Monday, April 18, 2011

James Caan Ambles Into The Aero Theater

L.A. is really great place for film fans, you can't beat the venues to view classic films. One of the best places in town is The Aero Theater (actually located in the next door town of Santa Monica.) The Aero Theater is part of the wonderful the non-profit American Cinematheque organization. Last week, The Aero paid tribute to actor James Caan, showing many of his classic films; The Godfather, The Gambler and Misery, just to name a few.

I went down there on last Friday, as the presented director Michael Mann's gritty first feature film; Thief. In the picture, Caan gives a bravado performance, as a high end professional thief, who brakes his independent code (he ends up working with a local crime boss, and lives to regret it.) Also on the bill, was Caan's only directorial effort, the very underrated drama, Hide In Plain Sight. The true story of the first case of the witness relocation program, Caan played a working man who's children become missing, after his ex-wife's new mobster husband testifies on his mafia family.

In between the films, Caan showed up to a packed house, to do a Q & A with film critic and screenwriter, F.X. Feeney. Caan spoke of his experience working with the then new feature director Mann (who was in the audience.) He said, that Mann approached him while he was working on another film, he found him sitting in his chair with the Thief script. Caan said that he enjoyed working with Mann, he jokingly called the young director a "Napoleon" on the set and still said that Thief, was still Mann's best film to date.

Caan also spoke of his film, which received terrific reviews, with strong performances with a then mostly unknown cast ( Danny Aiello and Jill Eikenberry, and a wonderful performance by Robert Viharo as the witness, who was also in attendance that night. )  Caan spoke from the heart about being disheartened with the way his film was released by the MGM brass at the time (with very little advertising, and with unneeded studio source music.) Sadly the experience turned him off, and he decided never to sit in that chair again.

Caan, became lighthearted when someone in the audience (beat me to the punch) and asked about working with legendary Hollywood film director, Howard Hawks on the John Wayne-Robert Mitchum western, El Dorado. Caan recalled, that even though it was a big picture, he thought his part was pretty silly (as was his gamblers top hat, that he wore in the film to make him look taller) and was prone to smile when he was delivering his lines to Wayne. Then, Caan, cracked the audience up with an imitation of Bob Mitchum ribbing him; "Hey Jiminy Cricket, I see that you seem to be smiling quite a lot there." Caan, maybe best know to younger audiences as "Big Ed" Deline from the action series, Las Vegas, (a kinda throwback, to the Howard Hawks style entertainment that he started his career with) which ran several seasons on NBC. Caan's currently starring in the caper film, Henry's Crime with Keana Reeves. And at 71, Jimmy Caan still looks like he can kick your ass, and somehow, that makes me sleep a little better at night.

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