TCM Film Festival Day 1: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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It is a well known fact that I am a James Bond Fanatic. Since the time I could remember going to the movies, I have been going to James Bond films. The inclusion of one of the least appreciated and most unusual 007 movies in the Festival this year had me twitterpated immediately. Here’s the rub though, I had not completely understood the options on the pass that I purchased. This is only the second time for me at the TCMFF, and it was the first where I bought a pass rather than simply purchasing an individual ticket. The Palace pass that I committed to gave me access to the screenings at the Egyptian, Theater, Poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel and at the Chinese Theater. Check that. The Chinese IMAX Theater. I did not realize until two days before the start of the event that the Chinese Multiplex screening were not covered by the pass. That meant that four of the films I had on my original plan would have to be crashed. I wasn’t worried about the money, I was worried about getting locked out

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I said farewell for the day to my friend Michael, he was headed to the Hotel to pick up his Festival Souvenir Book and then over to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.  His plan was to go to the 9 pm screening of “Apollo 13” in the big house. While that is something I would love to have done, there was no way to manage it because I was absolutely going to see OHMSS, with special guest, 007 himself George Lazenby. Now here was my dilemma,  how do I go to the screening of “The Invisible Man” that I had planned on, and still get into the Bond film when the other movie would let out just a few minutes before 007 was to begin? I decided I could not take a chance. Since I had to be in the Standby line, I wanted to get there early. So I did, two hours and fifteen minutes early to be exact. I had to stake out my spot more than an hour before they passed out the priority numbers that allow you to purchase a ticket should there be room. It wasn’t that big of a deal, I spent the Summer of 1977 standing in two to three hour lines at the Chinese Theater every Friday, you know why. I was rewarded for my diligence with a coveted priority number. 2015-03-27 20.32.49
I should have guessed that it would be my destiny to get in, as I was walking to the theater originally, I had a text message from my daughter informing me that the “SPECTRE” teaser was about to be released on-line.So how could I not have enough luck to get in? As I looked at the others in line, none of the Standby folks seemed to have a pass to any of the rest of the Festival. They all seem to have come for this one event only. One person said that there had been a screening of a Bond film at an earlier edition of the Festival and that it had not been well attended. That was had for me to believe but it gave me confidence that we would get in.
I was the first in the line and I marched right in when the called in the first group of ten, once in the theater, I was able to find a very satisfactory seat near the center about two thirds of the way back. Now I had been on the lookout for a couple of fellow bloggers at the Festival. These are people that I know on-line but have never met before. As I was getting comfortable in my seat, a couple came in and sat down next to me, and from the row behind us I heard a woman call out “Paula, is it OK if I come sit with you guys?” The woman standing next to me turned back and said “sure”. I don’t know a lot of people named Paula, in fact I know of only one, she runs a art house theater in Detroit and blogs at Paula’s Cinema Club . I’m not particularly shy so I just piped up and asked her, “You’re Paula? any chance you are from Detroit?” Sure enough it was her and by accident we were seated next to each other. I introduced myself by name and mentioned that I was on her site occasionally and she was quite friendly. When she left to get concession items, I chatted with her husband Tim about the theater that they run, Cinema Detroit.He was very forthcoming with their story and I was very inquisitive. It had been my dream at one point to own my own revival theater and program it with classic and independent films, and they were doing that themselves. When Paula returned I mentioned that I would probably do some posts on the Festival and I would mention that I saw them. I gave her a card I’d made up for my blogs and she suddenly said, “Oh, 70srichard, I do know you.” The card has the distinctive “Jaws” Masthead on it so she was able to put two and two together without the right input from me in the first place. Anyway, “Hey Paula”.

Let’s get to what brought us here in the first place, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, the first James Bond feature to star someone other than Sean Connery in the role of 007. I know several Bond fans out there who are quite disparaging of this entry in the series and they lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the novice film star George Lazenby. I have seen him described as “stiff” and “charisma free”. I have never thought that. I do see some faults after all this was his first acting gig ever, but I thought he looked the part and carried it off reasonably well. He was also surrounded by a cast of actors who were professionals and gave him plenty of support. It also helps that he has one of the finest narrative plots of the whole film series. James Bond falls in love and improbably marries the girl that he saves in the first scenes in the movie. Tracy is played by the talented Diana Rigg, who I knew as Mrs. Peele in the Avengers TV show. Her talent allows some of the scenes between them to play much more believably.

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TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz introduced and interviewed the only man to play James Bond a single time in the movies, Mr. George Lazenby.

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I found this shot at http://thirtyhertzrumble.com/30007hz-2015-tcm-film-festival-post-mortem/ This guy had a closer seat than I did.

Both of these guys have a great sense of humor and Mr. Lazenby is past the point of worrying about being politically correct. He told some pretty sexist stories and some unflattering personal anecdotes but they were all done with great gusto and in the spirit of having fun, not of diminishing anyone. There were some extra details and side trips in his well known tale of how he came to be James Bond. He also provided a simpler version of why he walked away from the role as he did. It came down to some advice that simply predicted the days of Bond were numbered and it was better to get out before the crash. Mankiewicz suggested that it was some bad advice but Lazenby said it wasn’t because he has had a very satisfying life ever since and he had no real regrets. It was also interesting to hear why Lazenby thought director Peter Hunt bailed on talking for the nine months of production to him after championing him for the role.Ben and George could probably have gone on for another hour given that they were having so much fun with each other and the audience, but eventually the movie had to begin.

I’m sure film lovers from all over know the feeling of excitement and bliss when a beloved moment arrives and it is as if Christmas morning is just starting. For me it was not the Gun-barrel crawl or the one reference to Lazenby being the new guy in the series. It comes right after that when John Barry’s electronic based musical title theme kicks in and they are followed by those great horns. Those first notes got my heart racing and my memories stirring. I was ready for 007 to save the world again. I had two or three similar moments at the film festival last weekend, but this one was the first and it was well earned. <br />
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5 thoughts on “TCM Film Festival Day 1: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

  1. Drats on not attending this. If only APOLLO 13 had been at another time or day, I’d so be there, too, for this. Sounds like a marvelous time for all was had!

  2. Hey Richard! It was great meeting you, and thanks so much for the shoutouts. Being a projectionist, I can attest that, despite Lazenby’s opening remark, “girls” can and do operate electronic equipment, even some that’s far more complicated than microphones. That said, this intro was indeed fascinating, at times hilarious, and possibly my favorite of the entire festival. And the movie looked great! Still one of my Top Five Bonds, still one of the ones that’s most like the book. As for Lazenby being wooden…Bond carries a 00 number, he isn’t supposed to wear his heart on his sleeve.

    • Yeah, I could tell that George stepped on more than a few toes with his comments but he is speaking from a fifty year old mindset in 1968. I was glad to meet you and amused at the coincidence of being seated right next to you. I hope Tim did not feel like I was being nosy, I just love what you guys are doing. I know you focus on classic films on your site but I hope to see you here occasionally, I write about any film I see in a Theater and a few that I encounter elsewhere. Thanks for coming by.

      • Absolutely he did ~not~ think you were being nosy! We appreciate the good will and we LOVE talking about our theater. I’ll be by as often as I can, I do sometimes write about more current movies but my blog reading and writing time is severely curtailed at the moment. Also I’ve run into that attitude often enough that I can’t be offended by it any more 😉

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