It’s that time of year again! The TCM Classic Film Festival is upon us this week, and soon classic film fans from around the country (and the world) will descend on Hollywood for four glorious days of classic movies playing on giant screens to packed theatres. There are some great films and guests this year, plus some really cool-sounding special programs. Of course, I’m as always drawn to the obscure, rare, noir, and Pre-Code, and the schedule did not disappoint. Most of my choices this year came pretty easy, but there are a few headscratchers that I still might change my mind about!
But as of now, here’s what I’m planning to see. Note that I’ll be writing up the majority of my coverage over on the Flickchart Blog, but more personal stuff will be here or on Twitter.
I won’t be taking the whole day off work on Thursday, so I’ll miss the early social events, like Meet TCM (a conversation with the TCM programming staff) and the So You Think You Know Movies trivia contest, which I’d dearly love to attend someday. Maybe next year I’ll plan ahead a bit better and get to that!
6:00pm – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
My media credential doesn’t get me into the main festival opener All the President’s Men, but I likely wouldn’t choose it anyway – it’s a great movie, but I’ve seen it. Instead, I’m heading over to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve never seen this, and I’m not totally sure it’d be on top of my list except for one strange little thing – I’m part of a movie exchange group on Facebook, where people are secretly assigned to recommend a movie to someone else, like a Secret Santa thing, and whoever got me as a target (still secret!) this month recommended A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I found out it was going to be at TCM Fest and opted to wait to watch it.
Other options would be Bette Davis in Dark Victory, a movie I’ve seen and like a lot, Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, which I need to rewatch but am unconvinced that the poolside venue is right for it, and One Potato, Two Potato, a very obscure 1964 film about interracial romance – three years before Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. I’d be very tempted by this one if I hadn’t promised to see Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
9:30pm – Los tallos amargos (1956)
Speaking of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, it’s playing in this timeslot, so if you wanted a double-dose of your 1960s interracial relationships, you can do that. Instead, I’m headed to an Argentinian noir from 1956, Los tallos amargos. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an Argentinian film at all, much less a classic-era one, and I can’t wait to see what it’s like. The only other option in the slot is David Lean’s classic forbidden romance Brief Encounter, which is a favorite for many, but didn’t do a whole lot for me.
Now the festival is in full gear, with all five venues playing films all day, plus special events going on in Club TCM.
9:00am – Shanghai Express (1932)
I’ve been wanting to see Shanghai Express for a LONG TIME, and it’s not that easy to find. That said, I was able to source it from a local video store not too long ago, but seeing at TCM Fest is a way better plan. It is a really tough choice between that and Never Fear, though, which is Ida Lupino’s debut film and also very difficult to find. I’m playing the odds that Never Fear will be a TBA on Sunday. The other two films in the slot, The More the Merrier and Love Me or Leave Me, are both great – I’d be happy to see either again if the timeslot competition were less fierce. Francis Ford Coppola is also getting a footprint ceremony in front of Grauman’s (I mean TCL Chinese…sorry not sorry) at 10:30am, which would knock out both this block and the next. I’ve never gone to any of these because I’d rather maximize film time.
12:00N – Double Harness (1933)
A Pre-Code rarity starring William Powell and Ann Harding is going to grab my attention every time, so I’m planning to go for Double Harness in this slot, though it faces stiff competition from He Ran All the Way, a film noir that was also John Garfield’s final film and has a lot of blacklist connections (including co-screenwriter Dalton Trumbo), which interest me. Still, I have yet to be disappointed with a Pre-Code screening at TCM Fest, so I’m confident in this choice. Other options here are Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were (I’m not opposed to post-1970 stuff at the Fest, but I rarely choose them) and Lassie Come Home, which is a childhood favorite and still in my all-time Top 100, but new-to-me beats rewatches most of the time. Also, Spotlight (2015’s Oscar winner) screenwriters and some journalists discuss the adaptation of journalism to the screen over in Club TCM.
2:00pm – When You’re in Love (1937) or Amazing Film Discoveries (1910s-1920s)
This is one of the slots where I’m still undecided! I’d really like to catch archivist Serge Bromberg’s presentation of Amazing Film Discoveries, featuring restorations and discoveries from the silent era, including Keaton, Chaplin, and Laurel & Hardy shorts. But the amount of time between that and the next film I want to see is VERY tight, so I may give myself some breathing room with When You’re In Love, a 1937 Cary Grant film so obscure I had to submit it to Flickchart’s database that I’m sure is also a great time. Also playing are the fantastic The Conversation, Tea and Sympathy and Trapeze, as well as a Club TCM panel on Dogs in the Movies featuring Lassie.
5:15pm – Pleasure Cruise (1933) or eat dinner
If I see the Bromberg presentation, there will only be about fifteen minutes to get out and back in line for Pleasure Cruise, which is in the smallest theatre and will surely sell out. But it’s also likely to be among Sunday’s TBAs, so I may see the Bromberg and then take some time to grab some real dinner, since I clearly won’t have time for lunch with the schedule above. Another possibility would be to catch 1960s Private Property, which does sound interesting, but would be a similar dash, though into a slightly larger theatre than Pleasure Cruise would be. Club TCM also has a panel on Vaudeville 101 which would probably be fun. Two films do start a bit later – It’s a Wonderful Life and Boyz N the Hood, which would span another slot of films. Just say no to screenings that span two timeslots.
7:15pm – 6 Hours to Live (1932) or Batman (1966)
This timeslot also has The Passion of Joan of Arc with a live performance of the Visions of Light score, so this is one of the toughest choices of the fest. I’ve seen Joan of Arc, but didn’t love it the way I wanted to – a live score would likely push me over, but I just can’t make myself want to go see what’s essentially a vegetable film for me when it’s up against a personal favorite like Batman (poolside, no less, an experience I’ve never actually done at TCM Fest) and an obscure Pre-Code sci-fi film that sounds awesome. But I still can’t decide between those last two. Might be a last minute decision on this one. The other option is Brian’s Song, which I know little about but can’t compete in a time slot like this.
9:30pm – Repeat Performance (1947) or The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The Manchurian Candidate is one of the hottest tickets of the fest, thanks to Angela Lansbury appearing with it. Let me say this, if you’re going to the fest and haven’t seen this film or haven’t seen Lansbury in person, try to get into this for sure. I’m highly tempted myself, but I saw Lansbury with Gaslight a few years ago, a film I like more than this one (though I’m due a rewatch – on the good side, Criterion just released a beautiful edition of it). I’ll probably wind up running down to the Egyptian for the first time of the fest for a little-known noir called Repeat Performance. It comes highly recommended by noir-loving friend Laura, and films playing the Egyptian rarely get TBA slots, so I think it’s the expedient decision. Other options The Pride of the Yankees, My Sister Eileen, and Carry On Up the Khyber are unlikely to sway many, though I can vouch the first two are worthwhile.
12:00M – Roar
Let’s be honest, I probably won’t stay for this, but the whole fest experience includes the more cult-ish midnight stuff. This one has Tippi Hedren and her family (including her real-life daughter Melanie Griffith) preyed on by actual wild animals, which nearly actually killed them. Sounds like quite a thing.
9:00am – 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone or One Man’s Journey (1933)
It’s hard for me to pass up a Pre-Code, especially one starring Lionel Barrymore, but I love these special presentations. This one features 11 early (and rare) sound shorts using the Vitaphone process. On the other hand, Lionel Barrymore. On the other other hand, the description says “uncharacteristically subtle performance” from him, and I don’t watch Lionel Barrymore for subtlety! Other great stuff in this slot – Billy Wilder’s cynical and prescient Ace in the Hole, Disney’s Bambi, and the maybe-not-so-great-but-whatever Field of Dreams.
11:30am – A House Divided (1931) and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)
One advantage to liking Pre-Codes is they are SHORT, so if you go for this double-feature like I plan to, you get two films while all the other theatres have only one in this time-slot. Of course, rushing from one film in Theatre 4 to get back in line for Theatre 4 is sometimes a gamble, but I suspect many people will be attempting both of these back to back. The longer films playing in this time slot are good, too – Intolerance, A Face in the Crowd, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and perhaps most compelling to most people, Carl Reiner introducing Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Oh, AND two events in Club TCM, a panel led by historian Cari Beauchamp and one led by archivist Serge Bromberg. But I love the double feature option.
3:30pm – The Big Sleep (1946) or A Conversation with Elliott Gould
The Big Sleep is an absolute favorite for me, and I tend to go for new-to-me films, but none of the others in the slot really appeal to me – I’ve seen and didn’t care for 1953’s The War of the Worlds, and neither The Yearling nor Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell are really intriguing to me (despite the appearance of Gina Lollobrigida at the latter), nor is the documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story about a storyboard artist and researcher. HOWEVER, I may find myself in Club TCM for the first time, seeing Elliott Gould chat with Ben Mankiewicz. But that may also be pretty packed out, so we’ll see. If I don’t get into that, it’ll be too late for the other films, so I might have some free time (WHAT’S THAT?!).
6:30pm – The Long Goodbye (1973) or The King and I (1956) or dinner
I guess I get another shot at Gould if I miss out on his Conversation but go to The Long Goodbye. I’ve seen both of these films before, but I love both, and Rita Moreno will be at The King and I, which would be awesome, so it’s hard to choose between them. It’s been longer since I’ve seen The King and I, so it might have the edge. Then again, I could just decide to get dinner. The other films in the slot I haven’t seen, but don’t hold huge appeal. The Song of Bernadette is actually an alternate selection in that movie exchange group I mentioned earlier, but I’m not particularly enthused about it. I’ve Always Loved You hits my obscurity meter, but doesn’t pull me like most of the other obscure films, and The Endless Summer is a 1966 doc about surfing, which could be fun and different than most of what I’m seeing, but it’s also available on multiple streaming services. Club TCM also has Hollywood Home Movies, a recurring program that I hear is wonderful but I usually choose real movies over home movies, and then Forbidden Planet is playing poolside later in the timeslot, but that’s another ’50s sci-fi film that I don’t really like that much.
9:30 – Band of Outsiders (1964)
Another potential reason for skipping both previously-seens in the prior timeslot and grabbing dinner instead is that I want to be in line nice and early for Band of Outsiders, my one must-see of the festival – not for the film so much, which is a favorite (my #4 of all time) that I’ve seen in theatres multiple times, but because Anna Karina will be introducing it. I’m rarely starstruck and rarely choose films for their celebrity guests, but she’s an exception. I basically hyperventilated when she was announced as a guest. So anyway, here are all the films that don’t stand a chance against her: Rocky, Midnight, Frankestein Meets the Wolf Man, and a program about the history of widescreen cinema, which would probably be my second choice, but let’s be real.
12:00M – Gog in 3D (1954)
Like before, I’m unlikely to stay for this, but fans of cheesy 3D monster movies may want to stick around.
Sunday is a wacky day because there’s a TBA slot in every timeslot that will be filled with sell-outs from earlier in the week, usually films that played to a packed Theatre 4. I usually see those films the first time around and don’t bother with the TBAs, but I’m planning a bit more strategically this year and have a couple that I really hope are TBAs. The good part of this is that the announced programming for Sunday is actually a lot weaker for me, with a lot of films that I’ve seen before or don’t care to see, so I won’t mind at all missing most of these if a good TBA turns up against them. That said, here’s my tentative thoughts.
9:00am – go to church
Honestly, I’m not going to go to the first timeslot of the day at all. If I did, I would likely choose Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings (hey, it’s religious) or whatever the TBA turns out to be. I recommend All That Heaven Allows and especially The Fallen Idol to anyone who hasn’t seen them, and Holiday in Spain in the Cinerama dome is going to be an experience – in Smell-O-Vision! M*A*S*H is playing at the TCL Chinese, but I’m not a big fan.
12:30pm – Law and Order (1932)
I’m hoping to be back down from church in time for this Pre-Code western, two genres very close to my heart. The TCM Club panel on The Art of the Film Score is probably also pretty good, and you can’t go wrong with Chaplin’s The Kid. The two post-1970s films (The Longest Yard and Children of a Lesser God) aren’t going to grab me away from a pre-1934 one, though the TBA might.
2:30pm – TBA or Horse Feathers (1932)
I’m hoping the TBA is great here, because I’m not super-excited about anything else in the slot, which is basically Marx Brothers vs. Old Yeller, with a side of Gina Lollobrigida and Faye Dunaway. A lot of people are rearranging their Sunday schedules to accommodate the late announcement of Dunaway’s appearance, but it’s at a really awkward time, knocking out this timeslot AND the next one. I like Dunaway and it’d be cool to hear her, but I’m not a celeb-chaser and I’m fine focusing on the films. I will be glad to hear the rundown of her Conversation from the people who do go, though!
4:30pm – TBA or The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966)
That said, I don’t have a strong favorite in this time slot, either, so I guess if both TBAs here are a bust, I might make my way over for Dunaway. Or I might just catch The Russians Are Coming!, which I saw as a kid and enjoyed, but I really only remember the guy trying to catch his horse so he can warn everyone that, well, the Russians are coming.
7pm – TBA or TBA or Cinema Paradiso (1989) or The Band Wagon (1953)
Yeah, I’m choosing basically ALL THE OTHER OPTIONS over Network. You want to make something of it? I’ve seen all three of these announced films, and Network is my least favorite. I’d love to see either of the others on the big screen, but I don’t know that I care which. May choose in the moment if neither of the TWO TBAs in this slot are interesting. Though, to be honest, the call of the Girl Hunt Ballet is strong.
So that’s my weekend plans! Lots of Pre-Codes, lots of obscurities, very few celebrities. Even though I have my favorites in each timeslot, you really can’t go wrong, and I love that you can have basically five completely different kinds of festivals depending on whether you chase celebrity appearances – you can see a whole lot of them this year if that’s your thing – chase unique experiences like poolside screenings and Club TCM panels, or chase unknown rarities like me. You’ll have a great experience no matter what. Hope to see you there!