By Toni Wisner / Staff Writer
By Toni Wisner / Staff Writer
The Fox Theater was decked out in its finest, complete with a red carpet and champagne to toast this year’s eighth annual Riverside International Film Festival.
Veteran stars shined on new Hollywood hopefuls during the opening night gala at The Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside on April 16.
Excited to kick off the week long festival, guests were radiant in their elegant evening gowns and tuxedo suits as they arrived at the newly transformed Riverside landmark.
Honored, were legendary stars Ann Rutherford and Anne Jeffreys.
Dr. Harkeerat Dhillon, a local orthopedic surgeon, founder, president and director for the Riverside International Film Festival, had the pleasure of introducing the honorees.
Rutherford and Jeffreys were stunning and equally beautiful as they individually graced the podium to accept their award and address the audience.
As one of only two surviving cast members from the film “Gone with the Wind,” Rutherford humbly accepted the first Riverside Fox Foundation/Riverside International Film Festival Distinguished Artist Award from Mayor of Riverside, Ron Loveridge.
“I am here to pay homage to this wonderful city,” Rutherford said.
Speaking about her supporting role as Carreen O’Hara, the demure sister of Scarlet O’Hara in the classic film, Rutherford explained how she is grateful she took the small part which she had considered turning down at one time.
“That nothing part has turned my golden years into platinum,” she said.
Presented with group’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her numerous stage, film and television credits, Jeffreys has no doubt contributed a great deal to the entertainment industry, appearing in over 100 films and stage plays.
Jeffreys many credits include the soap operas “Port Charles” and “Falcon Crest” and classic TV shows like “”Bonanza.”
The crowd appeared smitten by Jeffreys classic beauty and style as she took to the podium in a white pant suit trimmed with rhinestones and fur.
“Please take your shoes off and get comfortable,” Jeffreys said.
In the middle of her acceptance speech, which included memorable stories of Frank Sinatra, she asked for a drink of water. Jeffreys was handed a glass and made the crowd laugh with a witty quip.
“I hope this is vodka,” she said.
Among other distinguished guests were Riverside Community College District Chancellor Gregory Gray, the Riverside City Council members, and members of the Consulate of Mexico.
The filmmakers of the participating films in the festival, as well as the board members of the Riverside International Film Festival were also in attendance.
Nancy Douglas, the film programmer for the festival, introduced each participating film and their directors.
A highlight of the evening took place when five of the filmmakers had to give a short extemporaneous promotional pitch of their film as their names were randomly drawn by an un-briefed audience participant.
In previous years the festival had been held at the Riverside Plaza. However, this year it moved to the Ultrastar Cinemas in University Village in Riverside.
This year’s festival represented over 14 countries which brings a true testament to what Dhillon strives to accomplish.
“I want to bring cultural awareness across the borders through film,” Dhillon said.
Next year, audiences can look forward to the cinematic sophistication that will once again grace the silver screens of Riverside.