I wind up this year’s 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival by seeing two of Hollywood’s biggest stars in person, confirming once and for all, in my mind…they actually EXIST. And I also got to hang out at a pretty cool after-party.
The first movie I ever saw with a bunch of kids, ( and no grown-ups to
ruin things supervise us ) was a double feature: “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” See, certain things stick in a kid’s brain. Sitting in the first row at the Egyptian at the festival, I could see the side door open and a black SUV outside. That’s got to mean Ann-Margret’s in the building. A short time later Ben Mankiewicz introduces Ann-Margret to the packed and enthusiastic audience. She makes her entrance. This is kind of the moment you wait for, to actually see someone you’ve only seen on screen, come to life. ANN-MARGRET walks out…
Simply and tastefully dressed. Classy. Sexy. Still sexy. She still has that soft whispery voice and an economy of movement. She’s so still, within herself. I did see Ann-Margret once before. It was the day before the 2011 TCMFF and I went to an AFI screening of “Bye Bye Birdie.” She and Bobby Rydell appeared and it was wild. But I was further back in the audience, and I wasn’t with my TCM peeps. This felt more personal.
She grew up, ‘till about five, in Sweden and used to ride with her uncles on their motorcycles which started her love for bikes. In fact, rushing from her interview in the Roosevelt Hotel lobby to the Egyptian, her entourage hurrying her along, she stopped everything to look at a bike parked in front of the Egyptian. She’s still a biker. ( I get that! ) The fastest she’s ridden was 120mph on Mulholland Drive. ( !! ) She said she’s always liked an element of danger.
She talked of her first movie ( “Pocketful of Miracles” ) and how Bette Davis took her under her wing. During a take Davis yells “STOP!” And made them take care of Ann-Margret’s hair and make-up. Mankiewicz asked her about working with Steve McQueen. She paused…looked up smiling…shook her head and quietly said: “Animal magnetism.”
It was all over much too soon and they had to get the movie going. She leaves to rousing applause. I only stayed to watch Ann-Margret’s entrance in “The Cincinnati Kid” the movie she was there to introduce. In a matter of moments, we’re whisked back fifty years on screen, to 1965. Husband Karl Malden walks in as she’s on her bed cutting and shaving pieces of a puzzle.
Ann – Margret Not Ann-Margret
TCM’s festival had a few “well-known” names you might know – among them, the afore-mentioned Ann-Margret. Dustin Hoffman, Robert Morse, Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Diane Baker and Norman Lloyd. It hurt like hell to miss seeing Shirley MacLaine because of my other choices. But seeing SOPHIA LOREN eased the pain.
She was going to be at the Montalban Theatre to be interviewed by her son, Edoardo Ponti. I had to plan this carefully since her interview was going to start at 2:00pm. After a little breakfast at Star-bucks, I got to the theatre at 11:00am, a 3-hour buffer in plenty of time for…
“We beat you!”
Huh? WHAT THE HEY??? Wendy and Scott had gotten there at 9:00am!!! ACK!! I loved their commitment to making sure they got a good line number for this event. My being No. 4 is not soooo bad. ( Grrrr!! ) No. 3 was Gayla, who sat next to me in the bleachers last year for TCM’s “Oklahoma” red carpet event. There we are in the front row:
I had a great time bonding with movie talk while we grinded it out in the sun / shade for three hours. It truly didn’t even feel that long once you get to gabbing about all things classic. And TCM was very generous to offer bottled water to the sweltering masses. (For me, I was fine. We had a snowstorm on the first day of Spring…so I was basking in the sun).
The line of us down the block of Vine Street is let in the theatre, the four of us front row center. Director Sean Cameron comes out and gives the audience instructions since this will be televised ( probably next year, so look for yourselves in the audience ). Edoardo comes out, and introduces his mother.
SOPHIA LOREN. What images does that conjure up for you? International movie star. Fine actress. Bombshell. I leave the rest up to you. What a rousing standing ovation she received. She’s beautiful. She’s from another world. She’s kissed Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Marcello Mastroianni, William Holden….
She really is beautiful. Yes, at 80. ( I should only look as good at 60 ). And shy. Has strength. And there’s hurt there too. And humor. And love. Her son did a wonderfully professional job interviewing her, both as a filmmaker…and as her son. He sometimes referred to producer Carlo Ponti ( his father ) as “Poppa.” Endearing. ) And so cute how he translated some things for her. He covered her childhood in war-torn Italy. And how she broke into the movies. He asked her about Cary Grant. He had to go there if he was going to cover the breadth of his mother’s life. She was a bit poignant on this point. How she loved him. She couldn’t leave all she knew, her life in Italy or family, not even for Cary Grant. They remained friends over the years and she did love him. Nothing came easy for this Neapolitan. Nothing was handed to her on a silver platter. While her mother continued to chase her father, Sophia was trying to make her own way.
As much as I missed Robert Osborne not getting that interview, I really don’t think he could have brought out the Sophia we saw this afternoon like her son did. When Ponti asked her how was it doing the interview with him she said she liked it; had fun. “You know me,” she said. “I made you.” Her family is the world to her. Two things she said really struck me this afternoon:
- “ I care. I care. I care.”
- “My mother said ‘Never to lie. Ever.’”
Go to Nitrate Diva’s blog to read a wonderful accounting of this interview with La Loren.
…And as unbelievable as this sounds, I saw Sophia Loren TWICE in one weekend. After the interview ended I wolfed down a quick meal at Miceli’s ( in honor of Sophia ) and made my way over to Club TCM to see their Hollywood Home Movies, which was a lot of fun. ( And always a packed house ). Included in the screening was Jane Withers as a kid with parties and friends ( the effervescent Ms. Withers was at Club TCM to narrate her footage ). We saw Steve McQueen with his family, and Cedric Gibbons & Dolores DelRio having a tennis party with the Hollywood hoi polloi. My favorite segment was the 1928 behind the scenes footage of Gary Cooper and Esther Ralston filming the now lost silent film “Half A Bride.” Yes, this Esther Ralston.
Photo by Chris Sturham of Blog of the Darned
After “Psycho” ended, I waited after “The Philadelphia Story” line went inside Grauman’s before I lined up again to see Sophia Loren introduce “Marriage Italian Style.” Here I go again…