Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ernest Borgnine Said What? - The TCM Classic Film Festival

My sister was lucky enough to attend the first ever TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. She said that it was the best time she's ever had in her life; the thrill of being able speak to anybody about movies, seeing classic films as they should be viewed on the big screen surrounded by people who are enjoying the experience as much as you are. She had several interesting encounters which I'd like to describe here. Her enthusiasm and pure joy were infectious, even over the phone.

She had planned to attend the gala opening ceremonies and walk the red carpet on the way to viewing the newly restored A Star is Born. In conjunction with the festival Frederick Fekkai hair salon in West Hollywood had a promotion where you could have your hair done for free in the style of any classic film actress you wished. She took advantage of this program, bringing with her photos of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Barbara Stanwyck. She sent me photos and they did a fabulous job re-creating the look of the 40s. She also got a free makeup application and was assigned to a makeup artist who happen to work with Kim Novak for many years and provided interesting tidbits regarding this association with her.

The gala was exciting. A woman sitting in front of her looked familiar and my sister asked politely if she was the actress from Curse of the Cat People. The woman answered, "No, I'm not an actress, but my mother was." My sister naturally asked who her mother was and she replied "Lana Turner." To say the least my sister was taken aback; she was talking to Cheryl Crane the daughter of one of the most famous stars in Hollywood. Cheryl was very cordial and spoke with my now overwhelmed sister for a few moments. Much to her chagrin my sister was tongue-tied and too nervous to carry on a coherent conversation.

She also happened to be sitting in front of Ernest Borgnine. A fan approached her and asked if she could please take a picture of Mr. Borgnine. The woman gave my sister her camera and my sister asked Mr. Borgnine if she could take his picture. Unfortunately, my sister had a slight problem getting the flash mechanism to work and it took seemingly forever to finally take the picture. At that point Mr. Borgnine yelled "I thought you were shooting The Ten Commandments there!" Apparently Ernie is still robust and active at 94!

Following are a few of the up close and personal moments she had with various celebrities.

Leave Her to Heaven was one of the most anticipated screenings not only because of its unparalleled Technicolor beauty, but because Darryl Hickman, who played the part of the doomed Danny, was going to be there for discussion after the film. He talked about the difficulty of filming the drowning scene which took three weeks to complete. The director John Stahl was quite hard on the boy. The water was so cold that the stuntman refused to do the scenes. Darryl did everything himself and ended up with pneumonia for his troubles. Apparently, Stahl sent a copy of the scene to studio head Darryl Zanuck, who informed Stahl that this was one of the best scenes ever filmed and lauded Darryl Hickman's performance. John Stahl stopped giving Darryl Hickman such a hard time.

If I was envious of any aspect of the film festival it was Nancy Olson's appearance at the screening of Sunset Boulevard. She had worked with my favorite actor William Holden on a least four occasions and I would have loved to ply her with questions about this complex actor. One of the stories she related involves the first time that she and Holden kissed on the walkway outside of the office they worked in as part of the movie. For some unknown reason Billy Wilder invited about 30 people to watch the filming of this scene, including Holden's wife at the time, actress Brenda Marshall! In his direction to the two actors he told them to embrace and kiss, and to hold that kiss until he said "Cut!" The two of them found this rather disconcerting, but Wilder insisted, explaining he needed enough footage for the editing room. So they started to kiss and they held it for what seemed like an eternity. Olson commented that it was a “really good embrace and a really good kiss.” The kiss proceeded without interruption until a voice from the crowd screamed, “Cut, cut! Enough already!" It was Holden's wife, Brenda Marshall.

Meanwhile my sister kept running into Cheryl Crane and they shared hellos and smiles and my sister started calling her 'My new BFF'.

One of her best moments was meeting Robert Osborne. She was impressed by his ability to engage people in conversation, listening and interacting with those he spoke with. My sister relayed to him that she had lost her job last summer and that watching TCM helped console her and provided an escape from the unpleasant situation she was in. Mr. Osborne was genuinely touched by this story and admitted that he never realized how much of an impact TCM had on its viewers.

My sister had wanted to attend the discussion with Norman Lloyd, but had a conflicting schedule; however when she went to grab a bottle of water at Club TCM, she saw that the discussion was still going on and attended the remainder of the event. She later had her picture taken with Mr. Lloyd after the screening of Saboteur.

When I asked her which film was her favorite she replied that they were all so awesome being seen in the movie theater on a big screen that they were all equally wonderful. One of the unexpected developments was that her husband, who had just gone along for the ride, enjoyed the festival almost as much as my sister. He particularly enjoyed the screening of Jubal, the offbeat western starring Glenn Ford and a villainous Ernest Borgnine, who introduced the film.

Two weeks after coming home from Hollywood, they are still experiencing post-festival depression, wishing they were still at the Hollywood Roosevelt, mingling with fans and celebs, reveling in the milieu which fostered instant camaraderie among those who possess a deep and abiding love and respect for the classic films of a bygone era.


  1. Sazball, I am a deep shade of green -- I don't get jealous as a rule, but oh your sister's experience brought it out in me! Your article was such fun. I wondered what some of the aspects of the festival would be, and it's great to have a first-hand account. From a woman's point of view, do you remember what Kim Novak's makeup artist had to say? I've always loved her beauty, and would be really fascinated to hear some tidbits.

  2. WOW!!!! Thanks to you and your sister for some great tidbits!

  3. Saz, you and your photogenic sister saved me airfare, lodging and meals costs, and vacation days. I feel like I've experienced some of the best parts of the TCM Film Festival! I enjoyed this article very much, especially the hilarious Brenda Marshall story and Daryl Hickman's reminiscing about the most effective scene in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. But I am somewhat shocked...the stunning Kim Novak wore make-up? Nice to hear that your sister's husband liked JUBAL--he has good tastes. It was made by one of my favorite directors, Delmer Daves, and is considered a Western variation of OTHELLO.

  4. Rick, now I am really enthusiastic about getting a chance to see Jubal. I never have, and I am a Shakespeare fanatic. Thanks for that tidbit!

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I wish I had been there!
    Seriously, Lana Turner's daughter? Was it the one that killed someone, causing all that media chaos, you think?

  6. Saz, What a wonderful post/pictures. Thank you for sharing! I would have also loved to have gone to the, TCM Classic Film Festival! Loved the Cheryl Crane, story. Ohmygosh!!!

  7. How cool was that. Awesome. Would have love to been there.

  8. Sazball, this was an interesting and entertaining article. I bet your sister had a great time!! I would love a professional doing my make-up and hair every day. And to kiss William Holden...umm...

  9. Hi Saz - great blog on the festival - & many thanks to your sister for her fascinating report. Would love to have been there, too, but your blog was the next best thing. If all goes as planned, I'll be there next year...Thanks again...

  10. WOW! Dearest Saz, thank you and and your sister so very much for sharing her phenomenal experiences! I am delighted that her husband also had a wonderful time. I cannot imagine having my hair done in a classic style for free. Talk about setting a perfect mood for the occasion! I loved hearing the fun "behind the scenes stories" especially about Darryl Hickman and Nancy Olson. I feel like I have experienced the joy of the festival myself. Awesome writeup!

  11. Thanks for sharing your sister's experience. I love hearing what other people have to say about the festival and linking that to what I experienced. I wasn't there for very long, but hearing how other people's trips went completes the picture for me.