It was great weather for the beach–Newport Beach–and its ninth annual film festival. Mayor Edward Selich welcomed the audience at the SRO Edwards Big Newport Theater and then announced “On behalf of the entire Newport Beach City Council, I do hereby proclaim that April 24, 2008, be known as ‘Army Archerd Day.'” This touching honor noted my 55th anniversary at Variety. My paper is (again) a sponsor of the festival and has a hospitality shoppe open among the elite stores on Fahion Island throughout the festival.
After longtime festival director Gregg Schwenk’s introductory remarks, the fest got underway with the exceptional “Sherman’s Way,” which boasts having been filmed in seven major locations including New York City–all in 17 days and on a $300,000 budget. Distribs are talking. After the screening the first niters segued over to Fashion Island where the giant courtyard outside Nieman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and the dozens of boutiques were surrounded by tents-ful of food and drink–sparked also by a fashion show and music into the night. It was a gala’s gala.
The next day, thousands of fans turned out in the morning–to view the start of the Newport to Ensenada race. We watched the boats majestically set sail–from a spectacular viewpoint while lunching in the exclusive restauntant of the about-to-open Pelican Point development. Among those in the race–again this year –was Roy E. Disney. He will be back in Newport Beach to appear Wednesday at the festival with Don Hahn in a program of rarely seen Disney animated shorts and experimental films. Joining them will be David Bossert who was the producer of “Walt Disney On the Front Lines,” a DVD compilation of Disney films made during WWII. And in case you wondered about Roy E..Disney’s boat, Pyewacket–its 2003 record still stands.
In the afternoon it was time to see the first two hours of “Hollywood Singing and Dancing,” a spectacular17 hour piece chronicling the great musicals from their beginning to–hopefully– one more next year.
Friday evening in the Palm Garden of the magnificent Island Hotel, Gregg Schwenk introduced longtime festival supporter-champion Leigh Steinberg, whose sportswise career may have helped legitimize the film, “Jerry Maguire.” He introduced Richard Sherman who delighted the festgoers with a generous concert highlighting the incomparable Richard and Robert Sherman career. He reeled off the lyrics with his own pianistics on their award-winning (Including Oscar) songs of the many Disney films and B’way and London shows. He made it seem so effortless and the showbiz-wise audience devoured each tune–the most popular of them all remains “It’s A Small World.” Sherman was later joined on stage for an additional, informational chat with author-Disney expert, Jeff Kurtti. Next for Richard Sherman is a ditto appearance for the Pixar company this weekend. Then, a teaming with Mit Larsen on the musical “Pazzazz” which bows at Santa Barbara’s Granada theater April 20-22. An added plus for the glamorous Island hotel is the arrival of its Executive Chef Bill Bracken–well-known to the show-biz communty in Beverly Hills where he formerly held fort at the Peninsula hotel.
On Saturday mornng at the Regency Lido Theater, a screening of the perfectly-restored print of “Red River” was preceded by a Q&A by Box Office Mojo’s Scott Holleran with yours truly. We talked about the film, Howard Hawks’ masterpiece, the superb acting of John Wayne in an offbeat role, and the auspicious arrival on the scene of Montgomer Clift, also the great contribution of cinematographer Russell Harlan, the moving music of Dimitri Tiomkin. We also talked about the disappearance of the western–and its great stars. The festival continues with a full day and night program with films from around the world–seen in a perfect setting–the gracious city of Newport Beach,California.