The last few months I’ve been restless. Nothing made me happy, and the things that generally lifted my spirits didn’t.
I’m not unique. For all of us, the last few years have been tough. For some reason, the start of 2022 felt harder than the rest. I needed a change; some respite.
Enter 10 days off work and a week in Hollywood. This is probably the longest I’ve taken off work … ever. And while I knew I missed traveling to places further than driving distance and desperately wanted to hug my online friends (who I hadn’t seen since 2019), I don’t think I realized just how much I needed the trip to Hollywood for the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival (TCMFF).
Someone commented that I was smiling so big in all of my photos. And they’re right. For the first time in quite a while, I was genuinely happy.
“Come Together Now” was the perfect theme for the festival as I was able to laugh with my friends in person for the first time since 2019. Seeing friends, watching movies in a theater together, interviewing stars. It was a busy week and I didn’t get a lot of sleep … but the hugs and joy and laughter were energizing. I was fueled by happiness.
When I returned home and friends asked how my trip was, I could say with sincerity, “I had the best time.”
Here are some highlights of TCMFF:
By the numbers:
Total festivals attended in person: 7 (from 2013 to 2022)
Total events and films attended: 2 events, 7 films
• Red carpet for the 40th anniversary screening of E.T. (1982)
• Hand and footprint ceremony for Lily Tomlin
• Coming Home (1978) with Bruce Dern in attendance
• The Last of Sheila (1972) with Richard Benjamin in attendance
• Somewhere in Time (1980) with Jane Seymour in attendance
• Miracle Mile (1988) with director Steve De Jarnatt in attendance
• Diner (1982) with Paul Reiser, Steve Guttenberg, Tim Daly and Kevin Bacon in attendance
• Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) with Katherine Hicks in attendance
• 7th Heaven (1927) with live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
**I also watched the panel intro for GIANT (1956) with Steven Spielberg, George Stevens Jr. and Margaret Bodde interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz. Full video here.
My favorite screening was THE LAST OF SHEILA (1973), which was an incredibly fun film with witty dialogue, and the added bonus of seeing Richard Benjamin after.
I generally watch pre-1970 films, but many of the older films I had already seen. I also wasn’t able to get into the two older films I tried to attend (I, THE JURY and FLY-BY-NIGHT).
Moments of the festival:
From the Red Carpet:
Composer John Barry was one of her best friends, and she got him involved in scoring the film Somewhere in Time (1980), which screened at the festival.
“I am the reason they got that score, because John Barry was my best friend. I called him up and I said I just made a movie that demands one of his scores, but they can’t even afford the phone call let alone the score,” Seymour said. “John saw it (SOMEWHERE IN TIME) and fell in love with it. He said, ‘Ok, just once. I will do the movie with no money up front but I get the money if it makes any money. And at that time, no one thought the movie would make any money, so he did it like a gesture of friendship for me. And he just had a passion for this movie. He ended up making more money from that movie than many of his others.”
While I didn’t interview Steven Spielberg, he was standing probably 100 feet away from me, which was surreal. I did witness a sweet moment where Robert MacNaughton (who plays Elliot’s brother Michael in E.T.) saw Spielberg and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, you look exactly the same!” and the two hugged.
Maxwell Caulfield and Juliet Mills:
Caulfield talked working on The Colbys with stars like Charlton Heston and Barbara Stanwyck.
“I couldn’t believe my good fortune next to genuine Hollywood legends … The flower budget alone for that show was $25 grand a week. Just for fresh flowers.”
“I’m realizing with the 40th anniversary that this film (ANNIE) defined their childhood, so I’m really finding that it means a lot to them,” Quinn said.
She also said that Carol Burnett was the complete opposite of Miss Hannigan, making sure she did her homework on set.
“I did DEATH WISH. Charles Bronson shot me in the face. What a life, man.”
Hilton-Jacobs said he had no idea that COOLEY HIGH (1975) would become such a hit. At TCMFF, the cast was reunited, who Hilton-Jacobs said he has stayed friends with.
“We’re all excited to see Cynthia Davis, because we haven’t seen her since,” he said.
Grier is joining TCM’s “The Plot Thickens” podcast and spoke several times during the festival.
“I’m a classic!,” she said.
From film events
Bruce Dern before the film COMING HOME (1978)
“I felt guilty because I had never served,” he said in an interview with Alicia Malone.
Dern also discusses director Hal Ashby amongst other director geniuses he worked with.
Jane Seymour during SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980)
Before the film Seymour said, “Now I can share this story.”
She said she and Christopher Reeve were in love while filming, but they didn’t let anyone know, though a few people who worked on the film suspected it.
“We were as subtle as can be about it,” Seymour said. “We were madly in love, life was wonderful, we were both single. It was a fantastic, amazing –AMAZING—experience. We loved this movie and we loved everything about. One day I came into work for one of the biggest scenes in the movie … Just before that Chris had an earlier call and I came in later, and when I came in they said Chris needs to talk to you about something … It was that he was about to have a baby. His ex-girlfriend hadn’t told him and she just announced it to the world. I then had to put my big girl pants on. But when I watch that scene, I can see the tears coming halfway up my eyeballs and I just kept saying, ‘You can’t cry.’”
She said the good part of the story is that Chris went on to have two beautiful children, and they remained close friends until the day he died.
“I have to believe that I’ll see him again somewhere in time,” Seymour said.
Richard Benjamin after THE LAST OF SHEILA (1973)
“The greatest acting experience I ever had working with someone was working with him (James Mason),” Benjamin said of his co-star in THE LAST OF SHEILA. “He is the quintessential movie actor. It’s so real in any scene with him. One day … he said let’s go up to the lounge and have tea. So we are talking away and having conversation and after a little while, I’m thinking, ‘This is tomorrow’s scene. We are having a rehearsal.’ It just slipped in. That was the way it was to work with him. Another great thing was James’s dressing room was next to mine, and Paula was with me at the time and his wife Clarissa was in his dressing room so we could hear them. Every morning, James read the Herald-Tribune to Clarissa. So we would hear the news read by James Mason.”
Benjamin also said his favorite part of life was spending time with Paula Prentiss, who has been married to for 60 years.
Hand and footprint ceremony for Lily Tomlin
Tomlin was introduced by her friend Jane Fonda. Full video here.
Tomlin talking before her ceremony. Full video here.
I had a tremendous time at the first in-person TCMFF festival in two years, and enjoyed every movie I watched. But I’ll admit, my favorite part of the festival was being back together with everyone.