Day one of the 2017 TCMFF – Walk, Don’t Run

It was Thursday, the official start day of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival. Brian, my friend Angie and I went to Starbucks for a snack and coffee before attending a morning Q&A with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. While waiting for our coffee, I noticed the man behind us was a sunglass-wearing Ben Mankiewicz. We all stood staring at him, trying not to act as giddy as we were. He looked at us and our passes and started talking to us like we were old friends. He asked if we were attending the Q&A, and thankfully, we were; otherwise, that would have been quite awkward. He was kind, generous with his time and not as pretentious as he should be. This man’s uncle wrote Citizen Kane; he’s big stuff to us film fans.
We bid our goodbyes and went to stand in line for his Q&A. We were among the first and had front-row seats for the interview. It was great to learn more about the man who enters my home nearly every night. He loves baseball, his wife (whom he met at a TCM Film Festival) and his work. Getting up early was worth attending and learning more about someone who felt like a friend.
After the Q&A, we immediately got in line for the ‘Remembering Robert’ program. We were in the spillover line outside, and from what I’ve heard, more people had to attend another theater and listen to the whole thing. TCM underestimated how much people loved Robert Osborne. The staff of TCM gathered and shared their memories of the legend who recently passed away. I cried Angie cried, and 95 percent of the people around us cried. It was a wonderful tribute full of personal stories and great memories. Someday, I will write more about it because it was such a wonderful tribute-and everyone deserves a tribute like that.
My friend Scott had recommended we hit up Johnny Rockets for lunch, so we did, and it was a perfect way to start our first big day. Soon after the Remembering Robert Osborne panel, the announcement came that changed our plans for the night. We had planned to attend the Requiem for a Heavyweight screening, but when word got out that Martin Scorsese would introduce the nitrate print of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, we dropped our previous plans. To ensure we would get into that screening, we decided not to see Love Crazy (I somewhat regret that) and go see red carpet arrivals instead.
The opening film was In the Heat of the Night, and rumor was that Syd-ney Poitier would be on the red carpet. He wasn’t, but he did sneak in the back, so people behind us did catch a glimpse of the legend. So disappointing for us. We had front-row seats for other arrivals, such as Lee Grant, Dick Cavett, Todd Fisher, Keir Dullea, John Landis, Beau Bridges, Ruta Lee, Chris Tucker and my friend Lauren Semar.
We left the red carpet a little early to find some dinner before we stood in another impossibly long line. Last year, Angie and I stumbled on an Italian restaurant, but when we read the sign on the door that said no cell phones, we bailed on it. What a colossal mistake! Brian talked us into actually walking in this year, and let me tell you, it was heavenly! The smell of garlic filled the air, and the sound of Sinatra songs played by piano let you know that you were somewhere special. Miceli’s Italian Restaurant was a Hollywood staple. Since 1949, this little eatery boasted visits by the Rat Pack and Lucille Ball back in the day.
Angie and I were kicking ourselves for not trying it out last year. We loved the food and atmosphere so much that we sat and took it all in as long as possible.
After dinner, we walked to the Egyptian Theater to get in line for The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was a good thing, too, because everyone there wanted to hear Scorsese introduce this beautiful nitrate print. Anyone who loves film was there to see the film. Nitrate film stock has been praised for the beauty of its images and for truly allowing cinematographers to use the light artistically. Whites pop off the screen, and blacks are deep and rich; grey tones shimmer, but it’s also highly flammable. I heard later that those who saw films in the color nitrate said it was breathtaking. To play the nitrate, the Egyptian Theater had to bring their fire projection booth up to fire code; nitrate is dangerous.
The print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we saw was once part of David O. Selznick’s collection. The print on nitrate was as incredible as everyone said it would be. It was crisp and in impeccable condition. It was my first time seeing this version of the film. After a long-standing ovation, Scorsese introduced the print, and it was apparent how much he truly loves classic film and nitrate.
“Retrofitting a theater to make it capable and safe to project nitrate is an enormous undertaking,” said the Oscar-winning director, founder and chair of The Film Foundation of the recently completed ret-rofit at the Egyptian. “This stock was used in the earliest days of cinema. It’s known for its deep, richer blacker and grey tones. They glow.”
During his remarks, Scorsese also remembered Robert Osborne, who passed away last month. “I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate him,” Scorsese said. “He was a real lover of film and seeing the films in the original way they were meant to be seen.”
What a fantastic first night at the film festival. It somehow only got better, too!

(Photo by Nikki McKim-Martin Scorsese introducing The Man who Knew Too Much in Hollywood. McKim attended the 2017 TCMFF as a fan and not a member of the press.)

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