Category Archives: TCM Film Festival

TCM Film Festival 2016: My Plans

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.

Thursday

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)

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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)

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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.

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TCM Film Fest 2015: Don’t Bet on Women

Jeanette MacDonald is mostly remembered for her series of light operettas with Nelson Eddy, and for slightly more adventurous classic film fans, for her series of Pre-Code musical comedies with Maurice Chevalier and Ernst Lubitsch. That doesn’t always stand her in good stead, since her particular brand of coloratura soprano singing phased out of mainstream popularity by the 1960s. I’m still a fan of her musicals, but I’m the first to admit they aren’t for everyone. It was a particular joy, then, to hear of Don’t Bet on Women, which is one of MacDonald’s very few non-musical roles, and quite a rousing Pre-Code as well.

Pre-Codes fascinate me not only because they tend to be more risque and innuendo-filled than films either earlier or later, but because the combination of nearly unrestrained sexuality and a society still bound to a great degree by traditional mores often yields films with a very conflicted view of masculinity, femininity, and gender roles. Don’t Bet on Women, aka All Women Are Bad (you can see where we’re headed here), starts off with Roger Fallon (Edmund Lowe) swearing off women following a tender scene where his ex-wife convinces him to pay her a generous allowance since she doesn’t want to make her new husband go to the trouble of, like, working. He and his buddy Chip decide to take a boys-only cruise.

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TCM Film Fest 2015: So Dear to My Heart

I grew up watching this film, and just assumed that it was as much a part of everyone else’s childhood as it was mine, just like any other Disney movie, or other animal movies like Lassie Come Home or National Velvet. Apparently that’s far from the case, as only one other person I knew at the festival had seen it (and she’s a certified Disney fanatic who went to great lengths to obtain a copy), and most people had never heard of it until it was in the festival program. It has never been released on DVD except as a bonus through the Disney Rewards Program. I’m pretty sure we bought it on VHS when I was a kid, but it’s possible we taped it off the Disney Channel or something. As the sole person in my group who had nostalgia for the film, I found myself trying not to oversell it, fearing that it wouldn’t live up to my memories. Thankfully, while it’s definitely fairly minor Disney, its charm and winsomeness remain intact through some admittedly cornball plot development.

Young boy Jeremiah Kincaid wants nothing more than to own a prize racehorse someday (this being rural Indiana in 1903, it’s harness racing he’s thinking of, not Thoroughbred racing)…until one of the farm’s sheep has a black lamb and refuses to accept him, and Jeremiah convinces his granny (his parents are unmentioned) to let him raise the outcast. Soon Jeremiah has big dreams for the troublemaking lamb Danny, hoping to take him to the state fair and win a blue ribbon. Lots of other little vignettes fill out the story, notably a treacherous trip into the swamp for Jeremiah and his cousin Tildy seeking out a bee tree, and an overnight search for the lost Danny in a frog-drowner of a rainstorm.

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TCM Film Fest 2015: Why Be Good?

I have a new favorite film seen in 2015.

Colleen Moore is absolutely, unequivocally the most adorable thing ever as Pert Kelly, a young girl who goes out and parties every night, embodying the carefree flapper spirit. We catch up with her when she’s agreed to go out with a super smarmy guy because he’s rich, but she clearly has limits on how far she’s willing to go. Exactly where those limits are become a sticking point when she trades out smarmfest for cleancut young Winthrop Peabody Jr (played by a very handsome Neil Hamilton) enjoying his last evening out before taking the job as personnel manager for his father’s department store. Turns out Pert is a clerk in the store, and when Peabody Sr discovers the kind of girl his son is going with, he objects – not because she’s a working girl (he’s too progressive for that), but because he assumes such a party girl has “been around,” as they say.

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TCM Film Fest 2015: Chimes at Midnight

Orson Welles’ career is the stuff of legend – wunderkind Hollywood golden boy with Citizen Kane, then losing most of his subsequent films to studio interference, and eventually finding it impossible to raise enough money to even complete the films he wanted to make. By 1965 when he made Chimes at Midnight, the funding came from Spain and Switzerland, and the film barely got a release in the US. Even before becoming a big shot Hollywood actor/writer/director, Welles was already a noted Shakespearean scholar and actor, and in the late 1940s, his film output shifted to Shakespeare as well, with versions of Macbeth and Othello. He’d long intended to do a Falstaff story, combining the five plays featuring the characters – a stage version called Five Kings hadn’t quite gotten off the ground as early as 1939, then he staged it in 1960, when it was also unsuccessful. Undaunted, he focused on a film version, which became Chimes at Midnight (sometimes known as just Falstaff). Unlike many of his projects during his later career, Chimes at Midnight was finished, and finished pretty much according to Welles’ wishes.

Upon initial release, the film was dismissed by critics, but it has since gained a reputation as one of Welles’ greatest films – Welles himself felt it was his best work. Rights issues have plagued the film, however, and it’s been very difficult to see in any kind of decent quality (it is watchable on YouTube). Rumor has it that the print screened at TCM Fest (courtesy of Filmoteca España) will soon make its way to DVD/Blu-ray, which would be great. As of now, though, the people who saw it at TCM Fest have probably seen the best version of it since its original release.

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