Many use their last day at the TCM Classic Film Festival to fill up on movies or take it easy. I tend to go with the latter approach and this time it was even more important considering what I’d be doing that day.
The day started with an early morning screening of the Douglas Sirk feature All That Heaven Allows (1955) introduced by director Allison Anders. This was my first viewing of the Jane Wyman/Rock Hudson film after loving both Written on the Wind (1956) and Magnificent Obsession (1954). The film follows a widowed housewife (Wyman) and her relationship with a young gardener (Hudson). As Anders mentioned in her opening statements, it’s obvious where director Todd Haynes got his inspiration for his 2002 film Far From Heaven – a movie I absolutely adore!
Like most Sirk films, the director creates an ethereal canvas on which to paint his characters. Hudson’s Ron Kirby desires an escape from the confined world of conformity that Cary Scott (Wyman) lives in, so we’re given these fantastically composed returns to the pastoral. Kirby’s house looks like something out of Walden, complete with snow-capped mountains and roaming deer. Though the dialogue leads to some unintentional hilarity in hindsight – Cary asking Ron if he wished she acted “more like a man” got a lot of guffaws – it’s a remarkably tenderhearted film that shows the loneliness and confining life of being a widow making it a great companion piece to Barbara Stanwyck’s My Reputation (1946).
After that it was time for the hike down to the Montalban Theatre. This was my first time visiting the Montalban as it’s the furthest away of all the theaters during the festival, but the one reserved for the taped Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival conversations. Those who aren’t in peak physical condition or, like me, traveling with limited mobility, will do well to take the Metro, even then it’s still a bit of a walk. I’d only walk this far down for something special….like Faye Dunaway.
Initially Burt Reynolds was going to be this year’s TCM conversation, but ill health forced him to forfeit his appearance. Faye Dunaway was the replacement – as well as introducing the night’s presentation of Network (1976) – and I’m so excited I could be in the audience for her. Dunaway was such a powerhouse in the ’70s and she presented herself as a kinder, humbler person on-stage. Her aura and presence are intimidating, just sitting in the theater gives you a feeling that you’re witnessing something fantastic. Photography wasn’t allowed – although that didn’t stop people from taking out phones – and I remained respectful, hence no photos of Miss Dunaway from me.
Now, whether you believe that or not is irrelevant because she had some fantastic stories about working with stars like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, partying with Robert Duvall and Al Pacino in the ’70s, and filming her fantastic body of work. Unfortunately Dunaway strictly controls her image, so moderator Ben Mankiewicz was relegated to talking about her major films (Bonnie and Clyde, The Thomas Crown Affair, Chinatown, and Network). There were brief divergences to films like The Three Musketeers (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Towering Inferno (1974), Little Big Man (1970) and Barfly (1987), but those who don’t know Dunaway’s work would assume – based on this conversation – that she peaked in 1980. (No, she was not asked about Mommie Dearest, but in the interview I did for TCM I mentioned that was my favorite Dunaway film…I expect they’ll cut that if they show it.)
The conversation clocked at two hours, starting late and running late, so I ended up relaxing until the closing night party where I was fortunate enough to run into the always dapper Ben Mankiewicz and the lovely Illeana Douglas, as well as a host of my best TCMFF buddies.
I can’t believe the festival has come and gone. It always feels as if it starts slow and ends fast!