This past Saturday, June 13th the Jules Verne Film Festival hosted a Tribute to Tony Curtis. As part of the event there was a screening of SOME LIKE IT HOT on Saturday night. Since I collect vintage clothing, I was asked along with others in the vintage scene to wear one of my gowns and pose in front of the theatre. They even had a big line of vintage cars there too. I feel SO fortunate that this was my 2nd time in the past month to get to see a movie in this theatre!!
Before the film, Tony Curtis was brought out on stage where he received a standing ovation and answered some questions. I found the Q&A to be rather frustrating, as he never really gave a straight answer to any of the questions asked. He sort of rambled and got off topic constantly, but considering that he recently turned 84 years old, it is understandable. It was neat to see him live and in person. I’ve now seen Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Jane Russell and Gloria Stewart up close and in person. Living in Los Angeles certainly has it’s advantages!
The lights went out and SOME LIKE IT HOT was magnificent. Every time I see a familiar film on the big screen, I always notice little things I hadn’t noticed before. That was certainly the case here. The dialogue in this film is so fast and funny. I first saw SOME LIKE IT HOT on TV when I was in high school and my entire focus was on Marilyn Monroe. I was very fascinated with her and she just took 100% of my attention. Everything else was a blur. The real revelation of the film this time around was Jack Lemmon. I think out of everyone in the cast, he seems to have the most fun and greatest sense of abandon. He also makes a great comic sidekick for Tony Curtis, who is clearly imitating Cary Grant through much of the film. What also struck me was how much more is going on below the surface of the story. There are so many observations about love, acceptance and relationships wrapped up in the comic situations.
Billy Wilder was one of the greatest screenwriters who ever lived and his movies always have such a sparkle and sophistication that modern day film is lacking entirely. He was also such a versatile writer/director who could tackle just about any material from comedy to drama to film noir. I was gushing to a fellow cinephile earlier today about Wilder and he said, “Well, SOME LIKE IT HOT is one of Wilder’s lesser films.” I said, “I disagree but in any case I would gladly take a lesser Wilder film over the greatest work from most other directors.” I’ve gone to the Academy library and read through some of Wilder’s telegrams and personal letters and even those are entertaining. Wilder is buried at the Westwood Cemetery which is also where Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon are buried as well. His graves bears the words, “I was a writer, but then again nobody’s perfect.” While that may be true, to me Wilder is as close to perfection as it gets.
If you are a die hard silent film lover (and even if your just discovering it) the annual Silent Film Gala is one of the best events of the year. This year the event had celebrated it’s 20th Anniversary. I have a friend who is just delving into the world of silent film and has shown an amazing amount of interest and enthusiasm. She had never seen a silent film on a big screen with an orchestra before, so I chose her as my guest. I HAD to show her what it is like to see a silent film in the best possible way. Watching it at home on the DVD player just can’t compare. Leonard Maltin (one of my heroes) gave an articulate and insightful introduction. Dustin Hoffman usually does this, but he was away in London on business.
This year’s film was Charlie Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH from 1925. In the film the little tramp plays a lone gold prospector who braves the elements to search for love during the Klondike gold rush. This film contains many of Chaplin’s most famous comic bits including eating his shoe and the famous dance of the dinner rolls. Chaplin was quoted as saying, “This is the picture that I want to be remembered by.” Sure enough 84 years after the initial release, the audience gave the film a standing ovation. Where ever he is right now, something tells me that Chaplin is in no way surprised. He knew his work would stand the test of time. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra also did a magnificent job accompanying the film. I wish they played to silents more often!
I was fortunate enough to get to attend the VIP after party as well where we all feasted on seafood, k-bobs, hot soup and chocolate souffles.
My most favorite moment was when I glanced at my friend sitting there in the dark watching the flickering image….with a big smile on her face enjoying this film the way it was meant to be seen.
There are many annual film events that I look forward to every year and Last Remaining Seats is at the top of that list. I love the old movie palaces in downtown and everything about them. I love the old theatre smell, the architectural details, the lavish design and the enthusiasm of the crowd. Even if I have seen all of the films in the series, I still cannot resist the lure of seeing them on the big screen in a movie palace. Last night I went with some friends and saw BUCK PRIVATES at the Million Dollar Theatre. The Million Dollar was original built in 1918 (which is incredibly old by Los Angeles standards) and was the first local theatre to be run by showman Sid Grauman, who would eventually take over the Egyptian in 1922 and then the Chinese in 1927. Sculptor Joseph Mora designed the elaborate and highly dramatic exterior facade and the auditorium was designed by William L. Woollett. The exterior and interior design form a Spanish Baroque look that is gothic and theatrical. In the late 1940s the Million Dollar became a showcase for Spanish language performers and films. It was eventually closed and re-opened in 2008.
The Last Remaining Seats show was intended to give us the feeling of being back in the 1940s during a live war time radio broadcast. Host Maxwell Demille was on hand along with musician Dean Mora and the Fort McArthur Officers Orchestra. The Satin Dolls also provided some vintage allure by performing two numbers including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. Singer Kayre Morrison provided a beautiful rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” That song always gets to me. Then they had a “Salute to the Troops” where everyone stood up and we all sang the national anthem. While it may sound cheesy to some, this was a very moving and sincere tribute. My Dad fought in Vietnam and both of my grandfathers were in WWII, so I grew up with an understanding of what that meant.
After the big tribute they showed a “News of the Day” newsreel about WWII and then the film….Abbott and Costello in BUCK PRIVATES. Made in 1941, this film was actually screened at the time in a theatre right down the street for wartime audiences. The comedy was great, but I was even more excited about seeing The Andrews Sisters, who perform several songs in the film. All in all, last night was a wonderful, old fashioned night at the movies. It is nights like that when I fall in love with Los Angeles all over again and when I remember what made me want to be here in the first place.