On Saturday, I skipped the first session and headed over to assess the situation for Mervyn LeRoy’s Three on a Match (1932). It was more than 90 minutes before it screened so I was expecting I arrived too early, but there were already about 20 people in line, so I grabbed a spot. The pre-Codes in Theater #4 are always a big draw. I am sure there’s a reason, but I remain surprised after all this time they aren’t placed in larger theaters. One could tell when a screening from the first session got out as a wave of people would rush out the doors, asking whether numbers had been given out and where the end of the line was. There’s a fair chance more people got turned away than who made it inside.
The film is a fun melodrama as Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, and Ann Dvorak play Mary, Ruth, and Vivian, former classmates whose lives intertwine again. Viv is married to lawyer Robert Kirkwood (Warren William) and they have a son. Bored with her life, she plans a trip to Europe with her son. Before shipping off, Mary introduces Viv to gambler Michael Loftus (Lyle Talbot). He woos her off the ship but into a miserable life. Mary feels bad about Viv kidnapping her son and tells distraught Robert where to find him. Not only does he get his son back, but when his divorce from Viv is final, he gets a new wife in Mary. But things don’t end there as Viv’s drug habit sees her squander her money and Michael’s gambling debts lead him to kidnap the kid. Running just over an hour, there’s not a lot of time for nuance, so events moves at a brisk pace. Viv’s rash decision to run away from her life does quite a bit of damage to those around her, but she is able to find redemption, briefly.
Jane Seymour spoke about Jeannot Szwarc’s Somewhere in Time (1980) and her brief love affair with co-star Christopher Reeve which was concluded because his ex was pregnant, leading him to return to her. Even though over 40 years has passed, her fondness for Reeve was apparent.
Somewhere in Time starts with potential but concludes in such a way it’s hard to understand what the author had in mind with the story. In 1972, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) is a college student and playwright. He meets an older woman who gives him a watch and says, “Come back to me” only to die at her home later that night. Eight years later, he stays at a hotel where he finds a picture of Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), an actress from early 20th Century whom he discovers is that older woman from years ago. Obsessed with her, he somehow hypnotizes himself to wake up in 1912 and finds her staying at the hotel. She is intrigued by him, but her manager William Fawcett Robinson (Christopher Plummer), thinking only of himself, wants Richard to stay away because he fears she’ll leave the theater life.
Around the time Richard wakes up in the stable after getting roughed up, I left to go make my next film, which was up the street at the Hollywood Legion Theater. It’s probably for the best because the ending is so corny and ridiculous, so hard to believe that this view of love is one any rational adult would have, I don’t know that I would have been able to not voice my disappointment in it. It’s such a bizarre view of love it doesn’t even seem like love.
This year’s recipient of the Robert Osborne Award was film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, who was presented the award by Warren Beatty. One of the perks is selecting a film to be screened and Maltin chose William Wyler’s Counsellor at Law (1933), starring John Barrymore as George Simon, the titular character. This melodrama finds the successful lawyer hitting low points in his personal and professional life. A rival threatens to ruin George’s career because years ago he let a client perjure himself and if word got out, he’d be disbarred. His stepkids are horrible towards him, and if she isn’t having an affair yet, his wife Cora (Doris Kenyon) likely soon will be as she heads off to Europe with Roy (Melvyn Douglas). The audience sees George is a good guy from the way he treats his mother and clients. He finds himself at wit’s end, but is lucky a dedicated secretary (Bebe Daniels), who secretly loves him, shows concern. The characters are are broadly drawn, coming off like types rather than real people. But with the dialogue and plot moving at a brisk clip, it’s an enjoyable film.
My highlight of the weekend was the pre-screening conversation with co-stars Kevin Bacon (Fenwick), Tim Daly (Billy), Steve Guttenberg (Eddie) and Paul Reiser (Modell) before writer/director Barry Levinson’s Diner (1982). It was so wonderful hearing them reminisce about working together I could have easily listen for another two hours if the film hadn’t have arrived. It was a pivotal job in all their careers so it’s understandable why their bond remains so strong. A shame Levinson and other cast members didn’t take part.
Doing his variation of Fellini’s I vitelloni, Levinson’s movie focuses on five young men in Baltimore 1959. Billy has come to town for Eddie’s wedding, which will only go through if his fiancee passes a quiz about the Baltimore Colts. Boogie (Mickey Rourke) is in trouble due to his gambling and to make some money, he bets how far he can get with chicks. Fenwick is a smart guy and comes from a wealthy family but is only interested in practical jokes. Shrevie is the most “grown up” of the circle of friends with a sales job and a wife, Beth (Ellen Barkin), but he’s not very happy.
Diner is well written, both in terms of the humor and how well rounded the characters are. Although set in 1959, their struggles are universal. These feel like real people you know, and possibly are. And the cast brings them to life with such ease that it feels like a documentary.
Presented in Odorama, scratch cards that allow audience members to experience what Francine (Divine) does, Polyester is an outlandish tale about what Francine has to endure. Her husband Elmer (David Samson) runs a porno theater and is having an affair with his secretary Sandra (Mink Stole). Her daughter Lu-Lu (Mary Garlington) is promiscuous and gets pregnant. Her son Dexter (Ken King) sniffs glue and is secretly the Baltimore Foot Stomper because he gets sexual gratification stomping on women’s feet. Her mother La Rue (Joni Ruth White) looks down on her and steals from her. Her only friend is Cuddles (Edith Massey), who inherited a large sum of money. But will Francine’s life turnaround when she meets and falls for Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter)?
Polyester is absolutely ridiculous and that’s what makes it so fun. Waters could have gone into soap operas with these outlandish storylines, which spoof and celebrate women’s picture and suburbia. The cast, many of whom he’s worked with before, are game for whatever is demented mind comes up with.
Due to having to be in Las Vegas for CinemaCon on Monday, Polyester would be my last film of the festival. To be honest, I had seen it before so just planned on a quick peek, but the audience was so engaged I was glued to my seat. I am already looking forward to next year.
Read Part One of my 2022 TCMFF Diary.