This is a special guest post by Scott Holleran:
“An Appreciation of Fox,” presented by Turner Classic Movies at the American Legion’s Hollywood Post 43’s newly renovated movie theater during the TCM Classic Film Festival on April 13, 2019, featured a movie studio retrospective by Fox archivist Schawn Belston.
After a gracious introduction by TCM programming boss Charles Tabesh, Belston took the audience on a narrative tour through various movie scenes, clips and bits that ranged over the history of 20th Century Fox, which was purchased this year by the Walt Disney Studios. The Fox studio’s most famous and popular series, Star Wars, was prominently included in Belston’s retrospective.
So was director John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, which beat Citizen Kane to win Oscar’s Best Picture, with the film preservationist’s additional fact that William Wyler was originally set to direct until John Ford (Stagecoach) stepped in. Other presentation highlights include references to — or scenes from — the silent film Sunrise, the 1917 version of Cleopatra, All About Eve, MASH, Patton, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All That Jazz and 1965’s Best Picture Oscar winner, The Sound of Music.
Classic film fans attending TCM’s festival were treated to scenes from another of Fox’s Best Picture winners, the underappreciated Cavalcade, a Noel Coward-based story depicting the 1912 Titanic disaster decades before James Cameron’s Best Picture for Fox about the sea catastrophe.
Guided by Belston’s introductions, other clips include details about Cinemascope, losing On the Waterfront, Marilyn Monroe in Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the legacy of Alan Ladd, Jr., Bruce Willis descending a Los Angeles skyscraper in Die Hard and Mike Nichols’ 1988 paean to Americanism, Working Girl.
An eerie scene from 20th Century Fox’s Leave Her to Heaven, in which Gene Tierney’s character premeditates and carries out the murder of a crippled child, left the audience breathless. A scene from Stormy Weather, with its all-black cast featuring the Nicholas brothers in a breathtaking dance display, dazzled as Belston added that Fred Astaire regarded the scene as the “greatest musical number ever filmed.”
The program’s biggest laugh came after a scene with Henry Fonda commiserating at the bar in My Darling Clementine before asking a man behind the bar whether he’s ever been in love.
The man’s deadpan reply: “I’m a bartender.”
Schawn Belston’s adieu to the vaunted motion picture studio included a brief recognition that the studio bearing the name of its founder, William Fox, was created by a Hungarian immigrant.
Scott Holleran began his professional writing career as a newspaper correspondent in 1991. He’s worked in a variety of media, including magazines, broadcasting and Internet ventures. His news, cultural commentary, sports and other topical articles has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and Philadelphia Inquirer. You can find Scott on Facebook, Twitter or on his website.