I’m not sure if attendance is down slightly from previous years or if my choices today were merely unpopular, but there were seats to be had in the programs I went to on this, the final day of Turner Classic Movies’s orgy of movie going. Here’s what today yielded.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Robert Evans, at age 81, is still tanned and handsome. This morning at Grauman’s Chinese, the famed producer introduced his first collaboration with director Roman Polanski and recalled the moment in the middle of the shoot when star Mia Farrow was served with divorce papers from Frank Sinatra’s lawyers. A factor in the break-up was Farrow’s refusal to leave the over-schedule production of Rosemary’s Baby in order to appear in Sinatra’s film, The Detective (1968). How Polanski would have completed Rosemary’s Baby without his Rosemary is anyone’s guess. Farrow, who appears in every scene, shows how tremendous she can be with the proper director, and this film joins Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) and Alice (1990) as examples of her very best work.
The Brown Derby
Mark Willems, coauthor with Sally Cobb of The Brown Derby Restaurant: A Hollywood Legend, gave a dandy presentation on the history of the famed eatery—or, more accurately, eateries, as there were four of them throughout the Los Angeles basin. The photos accompanying his presentation were so detailed that I found myself paying more attention to the food, matchbooks, menus and tableware in the shot than I did the movie stars.
Black Narcissus (1947)
Adventure is in the air whenever a film festival guest takes questions from the audience. I remember a screening of Irma la Douce (1963) years ago where a moviegoer raised his hand and said to Shirley MacLaine, “I see you are wearing red. Do you like red?” She handled it like a pro, saying something about red being a powerful color and wanting to project a powerful image that day. Fortunately at the Black Narcissus screening this morning, all the audience questions host Robert Osborne elicited for guest Thelma Schoonmaker were thoughtful, even erudite. Schoonmaker, of course, is Martin Scorsese’s frequent editor and the widow of director Michael Powell, who codirected Black Narcissus with Emeric Pressburger. The story of a community of nuns in the Himalayas won well-deserved Oscars for Jack Cardiff’s cinematography and Alfred Junge’s art direction, both of which benefitted from the stunningly pristine print screened at Mann’s Chinese Six Theater.
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
The Mont Alto Orchestra did a lot of heavy lifting tonight, accompanying all 160 minutes of the Raoul Walsh-directed fantasy starring a lithe and athletic Douglas Fairbanks. Though the actor and his zero body fat impressed, what really struck me in the sharply restored print was the art direction of William Cameron Menzies, an early effort in his 37-year career.