A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival — Part 4

Now that TCM has announced the dates for next year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (April 16-19, 2020), it’s the perfect time for another installment in my year-round recap of the 2019 event!

Today, I’m taking a look at the only poolside screening I attended – well, I actually didn’t attend the screening, which was Ocean’s 11 – I was there to see one of the film’s stars, the one and only Angie Dickinson. Several years ago, Dickinson had appeared at a restricted event for fest attendees that took place before I arrived in Los Angeles, so I didn’t get a chance to see her. I wasn’t letting that happen this year!

Dickinson, who was introduced as “one of the great actresses of her generation,” was interviewed by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, who informed the enthusiastic gathering that they were part of the largest crowd ever to attend a poolside screening at the festival. Clad in black pants and white jacket, wedge heels and a sassy leather hat, Dickinson shared that her lengthy career began with a small part that was “sort of a little below a dancer” on a variety show starring actor/singer Jimmy Durante. “I wanted show business so badly,” she said, “and here I am with you.”

Before starting her interview with Mankiewicz, Dickinson joked that the last time the two talked, “You got me drunk . . . and I told stories that I’ve never told before.” This time around, the 86-year-old actress shared that her big break was the western Rio Bravo (1959), starring John Wayne and Dean Martin. In it, Dickinson was fourth-billed as Feathers, Wayne’s love interest. “It was one of the most wonderful movies,” Dickinson said. “Once you start watching it, you cannot turn it off.”

Dickinson’s career started on Jimmy Durante’s variety show. (That’s her in the middle.)

Dickinson also told the audience about her experience in working with Frank Sinatra in the film that they were about to see, Ocean’s 11. She said that Sinatra wasn’t “the most fun” that she’d ever had when working with another actor, explaining that “he knew his work so well that he didn’t help you much.” Dickinson also noted that Sinatra had a penchant for only doing one take, and she recalled one instance where Sinatra walked away after the scene was filmed. When Dickinson later expressed an interest in another take and was looking for Sinatra, she was told, “’Oh, he split.’ He didn’t even hang around to wait and see if I wanted to do it again. He knew he had it nailed.”

Mankiewicz shared a theory that actor Billy Bob Thornton – a big fan of Sinatra’s – once offered to explain why the “Chairman of the Board” only liked to do one take in his films. Thornton thought that there was some insecurity in Sinatra, where, if he did a scene again, he would get “exposed . . . that people would see through him,” Mankiewicz said.

Dickinson’s response? “Bullshit,” she said, to the delight of the audience. And Mankiewicz, without missing a beat, rejoined, “’Bullshit,’ you said? Well, it’s been great talking to you. Angie Dickinson everybody! It’s been a lot of fun!”

Her first big break was in Rio Bravo (1959).

Once the audience’s laughter died down, Dickinson went on to give her own rationale: “Being a singer, singing on pitch, and being so prepared to do a recording . . . he knows when he’s good and when he got it, and why would he do it again?” Dickinson added that she thought Thornton was a great actor and an intelligent man, “but he just doesn’t know Frank Sinatra.”

Working on Ocean’s 11 in Las Vegas was an “incredible” experience, Dickinson recalled, sharing that the cast members – which, in addition to Sinatra, consisted of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop – constantly played pranks on each other, with Sinatra usually being the ringleader. “He was naughty, but he loved being naughty,” she said, “and he loved playing with his friends.” After filming during the day, Dickinson said, the film’s stars would appear at night at the Sands Hotel for the famous Rat Pack performances – a show that she saw at least five times – once from backstage. “They were having the time of their lives, from the minute they started the show until they finished,” she said. “They really had that brotherhood to the ultimate.”

Mankiewicz asked Dickinson about the romantic relationship she had off-screen with Sinatra that started after the filming of Ocean’s 11. She called the singer-actor “the most exciting man on Earth.”

“And that didn’t mean I wanted to marry it,” she said. “It was a possibility – we did use the ‘M’ word. But I didn’t want to be married to Frank because I knew I would have to live his life, and not mine, and I wasn’t through – I hadn’t hit the high points yet. He actually said we could have a baby, and I thought, ‘Oh, Jesus.’ I was not ready for that – I was trying to be a movie star.”

With Sinatra on Oceans 11.

Dickinson also spoke of her experience playing the title role in the popular TV show Police Woman, which ran on NBC from 1974 to 1978, but her delightful interview with Mankiewicz was over all too soon. In introducing the film that was about to be shown, she assured the crowd that the film’s stars “had as much fun on the set as you have watching them.”

Tune in next month for another installment of A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival!

~ by shadowsandsatin on September 1, 2019.

14 Responses to “A Many Splendored Thing: The 2019 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival — Part 4”

  1. Loved the BS comments she made! Thornton, like so many modern movie star fans I follow on Twitter, begin to self label themselves as star experts, believing that they understand a movie star better than those that acted with them. So arrogant really! Glad she nailed him for that!

  2. By the way, doesn’t Groucho look completely lecherous with his hand resting on her breast?! What these smiling, wannabe actresses had to put up with!

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. Would loved to have sat in on this.

  4. I love this write-up. Really made me feel like I was there! That is quite a picture with Groucho. The hand is definitely creepy.

  5. She is so easy to watch and under rated as an actress. I worked Sinatra in concert many times and he’s a great guy to be around. One of my favorites. As far as Billy Bob, I worked him once also in concert with him singing songs he wrote. What a jerk. Vowed I would never work him again.

  6. Thanks for regaling us with the great stories Angie shared prior to the screening! If you would enjoy learning more about her, a Vanity Fair reporter interviewed her in 2008, & she really gives an interesting overview of her career and personal life. Here’s the link: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/01/dickinson200801
    Appreciate your post!

  7. She sounds as wonderful as I imagine her to be. What a treat to see this interview! 🙂

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