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Travel: McCrea Ranch

Last night’s Cowboy Cookout and Ranch Tour at movie star Joel McCrea’s ranch in Southern California was perfect. The air was a bit chilly. But, with everyone helping to make the annual Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation fundraiser a success, from bus driver Pete and ranch staff to the poet, the band and McCrea’s grandson Wyatt, who lives there, the place was warm, relaxed and rooted in Western culture. Guests added Hollywood glamour.

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McCrea Ranch. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

You’ve probably seen Joel McCrea’s movies. Whether romancing Claudette Colbert in Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story or Veronica Lake in Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels or leading as handsome, freethinking young Dr. Kildare or in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, he was a commanding presence on screen. But the underrated, underappreciated actor—who was 6’4 in height—was most comfortable in Westerns, appearing with his wife Frances Dee in Wells Fargo, Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific opposite Barbara Stanwyck, Wichita, as Bat Masterson in The Gunfight at Dodge City, opposite Randolph Scott in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, usually as lead and hero of the motion picture. I’d recently seen him as the title character in The Virginian, the 1946 Western. After that, McCrea appeared in mostly Westerns, including his last picture, 1976’s Mustang Country.

Apparently, the Golden Age-era movie star made the Western part of his life. Encouraged by his mentor, humorist Will Rogers, McCrea bought the first thousand acres of private ranch property in Ventura County—what’s now northern Thousand Oaks, California—in the early Hollywood years and made ranching a labor of love. Eventually, Joel McCrea would buy a sprawling ranch where he lived with his wife of 57 years and raised three sons, Jody, David and Peter. Today, a small portion of the original McCrea Ranch in the Santa Rosa valley is left, including the main house McCrea had built and remaining outbuildings, such as the bunkhouse, chicken coop and milk house.

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McCrea Ranch. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

Yesterday, foundation docents and park staff showed the grounds. There’s a road leading up to the house, with a large kitchen and original appliances—including the elevated refrigerator to accommodate McCrea’s height—master bedroom, reading or sun room, Mrs. McCrea’s writing room, living room and the boys’ rooms above the garage. It’s a stone’s throw from the avocado-shaped swimming pool and the trees and vegetation Mr. and Mrs. McCrea planted. The 1,400-square foot visitor’s center has photographs and films on McCrea and his family in movies and at the ranch. Being there, it’s easy to imagine Joel McCrea riding horses and milking cows (he did both). After he died in 1990, Frances moved into the bunkhouse. Mrs. McCrea never lived in the main house again.

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McCrea Ranch Main Home. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

The house he’d had designed and built is filled with fireplaces, books—Frances McCrea was an avid reader and Joel McCrea, whose forefather signed the Declaration of Independence, was a serious student of American history—and portraits of Lincoln and Washington. This is a modest, family home, which is not open to the public. So, while the property meets the foundation’s goal to conserve the region’s history and lifestyle, and South Pasadena native McCrea is the embodiment of the healthy, tanned, good-looking, hardworking outdoorsman with which one associates Southern California, the rustic ranch evokes the man and his chosen values. It is here that the movie star lived, worked and enjoyed privacy. The place exudes McCrea’s unique ability to shuttle between relaxed, easygoing charm and hard-driving loyalty to one’s personal code.

Donors attending last night’s Cowboy Cookout—including Western artists and intellectuals such as Eric Heisner, William Wellman, Jr., whose father directed McCrea in The Great Man’s Lady and Buffalo Bill, and Bruce Boxleitner (Contagion, Tron, CBS’s Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Gods and Generals, ABC’s How the West Was Won)—joined Wyatt McCrea in toasting McCrea Ranch as a place worth preserving as it once was. So do I, especially to study, experience and honor McCrea Ranch as home and land where Joel McCrea cashed in on what he’d earned—as an example of where a man once lived the honest, productive life he’d portrayed in the movies.

Movie Review: Rocky (1976)

Pictures of man in motion, discipline and hero worship lift Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky to fulfillment of its theme. Screened at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater for a 40th anniversary showing featuring an interview with co-star Talia Shire (read my thoughts on the interview after this review) at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2016 on Hollywood Boulevard, Rocky inspires the audience. The 1976 motion picture is intimate, like 1955’s Marty with Ernest Borgnine, small and naturalistic, not romanticist in the highest sense. Yet Mr. Stallone’s low budget, independent-type United Artists movie, like 1993’s Rudy with Sean Astin, depicts with brains and vigor a mythical figure: the self-made sportsman.

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Having never seen Rocky, or its sequels, I was well aware of its reputation, lines and movie star. TCM’s guide, too, describes it as a boxing movie, which doesn’t capture its essence. “Yo, Adrian” came to be mocked for some reason I never understood. So did Rocky‘s success; the character’s, the movie’s and the film series’. When Sylvester Stallone was talked up for a supporting actor Oscar this year, I correctly guessed that he would not win, though I knew that Rocky is the role for which the movie star staked his career and fortune.

When Rocky appeared on TCM’s schedule, I looked forward to finally seeing this seminal movie 40 years after it was made. Now that I’ve seen it, a lot of the hype and backlash makes sense. Though it’s a sports movie, Rocky’s more like a Western in some ways; the hero is an individualist who takes ownership of his domain. He is solitary. He has no family. Rocky rides alone. In this sense, Rocky is perfect for 1976, when feminism began to erode man-woman relationships, leading to emasculation of the American male. Rocky acts like a cowboy—like an American—like a man. Rocky doesn’t choose someone conventional. He picks his partner based on what he sees in her. He wants her. He courts her, he asks for her and he earns, and takes, her. So I see now that reducing their relationship to “Yo, Adrian” is a smear against man as a heroic being.

I also see now that Rocky, directed by John Avildsen, is a great Philadelphia movie, like 1993’s Philadelphia and 1940’s The Philadelphia Story, and it’s not just about the scenery and the steps. More on that later.

Philadelphia’s cold, gritty grayness serves as the wet, dark depth from which Rocky Balboa (Mr. Stallone, magnificent in every scene) rises. In the film’s first part, Rocky faces reality. At 30 years old, with bulging muscles from boxing, sad, brown eyes and a habit of alcohol and cigarettes to ease his pain and possibly his guilt from working as a mobster, he’s on his way to becoming a thug and he knows it. Coming home to a poster of his hero, legendary boxer Rocky Marciano, Rocky Balboa looks at an old photo of himself as a boy, gazes into the mirror and ponders whether he is, as sour fans call him after an opening bout, a “bum.”

It’s a legitimate concern. But there’s evidence to the contrary, too. Besides sneaking an occasional smoke, nursing an occasional drink, losing an occasional match, there’s something else about Rocky, who walks the streets at night, knows everybody in the neighborhood, goes easy on his shakedown targets and has a fondness for turtles, goldfish and puppies. He’s a hero worshipper, with Marciano’s chiseled body as the god of Rocky’s home—as against the portrait of Jesus Christ hanging at the gym—he’s kind and intelligent, which everyone around seems to sense, know and like about him, and, deep down, Rocky Balboa takes pride in himself.

It’s in his walk, when he struts around dark corners, greeting neighbors. It’s in his trade, when he enters a pet shop and flirts with the cashier, in whom he sees a quality he values. It’s in his talk, when he singles out a tough girl and delivers a stern lesson in the importance of earning one’s reputation—Rocky‘s first crucial transition to an extraordinary tale of a self-made man. Rocky walks the girl around the ‘hood, taking the wayward youth on a journey back home, where she thanks him, having been unhinged from clannishness and at least for now restored to a natural, decent state of being an individual who’s capable of standing alone.

This is a small scene, seemingly innocuous, but it marks a critical moment of the man’s self-awareness. It’s as if Rocky realizes in giving that speech that he’s infected with the mind-body dichotomy, not practicing in reality what he preaches in theory, living by example to the opposite of what he instructs the street kid. By now, the audience knows that Rocky likes being alive—he teems with life and, even when he’s down, it’s because he’s sad about something unfulfilled, not in pity for himself—and his love for life is ready to be (re)born. The audience—and this is why the movie earned 1976’s top spot and won Best Picture—is in on the heroism; a picture of man, machine and bridge, carrying a train, car and athlete all in forward motion, gets it going. So, too, does Bill Conti’s epic score.

Soon, the inner conflict gets an outer conflict to match, with world heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) looking for a new means to profit from his work. As Rocky is inwardly American, Creed is outwardly American, exploiting the Uncle Sam persona, the nation’s Bicentennial, even General Washington’s crossing the Delaware River, shamelessly engaging in greedy promotionalism and inviting Rocky Balboa to box for the championship title as a uniquely American match. Equally greedy for an opportunity to prove himself in the arena, Rocky accepts.

But, knowing he’s a man not a boy and beginning his realignment, Rocky persuades the pet shop cashier, whose name is Adrian (Talia Shire), to date, yielding another interesting character contrast. As Rocky has grown his body to the exclusion of developing his mind, Adrian has clearly done the opposite. Both are variations on the mind-body dichotomy; each embodies the disowned self—which both through mutual commitment choose to reclaim. He takes her ice skating, where she first sees him fail but not before she sees him try. The later scene in which he reaches up while she visits his home for the first time, taunting and tempting her with his sexuality, seals their gaps. This causes a problem for Rocky’s pal and Adrian’s brother/paternal figure Paulie (Burt Young), who faces his own transformation, and it’s game on.

Enter the old man, in this case a 76-year-old trainer named Mickey Goldmill played by the late Burgess Meredith, who, in one scene in which he pleads for the job and seeks to redeem himself for an earlier rejection of Rocky, masterfully begins the retraining even as he walks away. This is a beautifully shot scene in which both men accept reality, come to terms and trade. They do so in a handshake—not a fistbump—while the train keeps moving on. Training, too, keeps moving, as Rocky downs raw eggs for protein to promote muscle growth.

As he does, and this is why the remarkable Rocky is not really about boxing, Rocky gets better, Adrian gets better, life improves and the world opens. As Rocky trains, jogs, conditions, sweats and expends effort, the neighborhood literally comes to life, with Conti’s theme piping through as fires burn bright. Whomever wins, it’s dawn in America, at least in America’s first capital, as Rocky prepares to box Apollo. In fact, to paraphrase Vince Lombardi, it’s wanting to win that matters. In this sense, Rocky—who looks in the mirror and conducts one more essential reality check before the bout, explicitly naming terms to himself—wins by going the distance, letting himself learn by letting go of what he can’t control that remaking his life for his own sake is the highest reward.

By the end, he is bloody but unbowed, as William Ernest Henley wrote, and he is triumphant by thinking and acting on principle—observe his breakdown of the concept southpaw as proof that he grasps that his mind and body are one—and, come what may, there is his woman, wearing red in another key scene and similarly remade and rejuvenated. “Adrian!!” is both his final and first call in triumph.

Rocky goes out on top.


Speaking at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on April 30, 2016 at TCM Classic Film Festival 2016, actress Talia Shire (The Godfather), who played Adrian in director John Avildsen’s Rocky, insistently and rightly gave full credit to Hollywood’s unsung Sylvester Stallone.

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Talia Shire being interviewed at TCM Classic Film Festival 2016. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran.

Shire, whose brother and Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola was honored at the festival with a handprint ceremony in the historic theater’s forecourt, repeated the legend of Mr. Stallone’s achievement: that Sylvester Stallone declined offers for his script, did not let his property go, and insisted that producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff cast him in the title role. Rocky‘s location shots were illegally directed without government permission, as is widely known, and the movie went on to win Oscar’s Best Picture and led to six sequels, including last year’s Creed, in which Mr. Stallone reprised his Rocky role.

Talia Shire recalled that Burgess Meredith set a good example for the cast and crew and was “full of creative joy.” Sylvester Stallone was, she said, “larger than life.” She added with reverence that he was “very sensitive” and was single-minded in his conviction that “something extraordinary was being made”.

Movie Review: Boyz N The Hood (1991)

The power and pull of the thug, hip-hop life in South Central Los Angeles is depicted with intimacy and sobriety in 1991’s Boyz N the Hood, writer and director John Singleton’s autobiographical movie, which I saw at a 25th anniversary screening in Hollywood at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2016 (read about the festival here and my report on the creator’s interview after the review).

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With a father named Furious Styles (Laurence, billed as Larry, Fishburne) and divorced mother Reva (Angela Bassett, Malcolm X) who thinks fatherhood is more important at a critical stage for her growing son, Tre (Desi Arnez Hines II as a child; Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a teen) faces the ultimate endurance test: to learn, grow and survive in LA’s hip-hop underbelly. Celebrating if not entirely glorifying rap, thug or hip hop culture, Singleton frames his coming of age plot with these two strong, distinctive parents in his movie debut.

The device works well in setting the context for Tre’s character development, which lies at the center of this culturally influential film. By depicting two types of parents on two different tracks in the world, yet with this child in common, the conflict over what choices Tre will make during the course of his childhood comes into sharper focus. As Tre’s life in the ghetto—which, with incessant helicopters over small houses on small lots with green lawns, looks and sounds like any other part of suburban Los Angeles—gets exciting, dangerous and complicated, Tre’s father’s and mother’s examples and lessons go against the culture.

One of the most effective aspects of Boyz N the Hood is its ability to depict Tre’s growth with multiple, simultaneous outcomes; his affiliation with thugs (i.e., actor Ice Cube’s gangster Doughboy), jocks (i.e., Morris Chestnut’s footballer Ricky) and a Catholic girl (Nia Long), thanks to Gooding’s strong performance, generates tension and suspense. The audience sits with this chronic uncertainty, which is what growing up in South Central feels like for Tre. The thrill of hip hop with its booming music and cars, the promise of earned opportunities through good choices, hard work and rational self-interest, the burgeoning, mixed and contradictory acceptance of black urban subculture in Southern California—all figure into the potent climax.

Eviscerating stereotypes with a leading male character who expresses his fear, pain, anger, sensuality and, more than anything else, confusion, Singleton recreates a pivotal passage of thug life with realism and elements of romanticism. Tre cries, runs, yells, swaggers, shuttles and moves like no other black man in previous movies. Boyz N the Hood is too naturalistic and therefore agnostic about the tragedies, near-triumphs and hollowed out cases of despair to make a lasting and thematic impact. The score is too much.

But its convergence and contrast of the pop-pop-pop of hip hop—everywhere around the world today 25 years after it was released with insidious street codes sup, waddup and aiight feeding off its death premise and spreading the worship—with Furious Styles’ guidance through fatherhood, urging his son to look a man in the eye and think before you speak, make Boyz N the Hood a singularly downbeat drama which puts modern American culture into wider context.


Writer and director Singleton appeared in a Chinese Theater at Hollywood & Highland for TCM Classic Film Festival 2016‘s 25th anniversary screening of Boyz N the Hood. He was interviewed by movie historian Donald Bogle, whom Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Chiraq) once described as the “most noted Black-cinema historian.” Bogle, author of Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, Brown Sugar: Over A Hundred Years of America’s Black Female Superstars, also was one of TCM’s commentators for its seven-part documentary series on the history of Hollywood, 2010’s Moguls and Movie Stars. He has curated retrospectives on Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge and he teaches at both the University of Pennsylvania and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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Donald Bogle interviews John Singleton about Boyz N the Hood in Hollywood. Photo by Scott Holleran. © Copyright 2016 Scott Holleran. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without the permission of Scott Holleran

Bogle’s interview with John Singleton about Boyz N the Hood was a festival highlight. The Oscar-winning director and writer discussed his approach, his education and his goal to make “the best hip hop movie ever” which he arguably did, though he’s also made Poetic Justice (1993) and Hustle and Flow (2005). Recalling how he took the bus from South Central Los Angeles as a child to Hollywood and Highland to see “blaxploitation” pictures with black stars such as Pam Grier, Singleton described himself as an especially intelligent and intense youth. He said he’d watch movies without the sound on to study technique and explained that, during his education at University of Southern California (USC), he watched and studied contemporary and classic films such as The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972), Drugstore Cowboy (1989), Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980). That informs the realism of his Boyz N the Hood.

But, with Bogle, whom the filmmaker clearly respects, Singleton went into detail. He talked about using a shot inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, his deep concern about what he describes as black on black crime and an astute observation that most Hollywood movies depict black parents as older than they, in his experience, are, and thus deciding to cast the younger Fishburne-Bassett team as Tre’s parents, a decision that adds to the film’s credibility and potency. John Singleton also admitted to being scared on his first day of shooting, introspecting and providing himself with positive self-talk, such as looking out at the fog coming off the Pacific Ocean into Inglewood during production, which permitted the then-23-year-old to recreate in his mind the childhood upon which his movie is based, telling himself: “You can do this.” Singleton’s can-do individualism is evident 25 years later in Boyz N the Hood.

 

Movie Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Though I’ve seen Stanley Kramer’s 1967 motion picture Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner several times, last week was the first time I saw it in a movie theater. Seeing this historic movie with an audience in Hollywood, courtesy of TCM Classic Film Festival 2016 (read my postscript on the introduction after this review and more about the festival here), with contextualization by a leading cast member and a film scholar, gives me deeper appreciation for this bright, intelligent and colorful movie. Its us against the world/to hell with what others think idealism is embedded, radical and wholly embraced by the audience nearly 50 years after its debut.

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Despite its detractors, and there are many, especially on the left, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner remains extremely powerful, if sometimes static. Spencer Tracy—who died days after the picture’s final production—and Katharine Hepburn co-starred for the ninth and last time opposite Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton as the interracial couple. The Tracy-Hepburn pairing persists as the credited cause for the picture’s impact yet I found that this adds, but does not fully power, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

As a Bay Area couple whose professed liberal values are tested when their daughter (Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) announces her engagement to a black doctor (Poitier), Tracy and Hepburn are indelibly cast and give emotional authenticity to the film particularly its famous final scene. The screenplay, too, by William Rose, who won an Academy Award for his work, is excellent, which unfortunately if not surprisingly is often ignored when the movie’s discussed.

Of course, producer and director Kramer, whose adaptations of Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach and the Scopes monkey trial play Inherit the Wind, as well as Ship of Fools, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Judgment at Nuremberg, and lesser known movies such as Oklahoma Crude with Faye Dunaway and The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anthony Quinn, make compelling cinema of serious and challenging themes, deserves top credit.

But one line, expertly delivered by the great Sidney Poitier—“I fell in love with your daughter”—who mastered the year in movies with outstanding performances in In the Heat of the Night and To Sir, with Love, fundamentally makes the movie credible. Poitier’s line is neither delivered in defiance nor in apology; it is a clarification brimming with joy and spoken in solidarity with a father as his equal. At every point in this groundbreaking film, from his flirting with a black woman to his response to servant Tillie (Isabell Sanford), who judges him solely by his race, Poitier’s John Prentice acts on his own judgment for his own benefit; he is the title’s who that drives the plot’s progression.

With non-verbal cues, such as picking through a sandwich as if looking for signs of sabotage after Tillie serves refreshments on the terrace, Poitier’s Dr. Prentice personifies the rational man. When Dr. Prentice speaks, he maintains his virtues, whether setting his terms with his fiancee’s parents, responding with tact during cocktails with her friends or erupting with fury at his father (Roy E. Glenn, Sr.) when he decides to declare his break with tradition. Most of this happens at the San Francisco home of his fiancee’s parents, newspaper publisher Matt (Tracy) and small business owner Christina (Hepburn) Drayton.

Their daughter’s proposition is for her parents to bless this interracial union before the couple leaves to get married, which is to happen imminently, so there isn’t time to deliberate about a marriage which, in 1967, was illegal in almost half the country. Besides Sanford’s outspoken Tillie, with whom the audience identifies up to a point for her work ethic, protectiveness and suspicion of the black separatist movement, several other characters participate in the pre-dinner affair, including a Catholic priest (Cecil Kellaway) who is friends with Mr. and Mrs. Drayton and Hilary (Virginia Christine), a parasite who works for Mrs. Drayton.

Yet Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner begins at the airport, where Rose and Kramer cue the simple love theme, set the movie’s steady pace and establish that the world changes and one must stay on the move.

The black and white couple descend an escalator with a gathering of happy children, representing youth and the future, and take a taxi—where they exchange an interracial kiss, to the astonishment of the blue-eyed cab driver—to Mrs. Drayton’s downtown art gallery, where they encounter leech-like Hilary and her modernist contraption. Along the way, Dr. Prentice learns that Mrs. Drayton is an entrepreneur and that her daughter is proud of it. Then, they arrive to meet the parents. A foghorn sounds in San Francisco Bay, signalling trouble ahead.

The agitator is Joanna “Joey” Drayton (Katharine Houghton in her flawless movie debut), an idealistic white woman who meets the handsome black doctor on a trip to Hawaii and instantly falls in love.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner seasons the conflict, with an occasionally artificial air and its own archaic notions, such as Dr. Prentice’s line about a marriage being for the purpose of procreation. From Hepburn’s equalizing command more than question—”Can’t we all sit down?”—to the establishing shot of Matt Drayton’s study with its books and photograph of Franklin Roosevelt, every turn is seeded, earned and dramatized. Whatever makes it seem dated, such as the interracial dance scene between “knockout” Dorothy and the go-go delivery boy, Monsignor Ryan quoting the Beatles or Matt Drayton’s disastrous attempt to prove himself to be a thoroughly modern man eating boysenberry ice cream, which permits the movie to simultaneously acknowledge the “angry black man” and the “angry white man”, adds up to the climactic final speech and dinnertime.

This includes the appearance of Dr. Prentice’s parents, a decent couple from Los Angeles visiting snooty San Francisco (where their would-be daughter-in-law looks down upon a girl from Pomona). Bringing the earlier taxi scene full circle, his mother (Oscar-nominated Beah Richards) and father silently ride in the backseat as Joanna Drayton drives, with Mr. Prentice looking angrily at the white woman and with Mrs. Prentice looking admiringly at her son, the widower who lost a child, is ready to love again and marry on his own terms as his own man. It’s a powerful contrast which precedes Poitier’s later emotional outburst to his character’s father that he thinks of himself as a man, not as a “colored” man.

That the meaning of this line has been flipped and reversed today—with the father’s notion that one’s identity is based upon race sadly closer to predominant ideals about race among today’s black intellectuals, who proclaim themselves “persons of color”—and Poitier’s Dr. Prentice would likely be branded an unenlightened “Uncle Tom” (which is what Poitier was branded by a black newspaper columnist after his banner year) only serves the movie’s theme that love is colorblind, which, in reality, is true. So, too, is the picture’s optimistic forecast about an American Negro becoming president of the United States of America.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is no less probing and powerful, if neatly arranged and produced, a picture show now as it was then. Almost every scene stands out as important. It is sharp, biting and proud—and, ominously, still radical in its comic and dramatic case against collectivism.


Movie historian Donald Bogle brought out co-star and stage actress Katharine Houghton at TCM Classic Film Festival 2016‘s screening of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at the Chinese Theater 6 in Hollywood and the two exchanged a brief question and answer about the historic film. Houghton said that she was constantly on hold because the Columbia Pictures production was on, then off, then on again, and she explained that Columbia did not want to make the movie, which the studio apparently did not know was about interracial love during development, for fear of the audience’s negative response. Though Bogle and Houghton had the effect of apologizing for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by indicating that it was made for white audiences, her enthusiasm for the film’s theme that love is universal remains in her interview and performance.

Preview: TCM Classic Film Festival 2016

This week, Hollywood returns to its idealistic, enterprising and glamorous origins, welcoming those who really power the motion picture industry with TCM’s seventh annual Classic Film Festival. I attended for the first time last year and wrote about it here.

80fd3868f6692b85f0c9a3cca2d9d1dbFor four days, the best movies (and, admittedly, others, too) take over Hollywood’s most legendary and best movie theaters to be seen, discovered and enjoyed uncut and commercial-free, to borrow the phrase made famous by Ted Turner’s namesake Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Films from the silent era with Buster Keaton to the Golden Age with Doris Day, Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper and through the modern era with Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett will be studied, examined and discussed by fans, filmmakers and movie stars.

This year’s event passes are sold out, though individual tickets are available as the festival encourages passholders to choose from among several competing movies.

For instance, on the festival’s first night, one can see 1964’s movie about interracial marriage One Potato, Two Potato with leading actress Barbara Barrie discussing it with a film historian afterwards or watch a 40th anniversary screening of All the President’s Men (1976) and hear thoughts on journalism from both the men who made Oscar’s recent Best Picture winner about journalism, Spotlight, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, and the Washington Post‘s Carl Bernstein, portrayed in the movie by Dustin Hoffman.

But one could also choose from among three other movies in the same time frame: Harold Lloyd’s 1925 classic The FreshmanDark Victory (1939) starring Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis, and Elia Kazan’s 1945 adaptation of Betty Smith’s novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Here, the best is showcased in abundance.

Billy Dee Williams is scheduled to talk about Brian’s Song (1971). The boy who gave voice to Walt Disney’s Bambi (1947), Donnie Dunagan, recalls making the animated classic. Faye Dunaway appears at an anniversary screening of Paddy Chayefsky’s biting and brilliant 1976 satire, Network.

Guests include archivists, scholars, authors and other artists and intellectuals. See the actor who played the boy in 1989’s Cinema Paradiso. See 1989’s Field of Dreams. Indulge in discussion of dogs in films, an examination of the movie score, a conversation with Elliott Gould about acting, thoughts on playing opposite Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner from co-star Katharine Houghton or an appearance by Angela Lansbury at a screening of The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

Get to know Truth‘s Mary Mapes and James Vanderbilt, The King and I‘s Rita Moreno, Leonard MaltinChildren of a Lesser God‘s Marlee Matlin, Carl Reiner, the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy, Trapeze‘s Gina Lollobrigida, Rocky‘s Talia Shire, or On the Waterfront‘s Eva Marie Saint remembering 1966’s The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.

The theme for this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival is Moving Pictures, meaning there’s an emphasis on movies that move the audience to think, to feel, to act.

Many of the 100 featured films do exactly that and, in today’s disturbing times, several stand out as extraordinarily relevant. From questions raised and dramatized about so-called income inequality in Douglas Sirk’s 1955 classic All That Heaven Allows and blacks’ lives depicted in John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood to the penetrating portrait of media complicity in enabling the rise of a charismatic power-luster seeking government influence in Elia Kazan’s prophetic 1957 masterpiece A Face in the Crowd, the best pictures earn renewed respect over time.

Turner Classic Movies, honoring its creator, Ted Turner—a media titan who once bought billboards asking “Who is John Galt?” the philosophical challenge from Ayn Rand‘s Atlas Shrugged and created TCM because he loves movies, particularly Gone With the Wind (1939)—continues to earn respect, too. With a wine club, movie-themed Disney cruise, forthcoming app with the Criterion Collection for streaming classic movies and original programming and publishing, TCM skillfully brands itself as an expression of passion for movies which exists with outlets in reality, not as some obscurity for dilettantes pondering the avant-garde.

This week’s film festival is the best example, bringing together people who make and watch movies and doing so with a sense of joy, humor and especially with seriousness for thinking about what moves the world—which is exactly what ultimately moves and makes the best movies.

TCM fundamentally thrives as a source for great movies. But it also serves as a reminder and catalyst for today’s Hollywood to consider and honor its exciting and productive past and move the audience, studio and filmmaker alike to project into the future. Its annual presence in Hollywood gathers and converges the industry’s most loyal patrons and producers to worship what’s glamorous, grand and magnificent about movies, ensuring that industrialization carries on.