Movie screen on the great lawn
The movie was shown on the "great lawn" behind the conference center

Walk-in movie at Annenberg's Sunnylands estate

| The Palm Springs International Film Festival is sponsoring two free outdoor screenings at Sunnylands this month. Last night was Rear Window starring Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter.

Sunnylands is the ginormous estate in Rancho Mirage of the late Walter Annenberg. Over the years presidents and royalty have been guests there; my invitation was clearly lost in the mail, so Réal and I took this opportunity to see a classic movie and get a peek into the estate at the same time.

clip from Rear Window poster

By the time the movie began — late, because of technical difficulties which should have been ironed out while still daylight — a crowd of about 300 people had assembled.

There were two kinds of people in attendance: blanket people and lawn-chair people. The lawn-chair people greatly outnumbered the blanket people.

Being among the first to arrive, we set up our chairs in a prime location and tucked into our picnic supper: salad, steak, bread, and iced tea. The atmosphere was relaxed and warm as people sat chatting quietly with each other, enjoying the quite evening; traffic noises from the two busy streets that bound the estate on the east and south sides were inaudible.

Although the moon was far from full, it cast a gentle light over everything, adding to the serenity of the scene.

Real enjoying our picnic supper

As for the movie, I had completely forgotten how very funny the movie is. It is also remarkable to think that such a movie could never be made today: no cursing, no gun battles, no special effects, no car chases. Just a guy in a wheel chair looking out the window into his neighbors' apartments, mostly in the company of the insurance company nurse and his girlfriend. The only violence to speak of comes right at the end when the Raymond Burr character dumps the Jimmy Stewart character out the window, breaking his right leg; the left leg was already broken and was the reason he was confined to the wheelchair in the first place.

screen on the great lawn
Movie screen on the great lawn with early arrivals staking out their spots
Conference center
The conference center. The Great Lawn is behind the center.

Annenberg made his fortune in publishing (at one time he owned TV Guide) and the foundation he created has funded numerous educational and cultural programs. It is estimated that he gave away approximately $81 billion.

In two weeks they will show another Hitchcock movie, Dial M for Murder. Count me in!

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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