GRAUMAN’S CHINESE THEATRE
( OPENING NIGHT ) THURSDAY – MARCH 26th Typically the first day of the festival starts with the Red Carpet event. And typically, a musical is shown ( past openers include: “An American in Paris” “Oklahoma” “Cabaret” etc. ). If you have the Spotlight or Essential Pass you can walk down the red carpet like Loretta Young, Grace Kelly or Clark Gable did in days of olde. I’m usually in the bleachers filming the event, but this year I committed to seeing the opening night movie and needed to just get inside the movie theatre, grab a seat, keep an open mind, and face the music. ( Yuk! Yuk! ) Security at the other end was a little ragged and rude. TCM needs to talk to them about how to “gently” guide guests down the carpet, not herd us like cattle ( I heard stories, boy! And not good ones. ) When the floodgates opened, blazing sun blinding me, I rushed down the red carpet because I wanted a seat up front for the screening.
Yes, some folks strolled the carpet looking ele-gantly cool, calm, collected, soaking it all in. Note the shades, the vintage dress, and the subtle royal wave.
Your friendly garden-variety CineMaven came galumping down the carpet, casually dressed and squinting. At the end of the magic carpet was Sean Cameron, TCM’s on-air camera director, who was this year’s red carpet host. He called me over to my peeps in the bleachers and introduced me. ( Hi Alayna and Aymee and Janet and the Texas sisters: Patty & Mary. Hey Emberly, I’m over here! ) Sean remembers me
The sun in my eyes & Raisinets and a $10.00 pair of shades crumpled & broken in my bag.
being one of TCM’s fan guest programmers during their 15th anniversary celebration. Some in the crowd know me from seeing me in those bleachers over the years and started cheering. Oh my, I wasn’t expecting that. I could barely see them, that California sun doing its thing. But I heard them and felt their warmth. ( Thank you Sean for the brief spotlight. You just barely escaped hearing me sing. ) I went inside the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater for the festival’s premiere event and grabbed a front row seat.
I know, right? Put a gun in the hands of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck or Jane Greer, and I’m fine. But this? I’ll need a strait jacket ‘cuz I want to bail and see “Too Late for Tears.”
I’m a face in the crowd – first row aisle next to three lovely ladies: Tina, Judy and Annette.
I’ve never seen “The Sound of Music” from beginning to end; even made a little sport of the movie over the years. But my friend strongly
threatened, recommended I see the movie:
“When are you EVER going to get to see the movie this way again…on the big screen…at Grauman’s… with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer there?”
So there I sat, in the first row of Grauman’s, camera in tow to record Andrews’ and Plummer’s interview with VP of AMPAS, Sid Ganis. It WAS incredible to see these two stars there…fifty years later, mind you.
They looked elegant and dashing, two pros who gently teased each other but with admiration and respect. Fifty years. Fifty years ago they did “The Sound of Music” pretty early in their film career. I wouldn’t truly realize the magnitude of these two being on stage until after I’d seen the movie.
My mantra? ‘See it in context…keep an open mind,’ I was told. Now I’m sure all of you who’re choosing to read this have already seen it. You love it, you hate it, you’ll never see it again, you could have another go at it, it’s some sort of lightning rod for you. I escaped all my Baby Boomin’ years not seeing this movie. And now…the movie begins.
From the first silent scenic shots of the mountains and vistas, to the quiet aerial shots with just the sound of the wind, I was stunned. ( What the… ) I felt like I was in a hot air balloon being transported over the mountains and valley. Then we pass over the fields and little villages and the flora of the area. The mountains have strength and majesty. ( Whoa! ) The camera slowly swoops down to that iconic shot of Julie Andrews. She begins to sing:
“The hills are alive, with the sound of music…”
I burst into tears.
WHAT?! Listen, I have NO idea where that emotion came from (and it was the first of many). I used to think the title song was some bombastic over-blown operatic-voice type thing. BIG! A pronouncement. But I was wrong. So wrong. Seeing it within the context of the film, it’s actually a quiet song. It was a confession, a paean to all that’s around her. She celebrates it. This song turned out to be a totally different thing than I ever thought it was. It was a soft, joyous and affirming song. Heartfelt. And when she finishes and rushes off to the abbey, NOW the credits begin. ( Now? WHAT?! ) By the time the credits ended, Robert Wise held my heart in his hands.
Yeah…I am more shocked than you.
This darned movie kept being about things I did not know it was about. It kept surprising me…messing with my head. At its core, the story is about a young woman who’s tested…at a crossroads in her life, but doesn’t know it. The Mother Superior does (Peggy Wood). I kept waiting for her to whip crack away at Andrews’ absent-mindedness but she didn’t. She encouraged her, favored her high-spiritedness; perhaps recognized something of her youthful self in Andrews. Richard Haydn plays impresario Max Detweiler. You know Haydn…he’s one of those squirrelly fussbudgety nuts that appeared in films ( “Ball of Fire” ). I kept waiting for him to do his squirrelly thing, but he didn’t. He was straight and stalwart; the good family friend. That tripped me up. Eleanor Parker was Eleanor Parker...imperious, drop-dead gorgeous, glammed from head-to-toe. She is one of my favorite leading lady character actresses. I basically knew the movie would have a happy ending…but how would it get there; how would a dirndl’d fair maiden win Christopher Plummer from the ravishing Parker? Men like shiny pennies. And Parker’s Baroness tricks the governess into leaving the household and gets rid of her competition; but I was surprised that Andrews was competition for Parker!!! Where the heck is this going? Christopher Plummer, dashing austere, not a drop of emotion. A by-the-book guy. Yet his kids loved him so. Wait… music is softening his heart? He’s singing? I’ve gone down the rabbit hole.
By intermission I was undone.
My seat-mate tried to comfort me. ( Sorry it’s not a better pix of her ). I also knew I had to fix my face and get it together because my friend who was a few rows back was going to come over and find out what I thought about the movie so far. I couldn’t get it together in time. Tears…sniffling; feeling kind of vulnerable. ACK! She came over to me and saw the full Monty. And beamed. Awwwwww man!!! I’ll never live this down. Intermission ends and we go to Part II. You already know the movie so you know what happens, but I didn’t. NAZIs?? And I tell ya, they weren’t playing. They didn’t look like they could be placated with a song about Edelweiss. Or seven cute kids. And Julie Andrews wouldn’t be able to charm them either.
But she charmed me.
JULIE ANDREWS OWNS “The Sound of Music,” you hear me?! She commands your attention. In “TSOM” I found her comparable to Doris Day’s wonderful performance in “Calamity Jane” which I would see on Sunday. Andrews is animated, she’s in charge. Goody-two shoes? No. Not hardly. She’s a tower of strength and perseverance without belting you over the head with it or shooting a five pound bag of sugar into your diabetic veins. She’s plucky and determined and positive and sound. She was good but not in a treacly way. Check her out with the kids – using reverse psychology with them, or going toe-to-toe with Christopher Plummer; I felt a little frightened for her when she would NOT back down even if it meant her job. Plummer’s Capt. lost with that beautiful dance they did. She was a match for Eleanor Parker without fighting fire with fire. ( She fought fire with true love ). There was a shot of Andrews leaning against the wall looking at Plummer that was just beautifully pure love. She looked lovely. Her voice is clean and clear and strong as spring water coming from her mountains. I think Andrews is under-rated. I wished she had a different career of variety instead of being pigeonholed as she was. I’ve got to re-visit some of her films. It’s probably all there but I was too blind to see. I was in a constant state of surprise for the entire movie. I kept thinking: “I didn’t know this was this film. I don’t know this movie. I really don’t know this movie.” I was surprised and overcome by the emotion I felt for it, and the romance of it. I’ve heard the songs from this film since junior high school, and only now March 26th, at a Hollywood film festival do they honestly mean something more to me. Heck I was quietly singing along with them. It’s seeing things in context that…that…uh-oh. I look at Julie Andrews differently now. I was humming the darned music as I bobbed and weaved along Hollywood Boulevard. When I see the montage of slides TCM screens before each film show and they show Andrews with the ‘Von Trapp’ kids, it all looks different to me now that I’ve seen the movie.That’s why I wished I’d seen Plummer and Andrews after the screening. They look different to me now. Dare I try “Mary Poppins” next? I dunno. Let me settle in with this experience first.
( “TSOM” dvd was part of my gift bag. Yay! Ha…look at me, I’m cheering! )
There seems to be one movie each festival that changes my mind about an actor or a way of looking at things. “The Quiet Man” “The Constant Nymph” and “The Macomber Affair” were those that produced a real shift in my perception for various reasons. These are films I’ve never seen before. Then seeing “Vertigo” at Grauman’s after seeing Kim Novak’s emotional interview with Robert Osborne helped solidify it as my favorite film. It seems to have happened again with “The Sound of Music.” I am different.
And I was wrong about my friend too. She wasn’t laughing at me. She was very happy that I understood a film she enjoys so much. She was right that I would like a movie I didn’t think I would like. ( How’d she do that?! ) I think that is a very good way to bond with someone…to understand just how they feel.
THIRD INSTALLMENT: THE MOVIES
( H O M E )