This is a little off my usual beat, but, hell, you live only once. Recently I was invited to attend a screening of Jamaica Inn at the Pacific Design Center in Beverly Hills. It was a 3 hour drive for me and– get this– it was raining in L.A., but the trip was more than worth it to see this restoration.
The Pacific Design Center is this beautiful, brightly multicolored building in Beverly Hills, filled with the furniture stores of avarice’s most mightiest dreams. It felt odd to me– initially– that this was also the home of what turned out to be one of the nicest movie theaters I’ve ever been in. Beautiful grey, plush seats, and every single one has a great view.
Okay, sorry, sidetracked. The screening was put on by KCET, a Los Angeles-based public broadcaster (that’s totally available to watch on your Roku, if you’re so interested). They have a new series presented every Friday night called Cohen Film Classics, presented by Charles S. Cohen, a real estate mogul who bought the rights to some 700 classic films and introduces them. He’s basically Iron Man but instead of building a powersuit made of metal, he makes old Hitchcock films look amazing. There are less Black Sabbath songs about that, but I appreciate it all the same.
The screening kicked off with Cohen interviewing two of Hitchcock’s granddaughters, Tere Carrubba and Katie Fiala, and 102-year-old Norman Lloyd, co-star of Saboteur (1941) and co-producer of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1955-62). The granddaughters had a few recollections of their famous grandfather (“He played Santa Claus one year; it wasn’t a pretty picture.”) and revealed to collective gasps– this was their first time seeing Jamaica Inn.
Lloyd, who ambled on stage in his trademark trench coat and hat, kissed each of the women and then joyfully interrupted the interview whenever he saw fit. Calling Saboteur “still relevant today”, he told the story of his backflip off the Statue of Liberty, and how it was managed in one take– because that was all it could take. Lloyd saved much of his most reverent praise for Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s editor and wife. Also, Lloyd still managed the best impersonation of Hitchcock I’ve ever personally seen, which is great.
Jamaica Inn isn’t a favorite Hitchcock. If you guys have done your homework and listened to The Secret History of Hollywood, you’ll know it’s not one of Hitch’s favorites, either– Charles Laughton co-produced the film and threw his weight around. That makes the movie rather focused on quirky villain, and the two leads, including an incredibly young Maureen O’Hara, as blank stand-ins.
But it’s still a Hitchcock movie and it has some sublime moments. One, where Laughton’s pompous villain throws crumpled paper on the floor just to make his aged butler stoop to pick them up, is powerful enough that it makes a lot of the rest of the actor’s efforts seem like overkill. That said, the restoration for the movie was superb, clear and crisp with a wonderful amount of grain.
One of the other nice things about the screening was getting to hang out with a number of LA classic film bloggers. This included Kim, Kim, Laura, and Beth, who flew down from the Bay Area, too. It was a lot of fun, and hinted at how things will shake down at TCMFF in a few weeks.
Cohen Film Classics plays Friday nights at 10:20 PM on KCET. Tonight’s show is Jamaica Inn, so if you ever had the desire to see it, check it out!