There were so many films, panels, and guests at the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood this past weekend that it was impossible to take it all in. Since I hosted ten events over the course of the weekend, I missed out on Kim Novak’s conversation with Robert Osborne and her hand-and-footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, among other highlights, but I still had plenty of great experiences, beginning on the red carpet opening night.
There was a full complement of TV crews and photographers lining the carpet to see a wide range of stars, from Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, who starred in the opening-night attraction, Cabaret, to a bevy of familiar faces from movies and television. I was getting my picture taken when, all of a sudden, there was a commotion: it was 91-year-old Mickey Rooney, charging (that’s the only word to describe it) onto the carpet, smiling and waving. He grabbed my hand and gave me a hearty hello; that doesn’t happen just anywhere. (On my other side was the always charming Margaret O’Brien.)
The festival spotlighted an unusual number of nonagenerians, all of them inspiring. I interviewed 93-year-old silent-film star Diana Serra Cary following a screening of Vera Iwerebor’s moving documentary Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room. I’m delighted that Milestone Film and Video is releasing this poignant film, which traces Diana’s unusual life journey, and her ultimate coming to terms with the child star she tried to disown decades ago. Today she is a model of grace and serenity, and extremely articulate about the price a child actor pays for fame.
I introduced Marge Champion, who proudly says she is in her 93rd year (meaning that she’s currently 92), before a screening of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Grauman’s Chinese, as she was the dance and movement model for Disney’s animators. Then I interviewed the delightful Ginnifer Goodwin, who currently plays an incarnation of Snow White on ABC TV’s Once Upon a Time. It turns out that Ginnifer is a lifelong Disney fan, and Snow White is her all-time favorite movie. You couldn’t make that up; in fact, her sister was so enchanted by Disney cartoons that she became an animator. The audience seemed to enjoy hearing this vibrant young star talk about her fondness for the character of Snow White.
I was sorry not to be able to stay for the next day’s screening of a newly-restored 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Grauman’s, but I did get to say hello to its star, Kirk Douglas, who’s still going strong at 95. He told me he is about to have his third Bar Mitzvah, which will land him in the Guinness Book of World Records. He also has a new book on its way called I Am Spartacus which includes still photos from the first phase of production, under Anthony Mann’s direction; apparently Universal “shelved” those rolls of film and never had them developed until now. (TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz had the privilege of interviewing Kirk that afternoon, and pointed out that his great uncle Joe made one of the actor’s first great films, A Letter to Three Wives.)