Long before reality shows, viral videos and TMZ, Hollywood types loved to make home movies of their lives — on sets, hanging out at their mansions in Beverly Hills, relaxing on their boats in the Pacific, visiting Disneyland.
On Saturday evening, the TCM Classic Film Festival will be screening a selection of such home movies at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel — you can see Esther Williams teaching her children how to swim, Steve McQueen taking his two kids to Disneyland, and Fred MacMurray and his family relaxing and having fun at home.
The films are from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ archive. Randy Haberkamp, managing director, programming, education and preservation at the academy, and Lynne Kirste, special collections curator at the archive, will present the one-hour treasure program of silent 8mm and 16mm films.
Film history professor Bob Koster, the son of veteran director Henry Koster (“Three Smart Girls,” “The Robe,” “My Cousin Rachel”) will be appearing at the program commenting on behind-the-scenes footage his father shot of two Margaret O’Brien films he made for MGM: 1944’s “Music for Millions” and 1947’s “The Unfinished Dance.” The former child star O’Brien will also be talking about her experiences on the films. Also participating will be McQueen’s ex-wife, Neile Adams McQueen Toffel.
The program, said Haberkamp, calls attention to the academy archive “and specifically home movies, because it’s such a unique thing — when you get these home movies, particularly that were shot by or featuring celebrities, it is a unique window [into their lives]. You have people just being themselves. You get to see them as kind of how they are as opposed to being in a role or being a star. It’s fun to see that ‘normal people’ reflection.”
Koster said that his father was “almost a compulsive picture-taker. We have about 10 hours of movies. There is altogether way too much stuff of me as an infant playing on the lawn.”
Hollywood’s elite loved taking home movies, said Koster, because “don’t forget people in the movie industry, and this is not meant in any pejorative way, but in order to be successful they have to have a tremendous sense of themselves. They have to have an ego much larger than the average Joe. So of course they wanted to take movies recording what they did because it fed their ego. It was satisfying to them to have this record of their lives and work.”
Kirste said that the academy archive has some 2,000 reels of home movies. “They vary in length,” she said. “We probably have several hundred hours. We are getting more all the time.”
She noted that unlike many of the films these Golden Age of Hollywood stars appeared in, these home movies are in color. “There is great color footage of people you have only seen in black and white up to that point,” she said. “I have never seen Fred MacMurray in color in 1936. We have footage where you see [actors] really young and in color.”
The behind-the-scenes footage shot on productions were also shot in color. “We are going to show some behind-the-scenes of ‘Heidi’ with Shirley Temple,” said Kirste. “The film is in black-and-white but the footage is in color. There is something really great about that. It kind of brings it to life in a different way.”
For more information on the event, go to tcm.com/festival.
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