Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

1970-1972: when the stars came out to talk ...

Bogarde, Remick, Davis, De Havilland, Mason, Bergman on the days I saw them at the NFT.

The early '70s was an interesting period when those movie stars we grew up watching were still active, acting and also appearing in public to discuss their careers. The British Film Institute at London's National Film Theatre ran a series, sponsored by the tobacco company John Player, where all the leading lights of the time appeared. I was 24 then in 1970 and by the time I began going to their Sunday afternoon discussions, a lot of the main players had already appeared: Hitchcock, Wilder, Lillian Gish, Truffaut, Preminger etc. A friend and I went along though to the Olivia De Havilland discussion and it was terrific. A middle aged lady in a flowery chiffon dress was standing in the foyer smiling at us - it was Olivia! and I see from the programme she was in conversation with John Kobal. It was fascinating watching Olivia watching that scene where she and Erroll Flynn ride in the forest from ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and then she told us how hard it was for her to appear before us 34 years after that scene - well of course now more than 34 more years have passed and Olivia is still with us in her 90s!

Olivia's appearance was such a success that she must have told her friend Bette Davis about it, because 2 weeks later it was Bette's turn! This was not advertised in the monthly programme but word got out [in that pre-email and texting age] and there was a huge queue as we turned up - I remember it being a very good humoured queue with people having packed lunches etc as they expected a long wait. We got standing seats at the side but noticed 2 emtpy seats in one of the rows so we made a bee-line for them and got them, so had a great view of Bette, who brought the house down by entering from the back of the auditorium and she made her way to the stage with a fur coat slung over her shoulder trailing behind her on the floor! It was a perfect - as intended - Margo Channing moment. Bette (who must have been making MADAME SIN here) was in good humour and it was all such a success that she soon appeared at the London Palladium talking and answering questions and she toured the country with it!

Other appearances I liked were Dirk Bogarde's and Lee Remick's and it was great to hear them discussing their careers and scenes from their films and to talk to them and get their autographs on the programmes, (Bogarde was launching DEATH IN VENICE, the Remick programme is in the recent separate post on her). Then James Mason, Rex Harrison, Angela Lansbury (in conversation with Rex Reed), Charlton Heston, David Niven, Ingrid Bergman at a screening of CASABLANCA where she was very friendly as usual, and others including Mervyn LeRoy [that one began with the clip of the 3 strippers and "You Gotta Have A Gimmick" from GYPSY!], Terence Rattigan, John Huston (launching FAT CITY), John Boorman (LEO THE LAST), John Frankenheimer, Robert Redford in '73, Stephen Spielberg just as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS was about to open in '77, and critics like Dilys Powell and Alexander Walker, and the likes of Billie Whitelaw and Leonard Whiting in a discussion on actors and nudity (all the rage then!). We also had Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Joseph Losey (above, with critic Dilys Powell) discussing their collaborations at a different venue (as per my Losey/Bogarde post). What a terrific time - and all before the internet or video and dvd, so the only way to see old movies then was at the popular revival houses (or whatever turned up on television).

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