My Choices for TCMFF 2019

TCMFF 2019

It’s that time of year again! The 2019 TCM Classic Movie Festival is already right around the corner and the full schedule was just released on Tuesday, which means I’ve been spending the past few days obsessing over it to figure out my plans. I’m a pretty big fan of this year’s schedule so, as always, I had a lot of hard choices to make. Even though I have a lot of blocks that will come down to how I feel that day, I at least have my options narrowed down. As of now, here are my very tentative plans for this year’s festival:


I’ll be getting into Los Angeles on Wednesday and once I get into town, it’s usually a fairly low-key day mostly spent catching up with friends and making appearances at various mixers. But this year, I’ve got some very cool things to look forward to once I get into town. First of all, my friend Nikki very kindly invited me to be her guest on a tour of the Margaret Herrick Library through TCM Backlot. I’ve heard a lot about the Margaret Herrick Library, so I’m definitely excited to be able to see it for myself. Later that night, I’ll be heading over to the Hollywood Heritage Museum for a presentation of Gypsy Rose Lee’s home movies and a discussion about her career with her son Erik Lee Preminger and Dita Von Teese. It should be a fascinating event!

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg TCMFF 2019

Thursday, April 11

For the past few years, my opening night tradition has been to watch the red carpet arrivals, skip the first block of movies to get dinner, and then see something in the second block of movies. It works out really well for me so I think I’ll be sticking to it again this year. As much as I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I want to make sure I have plenty of energy for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at 9:30 PM. It’s one of my all-time favorites and I’ve been dying to see it on the big screen so this was an easy choice.

High Society Grace Kelly Bing Crosby

Friday, April 12

For the first full day of the festival, I’m pretty much just going to be winging it all day. The day kicks off with a really tough block of movies: The Postman Always Rings Twice, the pre-code Merrily We Go to HellThe Clock, and High Society. I’ve narrowed it down to The Clock and High Society. I love The Clock, but after The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I can picture myself waking up in the mood for something more lighthearted, so High Society might be more up my alley. I also really want to make sure I have a chance to check out The Legion Theater, so High Society would give me a chance to do so.

After that, depending on how ambitious I am, I might check out the What’s Not to Love About Republic Serials presentation. But I’m also thinking that block might be a good time for me to get some lunch because it’s looking like I’ll be in for a long afternoon.

Next up is one of my most painful conflicts of the festival: Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Chinese theater with a presentation by Ben Burtt and Craig Barron up against a screening of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Sunrise is the one that I’d have fewer opportunities to see in a theater, but Raiders would be incredible to see at the Chinese Theater and I keep missing out on those Ben Burtt and Craig Barron presentations, even though I’ve heard great things about them. It’ll all depend on how I feel that day, but if I were making the decision today, Raiders would win.

Which ever movie I end up going with, it’ll be followed by another block that will probably be decided that day. At the TCL multiplex, they’ll have Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night up against Vanity Street and Open Secret. It’s been years since I last saw Day for Night so it’d be great to see it again, but I’d also be up for checking out two movies I’ve never seen before.

By the time I get out of either movie, it will be after 8:00 PM, so I’m thinking it’ll be a good time for me to quickly get something to eat before heading over to the Egyptian for Road House. After that, I’m totally in for the midnight screening of Santo vs. The Evil Brain. I’ve never seen it, but the midnight movies are always a blast so I’m excited for this one.

Star Wars A New Hope TCMFF

Saturday, April 13

When I first looked at this block, I was so excited about From Here to Eternity at the Chinese theater, that I almost completely overlooked All Through the Night at the TCL multiplex. I’m always up for checking out a Bogart movie I’ve never seen before, so All Through the Night wins out as my first movie of the day. After that is another one of my biggest conflicts of the festival: A Woman Under the Influence introduced by Gena Rowlands up against Tarzan and His Mate with a presentation by Ben Burtt and Craig Barron. I’ve been wanting to see more Gena Rowlands movies for a while so Woman Under the Influence could be a great discovery. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Tarzan and His Mate and it’s been a while since I last watched it. I’ll wait and see what kind of mood I’m in that day.

Up next is another toss up block for me. I could either go for Love Affair, which I know I love, or Working Girl, which I’ve never seen but been interested in seeing for a while. At the moment, I’m leaning more towards Working Girl. After that, it kind of depends on how early I want to line up for Star Wars. I’m really tempted by Wuthering Heights, but I’m concerned that the line for Star Wars might already be really long by the time that one lets out. Considering that festival passes sold out the day Star Wars was announced, I’m definitely expecting a big crowd for that one. More likely, I’ll either rush over to Club TCM to check out Hollywood Home Movies or go get dinner so I can be ready to line up nice and early for Star Wars. Although Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Nashville are both hard ones to pass up.

If I have the energy after Star Wars, I’ll be headed back to the TCL multiplex for the midnight showing of The Student Nurses.

The Dolly Sisters Movie Poster

Sunday, April 14

I usually don’t go into Sundays with a lot of firm plans in mind. I like to wait to hear what the TBAs are and I’m not sure what will be going on over at Larry Edmunds in the morning, so that leaves a lot up in the air for me. A Woman of Affairs and The Dolly Sisters are the only two things I’m totally set on. If I were to make my other decisions based on what I know will definitely be on the schedule, I’d also go with Mad LoveMagnificent Obsession, and The Killers.

The more I look at my plans, the more excited I am for this year’s festival. It’ll be my sixth year attending and I fully expect it will be a memorable one.

TCMFF 2017, Day 4: The Day I Met Dick Cavett

Bonnie and Clyde 1967

April 9, 2017

Ah, Sunday — the point in the festival where I start craving a slower pace. It’s the last day and after a chaotic few days, I’m ready to relax a little bit. Over the course of the day, I only went to three events, but all of them were winners.

I started the day with Bonnie and Clyde at the Chinese theater. Bonnie and Clyde is one of my all-time favorites, but I’ve never had the chance to see it in a theater before. And after having had the opportunity to see two other of my all-time favorite movies at the Chinese theater the previous night, I decided to make it three in a row. Like I said, there’s just something about being able to see one of your favorite movies at the Chinese theater that makes the experience so much more special. A beautiful print of a great movie in one of the most beautiful theaters — it’s simply fantastic.

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 09: TV personality Dick Cavett speaks onstage during the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival on April 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. 26657_004 (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)

After Bonnie and Clyde, I had a little break before one of the events I was most excited for: the conversation with Dick Cavett in Club TCM. I absolutely love watching his old interviews with people like Bette Davis, Groucho Marx, Debbie Reynolds, and Gloria Swanson, so I knew he was going to have some amazing stories to tell. I was definitely not disappointed. Who else in the world can tell you stories about the time Groucho Marx went to a seance where the medium was a dead ringer for Margaret Dumont? Or about going to interview Mae West and asking her to remove her hat, only to have Edith Head come out and insist that the hat cannot come off?

Another story that only Dick Cavett could possibly tell is about the time he went out to dinner with Marlon Brando, Brando punched out a paparazzi photographer, and then Cavett had to convince Brando to go get medical treatment for a serious infection the following day.

Dick Cavett was more than a TV host who happened to interview a lot of movie stars; he was also a close friend to some of them. He was famously good friends with Groucho, but he was also friends with Stan Laurel and told us about how he got to know him and would go to visit him at his apartment. If you’ve never seen Laurel and Hardy’s appearance on the show This Is Your Life, though, Cavett suggests you keep it that way — he had strong opinions about the whole premise of that show.

My picture with Dick Cavett

The real highlight of the Dick Cavett conversation is that it was also a book signing. Now, this was not like any other book signing I’ve ever been to. Generally speaking, at the book signings I’ve been to anyway, you get to the front of the line and then there’s some standard chit-chat like, “Hi, nice to meet you. Thanks for coming out. What’s your name?” But when I got to the front of the line, he was in full Dick Cavett mode, joking around and posing for funny pictures with people. I was caught a little bit off-guard because I wasn’t expecting him to be on like that, but I mean that in the best possible way. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had at TCMFF. It was just one of those moments where I really wished I’d had wittier things to say, but I know that even if I did, he’d probably just have something even better to say in response, so I gladly concede.

Lady in the Dark Ginger Rogers

At last, the time came for my final movie of the festival — a nitrate print of Lady in the Dark. After ending last year’s festival with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon, it only seemed appropriate to end this year’s with Ginger Rogers. To say that the attitudes in Lady in the Dark are a product of a different time is an understatement. The whole premise is that Ginger Rogers’ character turns to psychotherapy to try to figure out why she rejects glamour and prefers to focus on her career rather than getting married. But if you put the laughably outdated gender politics aside, it’s a pretty entertaining musical. The whole psychotherapy angle gave them freedom to create some extremely lavish and imaginative musical numbers that just couldn’t have been pulled off any other way. As a fan of fashion in film, of course I loved the costuming in it. There were costumes in it that literally took my breath away.

The real highlight of Lady in the Dark, though, was getting to see Ray Milland wearing a sequined ringmaster costume.

And with that, another TCMFF came to a close and I spent the rest of the night at the closing night party saying goodbye to people and fitting in as much time with my friends as I possibly could.

TCMFF 2017, Day 3: Revisiting Some Old Favorites

 Stalag 17

April 8, 2017

Going into day three of the festival, I didn’t have many firmly-set plans in mind. Today was full of blocks where I just couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted to do. In the end, I spent much of the day revisiting some of my old favorites.

For the first block of the day, I was stuck between The China Sydrome and Stalag 17. I like both movies a lot and it had been a long time since I’d seen either one. But when I got up, I simply wasn’t into the idea of starting the day with looming nuclear disasters, so I went for Stalag 17.

Alex Trebek Stalag 17 TCMFF

Alex Trebek introducing Stalag 17

Admittedly, one of the biggest reasons I wanted to see Stalag 17 is that it gave me a chance to see Alex Trebek introduce it. Over the past few years, Alex Trebek has been on hand during the festival to introduce a movie or two, but I’ve never had the chance to actually see him introduce anything. After seeing him introduce Stalag 17, I may be making more of an effort to see him introduce other movies in the future. It should come as no surprise that Alex Trebek is extremely knowledgeable about the films he introduces and his introduction helped get me very excited to see the movie again.

Since it’s been several years since I had last seen Stalag 17, I didn’t really remember a lot of the details of the movie. But somehow, I’d forgotten just how much comedy is in the movie. One thing I couldn’t forget, though, is how incredible William Holden was in that movie.

Charlie Chaplin The Great Dictator

Next up, I went with The Great Dictator. As much as I love The Last Picture Show, which was also showing during that block, The Great Dictator is a pretty special movie to me because it’s the movie that really inspired me to start learning about film history. I’ve also never seen it on the big screen before, so it seemed like a good time to change that. This screening was actually a bit of a slapstick comedy, anti-Hitler double feature. Before The Great Dictator, we watched You Nazty Spy with The Three Stooges.

Although The Great Dictator is easily the most famous cinematic satire about Hitler, You Nazty Spy was actually released several months before The Great Dictator. Both films have the distinction of being made during a time when Hollywood studios and the Hays Office weren’t keen on the idea of openly criticizing Hitler and the Nazi party. Chaplin was able to pull it off because, given his stature in the film industry, he produced it independently. But unlike The Great DictatorYou Nazty Spy isn’t a feature-length film and short films weren’t given as much attention from the Hays office. So say what you will about the Stooges, but they actually do have the distinction of being in the first American film to openly satirize Hitler.

TCMFF 2017 Hollywood Home Movies

After The Great Dictator, I headed over to the Roosevelt Hotel for Hollywood Home Movies. Hollywood Home Movies has always been one of my favorite events of the festival every year that I’ve gone, so this was my lone easy choice for the day. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, Hollywood Home Movies is a presentation of a selection of behind-the-scenes footage of film sets and home movies of stars at home which the Academy has collected and preserved. This year’s home movies were fascinating as always. When a presentation starts with footage of Hitchcock behind the scenes of 1929’s Blackmail and a short comedy film he made with his family, you know it’s going to be a good presentation.

In addition to the fantastic Hitchcock footage, we were treated to behind the scenes footage of The Adventures of Robin Hood, Bogart and Bacall at home and on their boat, and a behind the scenes look of The Trouble With Angels featuring Gypsy Rose Lee, Rosalind Russell, Hayley Mills, and Ida Lupino. As great as all that footage was, my favorite was “Gilbertone News,” a faux newsreel created by actor Billy Gilbert. This pseudo-newsreel contained footage of the Leading Men vs. Comedians baseball game, during which Mary Pickford threw out the opening pitch, a broadcast of Al Jolson’s radio show featuring the seven dwarfs, and Fay McKenzie, daughter of actor Robert McKenzie, modeling clothing that was in fashion at the time. Fay McKenzie was on hand for the event. She made her film debut at a baby held by Gloria Swanson in 1918’s Station Content, but you might best remember her as the woman laughing at herself in the mirror during Holly Golightly’s party in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Saturday Night Fever John Travolta

Next up on my agenda was Saturday Night Fever, which was screened at the Chinese theater. Not only is Saturday Night Fever one of my favorite movies, it was being shown in the best venue for movies that are very music heavy. I love the sound system at the Chinese theater and to make things better, we were watching a brand new 40th anniversary print that looked and sounded incredible.

One of the really great things about the TCM Classic Film Festival is that it’s not just a special event for the attendees; it’s also a special event for the special guests who come to it. Saturday Night Fever was introduced by director John Badham and actress Donna Pescow, and during their discussion, John Badham stated that when the movie premiered at the Chinese theater back in 1977, he was not impressed with the way it sounded. The sound system the theater had at the time wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today, so the movie didn’t sound as good as it should have. It’s really cool that this festival gave him the chance to come back to that same theater after 40 years and present his movie to an audience who could hear it at its very best.

The Graduate Dustin Hoffman Katharine Ross

The next block was one of the hardest for me to decide on. The Graduate is one of my all-time favorite movies, but it’s also very likely I’ll have other chances to see it on the big screen. There was also the nitrate print of Black NarcissusUnfaithfully Yours, and The Incident, all of which sounded fantastic. But since The Graduate had been heavily featured in the festival’s promotional material, after spending so much time looking at that started making me want to see it. And once I heard how incredible Saturday Night Fever‘s soundtrack sounded in the Chinese theater, I realized how good The Graduate‘s soundtrack would have sounded in that theater, so that ended up being my choice for that block.

In the end, I’m really glad I went with The Graduate. While it is indeed very likely that I’ll have other opportunities to see it on the big screen, it’s less likely that I’ll ever have other chances to see it again in that particular theater. There’s something about getting to see one of your absolute favorite movies at the world’s most famous movie theater that makes the whole experience even more special. Another thing that I would never be able to experience elsewhere is getting to see that movie introduced by the one and only Buck Henry. Henry was interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz, who has known Henry for several years, so they naturally had a really good, funny chemistry together.

Although I always love going to the midnight movies and I was really curious about Kentucky Fried Movie, I simply didn’t have enough energy to go to it, so The Graduate was my last movie for the day.

TCMFF 2017, Day 2: A Whole Lot of Red-Headed Women

Rafter Romance Ginger Rogers Norman Foster

April 7, 2017

It’s awfully hard to resist the idea of starting off the day with Ginger Rogers movie, especially if it’s a rarely-screened Ginger Rogers movie. Rafter Romance is one of the six movies kept out of circulation for several decades because the rights were owned by director Merian C. Cooper as part of a settlement over a payment dispute. Ten years ago, these movies were finally made available again thanks to the legal department at Turner Classic Movies straightening out all the legal entanglements.

I watched Rafter Romance once several years ago, but aside from the general plot of the movie, I didn’t really remember much about it. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t remember it better, because it’s a very delightful little comedy. Ginger is simply wonderful in it, it’s got a lot of great laughs, and it’s one of those fast-paced movies that were so common in the early 1930s. But one of the highlights was getting to see Laura Hope Crews as the rich, older patron supporting the artist played by Norman Foster. Crews is best known for her performance as Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind and her character in Rafter Romance is a far cry from the prim and proper Aunt Pittypat.

Beat the Devil Humphrey Bogart Jennifer Jones

From Rafter Romance, it was on to Beat the Devil. I have a personal rule that in most cases, if I don’t like a movie, I try to keep an open mind and give it another chance later on. Sometimes, I’m just not be in the right mindset for something or I might be distracted by something the first time I watch it, and that can have a huge impact on how I view it. Beat the Devil is a perfect example of why I’m glad I have this philosophy.

I’d tried watching Beat the Devil once before several years ago and it simply didn’t grab me. I think I got maybe 20 minutes into it before I went off to do something else. The fact that it was a rough-looking public domain print probably didn’t help things much, either. But not long ago, my dad caught part of it and asked me if I’d seen it because he thought it seemed interesting and funny. So when I saw Beat the Devil on this year’s TCMFF schedule, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to give it another chance.

Not only was the print a vast improvement over the one I’d attempted watching years ago, seeing it in the theater gave me a whole new appreciation for it. Yes, the story is convoluted and a bit hard to follow, but it’s hilarious. Although Bogart was the star I was most interested in the movie for, Jennifer Jones stole the show for me. I absolutely loved her performance as a daffy pathological liar. All in all, this was my favorite movie discovery of the festival.

Peter Bogdanovich TCMFF 2017

Next up on my schedule was the conversation with Peter Bogdanovich in Club TCM. Not only am I a big fan of several of his movies, he was friends with so many film legends, so this was instantly very high on my list of events to attend.

Much of the conversation revolved around his experiences in knowing Orson Welles and John Ford. With the recent news that The Other Side of the Wind, an incomplete movie Orson Welles had been working on with Bogdanovich throughout the 1970s, is going to be finished and released on Netflix, there was quite a bit of discussion about that.

Over the years, there have been efforts made to complete the film, but thanks to lots of legal issues, none of them have been successful until now. All the filmed footage is now in Los Angeles and editors will start cutting it together very soon. This is a project Welles had wanted to see completed and he had asked Bogdanovich to finish it for him, so this is something he’s been trying to make happen for the past few decades. I’m excited to see how this project all comes together.

We were also treated to a great anecdote from Bogdanovich about witnessing Cary Grant encountering a person who failed to recognize him, complete with Bogdanovich doing his famous Cary Grant voice.

So This is Paris 1926

After spending some time listening to Peter Bogdanovich talk about a more modern era of Hollywood history, I jumped back to the silent era with Ernst Lubitsch’s So This is Paris. I’ve long lamented the fact that not many Lubitsch silents are commercially available, so there is no way I could pass up the chance to see this on the big screen. The handful of Lubitsch silents I have seen for the most part have been incredibly witty and stylish, just like his sound films. So This is Paris was no exception. Only Lubitsch could so effectively pull off a movie about partner swapping. I sincerely hope this eventually gets a DVD/blu-ray/streaming release because if you’re a Lubitsch fan, particularly his early 1930s films, So This is Paris is bound to be right up your alley.

Jean Harlow Chester Morris Red Headed Woman

Once I got out of So This is Paris, I went outside and got right back in line for an old favorite — Red-Headed Woman. I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to see Jean Harlow on the big screen. In fact, I think this may have been the first Harlow movie I’ve seen on the big screen where she was the main star. This screening was one of those delightful experiences where I was able to watch a movie I’d seen several times before, but it was like getting to see it for the first time all over again. Seeing it on the big screen brought out so many little things that I simply didn’t notice when I watched at home; mostly things that really brought out the comedic aspect of the film. When I watched it at home, it was funny. When I watched it at the Egyptian, it was hilarious.

Cari Beauchamp’s introduction for Red-Headed Woman made the whole experience even better. It was a prime example of what a good movie introduction should be. Not only was she able to tell us a lot of fascinating details about the production of the movie, it’s one of her favorite movies so she brought the perfect balance of enthusiasm and expertise.

Those Redheads from Seattle

At the beginning of the day, I had been thinking I’d spend three movies in a row at the Egyptian by getting in line for Laura after Red-Headed Woman. But after watching a few great comedies early in the day, I started to realize I wanted to keep that lighter tone going and Laura just didn’t fit. Yes, seeing that on nitrate would have been incredible, but if it’s a kind of movie you’re just not in the mood for, you’re not going to enjoy it as much as you should. So instead, I went for Those Redheads from Seattle in 3D.

Getting to see Those Redheads from Seattle on the big screen in its original 3D format was another rare screening opportunity at the festival. Those Redheads was the first musical to be filmed in 3D, but when it was released in 1953, not many people had the chance to actually see it in 3D. After its release, the 3D version was largely unseen until 2006. This screening was of a newly-restored print from the 3D Film Archive, the same organization responsible for the restored version of Gog shown at last year’s TCMFF.

If you ever have a chance to go to a screening of something restored by the 3D Film Archive, I highly recommend going because they do a truly remarkable job on their restorations. At both Gog and Those Redheads, the movie was preceded by an explanation of the challenges they faced in restoring them and we were shown before and after comparisons of their work. It’s easy to dismiss these older 3D movies off as being cheesy, but this group does an amazing job of making them look their very best.

Sean Connery in Zardoz

My last movie for the day was Zardoz, one of this year’s midnight screenings. To be completely honest, I don’t fully understand what on Earth was going on in that movie. But if I’m going to watch a movie where Sean Connery goes around in a weird monokini outfit in a dystopian future and it opens with a disembodied head floating around the screen with a Sharpie-d on goatee, I’m glad I was able to see it with the type of crowd that comes to midnight movies at TCMFF.

TCMFF 2017, Day 1: From Osborne to Scorsese


April 6, 2017

Robert Osborne TCMFFNot long before the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival got underway,  fans of the channel were heartbroken to hear the news that long-time host Robert Osborne had passed away. Although Osborne wasn’t there in person this year, you couldn’t go anywhere without feeling his spirit. This year’s festival was officially dedicated to his memory and one of the first events this year was a panel all about him.

During this event, several TCM staffers, along with Osborne’s long-time friend Diane Baker, gathered to share their memories. It was an absolute delight to hear everyone’s stories about how they met him, the advice he’d given them, and what it was like to work with him. Many of the stories were touching, but one thing they made very clear is that Robert wouldn’t have wanted sad songs being played for him, so many of the stories were on a lighter, funnier note.

For example, out of all the big-name guests who appeared on the channel over the years, the one Osborne seemed to be most intimidated by was Judge Judy. He was a huge fan of her show and one of the TCM staffers talked about how if you called up to his apartment while the show was on, you would hear Judge Judy blaring in the background. And given how many film legends he knew and befriended over the years, you might not expect Osborne to be the type to be starstruck often. But when Jean-Paul Belmondo was at the festival a few years ago to introduce Breathless, Osborne was reportedly a bit giddy after meeting him for the first time.

It goes without saying that Robert Osborne was one of a kind. While there are lots of people who have a talent for on-air hosting and experience interviewing celebrity guests, Diane Baker said it best when she pointed out that what set him apart is that he genuinely cared about who these stars were as people.

Martin Scorsese

Not long after the Remembering Robert Osborne panel, there was a big announcement that changed my plans for the rest of the night. A nitrate print of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much had been part of the schedule from the get-go. There wasn’t a big-name guest to introduce it, but it was high on many peoples’ must-see lists because it was a nitrate print. However, since so many people seemed to be interested in The Man Who Knew Too Much, I was starting to lean more toward Requiem for a Heavyweight instead just to avoid the crowd. But then, I checked my phone and saw a notification announcing that Martin Scorsese would be introducing Man Who Knew Too Much and my whole plans for the night changed.

Martin Scorsese is my favorite living filmmaker and since he is such a strong advocate for film preservation, having the chance to see him at an event like this was really too much to resist. So not only did I decide to skip Requiem for a Heavyweight, I also decided to skip the documentary Dawson City: Frozen Time so I would have more time to line up for it. Dawson City had originally been at the top of my list of things I was most excited to see, but Scorsese was a game changer. This is a prime example of why one of the biggest pieces of advice I give to first-time festival attendees is to keep your options open. Because when your plan B involves getting to see someone like Martin Scorsese introduce a nitrate print of anything, you know you’re in a good place.

TCMFF Lee Grant Todd Fisher Dick Cavett

Lee Grant, Todd Fisher, and Dick Cavett

TCMFF Ruta Lee Keir Dullea Beau Bridges

Ruta Lee, Keir Dullea, and Beau Bridges

Before The Man Who Knew Too Much, I spent some time watching red carpet arrivals for the gala screening of In the Heat of the Night, which is always a lot of fun. The red carpet is always a way to see a lot of the festival’s special guests all in once place so you get to see a lot of people you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. In this case, it gave me a chance to see Lee Grant, Todd Fisher, Keir Dullea, John Landis, Beau Bridges, and Ruta Lee, which was great since I wasn’t able to see them at any of their events.

Peter Lorre The Man Who Knew Too MuchAfter the red carpet, I grabbed some dinner and got in line at the Egyptian theater for The Man Who Knew Too Much. Scorsese’s introduction was everything I’d hoped it would be. As he walked out to the podium, you could tell he was delighted to be there. Every single person who was there that night cares about film history and was excited to have the opportunity to see nitrate, so we were definitely his kind of crowd. “I’m sure you all already know about nitrate, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway just because I like talking about it,” he told the crowd. He then went on to not only tell us about the print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we were about to see, he talked a little bit about each of the nitrate prints being shown at the festival, such as where they came from or where he’d seen screenings of them in the past.

The print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we saw was originally part of David O. Selznick’s personal collection. Not only was the print itself in impeccable condition, the added shine that nitrate gives was the icing on the cake. It was my first time seeing this version of The Man Who Knew Too Much; I’d seen the 1956 Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day version several times before. On the whole, I preferred the 1954 version if only because of its unforgettable Albert Hall sequence. But I loved that in the end, it’s Edna Best’s character who takes charge of the situation and saves the day.

By the end of the day, it was clear that this was going to be an exceptionally great TCM Classic Film Festival.

My Choices for TCMFF 2017

TCMFF 2017

It’s hard to believe that in just a little over a week from now, I’ll be in Los Angeles for this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival. This will be my fourth year attending and I have yet to be disappointed by my experience. Every year, I eagerly anticipate the full schedule being announced so I can spend a week obsessing over the schedule in minute detail to plan my course of action.

Planning out my schedule is never easy and there are always plenty of timing conflicts to agonize over. This year was definitely no exception. In fact, my schedule is less firm this year than it has been in the past since there are lots of blocks where I could easily change my mind on the day of.

Everyone has their own unique method to figuring out what to see at TCMFF.  In the past, I’ve had years where I mostly watched old favorites and I’ve had years where virtually everything I saw was new to me. This year, it looks like I’ll have a nice combination of both. Generally speaking, here’s what I consider when planning my schedule:

  • Have I seen it on the big screen before, or is it very likely I’ll have a chance to go to a screening of it at home?
  • Is there a special guest I’d really like to see?
  • Is there anything else that makes this event/screening unique?
  • Will I have time to get to this from my previous event?

This year, several of the movies will be shown on nitrate prints and it’s my big goal to see at least one of those. Given the volatile nature of nitrate, very few theaters will screen them so I doubt I’ll ever have a chance to go to a screening of one near home. Other than that, two of my biggest must-sees are both Club TCM events: conversations with Dick Cavett and Peter Bogdanovich. But now, let’s get on to the rest of my plans.


Noir City Comes to Detroit

noir-city-detroitOn the weekend of September 23-25, 2016, Eddie Muller, founder of the Film Noir Foundation and known as the Czar of Noir, brought the renowned Noir City festival to Detroit’s historic Redford Theater. Over the course of the weekend, visitors had the chance to see up to seven noir classics, each introduced by Muller. Every day, there was a double feature consisting of one well-known noir classic paired with one that isn’t so widely known, all presented in beautiful 35mm prints. Each of the bigger titles were movies I’d seen before and really liked, but I was actually more excited for the second billings since I’d never seen any of them before.

The festival kicked off on Friday night with a double feature of The Killers and 99 River Street. In 99 River Street, the events of the film take place over the course of one night and I don’t really know why, but I love movies that are structured like that. John Payne stars as a boxer-turned-cab driver who is married to an unhappy wife. Over the course of one night, he discovers that his wife has been having an affair, gets framed for his wife’s murder, and unwittingly becomes entangled in a publicity stunt for a new play starring an actress friend of his, played by Evelyn Keyes. When Keyes’ character feels bad about unwittingly leading him into a publicity stunt, she quits the play to help him clear his name. For the most part, I loved this movie. Gritty and compelling, but with a happy ending that I would normally not like in a noir, but considering it’s about a guy having the worst night ever, I can forgive it. I figured that guy deserved to have something good happen to him.

Saturday’s double feature was Double Indemnity and The ProwlerDouble Indemnity is definitely a favorite of mine, but The Prowler ended up being the biggest highlight of the festival for me. If you have never seen The Prowler, imagine an even more subversive Double Indemnity, only with a one-sided murder plot and a main female character who actually has a conscience.

When I hear classic film fans talk about how old films weren’t always wholesome and sweet, they’re typically referring to the pre-code era, but The Prowler definitely pushed some 1950s-era boundaries. Not only is the plot full of elements that test the limits of the production codes, its production involved two famous victims of Hollywood blacklisting: Joseph Losey and Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo was not only an uncredited writer, but also provided the voice Evelyn Keyes’ character’s husband. At the time The Prowler was produced, Trumbo was such a Hollywood outcast, the fact that he was providing the voice for a character in the movie had to be an extremely well-kept secret. In his introduction, Muller said that not even Evelyn Keyes knew Trumbo provided that voice until a long time after the fact.

Night owls had the chance to catch a late-night screening of David Lynch’s neo-noir classic Blue Velvet on Saturday. Although I’m a big David Lynch fan and really like Blue Velvet, I simply did not have the energy to stay up for it. But I was back at the Redford early Sunday afternoon for a double feature of The Lady from Shanghai and Woman on the Run.

It had been ages since I’d seen The Lady from Shanghai, and since it’s a movie you really have to concentrate on, seeing it in a theater is absolutely perfect. Woman on the Run was extremely enjoyable. I love Ann Sheridan, but I haven’t seen much of her post-1940s work, so this was a real treat. She is absolutely fantastic in it and the movie is full of twists and turns to keep things interesting from beginning to end.

Many people know Eddie Muller from his introductions on Turner Classic Movies, but if you ever have the chance to see him in person at an event, I very highly recommend going. Whether it’s at a Noir City festival or at an event like the TCM Film Festival, he is always extremely engaging, entertaining, passionate, and knowledgeable about the subject at hand. As someone who has been actively involved in trying to preserve and restore some of the more overlooked noir gems, Muller has some absolutely incredible stories to tell. Between the excellent line-up and Muller’s expertise, it was an absolutely fantastic weekend. The Redford’s volunteers have already started putting the gears in motion to do this again next year and I’m already looking forward to seeing next year’s line-up.

TCMFF 2016, Day 4: An Interview to Remember

Sunday, May 1

The final day of TCMFF has arrived and by now, I’ve reached the point where I have to put some effort into walking when I first wake up because all the running around I’ve been doing the past few days is starting to catch up with me. (If you’ve never been to TCMFF before, yes, you’d be surprised how much walking and running around you can do during a trip that largely involves sitting in movie theaters most of the day.) Luckily for me, I was planning on a pretty easy, laid back schedule of only three events.

Elliott Gould TCMFF 2016

Elliott Gould after the screening of M*A*S*H. Photo Credit: TCM

I started the day off at the Chinese theater for a movie that has been long on my list of movies I need to see — M*A*S*H. Somehow, I had never seen this movie before and have hardly watched any of the TV series either, for that matter. I wouldn’t say M*A*S*H is one of my favorite movies, but I’m glad I saw it. I have a bit of a dark sense of humor, so there’s a lot I liked about it.

After the film, Elliott Gould came out for a brief discussion. I actually think I preferred the Elliott Gould discussion after M*A*S*H over the discussion he had done at Club TCM the previous day. Naturally, today’s discussion was more M*A*S*H-focused and I appreciated getting to hear him talk more in depth about one of his films. While some actors like to say that they don’t watch their own movies when they see them on TV, Elliott Gould is not one of those actors. He still absolutely loves M*A*S*H and gladly admits to watching it anytime he sees it on TV. Even over 40 years after the film’s original release, Gould said he can still find new things in it to appreciate and that he had even noticed something new about it just a few minutes before the discussion.

Faye Dunaway TCMFF Interview 2016

Photo credit: TCM

After M*A*S*H, it was time to meet up with my friend Nikki to head over to the Montalban Theater for one of the events I was most excited for this festival. I usually try to keep my schedule flexible for Sundays, but this year, I couldn’t help but break my own rule. Not long before the festival began, it was announced that Faye Dunaway would be appearing to record an extended interview about her career down at the Montalban Theater and to introduce the movie Network. Faye Dunaway is one of my favorite actresses to come out of the new Hollywood era (1967 onward) and Bonnie and Clyde is in my top 10 favorite movies of all time. I also adore her performances in Network and Chinatown, so this news was a total game changer.

As great as Network is, I loved being able to attend the taping of the Sophia Loren interview at last year’s festival, so the Faye Dunaway interview instantly became one of my festival must-sees. Going to that meant making quite a few sacrifices, though. Between the time it would take for the interview to be recorded and having to line up rather early to make sure I get in, going to the interview meant having to skip most of the movies playing that afternoon, but it was completely and totally worth it. There’s nothing that could have come up in any of the TBA slots that would make me change my mind about the interview. I knew this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event and I was not disappointed.

Ben Mankiewicz conducted the interview with Dunaway and it was by far the best interview I’ve ever seen him do. (This year’s festival really drove home to me how very versatile of an interviewer Mankiewicz is. Just two days earlier, he was doing a very fun, lighthearted interview with Adam West and Lee Merriwether, then here he was doing a very intelligent, thoughtful interview with Dunaway, and he did an incredible job with both interviews.) He had clearly done a lot of research before the interview, something that did not go unnoticed by Dunaway, who mentioned how impressed she was by that on more than one occasion. The interview primarily focused on certain landmark movies throughout her career such as Bonnie and ClydeChinatown, Network, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Three Days of the Condor. But she also discussed a little bit about herself, such as her fondness for Bob Dylan, rock and roll music, and Ryan Gosling. Fun fact: Faye Dunaway is also a fan of Uber. She also mentioned liking the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.

Many people think of Faye Dunaway being a difficult person and something of a diva, but if anyone at the interview was hoping to witness any of that behavior first hand, they were surely very disappointed. Dunaway was in a lovely mood that day, very relaxed, and clearly enjoyed every single minute of the interview. And, since I’m sure many people are wondering about this, there wasn’t a single mention of Mommie Dearest, Joan Crawford, or wire hangers. At most, she vaguely alluded to Mommie Dearest at one point when she mentioned making some mistakes in her career that she chooses not to speak of very often (and it’s pretty well-known which movie Dunaway does not like discussing.)

Faye Dunaway After TCMFF Interview

My photo of Faye Dunaway after her TCMFF interview

The crowd was loving the interview as much as Dunaway was. When she walked out on stage, I could pretty much tell the exact moment when she realized she was among people who truly respect her and admire her work. She was relaxed, having fun, and when the interview was over, she was so delighted that she took a minute to pose on the stage for fans to take pictures of her. That was the move of a true star. Don’t miss this interview when it airs on TCM sometime next year. TCM has shown a lot of great interviews over the years and was one of the best.

After the interview, I had a little bit of a break before seeing my final film of the festival: The Band Wagon. I loved the idea of ending the festival on a purely exuberant note, so The Band Wagon was a perfect choice for me. I absolutely adore the movie and the idea of getting to see the “Dancing in the Dark” number on the big screen was totally irresistible. Before the movie started, Illeana Douglas hosted a lengthy discussion with award-winning choreographer and director Susan Stroman.

The Band Wagon on the big screen was everything I wanted it to be: fun, joyful, colorful, and simply spectacular. That’s entertainment indeed!

And, with that, the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival came to an end. After The Band Wagon, all that was left for me to do was go back to the Roosevelt to spend as much time with my friends as possible before we went our separate ways again.

TCMFF 2016, Day 3: My Day of Presentations

Saturday, April 29

Shaw & Lee at 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone Presentation TCMFF 2016

Photo Credit: TCM

In addition to being a chance to see a whole lot of movies, TCMFF is also a great chance to see some film-related presentations. While Friday was my busiest day of the festival for movies, Saturday was my busiest day for presentations.

I started the day off what turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of the festival, the 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone presentation at the Egyptian Theater. Since I loved the Dawn of Technicolor presentation at last year’s festival, a presentation on Vitaphone seemed like it might be right up my alley. Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project was on hand to give a brief but delightful presentation on the history of Vitaphone and to introduce a series of restored Vitaphone shorts, including a couple that had just very, very recently been restored.

Vitaphone shorts were often referred to as “canned vaudeville” back then since Vitaphone shorts were a way for people to get to see performances by some of the biggest stars of the time, even if they didn’t live near a theater that could afford to pay astronomical performance fees for people like Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. As a result, many Vitaphone shorts showcase stars who were big at the time, but are now largely forgotten. But there are also many Vitaphone shorts that show stars who went on to have extremely successful careers in show business. The shorts we saw during this presentation were a mixed bag of both of those types.

We were treated to shorts featuring familiar stars like Rose Marie, Burns and Allen, and Molly Picon, but I was more fascinated by some of the shorts featuring stars who aren’t so well known today. There was Zelda Santly, the celebrated impersonator, in the “Little Miss Everybody” short, which allowed her to showcase her impressions of stars like Fanny Brice and Mae West. (This short also ended up being a bit of fashion inspiration for me since I adored the dress she was wearing in it.)

But my personal favorite Vitaphone short was “The Beau Brummels” starring the vaudeville comedy duo Shaw & Lee.

Almost 90 years after this short was originally filmed, Shaw & Lee still managed to win over the Egyptian Theater. I absolutely loved their surreal, surprisingly modern style of comedy and their timing was absolutely impeccable. When I got home from the festival, one of the first things I wanted to do was learn more about Shaw & Lee, but alas, I haven’t been able to find much information on them.

Laraine Newman TCMFF 2016

Laraine Newman reading the story of Anita Loos’ Hollywood arrival

After the Vitaphone presentation, it was off to the Roosevelt Hotel for the first of a few presentation in Club TCM. First up was Cari Beauchamp’s “My First Time in Hollywood” presentation. “My First Time in Hollywood” is a new book by Beauchamp, which is a collection of stories written by some of the biggest stars and other power players of Hollywood’s classic era such as Anita Loos, Colleen Moore, Harold Lloyd, Noel Coward, Marie Dressler, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy, just to name a few, about what it was like for them to arrive in Hollywood. To bring these stories to life, Beauchamp invited Saturday Night Live star Laraine Newman, Bruce Goldstein, David Ladd, Suzanne Lloyd (granddaughter of Harold Lloyd), and Sunset Boulevard star Nancy Olson Livingston to come up and read a few stories aloud.

Nancy Olson TCMFF 2016

Since Sunset Boulevard is in my top 5 favorite films, I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to see Nancy Olson in person (and she is still absolutely stunning). But it truly was fascinating to hear the stories of what it was like to for so many Hollywood icons to come to this town for the first time. Hearing Bruce Goldstein read Ben Hecht’s story was priceless! I enjoyed the presentation so much that I couldn’t resist stopping by Cari Beauchamp’s book signing so I could pick up a copy of the book.

Serge Bromberg Club TCM

Serge Bromberg explaining how different prints are combined during restoration

Although I’m a huge fan of silent films, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it to any of the silent film screenings during the festival. So to get my silent film fix in, I decided to stick around Club TCM for the presentation by noted film archivist Serge Bromberg. This presentation focused a lot on the restoration process and how prints from various sources are combined to create restorations of films, which he demonstrated by using Chaplin’s The Bank from 1915 as an example. He also screened several clips of rare films that have been restored, including 5 minutes of outtakes from Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms, a rare Stan Laurel short named The Whole Truth, and the complete version of the infamous Laurel & Hardy pie fight known as The Battle of the Century.

The description for this event mentioned a special world premiere surprise, which ended up being a clip of Laurel & Hardy that was only shown at a convention for film salesmen in Paris in 1936. It had only been publicly shown that one time, so this was the first time that footage had been seen in 80 years. Remarkably, this footage was found in a collection of random clips of footage that were all thought to be junk!

Serge Bromberg is a truly remarkable presenter. Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable about film, he can also play piano to accompany the films he talks about. If you ever have the chance to see him give a presentation, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Elliott Gould and Alec Baldwin

After Serge Bromberg, it was time for the Conversation With Elliott Gould. After you’ve been going to TCMFF for a few years, it becomes extremely evident that all of the hosts you see during the course of the festival have different styles of interviewing people. Alec Baldwin was conducting this event and when you see him interview another actor, there’s a good chance that it’s going to focus a lot on what it’s like being an actor and the industry and that’s very much what his conversation with Elliott Gould was like. If you wanted to hear more in-depth comments on specific movies, you would have been better off going to see him at either M*A*S*H or The Long Goodbye, assuming those were the movies you wanted to hear more about, but given his prolific career, it was still very interesting to hear everything that he had to say.

Not long after the conversation with Elliott Gould, it was time for one of my favorite annual festival events — Hollywood Home Movies! I’ve gone to this every year that I’ve attended the festival and I’ve never been disappointed. The home movies we see are pulled from The Academy’s collections and not only show movie stars at home, but behind the scenes of their movies and at other events. This year, we got to see footage of Joan Blondell as a WAMPAS Baby Star, behind the scenes footage of On the Waterfront in color, Ginger Rogers at home, and Lupe Velez on the set of The Squaw Man. One of the biggest highlights was getting to see some incredible behind the scenes footage from The More The Merrier. There was also quite a bit of interesting Disney-related footage that included director Federico Fellini visiting Disneyland (which is a concept I’m now rather fascinated with), a brief glimpse of Walt Disney with a cigarette (he was usually very strict about not being photographed smoking), and a bit of footage of some of the original Mouseketeers, including Annette Funicello.

The biggest highlight of Hollywood Home Movies was getting to see home movies from the Nicholas Brothers. This included some truly incredible footage of the Nicholas Brothers with people like Carmen Miranda, Dorothy Dandridge, and Ethel Waters. There were even some very rare clips filmed inside the Cotton Club. Every year at Hollywood Home Movies, they try to invite some of the people who donated this footage to the Academy, which is very often family members of the stars. This year, Tony Nicholas was on hand to talk about the Nicholas Brothers. While Tony did much of the talking, many other Nicholas family members were there. Some of the younger generation is keeping the family’s dancing legacy alive through an act called The Nicholas Kids, who kindly gave us an impromptu performance. The entire Nicholas family was so remarkable; they truly made this year’s Hollywood Home Movies an incredible event. I could have listened to their stories and watched those kids dance all day!

My first actual film of the day didn’t start until after 9:00 PM, but it was one of my big must-sees of the festival — Band of Outsiders introduced by Anna Karina. It was my first time seeing the movie and I enjoyed it, but of course, the big treat was getting to see the one and only Anna Karina in person. Her introduction included stories about things like how she met director and future husband Jean-Luc Godard and how he offered her a role in the French new wave classic Breathless, but she turned it down because the part required nudity.

The last movie of the day for me was the newly restored sci-fi flick Gog, presented in 3D. I’ll admit, I fell asleep for some of it so I’m a little hazy on the details, but fortunately for me, I didn’t miss the scene where Herbert Marshall gets to wield a flamethrower. No, really, I’m not making that up, Gog really did include Herbert Marshall with a flamethrower, which absolutely delighted me. Now I’d love to have a Herbert Marhsall action figure with flamethrower accessory. And I must admit that they did a fantastic job of restoring the movie! Before they actually started the movie, they showed us a comparison of what it looked like before restoration and what it looked like after and it’s a very, very nice looking restoration.

Day 2 of TCMFF 2016 Goes Out With a “Roar”

Friday, April 29

Roar 1981

One of the things I always look forward to seeing on the TCMFF schedule every year is what the midnight movies will be. I don’t always stay awake for the whole movie, but it’s always fun to go to them anyway. In the past, they’ve shown classic midnight movie staples like Eraserhead and Freaks and last year, we got to see the spectacularly odd and terrible Boom! This year’s midnight movie selections did not disappoint. Although Gog was fun (more on that tomorrow), it was awfully hard to top Friday night’s screening of Roar.

Roar is a movie I’d heard a bit about, but never actually seen, so I was intrigued when I saw it made this year’s TCMFF schedule. It’s a movie that has a level of infamy for being a movie that was plagued with production problems (it spent 11 years in production) and for using live, untrained animals, some of which actually lived with stars Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Noel Marshall, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall. Many of the cast and crew were injured by the animals over of the course of production. For everything I’d heard about it before, nothing could have truly prepared me for the sheer insanity of what the movie is actually like.

Roar 1981

Roar is pretty thin on plot. Noel Marshall stars as a man who has decided to go off to Africa so he can study lions, tigers, leopards, and other big cats by living with them in this big house out in the middle of the wilderness. Tippi Hedren plays his estranged wife who brings their kids (Melanie Griffith, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall) out to see him. But is he home when they arrive? Nope! So the wife and kids arrive to this house full of big, wild cats who begin terrorizing the family and they all have to avoid the cats by doing things like hiding in cabinets and iceboxes. This goes on for quite a while, then they all fall asleep and wake up with a whole new perspective on the situation. They figure that if the animals really wanted to kill them, they would’ve done it while they were sleeping and the movie ends with a big montage showing the entire family living in peace with the cats. I’m not kidding, the family just sort of gets over the whole being terrorized by wild animals thing and it suddenly ends in a happy montage.

Roar 1981

In most cases, when you see dangerous stunts and acts of violence in films, it’s pretty easy to understand that it wasn’t real. Roar, on the other hand, perpetually lulls you into a false sense of security. When you see these people actually interacting with the animals (and occasionally being injured by them), you have that moment of thinking, “It’s just a movie.” But then you remember that these were not trained animals and that actor who is bandaging themself up on screen is bandaging themself up because they were actually injured by an animal and you’re simultaneously horrified and amazed that this movie even exists. It truly is like a completely deranged version of Swiss Family Robinson with a little bit of Grey Gardens thrown into the mix.

Not to mention that there are a lot of moments that are kind of hilarious, but you’re not entirely sure you should be laughing at this movie. While watching actors get attacked by wild animals in and of itself isn’t funny, the fact that this movie has a paper-thin plot, a ridiculous musical score, and terrible dialogue that’s made even funnier by Noel Marshall’s hilariously bad line delivery makes it comedy gold.

The whole thing is just so completely and totally off the rails and incomprehensible, it’s one of the most genuinely unforgettable movies you’ll ever see. Not to mention, it’s probably one of the most OSHA-unfriendly movies ever created. If it’s been a while since you last saw a movie, you might say, “Yeah, I think I might have seen that one once a while ago.” Roar is not one of those movies.

One of the first things I did when I got home after the festival was order a copy of Roar on blu-ray. Not only will I always remember the experience of watching this with my friends, but I now feel compelled to tell as many people as possible about this bit of cinematic insanity. When the blu-ray arrived, I noticed that one of the bonus features was a Q&A session with some of the cast and crew, which I figured would be a good thing since I had a whole lot of questions about that movie. The Q&A session didn’t answer any of my questions, but it actually made the whole thing seem even more insane than I already thought it was. A lot of the Q&A session covered what it was like living with/working with the animals and includes tales of things like Noel Marshall distracting the people from Animal Control when they showed up at their house while Tippi and Melanie were in the backyard shoving lions into neighboring yards.

If you ever have the chance to see Roar on the big screen, I totally recommend going. Or get the blu-ray and watch it with some of your friends. In any case, it’s got to be seen to be believed and it’s way better to watch it with other people.