Update: Saturday April 24, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Today’s “movie stars” (actors dressed as movie characters) that I had to bat my way through to get to the lobby were Batman, Superman (very skinny with what looked like golf balls where muscles should’ve been), Edward Spoonhands (because LAPD wouldn’t allow scissorhands), Freddy Krueger, and I believe someone dressed like Vampira, but I can’t be sure. She may have just been another stoner looking for a hit.
Vanity Fair sure knows how to throw an event. Everything was absolutely perfect. No goofs, plenty of special surprises, movie stars in the audience, and best of all, they validated your parking ticket. Now that’s classy.
Cher sneaked in Grauman’s back row to see a newly restored version of Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born, which ran three hours. This new version will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD June 22nd. I was looking around for Streisand, but if she was there, I didn’t see her. Garland’s daughter and son, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft, were there, but no Liza Minnelli. Also there were Alec Baldwin, Robert Osborne, who’s about the best interviewer ever, Esther Williams, and some of the luminaries who intro’d their own classic movies. Stanley Donen was there introducing Singin’ In The Rain, and one I missed that I really wanted to see: Doug Trumball who intro’d 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick hired him to supervise Special FX, and I really wanted to meet him, but it was not to be.
Well, rather than linger on what I missed, here’s what I saw today:
Robert Osborne introduced Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau for a discussion of their film, North by Northwest, followed by a screening. Eva Marie Saint was quite funny as she told about Hitchcock directing her not to use her hands so much, and to always look directly into Cary Grant’s eyes. She said that the first direction about keeping her hands still was hard, but looking into Cary’s eyes was easy.
She said when she slid down Mt. Rushmore, a guy was waiting to catch her but he looked away for a minute and she just kept on falling and scraped her arm. She said you can see her rubbing her arm and that wasn’t in the script but Hitch liked it and kept it in. She said Hitch wasn’t able to talk the Hollywood censors into allowing what she said to Cary on the train remain in the picture (“I never make love on an empty stomach”) and she had to dub “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.” She laughed and said to the audience, “Now you’ll never see that picture without noticing how badly it was synched.”
Marty Landau was very interesting and said the two of them had studied at the Actors Studio together but hadn’t worked together before. He said he had decided to make his character, Leonard, just a little gay to go with one of his lines about having a woman’s intuition (or something like that). He said it was one of the best jobs he ever had but he thought Hitch didn’t like his work because Hitch never said he did. Marty asked Hitch what it was that he didn’t like and Hitch said (imitating him) “If I don‘t like what you’re doing. I’ll tell you. If I say nothing, I probably like it.”
I heard a pin drop at Grauman’s today. By that, I mean there was not a single sound during the screening of NXNW. Nobody coughed. No cell phone rang (they were all turned off) and nobody spoke. It was absolutely amazing. Total concentration and appreciation. Every seat was taken and a few people were standing at the back. We applauded like maniacs when Hitch’s cameo appeared near the beginning (when he’s waiting to get on a bus), and we applauded for Bernard Hermann’s score. We applauded when Eva Maria Saint came onscreen, and when Marty Landau came onscreen. We laughed at every single one of Hitch’s famed comic relief lines. We were gripping the arms of the red velvet chairs during suspenseful scenes, even though we all knew what was going to happen. There were gasps of fright during the crop dusting scene and these people, trust me, are hardened fans and people who work in the industry. But, like me, many had not seen NXNW on the big screen and it was a whole other ballgame.
I believe that Hitchcock shot it in 3-D (as he did Dial M for Murder) because there were just too many shots of fists coming right at the camera, Cary Grant running right at the camera, the crop duster zooming right at the camera… and since he was so far ahead of his time, I’ll bet it was 3-D. The film was very tight — no wasted action, no wasted dialogue, things happening fast and furiously. I must’ve seen this movie ten times and never once have I really seen it until today on the big screen.
Since the theater had to be cleared between movies, I ran upstairs to where all the restaurants were and had my first Johnny Rocket Hollywood burger, and sat next to an Elvis Presley. I’ve seen better ones in Vegas, but never ate next to one at a burger joint counter before. There was a guy standing on a wooden box just outside the joint, hawking Jesus in the midst of what must’ve seemed like Sodom and Gomorrah, with a giant robot watching him. I don’t know what picture the giant robot was in, or maybe he was simply an alien in a tin can suit waiting to be discovered.
Racing back downstairs to Grauman’s in the nick of time, I slipped into an aisle seat up front to hear Buck Henry (The Graduate, Catch 22, What’s Up Doc, The Owl and the Pussycat, Get Smart, host of SNL more times than anyone else in history) tell us about how he wrote The Graduate. It had been tried many times before, he said, but for some reason, nobody could do the screenplay right. One day, Mike Nichols got hold of him and asked if he’d give it a shot. He certainly did a good job. He said originally (believe it or not), they considered Candice Bergen and Robert Redford for Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin Braddock. Buck said he couldn’t imagine the two of them having a Jewish son named Benjamin, and also thought Redford wouldn’t have a clue what it was like to not be able to talk to girls or get a date, so he whispered to Mike Nichols, “Ask him if he’s ever been stood up.” Nichols said, “Bob, have you ever been stood up?” and Redford looked puzzled and said, “What’s that?” End of story.
Buck also said that the actor who gave the absolute best reading for the part of Benjamin, and possibly the best reading he ever heard in his life, was Charles Grodin, but that Dustin Hoffman came across better onscreen. He said a lot of actresses, including Marlene Dietrich, were interested in the part of Mrs. Robinson but for one reason or another, it never worked out. In the end, Anne Bancroft turned out to be the perfect choice.
He also said that the author of the novella, Charles Webb, has written a sequel in which Ben and Elaine are married with kids and living in Europe when Mrs. Robinson, now Benjamin’s mother-in-law, comes to visit. Mrs. Robinson is recruited to, yes, seduce a friend of one of their kids. Buck said he’s friends with Webb and loves the story, published in England as Home School, but can’t seem to get interest in this country. Hope he manages to do it.
Well that’s it for now. More tomorrow, the last day of the Festival.