By Bill Dudley

Screening nearly 100 films this year (in only 4 days) with countless guest speakers, I did my best to catch about 20 events. Opening night (Thursday) featured several members of the original cast of “Grease” gathered around the legendary swimming pool of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Friday night, the zany Peter Seller’s classic “The Party” was shown. Saturday night, a rare treat as Richard Roundtree (currently featured on BET’s “Being Mary Jane”) was featured for the screening of the 1974 disaster film “Earthquake”. Richard looks great and said he actually didn’t actually share the stage with many of his co-stars in “Earthquake”, as he was usually on his motorcycle while shooting many scenes.

Richard also discussed  his 20 year battle (and victory over) breast cancer. He kept this quiet at first, but now has become a leader in letting the world know breast cancer is not just a disease for women. I’d like to see Richard again at TCM Fest again, next time for his best known role as “Shaft”, which is a much better film than “Earthquake”.

Director Spike Lee was on hand to discuss his epic 1989 “Malcolm X”, which not only made Denzel Washington a household name, but has one of the best soundtracks in film history. The world’s only comedy musical about the Revolutionary War, (and I can say that with conviction), “1776” was shown with William Daniels (John Adams), Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), and the late Howard da Silva (as Ben Franklin) leading an impressive cast in the legacy of the signing of The Declaration Of Independence.

Daniels, and Howard were in attendance as well as director Peter H. Hunt. “1776” was originally a Broadway musical and was screened for (then) President Richard Nixon in 1974. Nixon objected to one scene which the studio removed at his request. The digitally restored version has put that scene back where it belongs. The sad irony is, watching Congress take so long to accomplish anything as far back as 1776, shows that not much has changed.

Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews were on hand for the 50th anniversary of “The Sound Of Music”. Plummer was made immortal by a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater. Longtime pals, Shirley MacLaine and William Shatner spoke at the ceremony. Shatner, who has known Plummer since the 1950s in Canada, was surprisingly very serious. Shirley was hysterically funny.

Plummer was deeply grateful and humble citing his mother who told him he should live a long life if he wants to be appreciated. He most certainly feels appreciated now.  Plummer also has an important role in the new Al Pacino film “Danny Collins”.

A rare 1919 silent movie by none other than magician Harry Houdini was the final event at TCM. It took 500 hours to restore “Grim Game” which sat in a Houdini fan’s closet and neglected for half a century. Houdini showcased his various escape skills in almost every scene. One of the most unusual segments of “Grim Game” featured two very early aircraft that actually collided and crashed during the filming. This was not planned, and all survived, including Houdini.

I will have more for you tomorrow on TCM events I attended that included Shirley MacLaine, Dustin Hoffman, Ann-Margret, Robert Morse (Madmen), 100 year-old Norman Lloyd who has worked with everyone from Orson Welles to Denzel Washington, and the grandsons of timeless comedy legend WC Fields.

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