Great start to the first full day of TCMFF.
After The Sound of Music on Thursday, opening night, I was hoping to make it to My Man Godfrey, but by the time SOM finished, other screenings were well underway and out of the question. I was tired anyway so time to rest up for Friday.
When I first looked through the schedule I saw many favourite films and thought: how easy, I’ll just go see as many of those as possible on a big screen. I soon changed my mind and decided to focus on new-to-me films, ones that I hadn’t seen for so many years they may as well be new, or ones that offered a unique experience. I ended up allowing myself only two favourites, and the first of those was My Darling Clementine (1946), Friday morning at the Chinese Multiplex. I watched it last year for this post but it’s one of my favourite westerns, and on most days my favourite John Ford movie. Good choice because seeing it on a big screen only increased my love for it as well as my appreciation for its small, meaningful details, its subtle acting choices and its moving beauty.
There’s not much new I could add when it comes to My Darling Clementine’s brilliance so I’ll rave about how fabulous those ready-for-framing shots look on a big screen, how gorgeous and underrated Linda Darnell and Victor Mature are in their roles (and their careers in general), how Tim Holt and Ward Bond add so much to the film, and how Walter Brennan’s evil glare pierces through the screen and sends chills up your spine–the moment he shot Holt in the back startled many audience members! Now I could better see and enjoy small but important things like the happy barber in the background who clearly feels responsible for Henry Fonda’s success with Cathy Downs. That shot of the proprietor of Bon Ton Tonsorial Parlor nodding with satisfaction as the couple goes off to church, completes the gag about Fonda’s dandyish hairdo and the perfume spritz which everyone mistakes for the smell of honeysuckle in the air.
After the screening there was a brief discussion between Keith Carradine and Peter Fonda.
Out of the theatre and a U-turn back in line for the same room to see another western, The Proud Rebel (1958). This was by far my easiest and most solid pick of the whole fest because I’ve never seen this film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, and Ladd’s son David, who was there to introduce the film (pictured below). Another fantastic choice that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m pretty confident that it’s not just the excitement of the environment and circumstances that lead me to declare it’s my new favourite Alan Ladd picture. He did such a fine and touching job playing the caring and dedicated father to a mute son, a man who will do anything to help the boy get treatment for his condition, even if it means braving prejudice and possibly breaking the boy’s heart by making a difficult choice regarding his beloved dog. Ladd, a Confederate veteran, gets little sympathy and faces lots of lingering resentment. He’s attacked and bullied by Dean Jagger and Harry Dean Stanton as a father and son who goad Ladd into a fight and then get him in trouble with the law.
Olivia de Havilland (whose daughter was present at the screening) is a single ranch owner who has her own land dispute brewing with Jagger and his sons, so out of sympathy for the boy and spite for her neighbours, she takes in Ladd and son to work off the bail she promises (but we learn she doesn’t have, in a great scene with Judge Henry Hull). De Havilland is so wonderful in this, and a few of us noticed she had some fine Gone With the Wind style shots standing against a gorgeous sunset; I expected her to raise her fist to the heavens and declare she’d never be hungry again. She starts as a bit of a tough old maid, made that way by her hard life singlehandedly maintaining and defending a dying ranch, but she warms and softens as she comes to care for Ladd and forms a special bond with his boy. We were warned in the introduction that heartstrings would be pulled hard, and they were, mainly relating to the dog and I won’t say more– it plays a moving role in the boy’s development. The Proud Rebel is a beautiful picture and I highly recommend everyone watch it first chance they get; seeing as this was a world premiere restoration it’s very likely coming out on blu soon.
Next: Friday afternoon celeb sightings and a great Disney experience. I’ve decided to split these recaps into a couple movies/events at a time, as I have some other posts scheduled to go up and don’t want to overload anybody with too much TCMFF fun 🙂 .
*photos are mine except for the lobby card and Clementine still