What’s on TCM: May 2017

Happy May, everyone! Although the weather is getting nicer outside, TCM is giving me plenty of good reasons to stay in and watch movies this month.

One of the biggest things going on in May is Clark Gable as Star of the Month. His movies will be shown every Tuesday night, continuing into Wednesday morning and afternoon throughout the month. In honor of the 50th anniversary of 1967, TCM will be spending two nights showing movies made during that year. The 1967 tribute is coming up on May 12 and 19.

But the thing I’m most looking forward to in May is the monster movie marathons that will be happening every Thursday night. I absolutely love it when TCM does spotlights like these because the movies are just so much fun to watch.

Without further ado, let’s get into the rest of the schedule.

(more…)

Advertisements

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.

What’s on TCM: April 2017

Alfred Hitchcock Rear Window

Happy April, everyone! Looking at this month’s TCM lineup, I can honestly say there isn’t much here I don’t like. Instead of having just one star of the month, this month, the spotlight goes to character actors. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, the prime-time lineup will be dedicated to highlighting some of film’s most memorable character actors. Since I’m a sucker for a good melodrama, I’m really looking forward to the spotlight on post-war melodramas every Friday. Plus there are lots of great birthday tributes throughout the month and the recently-launched Noir Alley feature on Sunday mornings to look forward to.

Now, onto my highlights for the month!

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Simpson Sunday: Made It, Ma!

James Cagney White Heat

Season 10, Episode 2: The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace

After becoming fascinated with the life of Thomas Edison, Homer goes to the library to learn more. But after an incident at the regular library, he can only go to the library at Springfield Elementary, where he runs into Bart causing trouble. In this case, he’s playing around on a globe while paying homage to James Cagney’s famous line from White Heat.

Bart Simpson White Heat Parody