Hollywood festival shows classic movies still relevant

May 5, 2014

Thomas Price

Tinsel Town is not known for its promotion of family values. However, on April 10-12 thousands of classic movie fans converged in the heart of Hollywood for the 5th annual TCM Classic Film Festival. This year the event was themed “Family in the Movies: The Ties that Bind.”

The festival showed more than 80 movies and featured discussions with actors such as Richard Dreyfuss (“Jaws”), Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Shirley Jones (“The Partridge Family”) and Maureen O’Hara (“The Quiet Man”).

Legendary comedic director Mel Brooks, in all his hilarious, un-politically correct glory, and award-winning composer and writer Quincy Jones were also in attendance.

This was my third trip to the festival and it was evident that the cross-generational appreciation for classic movies is growing, with good reason.

Films that portrayed family values ranged from the 1920’s silent “City Lights,” featuring Charlie Chaplin, to Dreyfuss’ “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” a 1995 journey about a musician raising a deaf son. The thread that tied all the films together was the old adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The difficulties of single parenting were explored in the 1937 “Stella Dallas.” In the film, Barbara Stanwyck’s character literally pushes her daughter away in a selfless act to save her. In the 1939 “Bachelor Mother,” Ginger Rogers demonstrated the societal disapproval for out-of-wedlock childbearing.

The ultimate dysfunctional family was grittingly and cringingly on display in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” The 1958 tour de force featured Burl Ives as the emotionally abusive patriarch Big Daddy, Elizabeth Taylor as the sultry Maggie, and Paul Newman as Brick, her alcoholic husband and Big Daddy’s son.

Additionally, a showing of the classic “Gone with the Wind” in historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre revealed the penultimate family dysfunction. The 1939 Best Actress winner, Vivien Leigh, consumed the screen with her deceit and narcissism as Scarlett O’Hara.

The timeless and often heartwarming relationship between fathers and daughters was on wonderful display in the 1950 original “Father of the Bride,” where Spencer Tracy cannot accept his young daughter’s engagement.

The often complicated sister relationship was horrifically revealed in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962), casting real-life enemies Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the cruelest of sisters. This motif also surfaced in the Woody Allen film “Hannah and Her Sisters” from 1986.

Even the trials of dealing with aging parents were explored with poignancy in several wonderful and decades-old films.

In addition, there were movies about creating non-traditional families: Disney’s 1967 “The Jungle Book” and “American Graffiti,” the 1973 George Lucas exploration of teens’ last night together after high school.

“The story of leaving your family and moving on is a timeless one that resonates with every generation and accounts for the film’s renewed appeal,” said the Oscar-nominated Candy Clark (“American Graffiti”) during a panel discussion.

There was also Disney’s 1964 Academy Award winning, “Mary Poppins,” where an ordinary English family is fractured until a magical nanny helps mend the bonds broken by pride.

“[Mary Poppins] is a timeless story that’s all about the importance of family,” said the Oscar-winning Richard Sherman, who, along with his brother, Robert, created the beloved music of “Mary Poppins.”

The opportunity to watch classic films on the big screen created an entirely different level of appreciation for not only the visuals, but also the story, acting and technical aspects.

However, one doesn’t need to purchase a plane ticket to California to attend a film festival. There are many local and on-campus opportunities to explore films such as those featured at the TCM festival.

From the “Directors in Focus” series offered in the Visual and Preforming Arts department (including Hitchcock and Kubrick) to the American Cinema and Walt Disney Communication courses, several on-campus offerings exist.
There are also two UCCS film clubs that show excellent movies weekly throughout the year. Local commercial theaters often reshow at least one “classic” film weekly, a testament to their immortality and relevance.

While a trip to Hollywood may not be on every film fan’s agenda, the chance to see the most classic of movies surrounds them. Take the opportunity; as is said a hundred times over at the TCM festival, “They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

Thomas Price is president of the on-campus Totally Classic Movies club.