I was finally at the TCM Classic Film festival when ﬁre alarms had just gone off as we waited to see ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ And I was stuck outside on the second story of the theater complex in a crowd of people waiting it out.
For a good 20 minutes, I watched people and took in the sights, sounds and smells of Hollywood; most could have been better.
Once we were given the all-clear (somebody set off a ﬁre extinguisher in a theater), we retrieved the drinks we had yet to touch. The bartender made us new drinks and didn’t charge us, but we were due in our seats in a few minutes. I took a couple of sips, then trashed mine when I saw Ken Jenkins by the entrance door. We were being herded into our line, but nobody noticed that it was Ken Jenkins! He was there alone, and nobody was asking him for an autograph. I had to run past him to get my spot, but I smiled and waved at the man who was married to Katharine Houghton, who also happened to play Dr. Bob Kelso on Scrubs and who happened to play Courtney Cox’s dad on Cougar Town. Several people asked me who I was so excited to see and kept yelling at. I realized many classic ﬁlm fans did not watch any new television shows. Not one person in our long line knew who he was. I was tickled that I had him smile and wave at me, but disappointed I didn’t get a photo with him.
Once we entered the theater, we sat in primo seats, and tears ﬁlled my eyes. This was the moment I had dreamed of for so long. It was my ﬁrst classic ﬁlm at the festival. Katharine Houghton came out and discussed how difﬁcult it was to work on the movie with her aunt Katharine Hepburn due to the health of Spencer Tracy. Everyone knew Spence was ill, and tensions ran high. Another issue was race; Houghton said she was young and naïve and didn’t understand the fuss. She also did a few impressions of Hepburn that had the crowd roaring. After ten minutes or so, she presented the ﬁlm, got up and left. The ﬁlm started, and the crowd cheered with each name that clashed on the screen. We were all so excited, and the air was electric. That feeling soon faded for me. At this point, I had been up for over 20 hours and only slept for two hours the night before. My head started to drop, and my eyes grew heavy. I didn’t want to fall asleep during my ﬁrst ﬁlm! I was so mad that I would squeeze my thigh to stay awake and almost drew blood several times. Spencer Tracy stood up to give his speech that made me cry like a baby, then the next thing I knew, the lights went up, and the crowd was clapping. I had fallen asleep sitting up, even though it was only for a few minutes.
Our group of four met up and began our walk home. We discussed our favorite part of the night and our plans for the next day. I didn’t have time to think about what a whirlwind day I had just had because I was out cold as soon as I hit the pillow.
Friday, April 29, 2016 – I woke up with an awful headache and swollen eyes. I had plans to see ‘The More The Merrier,’ a favorite in our home, but with my horrendous headache, I decided to go to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and have breakfast. I have never shied away from eating in a restaurant alone. I sat at the counter and enjoyed a wafﬂe and sausage and mimosa. It was too early for the next ﬁlm block, so I wandered over to the Francis Ford Coppola Hand and Footprint Ceremony. I didn’t try to get too close and opted to be in a spot that would be easy to get out of for the next ﬁlm. I watched in awe with Jack Lemon’s son standing next to me as Francis Ford Coppola, director of the ‘Godfather’ trilogy and ‘Apocalypse Now,’ stood in a suit and pressed his hands and feet into cement. It was indeed something you don’t see every day. I watched for a while until I realized I needed to meet with Angie for my ﬁrst ﬁlm of the day, ‘The Way We Were.’
Robert Redford is easily one of my favorite actors, and that ﬁlm is always such a treat for me. The story drives me insane, but I’m a sucker for it every time it’s on and it’s one of my fall time favorite films. I bawl like a baby every time I sit and watch it. I truly felt in my element as I sat and cried with the theater full of people. We clapped, and all tried to pretend we weren’t crying, but the red, glossy eyes were evident to everyone.
The next ﬁlm I ventured to was ‘When You’re In Love,’ starring Cary Grant. His daughter Jennifer introduced the once lost ﬁlm to a packed house. Jennifer spoke of how she thought she had seen every ﬁlm her father had made until TCM contacted her a few months before the festival about this ﬁlm. She had never seen it and was so excited to both see it for the first time and introduce it at the festival. Ms. Grant shared stories of watching her father’s ﬁlms with him, which wasn’t often and how she will present a jewelry line in his memory soon. Naturally, that excited a room full of classic ﬁlm fans, but I was disappointed; I would assume a suit line in Cary Grant’s honor would make more sense, but what do I know? Finally, it was time for the ﬁlm, and everyone was on the edge of their seat to see this long-lost gem. At the end of the ﬁlm, everyone applauded, cheered, and went on and on about how wonderful it was. I, on the other hand, was incredibly disappointed. I knew nothing of the ﬁlm except that Cary Grant was in it. It’s about Grant falling in love with an Opera singer. I’m not a fan of musicals, and while I’m glad I was there for the premier of the ﬁlm, It isn’t one that I will seek out for my collection.
There was a good lull in ﬁlms, so I ventured to Larry Edmunds Bookshop in search of a gift for a lady in Falls City. She had called me before I left and asked if I could search for anything involving silent ﬁlm star Leatrice Joy. She told me a story about her connection to the ﬁlm star, and I couldn’t resist ﬁnding her something, and I did (more on that later.) Then, I was off to Mel’s Diner, a ‘must visit’ restaurant everyone praised. I had a BLT. with some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had, and I love that they put avocado on nearly everything. After a quick caffeine boost, it was off to our next ﬁlm ‘Batman: The Movie,” with Adam West. The following six hours were the most fun I had during the festival.
To be continued..
Nikki McKim attended the 2016 TCMFF as a paid pass holder not as a media pass holder.