For a fourth year in a row, Turner Classic Movies brought its travelling film festival, the Road to Hollywood, to Chicago's Music Box Theatre on Tuesday night. This year's classic film was the Rogers and Hammerstein Technicolor musical 'South Pacific,' from 1958.
The film's "ingenue," as she herself put it, was Mitzi Gaynor, who attended the screening for a lengthy and lively Q&A session preceding the film, moderated by the film historian and author Leonard Maltin.
TCM had previously presented similar screenings of 'North by Northwest,' 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,' and 'The Birds' at the theater.
Ms. Gaynor, who was born in Chicago in 1931, brought a plethora of wonderful showbiz stories to share with the audience, touching variously on her tawdry affair with Howard Hughes, auditioning for Cole Porter, and competing at 20th Century Fox with Marilyn Monroe. She had the audience in stitches describing her adventures as a young "Hungarian Virgo" in Hollywood.
Maltin pressed Ms. Gaynor to tell the story of her audition for 'South Pacific,' for which she had to lobby Frank Sinatra for a day off from shooting 'The Joker is Wild.' Sinatra generously offered to reconfigure shooting for the day so that Gaynor could attend her audition.
Though the film was shot in the Todd-AO 70mm process, which was recently showcased during the Music Box's successful 70mm film festival, the screening was from a restored digital print. Nevertheless, the vibrant colors of the film popped off the screen, and the sound was clear as a bell.
As for the musical itself, it's the usual doughy Rogers and Hammerstein affair, overstuffed with numbers and light on character development, strictly for nostalgic types and theater geeks. All others would do well to luxuriate in the film's gorgeous Hawaiian scenery for the film's 170 minute run-time.