TCM Film Festival Day 2: The Wind and the Lion

wind_and_the_lion

It is a little hard for me to believe that I got a chance to see two, that’s right two Sean Connery films from the same great year, 1975, on the same day of the TCMFF. I also was very confident when I heard this was programmed that Michael would be joining me. He commented on a post I did on this movie a few years ago. We are both fans of this film. The crowd was a little sparse for the line up, although the theater did fill in quite a bit, so we decided to move our location down closer to the front of the theater for this presentation. We had to move over in the aisle we selected because some of the seats were reserved, but we were dead square center for the program.

Stuntman and coordinator Terry Leonard shared a lot of stories about the making of the film. There was a nice Video Tribute to Mr. Leonard right before he was introduced. I could not locate that, but I did find this featurette on the TCM site that I thought I would share here.

http://i.cdn.turner.com/v5cache/TCM/cvp/container/mediaroom_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=1452

The jump off the balcony that looks so spectacular in the opening kidnapping scene turned out to be far more hazardous for the rider, Mr. Leonard, than for the horse. It turned out that he did have a fracture in his back as a result but it was not discovered until nearly a year later.

2015-03-28 18.39.10

The subject of his work on “Raiders of the Lost Ark” also came up in the conversation. Terry Leonard did the truck chase gag where Indy goes under the truck he is chasing and then gets dragged by his whip as he tries to get back into the truck. It is an amazing sequence and one of the best known stunts from the days in which practical effects and in-camera effects were still part of the film making business.

I have a hard time understanding how this film was not nominated for the Academy Award for screenplay. Maybe the story was crowed out by other pictures that year, but if you hear the words being said by the characters you will know that the script is sometimes poetic in the way it portrays the conflicts of the characters. It was nominated by the Writer’s Guild for the year award that year. Look at this example:

“Raisuli: Woman, I want you to understand this: I am not a barbarous man. I am a scholar, and a leader to my people. I am not a barbarous man. These four men have dishonored me. They have eaten from my trees, they have drunk water from my wells; they have done all of these things to me, and they have not even evoked my name to God in thankfulness. I am treated this way because I make war upon the Europeans… You see the man at the well, how he draws the water? When one bucket empties, the other fills. It is so with the world: at present, you are full of power, but you’re spilling it wastefully, and Islam is lapping up the drops as they spill from your bucket.”

The final letter from the Raisuli to President Roosevelt is also a moment of movie poetry and it contains the line that provides the title for the film. I will share it with you at the bottom of this post.

It was fortuitous that Michael and i moved down from our previous seats in the theater, for as the interview with Terry Leonard ended, the host pointed out that we were being joined for this screening by the writer/director himself, John Milius. We turned to look at where he might be seated and waving to the crowd, but we did not have to look far, he was right behind us in the next row.  This may have been the coolest moment of the whole weekend for me. The applause and ovation for him was thunderous and at the conclusion of the movie it was repeated. I wanted very much to turn around and speak with him and share my love of the movie, but I thought better of it. I’d seen the documentary about him last year and I believe he has some medical issues. He struggled a bit to stand when he was acknowledged,  and since he did not speak as part of the festival, I thought he might not be able to deal with a crowd so I just held back and slapped my hands together a bit harder so that the world would know my appreciation.

Coincidentally, I wrote a post focusing on the performance of Brian Keith as President Roosevelt for a blogathon back in February.This  is my entry into the 31 days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Outspoken and Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. It also means that this is the second time I’ve watched this movie in the last two months, something that made me very happy. Just while I’m thinking about it, “The Wind and the Lion also has my favorite score by my favorite movie composer Jerry Goldsmith. You will find a note of appreciation for Mr. Goldsmith’s career at this link.

To Theodore Roosevelt – you are like the Wind and I like the Lion. You form the Tempest. The sand stings my eyes and the Ground is parched. I roar in defiance but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place. While you like the wind will never know yours. – Mulay Hamid El Raisuli, Lord of the Riff, Sultan to the Berbers, Last of the Barbary Pirates.

TCM Film Festival Day 2: 1776

seventeen_seventy_six

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am by nature a fan of musicals. I grew up on a steady diet of MGM classics and RKO backstage shows. In the 1960s, despite the collapse of the studio system, four big musicals won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Living on the left coast, my chances of seeing a stage musical would be limited to High School productions, traveling versions of the play or the movie version when it finally arrived. I had heard of 1776 but never saw a stage version. The first time I saw this film was on my SelectTV channel, an over the air subscription service in the L.A. area that predated widespread cable availability. I was not particularly impressed and I did not think about it again until sometime in the early part of the new millennia when a director’s cut was available. I did see that and I liked the film more but it did seem to be quite long. So it was with some trepidation that I chose this film to see in the Chinese Theater IMAX screening. Malcom X was my alternative and Spike Lee was going to be there but there is not enough singing and dancing in it for a Saturday Afternoon.

Once again, B2015-03-28 13.55.58en Mankiewicz was the host and he introduced two of the stars of the film and the Tony Award winning director of the movie. Ken Howard played Thomas Jefferson in the film and it was his 71st birthday on the day of the screening. Our host waved to the wings and a cake with lighted candles was produced and the near capacity crowd joined in a chorus of “Happy Birthday”. Unfortunately there was not enough cake for all of us. William Daniels who is basically the lead in the play as John Adams, was also present. It was interesting to note that he is a former president of the Screen Actors Guild and that Howard is the current President of S2015-03-28 13.56.06AG. I suppose after being in this film and play, politics was in their blood. They were friendly and recalled stories of being cast in the original play on Broadway. There is an apocryphal story of the screening of the film for President Nixon. The director claims that Nixon loved the film but did not really like one number, “Cool Considerate Men” and recommended to producer Jack Warner that it be cut. It subsequently was and that accounts for the abbreviated version that stood as the theatrical release and the eventual original home video version. This presentation is tied in with a soon to be available Blu-ray release of that directors cut of the movie.

2015-03-28 13.55.31

 

The film is beloved by many in the crowd. This was maybe the hottest day at the Festival, and the theater was quite pleasant after standing in the queue on front of the Chinese Theater. While waiting in line I spoke with one woman who was very much looking forward to this screening and another man turned around and was quite excited about the event.  2015-03-28 13.17.57This was a day that I’m sure patrons regret that the stand alone box office and canopy were missing from the forecourt of the theater. The staff of the Theater were passing out umbrellas to protect the crowd from the brutality of the sun. Unfortunately the woman I spoke to was more brutal than the sun. When I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing “Nightmare Alley” the next morning, she dismissed it with a comment about how much better the book was and she rolled her eyes at my admiring Tyronne Power in the lead role, ouch.

“1776” played well on the big screen but it still felt drawn out at times. The music is tuneful but none of it is particularly catchy, and the lyrics are often more focused on character development than plot. “He Plays the Violin” and “Molasses to Rum” are the exceptions, they are not show stoppers but they do add humor and drama respectively. The climax of the film which mimics John Trumbull’s painting of “the Presentation of the Declaration of Independence” has a fitting counterpoint score and will leave anyone with some patriotism in their heart with a lump in their throat.