Cloris Leachman Uncovered – Day 8 FFF 2012


Cloris Enjoys Popcorn While Watching The Last Picture Show at the Enzian

“It was kind of a porn picture, if you think about it,” says Cloris Leachman, referring to The Last Picture Show which NumberOneSon and I just watched with her and a room full of FFF faithful. This was the movie where she won the Oscar (which goes along with her eight Emmys–the most of any actor.)

The audience howls with laughter. The interviewer points out that people didn’t take their clothes off in the 1950s, when the movie takes place.

“Oh yes they did, I was there!” proclaims Cloris.

Now the audience is clapping, cheering and rolling in the aisle.

And this was just the opening salvo. Cloris goes on to talk about working with Mel Brooks, Mary Tyler Moore, being on Dancing with the Stars and answering questions from the audience. At one point she flashes both her middle fingers at the audience, at another point she talks about getting the part on Dancing with the Stars by insisting that everyone curse.

Of course, Cloris was sitting right in front of me while we were watching the movie. (Seriously, does this stuff only happen to LanceAround?) Before the lights dimmed, I asked her if I could take her picture for my blog. She said yes, then began to eat from the popcorn container in front of her. After her presentation, I showed the picture to the guy who claims to be her son-in-law. (When asked about that, Cloris called him a liar.) I told him that it was a great shot of her eating popcorn. “She loves to do that kind of thing,” her (would be?) son-in-law responded.

An audience member asks, “Do you have any advice for young actors?”

“Don’t get pregnant!” comes the immediate response; forget that the person asking the question is male.

Another audience member goes to ask a question. “Stand Up,” Cloris insists. Twice. The member begins her question. “Say your name,” Cloris interrupts. “Annie,” replies the questioner. “Annie what?” retorts Cloris. The questioner gives a long, three part name. “That’s by marriage, no, I guess divorce,” explains the woman. “What?!,” says Cloris. “I told you it was just ‘Annie’,” replies the woman.

I so love listening to the stories Cloris is telling, so I have to get involved. I don’t have a good question to ask, so I make up a pretty benign one–just so I can interact with her.

“I’m Lance,” I begin. “Larry?” she asks. “No, Lance.” “Like this?” she asks as she slashes her hands through the air like she is striking with a sword. “Yes,” I respond enthusiastically, “Lance, as in the sword. I’m from”

I continue, “Can you tell us about a moment in your career that you are proudest of or that is very memorable.”

I thought it was a pretty simple question but the audience grows very quiet. Cloris ponders for a few minutes. It takes a moment for something to come to mind. She then recounts two moments on the stage where she recalls having an instance where she captured the audience.

One moment was when she was doing a play and her character’s husband had a heart attack. She couldn’t get through the throng of people around him, so she grabbed someone’s hair, put some strands around her arm, and again, then grabbed all of her hair and just pulled.

The second moment was when she was in a play as the wife of a man who was Henry Fonda’s son. She began the play by walking across the stage, grabbing an ice bucket, and walking back. Her character was very depressed. After many rehearsals, she realized it was not working. It was boring to just criss-cross the stage. So, on opening night, as she walked back across the stage with the ice bucket in her hands, she used her feet to straighten the cushions on the sofa. “It’s what women do!,” she proclaimed. And she recalls how she could feel every women in the audience responding to her.

Amazingly, despite all her successes, all her big roles and all her awards, her most memorable situations were two, brief and personal moments where she could simply feel that she had touched the audience in front of her. Two moments that probably never brought her acclaim or won her an award. Just simple interactions between her and the people who came to see her perform.

The audience breaks into applause.

One thing was clear: She had our audience eating out of her hands. She is the consummate performer; very entertaining and energetic. It was a wonderful evening with Cloris Leachman.

NumberOneSon Adds:
 So it turns out Cloris Leachman is hilarious in person and The Last Picture Show is fantastic.

Fantastic and gorgeous – most of the movies at the FFF are visually bland, but not this one. That’s the trouble with the classic films that are shown at the festival every year – they show up the new movies. The Last Picture Show’s shadowy, stark black and white photography sucks you right into the movie’s dilapidated 50’s world. I’ve heard someone say that “people think that when you talk loudly people pay more attention to you – but actually when you speak softly people lean in to hear what you have to say.” And I think shadowy movies make you lean in and pay closer attention.

I’m sad that actual film is dying and being replaced with digital, because another reason this movie made me go “wow! Pretty!” is that it was one of the only films at the FFF that was shot and – unless I’m mistaken – projected on film. (I should’ve asked to be sure.)

Anyway, The Last Picture Show: totally great. I connected with it a lot more than last year’s classic film  – Amarcord.

….Yes, I know. I’m sorry. Amarcord is a classic and I should like it. Look into my puppy dog eyes and forgive me! Amarcord’s characters were caricatures though. I connected with the people of The Last Picture Show much more than the people of that other meandering semi-autobiographical sex-filled movie.

Speaking of sex, The Last Picture Show was shot in the early 70s but it’s set in the 50s and it’s shot in black and white so it’s kind of a shock the first time (of many) someone peels off their clothes. During the Q & A the moderator told Cloris Leachman that people were shocked by the movie because they thought that in the 50’s, no one took off their…wait…did dad tell this story already?…Darn. Would’ve been the perfect way to end the article too.

LanceAround Adds:
NumberOneSon and I take a few minutes to jot down some notes before we leave the theatre to head home. As we exit the Enzian, we notice a huge crowd gathered around the outdoor Eden Bar. We go to investigate and guess what we see?

Of course, Cloris is at the bar mixing drinks and guzzling alcohol directly from the bottles behind the bar. The crowd is laughing at her antics and she appears to be having the time of her life.

You go, Cloris, you go!

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