FRIDAY APRIL 26, 2018 AT TCM FESTIVAL
Friday morning the big news was the ceremony for Cecily Tyson on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Here she is, cementing her place on the Walk.
Friday morning we saw Witness for the Prosecution (see my review) with guest star, Ruta Lee (who is in the movie).
Then a great conversation with three biographers of Hollywood legends. Here is how TCM introduced the panel:
Classic films are the collective works of fascinating figures, both in front of and behind the camera. The real-life stories of movie stars, directors, producers, screenwriters and others are an integral part of telling the full history of Hollywood. Authors of celebrated film biographies share their experiences of choosing and researching their subjects—from John Wayne and Josephine Baker, to Katharine Hepburn and Louis B. Mayer and more—the process of writing, and the challenges in finding an audience for this popular and lasting form. Panel featuring: Donald Bogle, Scott Eyman, William J. Mann and moderated by Alicia Malone.
All of these authors related that they only wrote bios about people for whom they had some affinity. Scott Eyman said that he fell in love with silent movies and pursued that subject. I have read and can recommend his The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930. The Speed of Sound is now on Kindle, but wouldn't it be great if there were an online book that could be illustrated with actual scenes from the movies the book talks about, or have embedded some of the interviews the author did for the book? I do not know of any such digital book, but if you do, please leave a comment.
Bogle has written many books on African-Americans in Hollywood including his biography of Dorothy Dandridge and Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. Bogle said that he had to use interviews to research his subjects because so much of the African-American in Hollywood story is not written, but aural. He said the only written material about Blacks in pre-1950s Hollywood was the Black Press, newspapers and magazines that were and are written for the African-American community.
Bogle talked about how he researched his book on the Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson friendship, Elizabeth and Michael: The Queen of Hollywood and the King of Pop—A Love Story . He revealed that these two superstars had the most fun when they would go to the movies together in disguise. He said that their friendship seems odd, but when you looked at their backgrounds, it made sense since both were childhood stars and had to fight for their independence. For Taylor, it was when L.B. Mayer spoke rudely to Taylor's mother, bringing her to tears. Taylor shot back at Mayer and expected to be fired, but she wasn't. That was the day she realized how much power she had. For Jackson, there was a similar moment. The Jackson family wanted to leave Motown for their own label, but no one had the guts to tell the famously hard-bitten head of Motown, Berry Gordy until Michael, 16 years old, did it.
William Mann has written many award-winning books, including Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine and Madness at The Dawn of Hollywood (the kindle book is just $2.99 right now). He talked about how reluctant people are to speak about their sexual orientation, even in today's atmosphere. He recall speaking to a prominent Hollywood set decorator who was in his late eighties and who was dancing around the subject of gays in Hollywood. Mann said that he actually cries when gets to the end of writing one of his books because he comes to the end of great person's life.
In the afternoon, there was an interview of James Ivory, half of the famous team of Merchant and Ivory, makers of such movies as A Room With A View, Howard's End and Maurice. Ivory related that when they were negotiating to make a movie from one of E.M. Forster's books, they were offered A Passage to India, but declined that book even though they had movies in India and about India. His partnership with Merchant has given him the ability to work on projects he cares about.
In the Roosevelt Lobby, I watched several people introduce their favorite movie as part of a TCM contest. The intros were filmed by a TCM crew and the winner's moment in the limelight will be telecast on TCM.
The day ended with a pool party with a Roaring 20s theme. Many attendees were dressed in their best 20s clothes, some men even wore spats - go ahead, click it, I know you're curious. The party was just the start of a great evening with The Roaring Twenties, Raoul Walsh's classic movie about the rise of fall of a bootlegger played by James Cagney. If you haven't seen this movie, give it a try. It is one of Cagney's best performances and he is surrounded by a cast, Humphrey Bogart, Gladys George and Priscilla Lane.