The Sixth Annual TCM Classic Film Festival is nearly upon us – four glorious days of immersion in classic film in the heart of Hollywood along with hundreds of our fellow classic film fans. It’s the best time of the year for those of us who love Hollywood’s golden era of filmmaking.
This year hasn’t been without its controversy, as the early press releases announced programming such as Hollywood’s enduring classic…Apollo 13 (1995)? Malcolm X (1992)? Out of Sight (1998)?! But never fear – though TCM is bringing some newer films to the table, in order to woo some fans who haven’t quite made it as far back in Hollywood history as others, to expand the reach of their theme History According to Hollywood, and honor certain guests like editor Anne V. Coates and stunt coordinator Terry Leonard – they’ve still got PLENTY of pre-1970 films to choose from.
In fact, choosing is the hard part! Some of these time slots are so packed it’s nearly impossible to choose what to see. Such is our burden. I’ve gone through each timeslot, and detailed the choices in each one – basically what to look for if you want to catch all the essential films, if you’re looking for lesser known discoveries, or if you want to make the most of experiences you can’t get anywhere else. Obviously, these are all subjective to some degree.
A few general suggestions to start with, based on my five years experience of this festival.
Plan Meals and Bring Snacks
The schedule is VERY packed if you want to see something in every slot. You’ll often be running directly from screening to another line without a break. Plan ahead and make sure to eat in any hour long breaks you have. It’s not a bad idea to bring some small bags of chips and a bottle of water with you, in case you end up crunched for time. The theatre doesn’t really make a big deal out of it for festivals – if you’d rather not sneak in food, they do have actual restaurant food and a bar as well as regular theatre food. Plus there are several relatively quick restaurants scattered around the top level of the Hollywood-Highland Center, including a pizza place, a Quizno’s, a Johnny Rockets, a Mongolian Barbecue, and a few more right next to the theatre.
See Something at Each of the Palaces
TCL Chinese, the Egyptian, and El Capitan are the centerpiece theatres and they are all pretty amazing venues. The Egyptian is a bit plainer these days than the other two on the inside, but the balcony is very nice. Head up there, because a lot of people don’t know it’s there and the middle front has the best view in the theatre.
Get in Line Early for Chinese 4
Chinese 4 is a very small venue compared with the others, only about 200 seats. They generally put lesser-known films in here, which helps, but it still nearly always fills up, and always with people who are very passionate about seeing the obscurities.
Go to Lines Early for Everything
Even if you’re planning to go eat or run to the restroom in between films, stop by the line for your next film first. They give out numbered tickets on a first-come first-serve basis, and once you have a number, you can go do whatever and come back and rejoin the line in numerical order. Lines tend to go in about fifteen minutes before screening time, so make sure you’re back by then – if the theatre fills up, it doesn’t matter what number you have if you’re not there in time.
Spend Some Time in Club TCM
If you’re a passholder, you have access to Club TCM, which has a lot of fun events and just a great atmosphere. You can also check out the TCM gift store, which is like crack to fans of the channel, and of classic films in general. This is a suggestion I don’t always follow myself, but I try.
Make Friends in Line
TCM Fest is the friendliest fest I’ve ever been to. Even if you come with friends, and I hope you do, chat to the people around you! We all have a ton in common just by virtue of loving classic films, and I’ve made friends that I still meet up with every year at the Fest and chat with on Twitter year round.
Tag #tcmff and @tcmfilmfestival to join the conversation. There’s a huge group of TCM fans on Twitter, so start tweeting with them now and meet up with them at the Fest. You can also keep up with this year’s Social Producers, who are walking around with trivia questions and prizes and all sorts of things. Another good tag to follow is #tcmparty, where TCM watchers do group watches and generally keep up with each other.
And now, the films!
Thursday, March 26
Pre-Slot Special Events
1:00pm – Meet TCM
TCM staffers let us into the behind-the-scene world at TCM, sharing insights into programming, what to expect in 2015, and more.
3:00pm – So You Think You Know the Movies
A trivia contest hosted by Bruce Goldstein for teams of 2-8 members. I would LOVE to do this one some day, but I rarely want to take Thursday off work just to go to the few special events. I love me some trivia, though.
5:00pm – Welcome Party
Passholders enjoy a special welcome party on opening night; this is one of the best chances to rub shoulders with the special guests, though if you’re trying to make it into The Sound of Music, you won’t get to do much partying.
SLOT 1: Starting 5pm-7:30pm
The Essential Choice: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) (6:15pm in Chinese 1)
One of the sidebars this year is History According to John Ford, tying into the overall theme of Hollywood and history. All the films in that sidebar are essential, but I might just like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance the best of the bunch. Definitely the best choice here if you haven’t seen it yet.
Guest: Keith Carradine
The Elite Choice: The Sound of Music (1965) (6:00pm in TCL Chinese)
This is “elite” because you have to have one of the upper-level passes to get in – very VIP experience indeed! Even my media credential doesn’t get me in, but that’s okay. I like The Sound of Music just fine, and seeing Julie Andrews would be cool, but I have seen the film a bunch of times.
Guests: Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer
The Discovery Choice: Too Late for Tears (1949) (6:45pm in Chinese 4)
A noir I’ve never heard of, starring Lizabeth Scott, who passed away only a few months ago reminding me that I’ve only seen a couple of her films. I’m totally in with no more information than that. I did see that it was recently restored thanks to the Film Noir Foundation, and that’s great. They do great stuff.
The Iconic Choice: Queen Christina (1933) (6:30pm in Chinese 6)
I’ve been reading the book Watching Them Be by James Harvey, about acting in classic Hollywood, and the first section is about Garbo. Harvey points out how mesmerizing Garbo could be no matter how bad the movies around her were – Queen Christina is one of the better films, though it’s still fairly wooden at times. But Garbo is ecstatic truth.
The Experience Choice: Grease (1978) (7:30pm poolside at the Roosevelt)
I confess, I LOVE Grease. If this weren’t up against a recently restored noir that I’ve never seen, I’d probably be planning my first poolside screening right now. What a perfect choice for hanging out at the pool and relaxing with a fun favorite.
Guests: Jamie Donnelly, Barry Pearl, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward
My Choice: Too Late for Tears – I can’t resist a noir I haven’t seen.
SLOT 2: Starting 9:45-10pm
The Essential Choice: My Man Godfrey (1936) (10pm in Chinese 1)
One of the best-loved screwball comedies of the mid-1930s, with Carole Lombard as a ditzy society dame who decides homeless bum William Powell will be her next “project.” The film has more on its mind than just laughs, juxtaposing glamour and class warfare along with its screwball romance. To be honest, this has never been among my favorite screwballs, and I’m thinking of checking it out mostly to see if seeing it with an appreciative audience can knock me over the edge.
The Counter-programming Choice: The Sea Hawk (1940) (10pm in Chinese 6)
The culmination of Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling career, a fictionalized account of Sir Francis Drake raiding the Spanish fleets under Elizabeth I. This is a film I feel like I’ve seen, but actually can’t remember, so it’s tempting to give this another look, too.
Guest: Rory Flynn (Errol Flynn’s daughter)
The Discovery Choice: Breaker Morant (1980) (9:45pm in Chinese 4)
This Boer War-set film is part of the Australian New Wave sidebar, and I must admit, I’m not very familiar with the Australian New Wave. I know some TCM fans are upset by the inclusion of post-1970 films at the festival, but I think this kind of focused sidebar is great, especially when it highlights an aspect of film history that many are unfamiliar with. This SHOULD be my pick based on my general goals to seek out the unexpected, but I dunno.
Guest: Bruce Beresford (director)
My Choice: To be honest, I haven’t decided. None of these are high-priority for me, but I’d be interested in any of them, so it may just come down to my whim on the evening.
Friday, March 27
SLOT 1: Starting 9:00-10:30am
Note that choosing Lawrence of Arabia will take up Slots 1 & 2.
The Essential Choice: Lawrence of Arabia (10:00am at El Capitan)
Lawrence of Arabia is an absolute must on the big screen at some point in your life. This may just be that point. El Capitan is a gorgeous movie palace, and there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of timeslots.
The Counterprogramming Choice: My Darling Clementine (9:15am in Chinese 1)
One of John Ford’s finest westerns, telling his version of the famous story of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and that gunfight at that O.K. Corral. Here a lot of the focus is on Earp and his romance with the titular Clementine, but don’t worry, the gunfight is great, too.
Guests: Keith Carradine and Peter Fonda
The Discovery Choice: The Smiling Lieutenant (9:30am in Chinese 4)
Ernst Lubitsch directing not just Maurice Chevalier (who frequently worked with Lubitsch in the early 1930s), but Miriam Hopkins and Claudette Colbert in a sparkling Pre-Code musical comedy? Yes, please! I’ve known about this film for a while as a Lubitsch-Chevalier outing, but for some reason I never realized Hopkins and Colbert were in here, too. That makes it a must-see.
The Scholarly Choice: The Dawn of Technicolor (9:00am in the Egyptian)
David Pierce and James Layton, who have written a book on The Dawn of Technicolor, present rare footage, stills, and photographs tracing the beginnings of Technicolor from 1915 to 1934. For reference, the first 3-strip Technicolor feature was 1935, so some of this stuff is really early. I love going to these kind of one of a kind presentations, especially when they show a forgotten part of film history.
The Experience Choice: Christopher Plummer Handprint Ceremony (10:30am outside the TCL Chinese)
Every year TCM Fest includes a new handprint ceremony among their special events, and this year it’s Christopher Plummer getting the honor, fresh from Thursday evening’s 50th Anniversary screening of The Sound of Music. This is certainly something you’re not going to see anywhere else.
My Choice: This is one of the harder timeslots for me, honestly. The Smiling Lieutenant and The Dawn of Technicolor program are duking it out pretty hard right now as two things I’ve never seen and want to quite badly, and I would also love to see My Darling Clementine and Lawrence of Arabia again. Not sure which will come out on top yet.
SLOT 2: Starting 11:30am-12:30pm
The Essential Choice: Lawrence of Arabia (yeah, you’re still watching it)
The Counterprogramming Choice: Lenny (11:30am at the Egyptian)
You know how in Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz the main character is struggling with a biopic film he’s trying to make about a comedian while also struggling to mount a musical extravaganza on Broadway? Well, All That Jazz is semi-autobiographical and the film about the comedian is based on this film, which Fosse made in 1974 about comedian Lenny Bruce. I’ve never seen it and don’t know much about it or Bruce, but the B&W stills I’ve seen look pretty gorgeous and I’d certainly like to check it out sometime.
Guests: Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin
The New Classics Choice: The Purple Rose of Cairo (12:15pm in Chinese 6)
Woody Allen isn’t shy about letting his love of cinema show through his films, but this is one of the purest expressions of that love, with a down on her luck depression era woman finding escape in the movie theatre – literally, as it turns out, when her favorite on-screen swashbuckling hero steps off the screen right into her life. It’s a sweet and romantic fable, and one that earns that oft-given label “a love letter to the cinema.”
The Discovery Choice: The Proud Rebel (12:15pm in Chinese 1)
I had barely heard of this film until it was announced for the festival; it’s a relatively late film for Michael Curtiz, Alan Ladd, and Olivia de Havilland, about a Confederate veteran and his mute son trying to make a life for themselves in Utah, with the help of farm woman Olivia de Havilland. (That’s what the TCM plot description says; I’m not entirely sure what a “farm woman” is…a farmer who’s a woman?) I do like Westerns, but those set explicitly in the aftermath of the Civil War tend to do a little less for me.
Guests: actor David Ladd (Alan Ladd’s son, and plays the mute son in the film)
The Other Discovery Choice: Reign of Terror (12:00N in Chinese 4)
Another interesting-sounding film I’d basically never heard of before. This is a French Revolution-set period piece, but in the hands of Anthony Mann, sounds like it’s basically turned into a period piece noir, which is not a thing I knew existed. I must admit I’m intrigued by the possibilities, though as a general rule, I’m not that big on ’40s period pieces.
Guest: actor Norman Lloyd
The Experience Choice: Films and Facts: Whose Responsibility? (12:30pm in Club TCM)
This particular topic is a huge interest of mine, and of course fits very well with the “Hollywood and History” theme of this year’s Fest. I’m not sure any panel can come to a definitive conclusion on this very large and very thorny topic, but I’m always interested to hear people talk it out and try.
My Choice: Film and Facts: Whose Responsibility?. I’d see pretty much anything in this time slot, but I try to get to one panel in Club TCM if I can, and this is the one that intrigues me the most this year.
SLOT 3: Starting 2:30pm-3:15pm
The Essential Choice: Limelight (2:30pm in Chinese 6)
Though not quite his last film, Limelight acts as Chaplin’s farewell to cinema, as he plays an aging clown coming to terms with a failure (as Chaplin did with Monsieur Verdoux) and carrying on a long-term rivalry with another clown played by Buster Keaton. This is one of the few Chaplin features I’ve never seen, and I’d like to rectify that soon.
Guest: Actor Norman Lloyd
The Counterprogramming Choice: Young Mr. Lincoln (2:45pm in Chinese 4)
The only one of the five John Ford films playing that I haven’t seen, and from all reports, it’s very good indeed, with a young Henry Fonda playing young Abe Lincoln.
Guest: Peter Fonda
The Discovery Choice: Chimes at Midnight (3:00pm in Chinese 1)
Orson Welles’ take on Falstaff (taken from various Shakespeare plays featuring the character) remains one of his least-seen films. I have it on my list to see this year, hopefully, and I honestly can’t find it anywhere. So if you’re interested in Welles, this should probably be a gimme, but it sure is up against some wicked competition.
The Kid in You Choice: Pinocchio (3:00pm at El Capitan)
Pinocchio is the first film I remember seeing in theatres as a kid, during some rerelease or other, and seeing it at Disney’s own flagship movie palace would be a treat indeed.
Guests: William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg
The Hollywood Romantic Choice: An Affair to Remember (2:45pm in the TCL Chinese)
I’ve never been as enamoured of this film as many other people are, but it’s one of those classic romances that you have to at least have some passing knowledge of to be culturally literate – otherwise, how are you gonna know why Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks wanted to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle?
The What Else You Got Choice: The Cincinnati Kid (3:15pm at the Egyptian)
I know nothing about this film, but it’s actually in TCM’s “Essential” category, so clearly I’m missing out. The description certainly sounds very fun, with Steve McQueen taking on bigwig poker player Edward G. Robinson, with a little Ann-Margret to add color. Apparently Joan Blondell’s in it too? Holy crap.
The Experience Double Feature: A Daughter Remembers (2:30pm) and A Surreal Existence (4:15pm) at Club TCM
These two events are each an hour long and so fit perfectly into this time slot together. The first one is Rory Flynn talking about her father Errol Flynn (based on the biography she recently completed about him; she’ll be signing that book at an event on Saturday), while the second is a very interesting-sounding panel of Tony Mendez, Aron Ralson, and Mark Schultz talking about seeing their lives depicted on screen in, respectively, Argo, 127 Hours, and Foxcatcher.
My Choice: This is probably the most stacked slot of the festival, with Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, and Orson Welles all vying for your time against Pinocchio, Steve McQueen, and Cary Grant. Seriously, WTF guys? There are four films in this slot that I haven’t seen, all of which I really, really want to see. I think I have to go with Chimes at Midnight just because I don’t know when there’ll be another chance to see it at all, much less in a theatre.
SLOT 4: Starting 5:30-8:00pm
The Essential Choice: Steamboat Bill Jr. (7:15pm at The Egyptian)
TCM Fest always shows at least one silent film with live accompaniment and they’re always one of the best tickets of the festival. This will be no exception, as Steamboat Bill Jr. is one of Buster Keaton’s best films. This will be busy, so get there early.
The Counterprogramming Choice: Norma Rae (6pm in the TCL Chinese)
Sally Field is doing a great job hosting TCM’s Essentials series now, and Norma Rae is the film that won her an Oscar, for playing a woman standing up for labor rights. It’s not a film I have much personal interest in, though, to be honest.
Guests: Scott Feinberg, Bruce Raynor
The Foreign Choice: Rififi (6:15pm in Chinese 1)
One of the all-time great heist films, oft-imitated by never quite matched. It’s been several years since I saw this, and I would love to give it another spin. Heist films are like crack to me.
The New Classic Choice: Raiders of the Lost Ark (5:45pm at El Capitan)
I’ve got to admit, as apathetic as I am about seeing post-1980 films at TCM Fest, this one would be a hell of a lot of fun to see on the big screen. If this is your only chance to do that, go for it. If you live in Los Angeles, though, don’t bother. It plays here pretty often – you probably already know that and have already seen it.
Guest: stuntman Terry Leonard
The Discovery Choice: Don’t Bet on Women (5:30pm in Chinese 4)
Here it is, my absolutely unknown Pre-Code waiting for me to fall in love with it. I swear, there’s one of these at every TCM Fest, and this one sounds like a doozy, with a non-singing Jeanette MacDonald (!) in a flirt-heavy role. Sounds like this one has undergone some pretty extensive restoration, and MoMa reps are here to talk about it, which is always, always a good sign.
Guest: MoMa’s Anne Morra
The Cult Choice: The Invisible Man (7:30pm in Chinese 4)
This one slots in right after Don’t Bet on Women, so you get two for the timeslot of one. Or something. Anyway, this is a great entry in the Universal monsters cycle that should be better known than it is (I mean, it’s well-known among classic horror fans, but it doesn’t have the cultural cache of, say, Frankenstein or Dracula).
Guest: Greg Kilday
The What Else You Got Choice: A Man for All Seasons (8:00pm in Chinese 6)
I can never remember if it’s this or Becket that I’ve seen. I think it’s Becket, although I don’t remember enough about it to really say I’ve seen it at this point. Anyway. A Man for All Seasons is about Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor who refused to back Henry VIII when he wanted to break from the Catholic Church. The topic is actually interesting to me as someone fascinated by church history, but I’ve never gotten around to this one.
The Experience Choice: Fonda the Actor, Fonda the Man (6:15pm in Club TCM)
Peter Fonda talking about Henry Fonda, both as an actor and as a father. This should be pretty good if you’re not also tearing your hair out about which film in this slot to see, like I am.
The Pick a Damn Timeslot Choice: The Party (8:00pm poolside at the Roosevelt)
Tonight’s poolside pick is a zany Blake Edwards/Peter Sellers comedy (aren’t they all zany, though?), with Sellers as an Indian actor who bumbles his way through a big Hollywood party. If you can put with the innate racism of casting Sellers as a bumbling Indian man, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, as Sellers draws on silent comedy and Jacques Tati for inspiration.
My Choice: I said after I skipped The Lodger last year and The Cameraman another year that I would never again miss the featured silent, and Steamboat Bill Jr. is one of my favorite Keatons. Unmissable. Hopefully I make it in, though, because I’m definitely not going to miss Don’t Bet on Women either, because I always come out of TCM Fest loving an unknown Pre-Code the most. There’s actually about an hour in between, so I’m hoping I can do both.
SLOT 5: Starting 9:15-10pm
The Essential Choice: Rebecca (10:00pm at the Egyptian)
Hitchcock’s first American film won an Oscar for Best Picture, and gave Hitchcock his first Best Director nom (he would never win), and while it’s much quieter and less characteristically Hitchcock than a lot of his other films, there’s still a lot to recommend it as a gothic thriller. Note that if you see this, you’ll miss the beginning at least of the midnight film.
The Counterprogramming Choice: Roman Holiday (9:15pm at El Capitan)
You can’t go wrong with Audrey Hepburn’s first lead role, for which she won an Oscar. Her princess torn between duty and freedom is still iconic for a reason, and Rome has a charm that I can attest does not actually exist in real life. (Sorry, Rome. You were not for me.)
The Discovery Choice: The War Game (9:30pm in Chinese 4)
I’ve vaguely heard of this before, but after reading the description, I’m really intrigued. It’s basically a fictional story about a nuclear attack on Britain, but done in a documentary style featuring man on the street interviews and post-fallout footage that seemed so real and terrifying that the BBC (for whom it was made) refused to show it for 20 years. It’s definitely an outlier at this festival, but I say good on TCM for bringing up some unusual stuff like this.
Guest: Film author and professor emeritus Joseph Gomez
The Blockbuster Choice: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (9:15pm in Chinese 1)
This is my favorite Bond film. Yes, it’s the only one with George Lazenby, sandwiched between Sean Connery (who is my favorite Bond) and Roger Moore, but OHMSS has the strongest story, and to be honest, even though Connery is iconic, I thought Lazenby’s take on the role was surprisingly good.
Guest: George Lazenby
The New Classic Choice: Apollo 13 (9:15pm at the TCL Chinese)
This is one of the films causing the most outrage from classic film fans, and I can see where they’re coming from. It isn’t my idea of a classic film, either. But come on, it’s one film out of 81 (well, two, because Out of Sight is also pretty questionable) and there are three other CLEARLY classic films in this very timeslot, plus a 1969 Bond film and a 1965 British docudrama, which are questionable but still pre-1970. And Captain James Lovell will be here in person, which is pretty cool.
Guest: Captain James Lovell, interviewed by Alex Trebek
The Let’s Have a Laugh Choice: The Bank Dick (9:15pm in Chinese 6)
I think this is the only W.C. Fields movie I’ve ever seen, but it was pretty hilarious. I should check out some more. I don’t actually remember hardly any of it, but I’m pretty sure the plot is basically just an excuse for Fields to come out and deliver his patented misanthropic one-liners.
Guests:Allen Fields, Ronald J. Fields
My Choice: The War Game – My favorite Bond film on the big screen is very tempting indeed, but I think I have to go with the intriguing docudrama I’ve never heard of here.
SLOT 6: Starting at Midnight
The Only Choice: Boom! (Midnight in Chinese 6)
Apparently John Waters called this Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton-Joseph Losey film “the other side of camp”, which sounds like high praise, actually, coming from Waters. I knew Taylor and Burton made a bunch of films together, and I can name four or five, but I’ve never heard of this one. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a midnight film.
Saturday, March 28
SLOT 1: Starting at 9am-12:30am
The Essential Choice: 42nd Street (11:30am in Chinese 1)
The granddaddy of backstage musicals, and still a pretty great watch, with Busby Berkeley cutting his teeth on some spectacular dance routines, and a solid story – it’s cliched now mostly because this film was so widely imitated. The other good news: if you choose this one, you can do a double feature with either Why Be Good? or They Won’t Forget.
Guest: Christine Ebersole, who played the lead in the most recent Broadway revival
The Counterprogramming Choice: They Were Expendable (9:45 in Chinese 6)
In addition to all the westerns they’re now best known for, John Ford and John Wayne did a bunch of WWII films, too, and this is one of the best, with Wayne arguing for and proving the usefulness of PT boats in the Pacific theatre. The film is more episodic than you’d expect, often feeling like a “day in the life” exploration of Navy life during wartime, but that’s part of what ends up making it so effective.
The Epic Choice: Doctor Zhivago (9:15am in the TCL Chinese)
There’s a lot to be said for this epic about a heart-wrenching love triangle set during the Russian Revolution – it balances the historical background and the intimate foreground quite well, but I’m not totally sold on the love triangle itself (I always like Tonya better than Lara and don’t really get why Zhivago doesn’t appreciate what he has). Still, it’ll be a great view in the TCL Chinese.
Guest: Scott Feinberg
The New Classic Choice: The Man Who Would Be King (10am at the Egyptian)
A late John Huston film in the vein of classic swashbuckling adventure, based on a Kipling story. Sean Connery and Michael Caine play two former British army guys who were stationed in India and decide to take over a small republic in central Asia. It’s been years since I saw this and frankly I didn’t care for it too much, but I’ve been interested lately to reevaluate it.
Guest: Christopher Plummer
The Discovery Choice: Why Be Good? (9:15am in Chinese 4)
Past festivals have included some of Clara Bow’s sound films (which I enjoyed), but this is her last silent film, and I’m pretty excited to check it out. She plays her most famous type, the quintessential 1920s flapper.
The Other Discovery Choice: They Won’t Forget (9:00am in Chinese 6)
Most famous as the film that launched Lana Turner’s career, I’ve heard of this movie for a long time but never gotten around to watching it. She’s actually in it only briefly, while the main part of the story centers on a true crime story about a man who was lynched by a mob after a court found him guilty of murder but commuted his sentence.
The Kid in You Choice: So Dear to My Heart (11:30am in Chinese 6)
Oh, wow. I watched this movie a gazillion times as a kid, but I haven’t seen it for years. This is the other double feature option (with either Why Be Good? or They Won’t Forget, against 42nd Street), and I must admit I’m tempted. I’m not sure how well the story of a young farm boy and his prize sheep will hold up, but I remember loving the sweetness, adventurous fun, and especially the interspersed animated segments.
The Experience Choice: A Conversation with Norman Lloyd (10:00am in the Montalban Theatre)
Norman Lloyd has become a fixture at the TCM Fest – a character actor now in his ’90s, he still remembers everything he’s ever done, I think, and his charm and wonderful stories make him a favorite among TCM Fest goers. He’s definitely worth the listen if you want to make your way over to the Montalban.
The Collector’s Choice: Book Signing: Rory Flynn (11:00am in Club TCM)
Rory Flynn will be signing her book about her father Errol Flynn.
The Scholarly Choice: Character Actors 101 (12:30pm in Club TCM)
Last year Film Forum program director Bruce Goldstein did a lecture on “Pre-Code 101” which I hear was quite good, and this year he’s back with a look at the fantastic character actors of the classic era – you may not know their names, but if you watch classic films, you certainly know their faces. This would be fun to hear, and certainly informative. Note that this starts late in the timeslot and may jeopardize getting to several things in Slot 2.
My Choice: Why Be Good? and So Dear to My Heart
I can’t resist a lesser-known silent, especially when it’s got Clara Bow, and as much as I love 42nd Street, I feel the pull of nostalgia this time around.
SLOT 2: Starting at 1pm-5pm
This slot is MESSED UP in terms of timing. Just warning you. Check the schedule to make sure you aren’t double-booking yourself.
The Essential Choice: Rebel Without a Cause (2:30pm in Chinese 1)
Nicholas Ray’s best-known film is something of a landmark of 1950s cinema, both confirming James Dean as a major star in only his second role, and setting the bar for cinematic anti-heros. Interestingly, Dean’s character isn’t really as much of a rebel as you might think – he seems like a pretty good kid, actually. It’s a fairly subtle look at family and cultural dynamics.
The Counterprogramming Choice: 1776 (1:45pm in TCL Chinese)
I actually don’t even know if this fits into my normal mental definition of the “counterprogramming” choice, which is a film that’s basically just as essential as the one I say is essential, but maybe that I just don’t care for quite as much or something. I really know almost nothing about this except it’s about the Declaration of Independence and it’s a musical. That both intrigues me and seems really weird. But they’re playing it in the TCL Chinese, so they must have a lot of faith in it.
Guests: William Daniels, Ken Howard, Peter H. Hunt
The Double Feature Choice: Air Mail (1:45pm in Chinese 4) OR The Miracle Worker (1:30pm in Chinese 6) and The Picture Show Man (4:00pm in Chinese 4) OR Christmas in July (4:15pm in Chinese 6)
Okay, I got lazy on this one and didn’t separate these all out. These films are short enough that you can get two of them in, which is always a bonus. Air Mail is a 1932 John Ford film about mail pilots back when flying was pretty freaking dangerous (see Only Angels Have Wings and another TCM Fest discovery, Night Flight). The Miracle Worker is the Helen Keller biopic (Oscar winner for Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke). The Picture Show Man I’d never heard of, but sounds intriguing – an Australian New Wave film about a traveling film exhibitor at the end of the silent era. Christmas in July was Preston Sturges’ second film as writer/director, and one that I didn’t care for as much as I wanted to, but maybe a rewatch would help.
The New Classic Choice: Malcolm X (1:30pm at the Egyptian)
Spike Lee follows the course of Malcolm X’s life from petty criminal to Nation of Islam to civil rights activist. I’ll admit I don’t know nearly about about Malcolm X, and should probably learn more. So this is a tempting screening.
Guest: Spike Lee (!)
The Experience Choice: Live from the TCM Classic Festival: Sophia Loren (2pm in the Montalban Theatre)
Sophia Loren. In person. This will be a hot ticket for sure.
The Behind-the-Scenes Choice: Conversation with Anne V. Coates, ACE (2:30pm in Club TCM) and Conversation with Terry Leonard (4:00pm in Club TCM)
Anne V. Coates is here as the editor of Lawrence of Arabia and Out of Sight, and she’s also got Becket, The Elephant Man, In the Line of Fire, Erin Brockovich, and Fifty Shades of Grey. So this should be a pretty dang interesting conversation.
The Collector’s Choice: Book Signing with Scott Eyman (1:00pm in the Roosevelt lobby), Book Signing with James Layton and David Pierce, AND Book Signing with Mike Kaplan (5:00pm in the Roosevelt lobby)
Lots of book signings! Scott Eyman will sign his books about John Wayne and John Ford, James Layton and David Pierce will sign The Dawn of Technicolor, and Mike Kaplan will sign The Art of the Dance Movie Poster. Note that the Layton/Pierce signing directly conflicts with the Anne V. Coates conversation.
My Choice: Air Mail and The Picture Show Man
I really am tempted by Malcolm X, especially with Spike Lee in attendance. That’s a pretty awesome person for TCM Fest to get. But I’m a sucker for a double feature, especially when both would be total discoveries for me.
SLOT 3: Starting at 6pm-8pm
The Essential Choice: The Apartment (6:00pm in the TCL Chinese)
I’ve just written about The Apartment for Row Three; I rewatched it recently and it’s still absolutely amazing. Definitely one of Billy Wilder’s best films, a perfect combination of sweet and cynical.
Guest: Shirley MacLaine
The Counterprogramming Choice: The Wind and the Lion (6:15pm at the Egyptian)
I didn’t know a lot about this one before reading the description, but it sounds like a pretty awesome desert epic throwback to stuff like Gunga Din, and I’m a huge fan of gorgeous desert cinematography. Definitely curious to check this out.
Guest: stunt coordinator Terry Leonard
The Ladies in Science Choice: Madame Curie (6:30pm in Chinese 4)
After Greer Garson took on the Nazis in the home front classic Mrs. Miniver, she took on one of the most famous ladies in science, Marie Curie, in this biopic. I haven’t seen it, but by all accounts it’s a well-appointed production.
Guest: Darlene C. Hoffman
The Experience Choice: Earthquake (8:00pm poolside at the Roosevelt)
What better place to watch a movie about a giant earthquake than poolside in Los Angeles? I don’t even know. I haven’t seen many of the ’70s cycle of disaster movies, but they all sound big and dumb and probably fun. Of course, living in Southern California makes enjoying movies about earthquakes feel something like laughing in the face of our own imminent demise or something… Note that this film spans timeslots 3 and 4.
Guest: Richard Roundtree
The Behind the Scenes Choice: Hollywood Home Movies (6:00pm in Club TCM)
This is a fun repeat special screening that the fest does most years, showing rare home movie footage from stars and directors of the classic era. It’s cool to see them away from the glamor of the screen for a bit.
Guests: Bob Koster, Neile Adams McQueen, Jane Withers
The New Classic Choice: The History of the World Part I (6:00pm in Chinese 1)
I don’t think this 1981 Mel Brooks film has quite the reputation of most of his other classics, but I’ve always been curious to see it anyway. I mean, taking on the whole history of the world is such a crazy thing to do in the first place, but in Brooks’ hands, it sounds pretty hilarious.
The Discovery Choice: Viva Zapata! (6:15pm in Chinese 6)
I wasn’t totally sure what to put as the discovery choice this time around, but even though Mexican Revolution film Viva Zapata! won an Oscar for Anthony Quinn, it doesn’t seem like it’s remained in the public consciousness quite as much as some of the others. Maybe Marlon Brando as a Mexican revolutionary seems like kind of a stretch.
Guest: Katherine Quinn
My Choice: The Apartment
I know I just rewatched The Apartment, so I really don’t have a need to see the film again right now, but it is so great, and it’ll be such a great screen, and Shirley MacLaine will be there, and I’m not sure I can stand to miss it. Plus, there’s not a lot else in this timeslot that really compels me, though The Wind and the Lion does intrigue me.
SLOT 4: Starting at 8:45pm-9:30pm
The Essential Choice: The French Connection (9:15pm in TCL Chinese)
1970s crime thrillers are a special breed – slower paced and more character-driven than we’re used to today, but grittier and more exciting than earlier crime films, and The French Connection fits the bill on both counts. Gene Hackman won an Oscar playing Popeye Doyle (the film also won Best Picture and Best Director), a cop on the trail of a drug-smuggling ring, and the slow burn of the plot culminates in one of the most famous vehicular chases of all time.
Guest: William Friedkin
The Counterprogramming Choice: Adam’s Rib (9:30pm in the Egyptian)
One of the most justly famous battle-of-the-sexes comedies has Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy slipping easily in the roles of married lawyers on the opposite side of a domestic violence case. Some of its gender politics (progressive for the time) seem a bit regressive now, but the script and acting by all involved keep it a fun watch, and it’s a great discussion starter as well.
Guest: Greg Proops (will be recording a live segment for his podcast)
The Discovery Choice: The Loved One (9:30pm in Chinese 4)
I’ve heard of this film a few times, but never bothered to really find out what it was about – because of its association with the British New Wave, I assumed it was some kitchen sink realism drama or something, but it turns out it’s a raucous and irreverent comedy satirizing the funeral parlor business. Well, alrighty then.
Guest: Robert Morse
The Melodrama Choice: Imitation of Life (8:45pm in Chinese 1)
Melodrama is not a bad word, and director Douglas Sirk perfected the form in the 1950s, culminating in this piece about mother-daughter relationships: Lana Turner finds herself competing for love with her daughter Sandra Dee, while her domestic servant Juanita Moore deals with the fact that her light-skinned daughter Susan Kohner is passing for white and refuses to acknowledge her mother. It’s the stuff of soap opera, but it’s much more in Sirk’s hands.
Guest: Sherry Lansing
The Experience Choice: Return of the Dream Machine (9:30pm in Chinese 6)
In one of the more unique presentations on the program, Joe Rinaudo will show a selection of 1900-1913 films on his 1908 handcranked 35mm projector, just as audiences of the time would have seen them. Selections include a tinted print of A Trip to the Moon, Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat, and Lois Weber’s Suspense.
My Choice: Return of the Dream Machine – There’s little question in this time slot – I’m really interested to see The Loved One at some point, but there will likely never be another chance to see a program like the Return of the Dream Machine, and this is why I love the TCM Film Festival.
SLOT 5: Starting at 12:00M
The Only Choice: Nothing Lasts Forever (12:00M in Chinese 6)
This film definitely sound headed for cult film status – made in 1984 as a SNL spin-off, it’s a sci-fi story about a group of homeless people who secretly run the world. After poor test screenings, it basically got shelved and never given a proper release.
Guest: Zach Galligan
Sunday, March 29
Note: There are also TBA films in almost all of these time slots. These will be films that were sold out earlier in the festival and get a second screening, usually the lesser-known ones playing in the small Chinese 4 theatre that get great word of mouth. They’ll be announced sometime on Saturday.
SLOT 1: Starting at 9am-10am
The Essential Choice: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (9:30am in TCL Chinese)
Possibly the quintessential screen version of the famous Hugo novel, with the great Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and a very young Maureen O’Hara as Esmerelda. This is one of those movies that I feel like I’ve seen because it’s so iconic, but I never actually have.
The Counterprogramming Choice: Patton (9:00am in the Egyptian)
This is my dad’s favorite movie of all time; I know I’ve watched it with him at least once, but to be honest I don’t remember that much about it. In conversations with others, it seems to come across to some as very earnestly right-wing patriotic and to others as satirical of that position. I’m kind of curious to revisit it now…but I’m not in that much of a hurry.
Guest: Ron Perlman
The Discovery Choice: Nightmare Alley (9:45am in Chinese 6)
A lesser-known but very solid noir film set in the world of the circus. Tyrone Power works his way up the carny life, seeking fame and fortune – okay, mostly fortune. This is a tale of greed, pure and simple, with the potential failstate of turning into a “geek,” in an earlier iteration of the word that means a circus sideshow freak.
The Song in Your Heart Choice: Calamity Jane (10:00am in Chinese 1)
I’m a big fan of musicals and westerns, though for some reason when the two are meshed together, it never seems to turn out as well as I hope. Still, Doris Day does her best as the sharpshooter, and gets the Oscar-winning song “Secret Love” out of it. It’s a good diversion if you’ve been filling your schedule with heavy-hitters.
The Collector’s Choice: Bonhams Memorabilia Appraisals (10:00am in the Roosevelt lobby)
If you collect classic film memorabilia – posters, lobby cards, props, etc. – bring them to this event and Bonhams will appraise them for you. I’m not really into that, but it’s a great opportunity if you are, and pretty cool just to see all the stuff your fellow fans are bringing. (If you do want to bring something, you can make an appointment for an appraisal ahead of time.)
My Choice: The Hunchback of Notre Dame – I’ve seen all the other films in this timeslot, so it’s time to knock off the one that I should’ve seen and haven’t managed to yet.
SLOT 2: Starting at 12:30pm to 3pm
The Essential Choice: Psycho (1:15pm in TCL Chinese)
You can never go wrong with Hitchcock, and especially not this iconic film. I’m sure everyone reading this has already seen this, but if you somehow haven’t, this isn’t even under discussion. You are seeing this. In any case, seeing this in the Chinese theatre would be an amazing experience even if you’ve seen it a dozen times.
Guest: Edgar Wright (!)
The Counterprogramming Choice: The Diary of Anne Frank (12:30pm in Chinese 6)
The classic Diary of a Young Girl is given careful and moving big-screen treatment by director George Stevens, filming the story of Anne Frank and her family hiding from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Guests: Diane Baker, Millie Perkins (who played Anne and Margot Frank)
The Scholarly Choice: Academy Conversations: Gunga Din (1:00pm at the Egyptian)
Gunga Din is a British Empire in India adventure film that I really need to revisit at some point – it has a really healthy reputation, but it didn’t really hit me very much when I saw it years ago. This would be a cool opportunity, since special effects designer Craig Barron and sound effects editor Ben Burtt will be on hand to talk about its influence on them.
Guests: Craig Barron, Ben Burtt
The Discovery Choice: Desk Set (1:15pm in Chinese 1)
I’m not sure this is totally a discovery, since most of the Hepburn-Tracy films, including this one, are fairly well-known to classic film fans, but of the choices here, it seems to fit the best. Also, it’s one that I haven’t seen and really feels like a blind spot to me. So maybe it’s just a Discovery for me. :)
The Experience Choice: 100 Years of Title Design (1:00pm in Club TCM) and A Conversation with Shirley MacLaine (3:00pm in Club TCM)
Two for the price of one if you choose this set – first a presentation on the art of title design throughout film history, then a conversation with Shirley MacLaine in an intimate setting. The Shirley MacLaine one especially is going to be very popular, so get in line early if you want to do that.
My Choice: Desk Set – Like I said, this feels like a big blind spot, so I think I’ll opt for this over rewatching Gunga Din.
SLOT 3: Starting at 4pm-4:45pm
The Essential Choice: The Philadelphia Story (4:30pm in TCL Chinese)
One of the most sparkling romantic comedies ever (back before that term became the joke it basically is today), with Katharine Hepburn a spoiled socialite on the eve of her wedding, dealing with the distractions provided by tabloid reporter James Stewart and her ex-husband Cary Grant. Lots of great dialogue and performances that are basically the definition of classic star power.
Guest: Madeline Stowe
The Counterprogramming Choice: Judgment at Nuremberg (4:00pm in Chinese 4)
One of the major films dealing with the Nazi War Crime trials, I’ve never been that excited to catch up with this, despite enjoying courtroom dramas – but it’s also notable for being one of Judy Garland’s rare (and always impressive) dramatic performances, and I think this might be the time to catch it.
The Experience Choice: The Children’s Hour (4:45pm in the Egyptian)
In 1936, William Wyler made a film called These Three, an adaptation of the play The Children’s Hour, but because of the Production Code at the time, he had to change the central “problem” of the story to a teacher accused of having an affair. When he returned to the story in 1961, he reinstated the original potential lesbian relationship. It’s an interesting comparison, and both films work in their own way.
Guest: Shirley MacLaine
The Discovery Choice: Houdini (4:45pm in Chinese 6)
With one of the feature presentations of the festival being the rediscovered Harry Houdini film The Grim Game (coming up next in Slot 4), it’s neat programming to be able to see this 1940s biopic of the magician first.
Guests: Dick Brookz, Dorothy Dietrich
The New Classic Choice: Out of Sight (4:15pm in Chinese 1)
For me, this is likely the most controversial piece of programming at the festival – it’s easily the newest film they’ve programmed, and it doesn’t even really fit the theme. However, what it does is fit one of the guests, Anne V. Coates, who’s here with Lawrence of Arabia, an unequivocally classic film, and gives us the opportunity to see a fantastic career over a period of time, and see how someone truly bridges the gap between classic and contemporary films. I think that’s valuable.
Guest: Anne V. Coates
My Choice: Judgment at Nuremberg – Like I said, I think this is the right time to catch up with this. I’m getting eager to complete Judy Garland’s filmography, for one thing, and I also recently realized Marlene Dietrich is in this (one of her last films), and she’s also someone I want to watch more of.
SLOT 4: Starting at 7:30pm-8:15pm
The Essential Choice: Marriage Italian Style (7:30pm in the TCL Chinese)
I wasn’t sure what to put as essential; none of the ones in this slot are unassailable, essential classics, but TCM Fest is always pretty lean on foreign films, so I want to support them bringing more of them (especially by people like Vittorio De Sica), plus seeing Sophia Loren in person is a pretty great perk.
Guest: Sophia Loren
The Discovery Choice: The Grim Game (8:15pm at the Egyptian)
Both one of the oldest films at the festival, and one of the first ones they announced, as it’s a rare and only recently rediscovered Harry Houdini film. If there’s one film at the festival that fits the “discovery” section, it’s definitely this one.
Guest: Dick Brookz, Dorothy Dietrich, Rick Schmidlin, Brane Živković
The Experience Choice: Kiss Me Kate in 3D (7:30pm in Chinese 1)
I actually don’t understand this about myself, but even though I dislike and avoid current 3D films, I’m somehow endlessly fascinated by seeing 3D films from the past. I really enjoyed a program a few years back at TCM Fest that showed 3D experiments throughout the silent era, and I’m incredibly tempted to see Kiss Me Kate, one of my unabashed favorite musicals, in its original 3D format.
The Party Choice: Closing Party (starting at 9pm in Club TCM)
This is going on till like midnight, so go see whichever thing you want and then hit the party at 10pm, or you can skip all of these and just party all night! You do have to be a passholder.
My Choice: Kiss Me Kate – This is a freaking hard choice, because I tend to always want to see the rarer thing, which is clearly The Grim Game, but on the other hand, seeing Kiss Me Kate in 3D is probably pretty rare, too. I’m leaning toward the old favorite to finish out the festival with something I know I love.