Dateline: Friday, April 23, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. You might like to know that Tom Cruise and George Clooney both have very big feet, but the imprint of Clooney’s shoes in the foreground of Grauman’s was deeper so he’s obviously taller. The biggest feet of all, including Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, appear to be Will Smith’s.
Hollywood Boulevard was filled with movie star hopefuls dressed as movie characters. You could have your photo taken with “Marilyn Monroe” for $5, which probably goes for acting lessons. Looks a lot like MM, too. She wasn’t the only one: Darth Vader, King Kong, Jack Sparrow, Neytiri, and Tony Montana were spied as I entered the hallowed lobby of one of the most famous movie palaces of all time — Grauman’s Chinese Theatre — for the first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival.
Sweet Smell of Success, a fave of mine, was intro’d by none other than Tony Curtis, who was as charming as any of the characters he ever played. He did an impromptu impression of Cary Grant, the same one he did in Some Like It Hot, and had the audience in the palm of his hand. (Tony’s autobiography is American Prince: A Memoir, and it’s not his first book. The other is The Making of Some Like It Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Classic American Movie.) I’ve seen Sweet Smell several times, but never on the big screen, and it was amazing. There’s nothing like going to the movies. Your whole life changes as the curtain parts and the show begins.
Later in the day, I met Mel Brooks. He and Carl Reiner had received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that morning at 11:30, and Mel was at Grauman’s at 4:30 to intro The Producers. He was hilarious and a walking history of comedy. One of the stories he told was that, when he was casting The Producers in New York, he had his neighbor, Dustin Hoffman, audition for the part of Franz Liebkind. Mel thought it would be funny to have Dustin as a short Nazi with a leather coat going all the way down to the floor. After he hired Dustin and they were already well underway with The Producers, Dustin got a call from his agent. “Mel,” he said, “Would you let me fly to L.A. to audition for the part of Benjamin in The Graduate opposite your wife?” Mel told him, “Sure, it’s fine. You’ll never get the part anyway so hurry up. We’ll shoot around you.” The rest is history and, as Mel said yesterday, he let Dustin out of his contract and hired someone who turned out to be better visually, Kenneth Mars. Mel said something like there’s nothing like a tall Nazi to get laughs.
When I have more time, I’ll do the Q&A with Mel Brooks, but right now, I’ve got to rush back to see today’s shows. More later.