Two movies at The Egyptian to finish off the first full day of TCMFF.
After a quick meal at Baja Fresh it was time to get over to The Egyptian for Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928). I’d seen this long ago but picked it for the unique experience of seeing a silent comedy with a world premiere original score, composed and conducted by Maestro Carl Davis.
TCM photo of same:
As the steamboat captain Ernest Torrance waits at the station to see his long absent son Keaton, he scans the crowd of respectable looking young men but slowly comes to the disappointing and embarrassing realization that the gawky foppish shrimp with the beret and ridiculous mustache is his son. Torrance is handed a shotgun and told “go ahead, no jury would convict you,” and we had a quote to repeat for the next few days.
Steamboat Bill, Jr. strings together some hysterical and elaborately choreographed set pieces: Keaton trying on a range of hats, balancing on planks, slipping through doorways, trying to visit his sweetheart (the competitor’s daughter, naturally), climbing steamboat levels with unbelievable athletic ability, and best of all, trying to survive a storm that flattens the town and seems to be targeting him specifically. It was interesting to watch the little screens each of the orchestra members had in front of them to help sync music to film. It gives you (or me, anyway, who’s never seen this live before) new appreciation for what a tough task it is to match things up, but it was perfect, with melodies that fit the southern riverboat theme and percussion for effects and stunts that shook through the theatre. With Steamboat I’d seen a movie at the Egyptian which checked off another big wish on my TCMFF to-do list. Here’s my shot before the orchestra filed in, followed by obligatory photo of gorgeous Egyptian ceiling.
Evening movie was a toss-up between Apollo 13 or Rebecca (1940) and I picked the latter because I couldn’t remember when I’d last seen the picture and it’s also one of my mom’s favourite films so it was a nice way of having her there with me–the person who started my love of classics! Say it with me: I was very happy with this choice! I was not expecting Rebecca to be that impressive on rewatch. Certainly Judith Anderson as the creepy lingerie-pawing-and-coveting Mrs. Danvers is infinitely more disturbing when her head is 60 feet high! In those scenes where she crowds poor Joan Fontaine against the window you get a horrible case of the skeeves and want to run away screaming. The huge painting with Rebecca’s dress, that the nasty Anderson talks Fontaine into wearing to the ball, and then Fontaine’s descent down the stairs in said dress, to the horror of Laurence Olivier, are moments that play beautifully on the big screen, and fine examples of the film’s psychological drama and visual impact. The movie simmers and broods in a delirious state under the weight of the dead Rebecca’s presence, and when the meek Fontaine finally snaps to life and asserts herself, the audience cheers make it that much more satisfying. Great way to end the day.
Rebecca is a long one so I was too beat to even think of going to the midnight movie which was the ultra-campy Boom! with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Friday was in the books with 5 movies viewed, zero disappointments, and a nice variety: westerns, Disney, Hitchcock, comedy, Joan and Olivia, Ladd and Ford, puppet and slapstick. I met so many great people, random strangers and familiar folks from twitter and blogs, including fellow Canadian Pam, who spent the evening at the same two Egyptian screenings. As a great example of the atmosphere you find here: we started talking to people in line before Rebecca and ended up discussing the merits, career choices and best movies of Richard Barthelmess with a woman who collects everything to do with the actor.
Next: 5 movies on Saturday.