Bee’s Hollywood – Part 2: Batman ’66

If a museum was built to house the contents of my working my mind, it would be not unlike the Hollywood Museum. Situated at North Highland Avenue in the old Max Factor building, the three level treasure trove is vast, winding, and appeals to all of my sensibilities. Mae West’s shoes, Hedda Hopper’s notebook, and Maila Nurmi’s gloves appear alongside costumes from Mad Men and sci-fi regalia, while four thematically lighted dressing rooms on the ground floor reveal whether you are best suited as a ‘blonde’, ‘brown’, ‘brunette’ or ‘red’. It’s a feast of a venue and essential to visit, as you will always find something new to discover. However this visit was all about the Bat.

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I first heard about the Batman ’66 retrospective a few months ago, but assumed the exhibition would end a few weeks prior to my visit. Image my surprise as I walked into the lobby to be met with a poster announcing it was still on—I  literally punched the air with glee. Based on the TV series which ran from 1966-1968 and starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman, the show spawned a wonderful, often quoted film (and countless accompanying memes). Joyous, camp, and innuendo laden, it’s a far cry from the moody, troubled, tortured Batman of recent years and I defy anyone not to be delighted by the feature length film and it’s memorable moments of West battling a (very fake looking) rubber shark or rope ‘climbing’ up a building with Burt Ward’s Dick Grayson/Robin in tow. West’s death in 2017 was a huge loss, but the popularity of the exhibition—which had been extended by two months due to overwhelming demand—is credit to legacy.

While gadgets, gismos, photographs, scripts, props and additional paraphernalia filled cabinets and display cases, I couldn’t get enough of the costume cabinet. As a Catwoman obsessive, seeing all the various iterations of Lee Meriweather, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Julie Newmar was an purr-fest (sorry!) treat.

And, of course, a certain car…

If you follow me on social media, you will surely know how much I am obsessed with all of the Batmobiles, with the ’66 version being a personal favourite, I couldn’t resist having a sly flirt with the car as I consumed her with my eyes until other attendees wandered in with similar intentions. (Although I strongly maintain she loved me the most).

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I must have spent at least an hour in that room, wandering in concentric circles and ensuring that I had taken in each and every word of descriptions. Fandom has changed a lot in recent years, and can be a toxic place—especially for women—but there was none of that here amongst the vibrant colours and the “POW” and “WHAM” captions littered about the place. I soaked in as much as I could before moving on to explore the rest of the museum, a sly glance back across my shoulder, and taking one final lingering look as I waved goodbye to the gang on my way out.

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TCMFF 2016 – Friday 29th April: “Some Days You Just Can’t Get Rid of a Turkey”

As Raquel, Jessica and Kendahl covered Francis Ford Coppola’s handprint ceremony on Friday morning, I was still debating which films to see that day. I had already changed my mind dozens of times and TCM did not make things easier by pitting Double Harness (1933), a pre-code starring William Powell and Ann Harding, against He Ran All the Way (1951), a Noir where John Garfield holds a family to ransom over a Turkey dinner. This was to be a continuing dilemma as the pre-codes – always the festival’s biggest attraction – are consistently shown in the tiniest theatre (TCL House #4, capacity 177).

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Two very enticing titles meant that this really was a win-win situation that called for one tactic: try for Double Harness and if unsuccessful run across to the Egyptian for John Garfield. This was to be a universal plan and the very long line meant that soon I joined Ariel, Peter, Nora, Coleen, Will – and the rest of us who had tried our luck that morning – to head over the road.

He Ran All The Way was hardly a second choice and did not disappoint. A gritty, menacing Noir, we were soon being terrorised by a crooked Garfield brandishing a gun, then a large piece of poultry, into the faces of Shelley Winter’s terrified family. Furthermore, I was in awe of Galdys George’s wardrobe and her superb, very minor, role as Garfield’s mother who smoked, drank and bitched her way through barely two scenes.

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The sense of bleakness within He Ran All the Way is also palpable off screen. The Blacklist haunts the film – its screenplay was co-written by Dalton Trumbo and Garfield was blacklisted two months before the film’s release. It was also to be Garfield final film – he died one year later. Denis Berry, whose father John Berry (who was blacklisted after Edward Dmytruk named him as one of the Hollywood ten) directed the film, gave an affecting, personal introduction of life during this era. We can read about the time and see movies written, during and about this historical Hollywood period, but it is only when you hear it directly from someone who experienced and lived through it all that the reality truly hits home.

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After refuelling it was back over to the TCL for some lighter Pre-Code sauce. Pleasure Cruise (1933) was just a ticket, a fluffy film where a married couple decide to take independent holidays: Genevieve Tobin’s high flying career woman books a cruise while her stay at home/house-husband Roland Young opts for golfing holiday. However, he has secretly taken a job as the ship’s barber, watching-on jealously as Tobin tries not to succumb to Ralph Forbes’ propositions. Meanwhile, Young has to stave off the attention of a flirty passenger – eyelash-batting, giggly Ana O’ Connor – who cannot resist waving and throwing her underwear at him. Oh, the hilarity! It’s a light riot.

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The Roosevelt’s evening poolside screening of Batman (1966) was the place to be. I love this film – it remains consistently funny despite repeated viewings – and there are times when you think, “yeah, it knocks the socks off the new versions”. The icing on the cake was the pre-film interview with Adam West and Lee Meriwether hosted by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. It was funny, lively and (I’m guessing) the only time in my life where I would get to see Batman and Catwoman together in the flesh. The crowd was putty in their hands as West delivered his famous line of dialogue, “some days you just can’t get rid of a Bomb!”. He also gained extra points for his comments on the newer masked vigilantes: “what’s an Affleck?” – Pow!.

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I did not stay for all of the film but managed to spot some familiar faces. I had a nice chat with Angela while Jessica talked to an older Gentleman who had met Lillian Gish in New York, 1977. There are so many interesting people at the festival…after the interview I ventured into the warmth of Club TCM. I was able to prise Marya away from her social media duties for a well-deserved chat and drink at 25 Degrees, The Roosevelt’s bar. As much as the festival is about the films, it is the moments with friends that make the time so special and such great fun. Around 10.30pm she went back to work and I called it a night, taking this great photo in the cab on the way.