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 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.)