A Sneak Peak at Telluride Film Festival 2010

The 37th Telluride Film Festival promises to be another memorable event for the lucky attendees at this four-day film mecca that occurs over the Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3-6. Classic movie fans, in particular, will be excited to know that Italian screen legend Claudia Cardinale will be one of the honorees with a screening of Valerio Zurlini’s GIRL WITH A SUITCASE (1961). In addition, there will be a retrospective showing of Robert Rossen’s THE HUSTLER (1961) with Paul Newman’s Eddie Felson squaring off against Jackie Gleason’s Minnesota Fats in the pool hall. And, festival-goers will get an early look at two episodes of the new seven part documentary, MOGULS AND MOVIE STARS: A HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD, which TCM will premiere on the network beginning Nov. 1st, with each new episode appearing every Monday evening through Dec. 15th.      

Written, directed and produced by four-time Emmy nominee Jon Wilkman (who will be present to introduce the two episodes), MOGULS AND MOVIE STARS is probably the most ambitious documentary project TCM has ever attempted so the stakes and expectations are high. Wilkman stated in an interview what he hoped to accomplish with this seven hour epic: “…the important thing that I wanted to do in the series really is… to come up with a new way of looking at Hollywood history….there have been many documentaries that tell the who, the what, the where of history. I wanted to tell the how and the why. I wanted to really understand , and that’s the underlying theme of the series, the nature of Hollywood power. Who had it, how did they get it, what did they do with it, and then how did they lose it?”

Narrated by Christopher Plummer, the documentary is chock full of impressive interviewees, from film critics David Thomson , Jeanine Basinger and others to directors like Sidney Lumet and Peter Bogdanovich. Over seventy experts and Hollywood insiders were interviewed for MOGULS. “We have Samuel Goldwyn Jr.,” says Wilkman, “We have James Zukor, the grandson of Adolph Zukor. We have Richard Zanuck, the son of Darryl Zanuck. We Have Daniel Selznick, the son of David Selznick and grandson of Louis B. Mayer…these are people who know first hand these stories and their names are connected to great names. We have a wonderful interview with Carla Laemmle who is a hundred and one years old, the niece of Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Studios.”

I don’t know if most movie buffs have favorite moguls like they do favorite movie stars but I’ve been fascinated by some of them like Harry Cohn, who was a toxic mixture of crassness and savvy business smarts. After his death, Rita Hayworth, one of his biggest stars at Columbia, said, “You want to know what I think of Harry Cohn? He was a monster.” One of Hayworth’s former husbands, Orson Welles, had a slightly different take on Cohn: “I liked him, I really did,” Welles said years later on Dick Cavett’s interview show, “Because he was a monster. But they all were, almost all of them, those guys who ran their own stores in those old days of Hollywood. He came on as a monster but he could never be as bad as his first impression. …I did get to be quite fond of him in spite of the fact that he bugged my office. He had tremendous courage. If he believed in something he would go the distance, which is a great quality in a showman.”

Certainly few if any of the moguls became major power brokers in the industry by being nice guys. In the opinion of film historian David Thomson, “It took a kind of gangsterism. It was a rough business, a rough, tough business. You had to have a fantastic head for money, you had to have an eye for talent, you needed to look at a line of people and say him and her, the camera will like them. And be right most of the time. And you had to know your audience. And of course a lot of them had begun in the theatrical business dealing with audiences. They’d watched people watching films so they knew what they liked. And how they reacted. So all of those things were part of it.” I look forward to seeing how Wilkman depicts all of these bigger-than-life personalities in this ambitious documentary series.

As for Piper Laurie’s rumored appearance at Telluride, one can only hope there will be a pristine new print to view of THE HUSTLER, which is certainly one of Piper’s greatest performances and everyone else is in top form too from Newman to Gleason to George C. Scott, mesmerizing and oozing evil out of every pore. I don’t feel that director Robert Rossen has ever received the recognition he deserved from film critics or his peers during his lifetime and someone like the Film Society at Lincoln Center or Film Forum or TCM should do a film tribute to him, showcasing Body and Soul (1947), All the King’s Men (1949), the rarely seen The Brave Bulls (1951) and Lilith (1964), among others. Ironically, 20th Century Fox had little faith in THE HUSTLER when it was completed, releasing it with little fanfare or promotion, until it began to generate wildly enthusiastic word-of-mouth and glowing reviews. Now, of course, it’s considered a landmark film of the sixties. Roger Ebert wrote, “There are only a handful of movie characters so real that the audience refers to them as touchstones. Fast Eddie Felson is one of them. The pool shark played by Paul Newman in The Hustler is indelible – given weight because the film is not about his victory in the final pool game, but about his defeat by pool, by life, and by his lack of character. This is one of the few American movies in which the hero wins by surrendering, by accepting reality instead of his dreams.”

THE HUSTLER is also one of the six films programmed by this year’s guest director,  novelist Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient). His other picks include John Huston’s underrated FAT CITY (1972), Larisa Shepitko’s THE ASCENT (1977), which was recently released on DVD by Eclipse and Jan Troell’s HERE’S YOUR LIFE (1966), which was shown a few years ago at Telluride. The latter is a restored print from the Swedish Institute. It was one of my favorite films from the 2008 Telluride Film Festival and you can see my blog on it here –

http://streamline.filmstruck.com/2008/10/04/here’s-your-life-–-innocence-lost-and-found/

Richard Harland Smith is going to do a tribute to Claudia Cardinale tomorrow so I won’t steal his thunder with any more detail about her selection as one of this year’s honorees. The other two Silver Medallion recipients,  who will be in attendance, are actor Colin Firth, with a sneak preview of his new film THE KING’S SPEECH, and director Peter Weir, represented by his latest film, THE WAY BACK.

Other notable retrospective screenings include the sidebar event, TREASURES FROM UCLA. The UCLA Film & Television Archive will receive this year’s Special Medallion award and two films from their archives will be screened: the 1927 film CHICAGO with a live score performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and Stanton Kaye’s 1968 film, BRANDY IN THE WILDERNESS. Additional classic film screenings include Robert Flaherty’s 1926 film, MOANA: A STORY OF THE SOUTH SEAS and the 1930 Italian film ROTAIE, directed by Mario Camerini.

For more program information and up-to-the-minute announcements and additions, visit the official Telluride Film Festival web site at http://www.telluridefilmfestival.org/

9 Responses A Sneak Peak at Telluride Film Festival 2010
Posted By Jeff L. Shannon : September 3, 2010 12:09 am

Just how great is “The Moguls” show? Ever read or hear of James Bacon’s book “Harry Cohn: The Meanest Man in Town?”

Posted By Jeff L. Shannon : September 3, 2010 12:09 am

Just how great is “The Moguls” show? Ever read or hear of James Bacon’s book “Harry Cohn: The Meanest Man in Town?”

Posted By morlockjeff : September 3, 2010 6:24 pm

I have never heard of Bacon’s book. The only Cohn bios I’ve read are KING COHN by Bob Thomas and THE MERCHANT PRINCE OF POVERTY ROW by Bernard K. Dick.

Posted By morlockjeff : September 3, 2010 6:24 pm

I have never heard of Bacon’s book. The only Cohn bios I’ve read are KING COHN by Bob Thomas and THE MERCHANT PRINCE OF POVERTY ROW by Bernard K. Dick.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 6, 2010 12:32 am

I am excited to see the documentary.

Posted By dukeroberts : September 6, 2010 12:32 am

I am excited to see the documentary.

Posted By morlockjeff : September 8, 2010 12:34 pm

It turns out that Piper Laurie was unable to attend the festival due to a recent injury but there was no shortage of famous film directors and actors in attendance, mingling casually with the festival goers as usual.

Posted By morlockjeff : September 8, 2010 12:34 pm

It turns out that Piper Laurie was unable to attend the festival due to a recent injury but there was no shortage of famous film directors and actors in attendance, mingling casually with the festival goers as usual.

Posted By Roger Ebert, Sam Fuller, Woody Strode, Les Blank and Others at the 1981 Telluride Film Festival | Cinema Sojourns : August 29, 2014 10:45 pm

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