Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
How often can you get 2,000 people together just to applaud a list? Not very often.
But the American Film Institute drew such a crowd, a giddily glittery one at that, to the Kennedy Center Thursday night to hear a list of films chosen as the 10 best by AFI members and to learn that they voted "Gone With the Wind" as the best American movie of all time.
The runners-up were "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca." and the crowd included President and Mrs. Carter, Vice President and Mrs. Mondale, Henry Kissinger, Eric Sevareid, and perhaps the largest contingent of Hollywood hotshots ever assembled in peacetime Washington.
In one row, practically elbow-to-elbow sat three of the most-acclaimed and successful young directors in movies: Francis Ford Coppola, director of "The Godfather"; Steven Spielberg, director of "Jaws"; and George Lucas, director of "Star Wars." And one row behind them sat George Cukor, the elderly director who made "David Copperfield," "A Star Is Born" and dozens of other films, none of which placed among the top 50 films as chosen by AFI members.
Cukor appeared on stage anyway to take part in the program, being taped for telecast on Monday night as a CBS special. Unfortunately, Cukor got all mixed up while reading from little blue cards about "The Birth of a Nation." He said, "You see how bumbling a director can be," but it didn't matter, because all the fluffs made on stage by all the luminaries were retaped later, after the crowd had gone upstairs for a $125-a-plate supper.
The show was a parade of film clips from the top 10 movies, interspersed with encomiums to the cinema from Elizabeth Taylor, Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Keith Carradine, Omar Sharii, Lauren Bacall and others. The prevailing motif was applause. People clapped and clapped and clapped.
Other stars who were cheered as they stood in the crowd included Harold Russell, the double amputee who appeared in "The Best years of Our Lives," Ruth Warrick who played the wife of "Citizen Kane," and a still-blonde Fay Wray, who captured the heart of what was later called "the darkest, tallest, leading man in Hollywood," King Kong.
Giant film srips on the stage flashed shots from the nominated movies - not always in the right order - and a makeshift screen descended for clips from the top 10.
As they materialized on the screen, Bogart and Gable got the kind of ovations tht might make a politician jealous, and "Casablanca" seemed clearly to be the crowd's favorite, since they interrupted scenes from it with applause befitting a boxing match.
A large throng lined the hallways to cheer arriving stars. Those who drew the biggest responses were Lily Tomlin and James Stewart, and a jolly old man carrying a little dog who was on his way not to the gala but to the Concert Hall - surprise, it was Mstislay Rostropovich.
Concertgoers in fact got a bit testy at all this fuss being made over mere movies, and some had a hard time getting through all the reporters and onlookers. One woman huffed to a friend. "Well, I don't know what they're going to do, but we're going to hear good music." Well, well, well.