Australian classic film superfan John Sambuco spent the day of September 27 as a special international guest in the TCM Studios in Atlanta. Sambuco had been on an extended visit to the U.S.A. during the month of September, and when TCM staff heard he would be in Atlanta, he was invited to spend the day touring the studios with TCM staffers.
When did you first find out that you would be able to visit the TCM Studios?
About a week before I arrived in Atlanta. At the time I was visiting Washington, D.C.
Was the studio anything like you expected?
The studio was a lot bigger than I expected it to be. It was so exciting so to see so many people in one place, who are so passionate about classic film. Everyone had classic film posters and books around their desk. I found it to be such an inspiring working environment.
Did you get to have lunch with the staff?
Yes, I had lunch in the canteen with some of the staff members. During lunch, I tried sweet potato pie for the first time. This is something which isn’t commonly found in Australia.
John Sambuco outside Turner Studios in late September…
Who met you and greeted you for the tour?
Two wonderful members of the social media team, Noralil Fores & Marya Gates. They both took me on an insightful tour of the office and studio.
Turner Studios, Atlanta….
Did you have a chance to meet TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz?
Ben was in the studio filming some introductions for the up-coming Christopher Lee star of the month. During a short break on the set, Ben introduced himself to me.
Did you meet the director?
Yes, briefly. The director was very kind allowing me to watch the filming shoot.
What are some of your favorite classic films? Genres?
My favorite genres are MGM musicals, film noir, and screwball comedies. I have so many favorite classic films. I’ll list a few which are:
Meet Me In St. Louis(1944) – One of very few films which I would describe as “flawless”. Everything is perfect. The pacing, the direction, the cast. Margaret O’Brien literally steals every scene she is in.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – the film which I think I’ve seen the most. As a child, I literally watched this a few times each week. Almost 80 years later, adults and children are still enjoying this brilliant film. This film truly exemplifies the word “Timeless.”
Gone With The Wind (1939) – Possibly the greatest example of storytelling on film. I’ve seen this film more than 30 times, and continue to be entertained with each viewing. Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel & Olivia de Havilland were all perfectly cast. On my visit to Atlanta, I also visited the Margaret Mitchell House, where Margaret Mitchell wrote most of the novel. Inside there are exhibits about the making of the movie as well as the film’s premiere in Atlanta.
Kiss Me, Kate (1953) – In my opinion, this is the most underrated MGM musical. The film introduced me to the magic of Ann Miller, who soon became (and still is) my favourite classic movie star. Ann Miller literally steals the film from the rest of the cast. The Cole Porter songs are all wonderful. “Too Darn Hot” is my favourite musical number from a movie musical. I was fortunate enough to see the film in 3D a few months ago at ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) in Melbourne, Australia. It was a completely different experience to the standard 2D version. If you ever have the opportunity to see this in 3D at a theatre, I cannot recommend it enough.
I know that TCM in Australia has very different programming from its counterpart in the U.S.A. What would you like the American audience to know about TCM?
The American TCM audience is so fortunate to have such a wonderful network showing such a broad spectrum of classic films, with very exciting themed programming. I wish I had the ability to access the American TCM channel from Australia.
If you could introduce a film, what would you choose and why?
The Lady Vanishes (1938) –
Alfred Hitchcock is my favourite director, and this is my favourite Alfred Hitchcock film.
Although it was filmed very early in Hitchcock’s career, I love the way Hitchcock seamlessly integrates suspense, comedy, mystery, action and romance. All would become critical elements in his later work.
Whilst I know what is going to happen next, I find I always experience the same level of suspense and tension as I did the first time I saw the film. It’s the perfect film for the repeat film viewer.
Why did you became so interested in classic films?
I first discovered classic film when I was 14 years old during the late 1990s. The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) was the first classic film (aside from The Wizard Of Oz (1939) I had watched. It was 1998. I was 14 years old, and home unwell from school. This was being shown on TCM in Australia. I was bored, and there wasn’t much else on, so I gave it a shot. After seeing this, I became hooked on not only Bette Davis, but classic films in general. My other favourite Bette Davis films include, Now, Voyager (1942), The Letter (1940), Jezebel (1938), All About Eve (1950) & What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1961).
For me, classic films had a magical element which I felt was lacking in contemporary films. Classic film stars were naturally glamorous, and they knew how to act. For the first time ever, watching a film became more than just entertainment. For me, it was an experience. The fusion of music, lighting and the performances in these films gave me goosebumps, which always left me wanting more.
Do you have any theatres in your city which screen classic films?
Yes, in Melbourne, Australia (where I live), there are two theatres which regularly screen classic film:
ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) – ACMI is a film museum and theatre complex, which celebrates the moving image and brings many wonderful film exhibits to the city. Earlier in the year, ACMI displayed a retrospective of costumes by Orry-Kelly, and also hosted a Scorsese exhibition, which I heard will be coming to the Museum of Moving Image in New York next year.
The Astor Theatre – The Astor Theatre is a historic art-deco theatre from the 1930s, which still regularly shows classic films as part of its repertory programming. The Astor is my favourite place to watch movies, and over the years it’s given me the opportunity to see many of my favourite films on the big screen.
Do you enjoy classic Italian cinema?
I am Italian-Australian, so I have also have a big interest in classic Italian cinema. My favourite Italian film is Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973). I love the way he has accurately captured all of the characters from a typical Italian village, and respectfully presented them in a comedic form. The score by Nino Rota is one of my favourite film scores. I have shown the film to my grandparents who immigrated from Italy, and they indicated it is a very accurate portrayal of life in an Italian village during the 1940s.
Some of my other favourite Italian films include Il Decameron (1971), Rocco And His Brothers (1960), La Dolce Vita (1960), Pane, Amore e Fantasia (Bread, Love and Dreams) (1953) and Tenebrae (1982).
A Cinecittá studios photo of John Sambuco from Rome, Italy. The sculpture in the background is a prop from the opening sequence of Fellini’s Casanova…
On a recent trip to Rome, I was lucky enough to visit the classic Cinecittà film studios, which was very interesting. They have exhibits on the history of the Italian film industry, as well as a room dedicated to Fellini. Benito Mussolini originally built Cinecittà as a means to communicate fascist propaganda to the Italians, many of whom were illiterate during the 1930s. Popularity with the medium of film led to the growth of the industry, and the eventual development of the neorealist movement.
John visited the Margaret Mitchell House…
And many more sites of interest.
All photos provided by Australaian Superfan, John Sambuco.