Day two of the festival was certainly busier than day one, but there was still time to take in a few detours off the beaten path. After a brief trip to the Hollywood Museum we stopped by a screening of Meet Me in St. Louis and a Mel Brooks-led screening of Blazing Saddles. Tomorrow looks even more chaotic, so let’s get to business!
After a late (late being 8am) start, missing screenings of Stagecoach and The Thin Man, my group and I decided to take a trip over to the Hollywood Museum while waiting for Meet Me in St. Louis. If you haven’t stopped by the Hollywood Museum, housed in the former Max Factor building, you’re missing out on a Los Angeles gem. The group of employees working the museum are all friendly and actually well-connected to the Hollywood stars appearing at the festival. When they discovered I was attending the TCM Fest they gave me stories about Margaret O’Brien and a final meeting with Mickey Rooney.
The Museum itself blends Hollywood history with local luminaries. They’re currently running an exhibit on auction pieces being sold by Marlene Dietrich’s estate, as well as showcasing the costumes from several recent awards contenders including Captain Phillips, Her, and Fruitvale Station. The items they own, both outright and on-loan, is immense and it’s easy to get lost over the museum’s four floors. They got into the festival too, hosting a panel discussion on Hollywood movie monsters on Thursday.
We spent a few hours over there before heading to the TCL Chinese Theater for an afternoon screening of Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis with special guest, Margaret O’Brien. Meet Me in St. Louis is one of my favorite movies of all time and it looked exquisite on TCL’s screen. The Technicolor, on both this and Blazing Saddles, was crisp and rich; blown up onto such a size helped me discover a few bits of stage business and other elements I’d never seen before in multiple viewings. O’Brien briefly came out to talk about her career with author Richard Corliss. She looked absolutely lovely, moving from her TCM red carpet color of blue to red.
She discussed her mother’s disappointment in realizing MGM wasn’t interested in putting her in movies, or Margaret for that matter, but were instead wanting to borrow their dog. She recounted her name change from Angela O’Brien to Margaret in honor of her debut film, Journey for Margaret. O’Brien also dropped a funny anecdote about still being able to fit into the red coat her character Tootie wears in Minnelli’s musical. Apparently, the coat was bought by Michael Jackson at one point before being privately sold at auction. O’Brien was gracious and humble, imploring the audience to sit when they stood to give her a standing ovation. The discussion was brieft, but O’Brien is so adorable.
The movie itself remains an enduring classic. I’ve written a full-scale review of it previously, but it always knocks me for a loop at every viewing. When Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” I tear up, which happened here. The story of family connects it to the theme of this month’s Festival: “The Ties That Bind.” The TCL, recently restored to its former splendor, is beautiful although handicapped patrons should be aware there’s only one accessible bathroom which can form a line, as well as two very (and I mean very) steep ramps. It may look like a roller coaster but you better have both strong breaks and arms to get up and down safely.
Based on the insane line forming for a 6pm screening of Double Indemnity I decided to immediately jump in line for the 9pm showing of Blazing Saddles. This was actually my travel buddy’s choice; she desperately wanted to see Mel Brooks. I hadn’t seen the film previously and it’s really because the Western genre isn’t a favorite of mine. I prefer Brooks’ horror spoofs, Young Frankenstein and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, far more. Before the screening Brooks was going to give a discussion and I was lucky enough to be in line for the bathroom right as he was coming out. Yes, Mel Brooks and I shared the same toilet (although not at the same time!). He looked great and I had to resist the urge to snap a photo of him coming out of the bathroom. Gotta keep it respectful. Robert Osborne returned to talk with Brooks about the making of the movie, and how it’s vulgarity and subject matter would never go over today. At 88-years-old, Brooks hasn’t lost any of his bluster, cracking jokes and dropping swear words throughout his brief conversation. He didn’t want to name names, but quickly called out the former president of Warner Brothers, Ted Ashley, over his fears the movie would fail. He also gave a rendition of the movie’s theme song!
The movie itself looked and sounded fantastic. The faded, Western filter to the movie stood out and truly left me believing I was watching a Western from the 50’s as opposed to the 70’s. I’ll agree with Brooks, there’s no way Blazing Saddles would make it on today’s screens. The prominent use of the n-word and other stereotyping of minorities is all in good fun, but can be offensive to more conservative audiences. As a send-up of the Western genre it succeeds, with Cleavon Little as Bart being a stand-out. I won’t say this is my favorite Brooks film, and I can’t get the rampant (and I do mean rampant) love for the film; it’s good, very good, but not perfect and I’ll disagree with Brooks who called it the funniest movie of all time. I am glad I got to watch it, especially at the TCL with Brooks himself.
On tap for tomorrow: The busiest Saturday in the world sees me stopping by the handprint/footprint ceremony for Jerry Lewis, a screening of Gojira with Gareth Edwards, Conversation with Richard Sherman, a poolside showing of The Muppet Movie with Bill Hader and, hopefully, a midnight showing of Freaks.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.