Hollywood, California- a place I had only dreamed about going since I became interested in classic films. Over a span of five days, I was living that dream.
My parents know how much movies mean to me and that I absolutely love TCM, so for Christmas, I got a pass for the 2013 film festival. I cried when I opened the package, but it was definitely tears of joy. My mom was coming with me, and we have begun to watch classic films together over the years. I actually got her started on some of them, although I think she was the one who exposed me to older films when I was younger. Growing up, we would watch The Wizard of Oz (one of my favorites), The King and I, and Pollyanna, which always brings back memories. I guess I was destined to love classic films in the long run. I wanted to be in the same places as the legends were in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and I couldn’t wait to get to Hollywood.
The trip was finally upon us and we got to California (my first time) the day before the festival started. Once I got a glimpse of the famous Hollywood sign, I knew that this was real. Seeing the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame brought me closer to the legends that I love. I wish I was born 60 years earlier so that I could have been alive when these stars were alive, but they are legends because they will live on no matter what. After seeing Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (and it will always be “Grauman’s” to me), I couldn’t wait to sit in the audience the next night for Funny Girl and to sit where the legends sat. Going to the Roosevelt Hotel, I felt as if I were back in the ‘40s and ‘50s when there was sophistication and grace. Once I saw Ben Mankiewicz during one of his interviews, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing someone that I watch on TV all the time. I got to meet him and he signed my pass, which gave me chills. I was also chosen to have a poolside interview with him the next day, which I was ecstatic about. Meeting other film lovers that night at the Tropicana poolside made me realize that there are so many people who truly love classic films.
Thursday morning, my mom and I went on the Warner Bros. Studio tour before the festival officially started. It was so cool to see the “fake” places from the movies. I only wish I was able to see more sets/locations from the classics. I was happy though since I saw the last remaining set from Casablanca, my favorite film. As we made our way back to Hollywood, we got as close as we could to the Hollywood sign and it was a perfect day for pictures. I was officially in love with the Hollywood hills. I tried to get a picture of the Hollywood Bowl, but there were renovations for getting ready for the summer season. At least I was in the same area though as Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were in Anchors Aweigh. Our first event for the festival was Meet the TCM Panel, which I was extremely interested in because my goal is to work for TCM someday. I got to meet a few of the employees and they gave me some great insight. I then had my poolside interview with Ben Mankiewicz. This was such a great opportunity to get my name out there since it aired on Sunday, April 28th. I was thrilled to share my story with everyone. That night, I got to wear a fancy dress and walk the red carpet to see Funny Girl– something I never thought I would do. I was getting chills as I walked into Grauman’s and was completely in awe. As I made my way down the stairs to our seats, I started to cry and my mom kept telling me, “You’re sitting in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, just soak it all in”. I did a good job of soaking my face in tears, but I truly did soak everything in- the architecture, the designs, the curtains, everything. When Robert Osborne made his way to the stage, I knew this was going to be a special four days. It was such a treat seeing William Wyler’s family, and Cher (the surprise guest). When the music began and the credits started to roll, I was so happy. I was literally watching a movie at the most famous movie palace in the world! When the movie was done, we went to the forecourt and admired the handprints and footprints of our favorite stars.
The next morning, we were up early to go and see My Fair Lady. I was so excited to see Audrey Hepburn (one of my favorite actresses) on the big screen. After that, we made our way to the Avalon for the live taping of Eva Marie Saint’s interview with Robert Osborne. It was a fascinating interview and she looked great. I learned a lot and have great admiration for her. We then took a leisurely stroll down to Musso and Franks, a place I was really looking forward to eating at. I had the Fettuccine Alfredo, a signature dish of theirs that Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford brought back after their honeymoon in Italy. We then caught a little bit of the Hollywood Home Movies back at the Roosevelt Hotel, and stayed there for a little while before going to see On the Waterfront. My mom and I were debating on whether to stick with our plans of seeing that or going to see On the Town, which is a favorite of ours. At one point I really was leaning towards On the Town, but I stuck with my original decision. I am so happy that I did because when we were waiting in line, I met a fellow film history student. We instantly hit it off and keep in touch periodically. We share the same love of classic film and I am so glad I met her. On the Waterfront was fabulous as always and it was a treat seeing Eva Marie Saint again, this time with Ben Mankiewicz. She was commenting on the way he was dressed before the movie began, and he stood up and began to take his jeans off. Laughter and gasps ensued, and there was a pair of dress pants on underneath his jeans the whole time. It was an unexpected and fun moment for all.
On Saturday, we went to Jane Fonda’s handprint/footprint ceremony at Grauman’s. Waiting for the ceremony to begin, in walks Jim Carrey! I couldn’t believe it was actually him. Celebrities and the press gathered, and the ceremony began. Robert Osborne took to the microphone and introduced Jane’s son, who spoke and introduced Lily Tomlin, who spoke and introduced Maria Shriver, who spoke and introduced Jane Fonda. She was so humble and appreciative of the honor she was given, and became quite emotional. Her granddaughter was there as well, who joined Jane on stage. It was an awesome experience to witness the ceremony in person. She ended up making a peace sign in the cement, something that’s never been done before and was very fitting. Then we went to see the panel discussion for Deliverance, which included the director John Booreman, and stars Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, and Jon Voight. It was a very interesting discussion, but we then went to the Roosevelt to see Conversations with Tippi Hedren. Her stories about working with Alfred Hitchcock were insightful and she looks just the same as in The Birds. After the interview, some passholders were getting her autograph, and my mom was able to get one. I know it meant a lot to my mom because she remembers watching The Birds with her brother and sisters very fondly when they were young. We got a quick bite to eat then went to the El Capitan Theatre for Guys and Dolls. The El Capitan Theatre was one of my favorite venues and even though it was smaller, the way that the curtains went up before the movie began was true theater. It was gorgeous. I was so excited to see this movie because I finally saw Frank Sinatra on the big screen. I absolutely love Frank Sinatra, his singing and his acting. For dinner, we went to Mel’s Drive-In, which was very nostalgic. That night, we saw Mildred Pierce at the Egyptian Theatre. I had never seen this one before and Ann Blyth was introducing it with Robert Osborne. It was a very powerful film noir.
The last day of the festival, Sunday, my mom and I got some souvenirs, took more pictures of stars on the Walk of Fame, then went to the Cinerama Dome for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This was the only film that we never saw before and we wanted to see at least one movie that we both had never seen. I was really excited to see Mickey Rooney because I enjoyed watching him in the films with Judy Garland, one of my favorite actresses. It was fascinating hearing the story of how the Cinerama Dome came to be and how it was built specifically for the premiere of this film. The panel discussion beforehand was rather sad though because Jonathan Winters was supposed to be present, but he had passed away only a few weeks beforehand. They did a tribute and left one empty seat there during the discussion, and then a video tribute right before the movie began. The movie was fun and afterwards, we walked the whole way back to the Hollywood Museum for a quick tour before they closed for the night. I loved seeing all the costumes and props from different films. We ate again at Mel’s Drive-In, and then it was time for our last film, The African Queen, with my favorite Humphrey Bogart. Although it isn’t my favorite movie of his, I had to see him on the big screen. It was back to the Roosevelt for the Closing Night Party and I was able to see some familiar faces. I was rather sad though because I didn’t want it to be over and I didn’t want to leave to come home. I wanted to come back the next year in 2014 because it will be the 5th film festival and the 20th anniversary of the network, so it should be pretty special, but I wasn’t so sure that I would be able to. After saying good-bye’s to my new friends, we got all packed up and were ready to leave the next morning. When the plane took off, I couldn’t help but cry because I knew that California was the place for me.
Well, this summer I have been working so I am saving up some money for the trip out there next year! My mom probably will not be able to make the trip, but I want to make every effort to be there. Hopefully the schedule will not interfere with my final exams at school because I graduate on May 16th. This year I was lucky that everything worked out the way it did. Every day I think about this experience and I wish that I was out there just soaking it all up again. I love TCM more than words can describe and film history is my passion. I’m really striving for an internship in my spring semester since I will be volunteering at film festivals this fall. I hope that, one day, I will be able to fulfill my goal of working at Turner Classic Movies in programming. But for right now, I’m going to work my tail off to beef up my resume so that, hopefully, it will become a reality. I am more determined than ever to be at the festival next year and to pursue my passion.