Angie Dickinson is (almost) ready for TCM’s Film Festival

Apr 12, 2023, 7:41 AM

Angie Dickinson has quite a few stories about her star-making role in Howard Hawks’ “Rio Bravo,” that she is ready to regale audiences with at the TCM Classic Film Festival on Thursday in Hollywood.

She was 27 when she played Feathers, the quick-witted and strong-willed widow who stole scenes from the likes of John Wayne with lines like “Hey Sheriff, you forgot your pants.” And in the 64 years since “Rio Bravo” debuted, she has not tired of it in the least.

“I could watch it once a week,” Dickinson said from her home in Los Angeles. “It’s a delicious movie.”

But before she sits down to revisit one of her most treasured roles, the sharp, funny 91-year-old cinema legend has one little problem: She hasn’t yet decided what to wear for her chat with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

“I could talk about ‘Rio Bravo’ forever, but that’s not the problem,” she said. “The problem is getting all done up and finding a nice outfit for it. That’s not easy.”

Dickinson counts getting cast as Feathers as the happiest moment in her career and “one of the best memories of my life.” Though she was intimidated to share the screen with Wayne, a movie star and her political opposite, they got along well, and he put her at ease.

“He was so generous. He would just lean on that rifle and he never, ever showed any impatience,” she said. “For all the scenes, especially the big one where I cry at the end for him, he just was as helpful as he could be by just being patient.”

Hawks was a different story, but she liked “most” of the experience of working with him.

“He wasn’t a man of words,” she said.

Her life didn’t change immediately when the film came out, however.

“It came out rather quietly. Not much hoopla about it,” Dickinson said. “I remember one of my closest friends, she was kind of a mentor and we played poker every Saturday night. She said, ‘I saw your film.’ That was it. I think she was not impressed. It’s like ‘thanks a lot.’ But it worked out OK. Because of television it lives on.”

Dickinson retired from acting over a decade ago and hasn’t been tempted to come back. She also said no one has been knocking at her door either.

“I couldn’t do those long hours, you know?” she said. But she’s also leaving the door open for possibilities: “Now watch me take a movie next week.”

Mankiewicz, who has interviewed her many times over the years, loves talking to Dickinson, who is both full of stories and admirably protective of the people she was close to. She famously declined a publisher’s request to write a dishier memoir, but she’ll also still play the game with a self-deprecating wink.

“Right away you know there’s authenticity to her. She’s just herself in every way,” Mankiewicz said. “It’s very refreshing. You feel like you’re having a conversation.”

The “Rio Bravo” screening and discussion marks the world premiere of a new 4K restoration of the film, done in partnership with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation and as part of the 100th anniversary of Warner Bros. Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson are also planning to take the stage as part of the celebration.

Pola Changnon, TCM’s general manager, said that over the past year they worked alongside the Film Foundation and Warner Bros. to identify 10 titles in the studio’s vast library to either restore or upgrade to be shown at the festival.

Events on Friday alone include a screening of “Risky Business” with Rebecca De Mornay, “Groundhog Day” with Stephen Tobolowsky and “American Graffiti” with Candy Clark and Richard Dreyfuss. Also on Friday, Steven Soderbergh will introduce his remake of “Ocean’s Eleven,” one of the films programmed under the tantalizingly provocative category “Better than the Original?” that is sure to inspire debate among film fans. On Saturday, William Friedkin will participate in a discussion after a screening of “The Exorcist” at the TCL Chinese IMAX, while poolside at the historic Roosevelt Hotel, Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole will talk about “A Mighty Wind.”

Other stars planning to attend the festival include Ann-Margret (for “Bye Bye Birdie”), Shirley Jones (for “The Music Man”), Frankie Avalon (for “Beach Party”) and Edward James Olmos (for “Stand and Deliver”). Tributes are also being held for Oscar-winning production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein (“Amadeus”) and actor Russ Tamblyn (“Peyton Place”), while film historian Donald Bogle, who put a spotlight on Black artists working in cinema, is getting the Robert Osborne award.

The festival will close Sunday with a full day of movies, including “The Big Chill,” with Lawrence Kasdan, Tom Berenger and JoBeth Williams leading a talk before.

“I say it every year but it’s an embarrassment of riches,” Changnon said. “It’s a hundred events across four days. I don’t think there’s any experience like it.”

For Mankiewicz, the real treat of the festival, is seeing TCM fans connect with one another in person.

“There’s no channel like us, where people’s identification is with the channel. People’s social media pages are like ‘lawyer, mother, wife, TCM fan.’ No one says that about Showtime,” he laughed. “At the festival, it’s a community who wants to sit around and talk about movies. If you’re a movie fan, I can’t imagine how to spend a better four days.”


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr: www.twitter.com/ldbahr.

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Angie Dickinson is (almost) ready for TCM’s Film Festival