I kept believing in Uncle Jimmy.”
Next Round-up I’ll have the rest of my TCM coverage, and part two of FONDA ON FONDA, including Peter’s memories of his father making ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and directing Henry in WANDA NEVADA.
FORD’S ‘IRON HORSE’ A ROUSING SUCCESS AT THE AUTRY!
It was quite a week for John Ford! In addition to all of his films that were screened at the TCM Fest (and I’ve only talked about half of them), Thursday night saw The Welles Fargo Theatre at The Autry packed for the silent THE IRON HORSE, presented with an original score, a combination of live and programmed music by Emmy Award-nominated composer Tom Peters.
Composer Tom Peters
Curator Jeffrey Richardson told me, “The Autry was proud and excited to host the debut of Tom Peter's score for John Ford's THE IRON HORSE. The audience, myself included, was captivated by the kaleidoscope of sound that magnified the power and intensity of the silent classic.” Senior Manager of Programs and Public Events Ben Fitzsimmons added, “Tom Peters certainly deserved his standing ovation after almost two and a half hours of playing his new score. He took folk songs of the era and combined them with other musical inspirations to create an epic piece of music to accompany an epic movie.”
Although his IRON HORSE score is not yet available to hear, to give you an idea of the work Tom Peters does with silent film, here is a sample of his score from THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI.
GENE AUTRY DISCUSSION ADDED TO SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST!
It’s less than two weeks until the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, on Saturday and Sunday, April 18th & 19th, and a new conversation has been added to my schedule at the Buckaroo Book Shop. On Saturday at 5 pm I’ll be chatting with Karla Buhlman, President of Gene Autry Entertainment, about the legacy of America's Favorite Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. Karla knew Gene very well, and I’m sure she’ll have a lot to tell us. Karla will also be joining the previously announced Saturday 2 pm panel discussion, Unsung Heroes of Film: The Hollywood Stunt Horse, where I’ll also be chatting with with Karen Rosa -Senior Consultant at the American Humane Association's Film & TV Unit, and authors Petrine Day Mitchum, Audrey Pavia, and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honoree Shirley Lucas Jauregui. For a complete schedule of events at the Buckaroo Book Shop, go HERE
For the official Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival site, go HERE
WILD BILL WELLMAN HONORED AT UCLA APRIL-JUNE
One of the most independent voices in the golden years of Hollywood, William Wellman will be honored at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theatre with a 21 film retrospective, mostly double features. While many of the ‘social commentary’ directors of the era had a tendency to preach, Wellman entertained while exposing society’s flaws, and certainly won more converts that way. The series, entitled WILLIAM A. WELLMAN – HOLLYWOOD REBEL opens this Friday, April 10th, at 7:30 pm with a wonderful double-bill: A STAR IS BORN and NOTHING SACRED. They’re both in 35mm, both in color, and both from 1937 – can you imagine any director today making two such landmark films in one year? (Of course, two years later, Victor Fleming made GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ – but with a lot of help!) Starting at 6:30 pm, William Wellman Jr. will be selling and signing his book, Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel.
On Saturday it’s WINGS (1927), with a live piano score by Cliff Retallick. Westerns included in the series are CALL OF THE WILD, THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, THE TRACK OF THE CAT, YELLOW SKY, THE GREAT MAN’S LADY and WESTWARD THE WOMEN. Non-Westerns of particular note include NIGHT NURSE, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, BEAU GESTE and WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD. You can get the complete schedule HERE.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Happy Passover and Happy Easter! Next Round-up I’ll have the rest of my TCM coverage, which will include more Peter Fonda, plus some interesting comments from Christopher Plummer on John Huston, Sean Connery, and the making of Kipling’s THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING; and insights from a pair of Oscar-winning special effects men about the filming of Kipling’s GUNGA DIN in Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills!
I’m sorry I don’t have any good Western Passover clips, but here are three nice Easter pieces from the folks at Gene Autry Entertainment. Enjoy!
All Original Contents Copyright April 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved