Lion leaves a lasting roar

HOLLYWOOD — “This is a night that will live in irony,” declared Roger Mayer as an introduction to the 30th anniversary tribute to MGM’s “That’s Entertainment.” The intentional allusion to FDR’s famous quote was lost on no one Friday night at the Academy.

In the wake of news that Sony was buying MGM, there was much talk of the Lion’s demise by Academy president Frank Pierson, along with the guests packing the Samuel Goldwyn Theater and the dozen stars from the studio’s musical heyday.

“We’re all happy to be here. We’re all happy to be alive,” said Debbie Reynolds. Indeed, the celebs moved a little slower but all eventually made their way to the stage’s dais. While some vets like Tony Martin struggled to reach the stage, Julie Newmar shunned her escort and bounded down the aisle.

Russ Tamblyn, who attended with Emmy-nominated daughter Amber, joked, “I was the youngest brother in ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’ I’ll turn 70 in December and guess what, I’m still the youngest one here.”

The film, which compiles musical clips from dozens of MGM tuners, was heralded by Turner Entertainment’s Mayer as the most successful non-fiction pic of all time until this year and a film that made people realize they should spend money on film preservation. Mayer spent a generation as general manager on the MGM lot.

Evening served as a kick-off to the Oct. 12 Warner Home Video release of a four-disc DVD giftset that features all three “That’s Entertainment” docus.

Enthusiastic audience members clapped throughout the movie with extended applause for scenes featuring those stars in attendance, who included Cyd Charisse, Arlene Dahl, Betty Garrett, Margaret O’Brien, Janis Paige, Mickey Rooney and Esther Williams, who declared her favorite scene was underwater with animated Tom & Jerry.

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