Robert Osborne hosted last week’s opening party celebrating Turner Classic Movies‘ 20th anniversary at the Roosevelt Hotel with a surprise celebrity panel. A cross section of ten talented individuals – actors, playwrights, designers, writer’s, etc. – were invited to choose a favorite iconic movie and create an image for their own TCM logo.
PHOTO GALLERY: TCM 20th Anniversary Celebration
In attendance were Jane Seymour, who chose “Gone With The Wind,” New Yorker cartoonist and writer-producer Bruce Eric Kaplan captured a cartoon world entitled “Hitchcock Street,” playwright Charles Busch did a pastel inspired by Busby Berkeley musicals, and Kim Novak proved how multi-talented she is with her imaginative “Vertigo” piece, which of course, she starred in back in 1958.
Other creatives tapped for the project included Tony Bennett, Burt Young, Jules Feiffer, Joel Grey, Todd Oldham, and Manolo Blahnik. Thankfully, press received a pack of all 10 cards in the tote bag.
Exciting side note: After this presentation, I walked outside to check on the next event and as I was walking back inside, Kim Novak, surrounded by an entourage, came out of the door, stopped, looked right at me, smiled and said “Hello.” Gush.
Next on the agenda was a poolside viewing of “American Graffiti” and just like in the movie, Wolfman Jack was in charge of the tunes while dancers entertained the crowd. Once it got dark, Ben Mankiewicz interviewed Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins, and Paul Le Mat.
Ben asked if it was tough for the young actors to have a director that wasn’t giving them constant feedback, and Bo said they didn’t know the difference. Paul said George Lucas, who directed the film, didn’t tell them what to do before the first take, but he’d give suggestions on the second or third. Paul said he was in character for most of the movie, so he was acting like a tough guy and decided in one scene to be disrespectful to a cop. George told him, “No, we didn’t do that in 1962.”
George wanted something new, fresh, innovative, and experimental, and when Bo saw the movie and the music came up, he said, “I’m in this movie? It was that good. George used the music as another character in the film.”
The license plate on Paul’s car is THX 138 — a nod to George’s previous film. Paul said the license plate is more famous than he is. Ben wanted to know why Richard Dreyfuss didn’t show up. Looking sheepish, Paul admitted to throwing Richard in the pool headfirst during the filming of “Graffiti” and figured there was no way that Richard would show up anywhere near him and a swimming pool.
Friday night, I opted for the 1969 version of “The Italian Job” with Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill. Caine’s character is plagued by hot and cold running Mod chics that welcome him home — the lovable scallywag from prison. Coward looks like he’s really enjoying playing a jailed don who’s in charge and getting the royal treatment. Benny Hill’s ahead of his time playing a computer nerd with a predilection for big women. Quincy Jones, who composed the score, noted that he and Michael Caine are twins — they were born on the exact same date, year, and time.
Quincy’s score pushes the story along at a fast clip, and he was on hand for a Q&A with Ben Mankiewicz. Quincy has 79 Grammy nominations and 27 wins, including a Grammy Legend Award. Ben reminded Quincy — that means he’s a 51-time Grammy loser. He’s also been nominated for seven Academy Awards. Quincy scored 38 films when there were no African-American composers.
His first was 1964’s “The Pawnbroker,” for which he was hired with a recommendation from Sidney Lumet, who neglected to tell the powers that be that Quincy was a black man. They weren’t happy when Quincy showed up, but Sidney told them to give him a chance. He made $8000 for “The Pawnbroker,” which was the beginning of his five collaborations with Sydney Lumet. He said Sidney Lumet and Sidney Poitier were his two biggest supporters, and Poitier was always trying to save him from getting corrupted, but Ray Charles got their first.
For the score of “In Cold Blood,” Quincy kept it simple and used two basses, noting that a score boils down to tension and release, and “In Cold Blood” is an excellent example of how that works. He said Truman Capote called director Richard Brooks and said, “I can’t believe you’re hiring a Negro to score my movie,” then later called Quincy after the Oscar nomination crying to apologize. Quincy said his best experience scoring a film was “In The Heat Of The Night.”
While working on “The Italian Job” score, The Rolling Stones were recording “Sympathy For The Devil” in the same studio at night, and Michael Caine was dating Bianca before Mick Jagger did. Ben asked how he came up with all the British-themed music for “The Italian Job.” He said he wanted to give the soundtrack a range of different qualities: road movie, Britpop and old-school British music. Ben laughed and asked how he came up with “This is the Self-Preservation Society” song. Quincy made it sound like a Cockney song and said he really enjoyed recording the opening song “On Days Like These” and got a charge out of a special composition for Noel Coward’s bathroom scene.
Perks came along with scoring films. Noel Coward asked Quincy to bring his 50-piece orchestra to his home for a party, where Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra were in attendance. He said Sinatra’s code was “Live every day like it’s your last; one day you’re going to be right. I feel sorry for the people that don’t drink.” Quincy said regarding Frank and the Mafia, if you were in the music business, you couldn’t avoid them, as they owned all the clubs and record companies.
Quincy grew up in Chicago and noted that water creates mobsters; he saw a dead body every day of his life while living there. His father took him out of Chicago on a bus and that’s when he picked up instruments — and they saved his life.
It was a great interview, and Ben could have gone on all night, but it was a film festival and when the lights went down, Quincy threw off his handlers by being the only celebrity to ever actually sit through a movie just grabbing a seat. It was enjoyable to watch them scramble and run off in different directions to make calls and find Quincy a beverage and some popcorn.