In my digging around for someone with memories of Judith Crist, I was told Nancy Gold of The Gold Standard PR firm used to do work for the Tarrytown House, where Crist held her decades-long film festival.
Sure enough, "Well, you’ve hit the jackpot!" Gold said.
Gold went through her client archives and found two press releases describing the 2006 Judith Crist Film Festival at Tarrytown House, held on New Year’s weekend, which turned out to be the last she would hold.
One-hundred-fifty people attended this deluxe affair, during which film buffs previewed ten major motion pictures, including The Amateurs, staring Jeff Bridges, Joe Pantoliano, and Ted Danson. "Just after the ball dropped and champagne corks flew to ring in the new year, the tenth and final film, I Could Never Be Your Woman, starring Michelle Pfieffer, wrapped up the festival," wrote Gold.
According to Tuesday's chronicle of her life in the New York Times, Crist "held a small film festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. It began in 1971 and included appearances by famous directors and actors, as well as showings of still-unreleased movies. Woody Allen used it as a model for his fictional film festival in Stardust Memories. She ended it in 2006."
Here's a glittery taste from Gold's press release from the time:
The four-day film extravaganza at Tarrytown House Estate, an elegant property overlooking the Hudson River, includes deluxe accommodations for three nights, all meals and many special events related to the previewing and discussion of films that will be seen by
millions in 2007.
Among the treats in store for film weekend guests are a welcome cocktail reception with roving photographer, complimentary wine with dinner each evening, a fabulous New Year’s Eve celebration with favors and a champagne toast at midnight, plus free candy and popcorn at every film showing.
The films being previewed are all major motion pictures that will not be released until next year. The viewings will be followed by round table discussions led by Judith Crist and Peter Travers and will feature visits from guest film makers and actors who will discuss their work. In prior years, stars appearing during the weekend have included Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck, Woody Allen and Paul Newman.
The per person cost for the three-night weekend, including luxurious lodgings, ten pre-release films and all meals from Friday night dinner to Sunday lunch, is $999 per person, double occupancy.
Gold also shared two photos that she took from the weekend, one of Crist and Peter Travers leading a discussion with their guest, actor Joe Pantoliano of “Sopranos” fame, and the other a portrait of the two hosts.
And Gold recalled:
I remember Ms. Crist as being witty, gracious and totally dedicated to making a success of this annual event that bore her name. I called her a couple of times to check my facts and she was always very helpful. During the event, she was quite willing to take a few minutes out to pose for my camera with Peter Travers, with whom she seemed to have a great friendship. She greeted lots of old friends among the weekend guests, many of whom came back year after year to celebrate the art of film with her. One of the great attractions of the festival was that she and Travers were able to get the studios to give them their pick of films that were ready for release in the New Year, so the event became a mini-Hollywood preview.
Tarrytown House was a wonderful place to hold such an event, with fires in the fireplaces of the mansion, fabulous food and lots of cozy places to relax. The films were viewed in the ballroom, with all the free candy and fresh popcorn you could eat. There was a big New Year’s Eve party with a champagne toast, followed (I think) by a film for those hardy souls who could stay up late enough to enjoy it.
I was so sorry to hear today of Judith Crist’s death. She was a wonderfully interesting and dynamic woman who did more than anyone to establish the field of film criticism in this country.
Village Historian Henry Steiner said though he had no memories of Crist personally, he did recall that "in her day her perspective was very well regarded and she was perceived by many to be the last word in film criticism. She pointed the film going public toward new trends in the literature of film and brought notice to film makers out of the main stream."
Anyone else with memories of Crist as a critic and/or her film series here? Please share them in the comments.