TCM on the Road to Hollywood
An interview with Turner Classic’s Ben Mankiewicz
Turner Classic Movies is sponsoring its annual TCM Classic Movie Festival in Hollywood April 25-28. In order to build up buzz for this fan-service festival filled with films and famous celebrities, the network honchos have organized a special “Road to Hollywood” tour. Touching down in 10 cities across America, the tour features cinema from Hollywood’s golden era (Forbidden Planet, On the Waterfront, Cabaret, Rio Bravo), hosts culled from TCM’s on-air talent pool (Ben Mankiewicz, Leonard Maltin, Robert Osborne) and big-name guest stars (Eva Marie Saint, Angie Dickinson, Liza Minnelli, Robert Wagner).
The Road tour makes its final, pre-Hollywood stop in Albuquerque on Thursday, April 18. Downtown’s historic KiMo Theatre will host a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1964 thriller Marnie. Ben Mankiewicz will be on hand to conduct a post-film Q&A with star Tippi Hedren. Alibi took the opportunity to chat with Mankiewicz about the upcoming event.
“She’d tell the story, and you’d hear it in the audience: People would gasp. All you have to do is hear her tell it once, and you know she’s very clearly telling the truth.”
Give us a little background story on this Road to Hollywood tour.
Well, it’s a pretty simple idea. This is the fourth year of the TCM Film Festival. The idea of the Road to Hollywood was a recognition that not everyone can get to Los Angeles for the festival, so let’s bring the festival to as many parts of the country as we can. Events like the one in Albuquerque—like the one I’m at right now in Ann Arbor, Mich.—this is what the festival is about. It’s a chance to see a classic film in a great, usually old, theater. And with a star of the movie or a director or at least an expert on the movie. So you get a Q&A and the movie and the experience of seeing it—which is the most valuable thing. Not just seeing it in a theater but seeing it with 500, 1,000 or 1,500 like-minded people.
You’re doing different events in different cities?
I would have done more, but I just had a baby. I was taken off the road to Hollywood for a little bit. I did Pittsburgh with Eva Marie Saint. We did On the Waterfront. We went to the Kennedy Space Center outside of Orlando and we did Forbidden Planet with two astronauts. And had the intro simulcast from the International Space Station. It was an incredibly cool experience, talking to them about how ’50s sci-fi movies influenced them. Amazing how many of those guys grew up watching those movies, and it planted in their head the idea that it might be cool to be an astronaut. Of course, they have to be incredibly smart, too. But it’s nice that the movies planted that seed.
As a lifelong film person, this has got to be an ideal gig.
I love everything I do for TCM. But these events are a lot of fun. Interacting with such appreciative audiences is incredibly rewarding. And occasionally moving. I feel like that sometimes sounds corny, but I gotta be honest. It’s true. These movies mean so much to so many people. And our channel means so much to so many people. I think—I’m positive—there’s no other channel on television that has that kind of relationship with its viewers. I mean, I watched the season premiere of “Mad Men.” I love “Game of Thrones.” I watch just about everything on HBO. There’s this renaissance in television now, these great, great programs. They’re really cinematic. But I don’t feel any connection with FX or AMC or HBO. But people feel a connection to [TCM].
So you’re going to be chatting with Ms. Hedren?
Yeah. we’ll do a Q&A with the film. Tippi is remarkably candid. I’ve become good friends over the years with Tippi, which is a nice other bonus to the job. She’s spoken so candidly about the two Alfred Hitchcocks that she knows to exist, side by side. She’s not bitter in any way about a guy who said he’d ruin her career and in many ways did. But he also gave her her career. He’s brilliant and compelling and this gifted filmmaker—and also this very stereotypical sexual harasser. And now that this HBO film The Girl has come out, so many more people know the story. They’re more ready for it. But what’s amazing, in the years past, before this came out, is how many people didn’t know it. She’d tell the story, and you’d hear it in the audience: People would gasp. All you have to do is hear her tell it once, and you know she’s very clearly telling the truth. I know there’s been some backlash against The Girl, but I just want to tell people, “Just listen to Tippi.” She doesn’t call him a monster, she’s not bitter, she’s just candid. “Oh, this happened, but he was also this: He was engaging, so funny and so brilliant and such a great teacher.” It’s rare to find someone in Hollywood who speaks that easily and candidly.
TCM’s Road to Hollywood stops at Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre on Thursday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. with Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie. Tickets are free to the public, but you need to rsvp by going to tcm.com/2013/roadtohollywood.
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