Kansas Silent Film Fest Celebrates Women Pioneers

“Half of all the films copyrighted between 1911 and 1925 were written by women.” Noted author Cari Beauchamp’s words to a sold-out ballroom on the Washburn University campus at the 22nd annual Kansas Silent Film Festival stuck with me long after the fest’s last screening. As keynote speaker at the fest’s Cinema Dinner, Beauchamp went on to explain more shocking reveals that painted a very different Hollywood landscape for women of the silent era than of today. Women were even more plentiful behind the scenes in a myriad of roles than in front of the camera, then the entire system changed with the advent of sound. But not in a positive way for women.

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Before the transition to talkies, small teams produced hundreds of films. Today, a single film takes dozens of writers, producers, and techs to create an overly inflated budget buster but the women are scant. What happened? Beauchamp illustrated the evolution of women filmmakers from the glorious silent hey days to their decline via talkies (with a studio system and investors dominated by men) through the examples of Frances Marion and other female film pioneers. After her presentation was complete, my husband noted, “this was the best speaker we’ve seen at these Cinema Dinners.” I was too busy gushing praise via standing ovations to disagree.

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This was a highlight of so many fabulous moments and screenings at this year’s installment of the Kansas Silent Film Festival. Every February, silent film fans travel near and far to experience this FREE two day film festival of speakers and screenings in the nation’s heartland of Topeka, Kansas. The only exception for any expense is the Cinema Dinner. For $40 you get a delicious meal and an outstanding guest speaker. Our only minor complaint for these dinners is the Kansas tradition of Prohibition rearing its ugly head, but I think we can manage an otherwise perfect evening without a glass of Chardonnay. I’ve attended this fest for many years but I was especially excited for this year’s theme, “Women In Silent Film.”

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Every screening was introduced with fascinating trivia tidbits by film historian, Denise Morrison. For example, in her intro to Gale Henry’s 1919 short, THE DETECTRESS, she shared that Henry made 238 films between 1915 and 1933, and had her own production unit after only three years in the business. But the most interesting trivia nugget about Henry was in her secondary career as a dog trainer to Hollywood. Her most famous kennel alum? None other than “Skippy” himself- aka “Mr. Smith of THE AWFUL TRUTH and “Asta” of THE THIN MAN series. Other than the uncomfortably racially-insensitive depiction of Chinatown, THE DETECTRESS was a fun platform for Henry’s physical comic skills.

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Another unique asset to this fest is the live musical accompaniment for all of their screenings. We enjoyed music by organists Marvin Faulwell and Bill Beningfield, percussionist Bob Keckeisen, pianist Jeff Rapsis, and the famed Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. I have been fortunate enough to see a screening of Colleen Moore in WHY BE GOOD? (1929), introduced by Cari Beauchamp at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. It was equally delightful to see it this time with Beauchamp’s insightful intro, now further enhanced with Mont Alto’s talents.

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Two of my favorite screenings included a hilariously low-budget special effects 1915 feature, FILIBUS starring Christine Ruspoli, and a manless future of flappers in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1924). The joys of FILIBUS went beyond an airbus armed with a 6,000 foot rope to commit crime hijinks, as it also featured a cross-dressing female lead who was as smart as she was crafty. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is loosely based on a 1826 Mary Shelly novel and its entirety from concept to costumes was solid, man-starved entertainment. The film was a rare print on loan from the MOMA. Apparently the future U.S. government, with “flip-flapper” Senators that fashion steam-punk lingerie, will be man-free but the President (named Pratt!) houses dozens of cats roaming the White House. If you haven’t seen these films yet, you will thank me later when you do.

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From the talented lineup of works from female film legends like Mary Pickford, Alice Guy-Blache, and Frances Marion, tearful dramas like Nazimova in CAMILLE (1921), laugh-out-loud comedies like a fox-trotting Mr. and Mrs. Drew, and the always captivating author Cari Beauchamp*, plus so much more, the 2018 KSFF was a classic film lover’s heaven. It’s no wonder that each year I see more friends from out-of-state return, and get to meet new ones, too.

KSFF 2018 Program:

Friday, 2/23, 2018:

Overture and Opening Titles, music by Marvin Faulwell
Welcome and Intros by Denise Morrison, Film Historian
(1919)
with Louise Fazenda
Music by Jeff Rapsis on piano
(1920)
with Alice Howell
Music by 
Bill Beningfield, organ
(1919)
with Gale Henry
Music by 
Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

Feature introduced by Denise Morrison, Film Historian

(1929)
with Colleen Moore
Music score byThe Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Saturday, 2/24:

Film Documentary
60 min.
A special presentation by KSFF
(1913)
directed & produced by Alice Guy-Blaché
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion
Suspense
10 min.
(1913)
with Lois Weber
Music by 
Bill Beningfield, organ 
(1919)
with Nell Shipman
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

Overature & Short Opening Titles by Jeff Rapsis
Welcome and Intros by Denise MorrisonFilm Historian

(1913)
with Dorothy Gish
Music by 
Jeff Rapsis
(1920)
with Arline Pretty
Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion
Filibus
69 min.
(1915)
with Christine Ruspoli
Music by 
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Book signing in the lobby by Cari Beauchamp


Short Overature by Rodney Sauer
Intros by Denise MorrisonFilm Historian 

(1912)
with Mabel Normand
Music by Rodney Sauer, piano
(1915)
with Mr. Sidney Drew & Mrs. Lucile McVey Drew
Music by Jeff Rapsis, piano
Camille
70 min.
(1921)
with Nazimova and Rudolph Valentino
Music byJeff Rapsis, piano


Overture
 and Opening Titles by The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Welcome and Intros by Denise MorrisonFilm Historian

(1918)
with Mary Pickford, written by Frances Marion
Music by 
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
(1924)
with Earle Foxe, loosely based on Mary Shelley‘s 1826 novel The Last Man
Film Print from the Museum of Modern Art 
—Music by Marvin Faulwell, organ, and Bob Keckeisen, percussion

For more information on the Kansas Silent Film Festival, you can follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter @kssilentfilm, Instagram, YouTube, and their KSFF site at www.kssilentfilmfest.org.

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*Cari Beauchamp is an award-winning, American author, historian, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. She authored the biography Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood which was later made into a documentary film. She also serves as resident scholar of the Mary Pickford Foundation. Twitter: @caribeauchamp and site: CariBeauchamp.com

 

 

Star Trek History Beams in Nebraska

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The man who created Klingons for Star Trek will find his way home this weekend in the small town of Beatrice, Nebraska. Sadly, while screenwriter/producer/novelist GENE L. COON is no longer with us, his spirit lives on with millions of Star Trek fans from the obsessive ‘Trekkies” to the passing fans. March 2-4th, fans can experience the rare treat of discovering more about the man who inspired generations of fandom and became a globally recognized phenomenon of entertainment and pop culture.

In the first season of this unique science-fiction tv series in 1966, Gene Roddenberry took exploration into space quite seriously. After the first 13 episodes, Coon joined the Star Trek production team and forever changed the navigation of the franchise by adding humor and heart. In addition to giving birth to iconic characters like Klingons and Khan, Coon is credited to the key to Star Trek’s success by injecting levity into interstellar drama such as the occasional good-natured ribbing from McCoy and Spock.

David Gerrold, fellow Star Trek writer from the original series, should know. Gerrold wrote the famous “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode and will be headlining as guest speaker at the Gage County Classic Film Institute this weekend to discuss working with the famed Nebraskan. Recently, I got a chance to chat with fellow classic film buff and local historian Jeanelle Kleveland, an organizer for this 3 day festival, that will showcase guest speakers, historical insights and screenings.

Interview with Jeanelle Kleveland: 

Kellee: “How long have you been a classic film fan? Did anyone in your personal life inspire this passion?”

Jeanelle: “I don’t remember a time that I didn’t like classic films.  Obviously, they are far more available today than when I grew up, but I would watch them on late night tv when they were on.  Then I remember when Turner showed quite a few on TNT before TCM existed.  I was on the TCM chatroom with other classic film lovers shortly after TCM started.  That was a lot of fun.”

Kellee: “When did you become deeply interested in Nebraska/Gage County history, beyond being a resident?” 

Jeanelle: “Gage County has a very interesting history.  The Oregon Trail comes into Gage County.  We have the Homestead National Monument.  We have Clara Colby who published a suffrage newspaper from Beatrice.  She was friends with the best known suffragists.  I’m sure I got more interested as I got a little older—probably in my 30’s.  My mother always enjoyed it and I enjoyed going to things with her.”

Kellee: “How long have you been involved in the Gage County Historical Society?”

Jeanelle: “Probably at least 30 years.  My mother always got me a membership along with the one she got for herself and my dad.  We almost always went to the annual dinners and programs.”

Kellee: “When did the Gage County Classic Film Institute begin? What is its goal and what do you hope for its future?” 

Jeanelle: “We formed under the umbrella of the Gage County Museum in 2014.  We had our first event in 2015 and we have had four events.  Two of them were on Robert Taylor*, a true Hollywood legend, and two were on John P. Fulton, special effects.  He won three Oscars and his father, Fitch Fulton, won one.  A couple of films also included Janet Shaw as a character actor.  She’s also from Beatrice.” 

(*For my report on the Robert Taylor event, read it here: “Hometown Pride Honors Robert Taylor…”)

“Our Institute was formed for the purpose of educating and show casing people in the entertainment business that are from Gage County. Last year we did Fulton and one of his grand daughters brought one of his Oscars and we all got to have our picture with it.  We didn’t know it was coming but it was a real treat to hold a real Oscar.”

Kellee: “What led you to choose Gene Coon for this year? Is there a process for who is chosen for each year?”

Jeanelle: “Gene Coon has been on our radar and Star Trek is very popular and Star Trek Discovery was coming out and we felt the time was right.  He was a prolific writer and worked on dozens of series.  He was kind of a fix it guy.  He wrote on a number of westerns and we will be showing a couple of those as well.”

Kellee: “Would you describe yourself as a trekkie or SciFi fan?”

Jeanelle: “Yes, I suppose I am.  My favorite Star Trek would be The Next Generation.  In fact I have a life size cardboard Riker that friends of mine gave me for my birthday because I was a big fan of Number 1.  He’s my very low maintenance cardboard boyfriend.  He is on display right now at the Beatrice Public Library watching over the Gene Coon exhibit.”

Kellee: “Was there anything that surprised you in researching Gene Coon and David Gerrold?” 

Jeanelle: “Always some interesting things that one learns when planning an event.  Gene Coon and a colleague came up with the idea of the Munsters as a satirical response to Donna Reed Show.”

“David Gerrold was mentored by Gene Coon.  I can’t wait to hear him speak.  He wrote The Trouble with Tribbles and it was produced by Coon.  We’ll be watching it Friday night.”

Kellee: “There are a variety of classic film festivals that fans can attend across the country, tell us why they should journey to Beatrice.”

Jeanelle: “They should come see the programs and hear the stories about Gene Coon and learn about where he came from.  While here, he was a teenage newscaster on the local radio station—KWBE.  Going to where someone grew up and where his family lived gives you an understanding about what they are like.  Gage County is a relatively small county.  I find it amazing that we have a number of celebs from here.” 

“We are tentatively looking at Harold Lloyd for next year.  That would be fun.”

Kellee: “Anything else you want to add so that interested fans can learn more about attending this fest?” 

Jeanelle: “I think people will enjoy discussing the similarity between the westerns and Star Trek.  Coon was the moral center of Star Trek.  You see that same thing in many of his other stories.”

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For my own research, I was surprised to learn that Coon was also responsible for the controversial episode that featured half-white/half-black faced humanoids that tackled racism, “Let This Be Your Battlefield.” Coon had his own battles- with Stanley Robertson, NBC’s first African American broadcast standards exec- to get this story on air.

According to wired.com, (Andreea) “Kindryd, (his production secretary and) an African-American civil rights activist who had worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, was uneasy about working with an old white guy named Coon—especially after Coon told her that his father had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan—but Coon was passionate about injecting anti-racist messages into Trek.”

Tolerance and enlightenment had a future thanks to Star Trek. And thanks to Gene L Coon, there was a place for more heart and humor, too.

For more information and to purchase tickets to this festival, you can follow their FaceBook page and/or explore their site: Gage County Film Institute Fest 2018.

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Hometown Pride Honors Robert Taylor in Beatrice, Nebraska

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Traveling across the highways and roads under dark, stormy skies, I recently found my way to Beatrice, Nebraska. As a Beatrice native, attorney by day and film historian by passion, Jeanelle Kleveland shared, “Beatrice’s population was about twelve thousand when I was born and it’s remained about twelve thousand to this day.” While many things about this small Nebraska town appear relatively unchanged over the decades, with a few signs of modern times sprinkled here and there, one constant remains… this town takes their pride of their native son and screen legend Robert Taylor seriously. Very seriously.

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I was invited to experience the Gage County Historical Society’s Gage County Classic Film Institute‘s tribute to Spangler Arlington Brugh and Ellen Martha Clancy to see this for myself. That’s quite a mouthful and by now many of you are muttering, “Spangler and Ellen… who?” Ellen Martha Clancy became known in Hollywood as Janet Shaw, born in Beatrice in 1919.

And yes, Robert Taylor, that devastatingly handsome and popular star of Golden age of Hollywood, was born Spangler Arlington Brugh in Filley (pop. 194) a nearby township near Beatrice (pop. 9,664 at that time) on August 5, 1911. The only son of the town osteopath doctor, his parents raised him in Beatrice, and he was better known as “Arlington” or “Arly.”

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On a Friday evening, I drove up in time to see the first event in the festival’s lineup, a screening of W.S. Van Dyke’s PERSONAL PROPERTY (1937), starring Robert Taylor and Jean Harlow. As a fan of silly, over-the-top 1930s comedies, I was pleased as punch.

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The next day began with a morning devoted to speakers presenting background histories and a few personal stories of both of these locals that went on to stardom. E.A. Kral, author and local walking Wikipedia of Beatrice and its famed citizens, Lesa Arterburn, Museum Director, Frank W. Smith, first cousin to Janet Shaw, and Linda Alexander, author of newly re-released Robert Taylor biopic on his political controversies “Reluctant Witness,” all indulged us with details on Arly and Ellen.

It became clear that Arly was quite a popular kid, very athletic, excelled in dramatic arts and academics, played cello and always involved in the community. After two years of studying music and dappling in the performing arts at nearby Doane College, he followed his cello teacher to Pomona College in Claremont, California. Before long, he was spotted by a talent scout, enrolled in the MGM dramatic school, and eventually landed a contract with MGM.

According to Kral and Sanders’ “Profiles of Nationally Distinguished Nebraskans” (a book generously given to every attendee in a nice bag of local goodies), “After his father had unexpectedly died in October 1933, Arlington and his mother settled in Hollywood, where he re-enrolled in the MGM dramatic school, and on February 6, 1934 signed a contract with MGM for $35 per week, which made him the lowest paid actor in Hollywood history, where he remained for 25 years, longer than any other star at any Hollywood studio. He was also given the name Robert Taylor to increase his general appeal to more Americans.”

He was very close and devoted to his parents so it was incredibly hard on Taylor when his father died. The picture painted of Robert Taylor was of a very traditional, conservative and obedient man. He thrived and enjoyed the structure of the studio system, under Louis B. Mayer. Furthermore, the speakers supported a vision of Taylor being extremely loyal and obedient to LB Mayer, to his mother, and despite their long periods working apart and big differences in interests, to his first wife Barbara Stanwyck, married in 1939.

The speakers didn’t give a concise image on what the relationship was between his mother and his first wife, who each appeared to rule the roost when it came to Robert Taylor. But I did receive the strong message that Stanwyck never appreciated Taylor’s more humble Nebraskan roots. He traveled back home occasionally, for having a fruitful career in Hollywood, yet Stanwyck did only once- on April 28, 1939 for the premiere of her film, Cecil B. DeMille’s UNION PACIFIC (1939) in nearby Omaha. They shared a strong work ethic and helped balance each other during the transition to fame. Opposites do attract but he never let go of his small town values, his thirst for outdoorsy hobbies and easy-going style, which did not always match well with Stanwyck’s more sophisticated and cool style. And so the city mouse and country mouse divorced after 12 years, with no children together.

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Taylor’s second marriage in 1954 to German actress Ursula Schmidt Thiess was a much better fit, and more traditional balance of power. With two children from her previous marriage and two more of their own together (Terry and Tessa who have visited Beatrice for this event a few years ago), Taylor was finally a family man as he always envisioned.

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The most intriguing information was presented by author Linda Alexander, author of “Reluctant Witness: Robert Taylor, Hollywood and and Communism.” She gave a brief overview of Robert Taylor’s political life. Alexander touched upon the intense scrutiny and fears of Communist influences within the industry of the 1930s and 1940s that led to the formation of organizations such as Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and the HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee), and how his forced testimony affected his career and reputation.

In Hollywood at that time, key figures were targeted and played roles in “outing Communists,” were called to testify and asked to name names. Basically, pitting colleagues against one another and the studios themselves were under the same pressure. Some played ball, some did not, some were blacklisted and some felt the sting of loyalty to cooperate via scorn within their own ranks. It’s hard to imagine now that it was actually more protected and less openly scorn to be a member of the KKK than being a member of the Communist Party. Neither are illegal then or to this day.

But it was a complex time of paranoia, fear and betrayal. With a reputation of extreme obedience and conservative values, Robert Taylor was hand plucked to be the party lackey and studio stooge. It likely helped to keep HUAC off the studio’s backs by offering up the sacrificial lambs that not only named names but of course the victims of the witch hunts too.

Alexander’s book surmises that Robert Taylor was a “reluctant witness.” He did out Communists by name but did so under grave moral inner-conflict, a decision that plagued him for the rest of his career. While he continued to work in Hollywood and continued to be a staunch conservative, he faced scorn from many of his colleagues as a “fink.” Linda Alexander called Robert Taylor a victim of “reverse blacklisting.”

In interviewing Linda after her presentation, I discovered that his political entanglements were so controversial that the author initially received an even colder Nebraskan reception than Stanwyck. The town was quite sensitive and protective of their hometown hero. But Alexander was determined to explore the man behind the myth, a man that reminded her of her own father, and she has since enjoyed open arm welcomes by Beatrice after her book was published.

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The focus on Ellen Clancy aka Janet Shaw was more brief. Born in Beatrice on January 23, 1919, with a determined mother to create a starlet out of young Ellen, the Clancys moved to Hollywood in 1935. Jack Warner signed her with a seven year contract at the mere age of sixteen. With 71 acting credits in film and TV from 1935 to 1955, Shaw remains most known for her roles in JEZEBEL (1938), WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940) and SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943). For me, her portrayal as Louise Finch the waitress in Alfred Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT is priceless.

Her first cousin, Frank W. Smith, was charming and heartfelt when he stood up and regaled stories of Ellen as a young girl, of visiting her and her mother in Hollywood, and full circle back to when he returned her home to Nebraska, already suffering from Alzheimer’s.

The rest of the afternoon included an old-fashioned church luncheon (where Taylor’s family belonged) and a matinee screening featuring both Taylor and Shaw along with Norma Shearer, Nazimova and Conrad Veidt in Mervyn LeRoy’s nail-biting, thwarting-nazis thriller, ESCAPE (1940). The film was terrific and I recommend it, by the way. A book signing, with Robert Taylor biographers Linda J. Alexander and Charles Tranberg, and banquet followed with Tranberg as key note speaker. Screening of Roy Rowland’s MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (1955) finished out the fest.

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I was unable to stay for the banquet and final screening, and unfortunately unable to chat more with author Charles Tranberg, who is a biographer of seven Hollywood star biographies. I believe a follow-up is in order with Chuck. I did speak with FB friend Bruce Crawford, host of Omaha’s Film Event and friend to countless Hollywood connections, who shared exciting news of his next mega event being a tribute to Christopher Reeve this November. Expect a very beautiful, former co-star as guest to headline the screening. Stay tuned to his site for more info to follow.

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One of the more fascinating attendees was a 92 year old woman named Elsa who flew in from Sacramento, CA. She claims to be the biggest Robert Taylor fan and after speaking with her, I’m convinced she deserves the title. Jeanelle Kleveland overheard her refer to “Bob Taylor” (she’s so intimate with her Robert Taylor fandom she calls him Bob) at the last TCM Film Festival. A fast friendship was formed and an invite to this event was a must. Elsa revealed that she keeps a calendar that marks significant Robert Taylor dates (birth, death, etc…) and she even sends flowers to his grave four times a year. Now that’s a fan!

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Overall, it was a delightful weekend devoted to classic film history, shared with fellow fans and friends. A special shout-out to Jeanelle Kleveland for inviting me, for emceeing the film screenings and generously driving us around to see the three childhood homes of Robert Taylor.

Living in a small Midwestern town myself, I can see how Robert Taylor never let go of Spangler Arlington Brugh and his earnest beginnings of a small, Midwestern town. It shapes its citizens. They realize their common bonds are what keeps them forging through the hard work, simple rewards and those harsh weather extremes uniquely of the Plains. Common bonds like taking joy in celebrating a hometown kid named Spangler who made it big. Really big. He never forgot his small town roots and even to this day, they’ve never forgotten him either.

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TCM Film Fest 2016: Emotions Run High

gary_tcmff_line_sketchLast week I departed from a ten day stay in Hollywood. A grand adventure of exploring the origins of Old Hollywood- both via site-seeing and serving as a Social Producer for the 2016 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, which took place April 28-may 1. For us classic cinephile fanatics, this year’s schedule of screenings and events tapped deep into a range of emotions, appropriate to the official theme of Moving Images.

[For a full pictorial review of our discoveries into Old Hollywood, look for my pre and post fest coverage in a post coming soon. My travel companions Aurora @CitizenScreen, Annmarie @ClassicMovieHub and Jeanelle @NebraskaNellie and I spent time with pals Laura of @LauraMiscMovie, her hubby Doug, Elise of @EliseCD and Danny of @Cinephiled for unforgettable forays into site-seeing, off the typical tourist grid. ]

For a second year in a row, I was privileged to be selected to act as a Social Producer for this year’s fest. (Click here for that post.) As such, we SPs conducted a little bit of business, including attending the Press Conference, then set out to enjoy this classic movie marathon. Here are my highlights:

DAY ONE, Thursday 4/28:

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Reunited with actor James Karen after the trivia game win. (We’ve met at Buster Keaton Celebration in Iola, KS in years’ past)

“So You Think You Know The Movies” is a popular trivia game, hosted by Film Forum’s hilarious Bruce Goldstein, held annually at Club TCM. SP and media archivist Ariel Schudson (@ArchivistAriel) gathered up a group of us to form a team or two. And lo and behold, our team won! We each contributed at least one answer but Cinematically Insane’s Will McKinley (@willmckinley) saved the day via classic film trivia world domination in a nail-biting tie-breaker.

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My first screening of the fest began with a punch to the gut. Famed film historian Donald Bogle introduced director of ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO, Larry Peerce. It was a film new to me and its impression will be forever etched in my memory. The ground-breaking film on interracial marriage was simple, thoughtful yet incredibly powerful story that left me in tears. I should note that minutes prior to an emotionally raw and unconventional ending, fire alarms sounded; evacuating the entire TCL Chinese Multiplex. We were able to return to complete our screenings; but for many of us, the unfortunate timing was a pinch of salt in our open wounds of emotion.

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Czar of Noir Eddie Muller/ Photo credit: Getty Images for Turner

My second screening took an Argentinian noir twist in Fernando Ayala’s LOS TALLOS AMARGOS. Another new discovery for me, the Czar of Noir Eddie Muller introduced this rarely seen gem which was restored by UCLA’s Film and Television Archive and partially financed by his Film Noir Foundation with rich cinematography by Ricardo Younis. Knee-deep in fraud and paranoia for profit, a reporter (Carlos Cores) pairs up with a Hungarian expat (Vassili Lambrinos) and unravels down a wicked path in this tale of self-destruction.

DAY TWO, 4/29 :
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The second day started with the sumptious Pre-Code feast with Joseph von Sternberg’s SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932). For a fashionista like me, this is a high-style feast for the eyes. Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong are unparallel visions in this gorgeous print. Author Jeremy Arnold introduced celebrated cinematographer and the director’s son, Nicholas von Sternberg, who contributed fun stories on Ms. Dietrich. A personal favorite, and my husband’s (aka @santaisthinking) first time viewing, this was a major highlight of the fest for both of us.

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Actress Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cary Grant

Like countless others, we were shut out of DOUBLE HARNESS so we headed over to the Roosevelt to catch a glimpse of Illeana Douglas’s (@Illeanarama) book signing, grabbed a bite (you remember food, right?) with friends before heading over to catch Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer Grant introduce her dad’s rarely seen film, WHEN YOU’RE IN LOVE (1937). This was a silly romcom romp where we’re treated to the “Tennessee Nightingale” Grace Moore and Grant tickling the ivories. As he is my all-time favorite actor, this was a very special must-see!

Next up, we indulged in Bruce Goldstein’s Vaudeville 101, at Club TCM. This was a delightful peek at the history and some examples of the early vaudeville acts. Kept me laughing out loud and a few were snipets of the Vitaphone presentation I attended the next day.

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Actor Alec Baldwin interviews screen and stage legend Angela Lansbury/ Photo credit: Getty Images for Turner

We camped out early in front of Grauman’s TCL Chinese Theater in giddy anticipation to see charming Alec Baldwin introducing John Frankenheimer’s THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) with special guest, legendary Angela Lansbury. This dark political thriller remains relevant after all these years and while all the performances were terrific, naughty mommy Lansbury is clearly the stand-out. What a thrill to witness how energetic and razor-sharp this stage and screen icon continues to be.

DAY THREE, 4/30:
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The crowds lined up early at the majestic Egyptian venue for my first event on Saturday with Ron Hutchinson’s presentation of the 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone.  As the founder of The Vitaphone Project, Hutchinson offered the packed house with a brief history of when sound was first synchronized with film, then entertained us with a variety of shorts. Captivating songs and hilarious vaudeville routines from George Burns and Gracie Allen, Baby Rose Marie, Shaw and Lee, Molly Picon and others kept the audience in stitches. What a happy way to start the day! Between our loud laughter that morning and the fact that I can’t stop thinking about those shorts, this presentation developed into my favorite one at the fest.
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Eddie Muller introduced David Wyler with our second feature, William Wyler’s A HOUSE DIVIDED (1931). As Muller pointed out, while it is technically a Pre-Code, it has major noir tones thanks to its cinematography and Walter Huston’s acting chops of his intensely dark character. Again, it was a joy to have a member of the director’s own family, who is also a vet of the entertainment industry and an experienced producer, introduce this early talkie on film.

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TCM Wine Club tasting with dear friends… Aurora (L), Theresa (R) and me (C)

After taking quick peeks at both Alec Baldwin’s interview with Elliot Gould at Club TCM and Rita Moreno’s book signing in the Roosevelt lobby, we took a nice break at the TCM Wine Club wine tasting. Situated poolside, this was a welcome and relaxing reprieve from the fast pace of running to screenings and passing out my #TCMFFSP ribbons to enjoy a few moments of crisp and cool Chardonnay. I recommend!

Then, we settled in back at Club TCM for a more casual view into Hollywood history with Hollywood Home Movies. From movie stars at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club to the Nicolas Brothers at The Palace with special guest Tony Nicholas himself in attendance with his family, this was such a fun and intimate presentation.

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Plethora of friends gather for MIDNIGHT screening

I was pleased to end my evening with a 1930s screwball romcom with Bonnie Hunt’s introduction of Mitchell Leisen’s MIDNIGHT (1939). With dream pairing of writers Billy Wilder and Charles Bracket and a cast that included the stunning and witty Claudette Colbert, a young stached Don Ameche, and an animated John Barrymore, they lit up the screen, scene after scene. I also appreciated that Bonnie Hunt joined us in the audience, sitting in a seat close by to our large group and laughed equally as hard and loudly as we did. Big props to you, Ms. Hunt!

DAY FOUR, 5/1:

I chose to sleep in a bit instead of being included the many who were turned away from DOUBLE HARNESS a second time. Instead, we camped out early to grab a good positioning for Charlie Chaplin’s THE KID (1921). Chaplin’s first feature as director, star, writer and producer, this premiere restoration was a compelling and emotional experience, further enhanced by a detailed intro by acclaimed Parisian film archivist Serge Bromberg.

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David Steinberg, Photo credit: Getty images for Turner

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HORSE FEATHERS screening- TCM Programmer Scott McGee and family- Ethan & Shannon, Photo credit: Getty Images for Turner

We quickly dashed over to comedy great David Steinberg’s intro to Norman Z McLeod’s HORSE FEATHERS (1932).  Groucho, Harpo and Chico are joined by Thelma Todd for this hilarious college football classic. I think the only one in the audience who laughed harder than me was TCM programmer Scott McGee.

Another quick turnaround rushed us back into the same TCL Chinese Multiplex House #1 for John Ford’s grand SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949). Another homage to Monument Valley, this stunning vision on the big screen was another must-see for me. At last year’s #TCMFF, I was thrilled to see Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE introduced by Peter Fonda and Keith Carradine. Carradine was on hand to honor us with an intro again.

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CINEMA PARADISO star Salvatore Cascio and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz/ Photo credit: Getty Images for Turner

My final screening of the fest was the most emotional one of the long weekend. Writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore’s CINEMA PARADISO (1988) may seem like an unconventional choice to close #TCMFF to those who have never seen it, but for those of us who know and love this film, it was the perfect choice. A foreign film made in the late eighties, this film is a beautiful and deeply emotional tribute to classic film fans. I was not alone as tears streamed down my face for the entire last ten minutes and during other segments as well. Now all grown up Salvatore Cacsio, who played the central character of young Toto, charmed the crowd at Grauman’s TCL Chinese Theatre with his translated guest intro with Ben Mankiewicz. I compliment #TCMFF programmer Charlie Tabesh for this superb pick.

The last night ended with crowded Roosevelt of attendees’ goodbyes and photo opps followed by a late supper at Mel’s Drive-In with friends. My many gratitudes include:

Thanks to Debbie Lynn Elias aka @moviesharkd for including me along with other SPs Aurora @CitizenScreen, Annmarie @ClassicMovieHub and Kristen Lopez @Journeys_Film on her LA-based radio program, BEHIND THE LENS on Adrenaline Radio, generously providing us a platform to discuss our our roles of Social Producers and the #TCMFF. And all her supportive tweets!
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Thanks to my artist hubby Gary @santaisthinking for offering up creative and witty sketches, just for fun! You can probably still find them via #sketchTCMFF on twitter.

Thanks to the entire TCM staff and crew for all their hard work on another successful fest! Spotlight and Essentials passes sold out in a record 14 minutes and the Classic Passes sold out faster than ever before. According to the Press Conference, a projected 26,000 attendees enjoyed this year’s mega event. From a past gig in trade show management of a similar show size in my past life, I can assure you this takes organized planning, countless hours and months of hard work and skilled efficiency… KUDOS, TCM team!

Special TCM staff thanks to Noralil Fiores and Marya Gates for masterfully running the Social Producer program. I can’t imagine leading these initiatives, while TCM launches FilmStruck and TCM Backlots all at the same time. Whew!

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Pals Karen, Jessica, Raquel, Carlos and Danny

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#TCMParty class picture/ Photo credit: Will McKinley

And a VERY special shout-out to all my #TCMFF friends, new and reunited alike. So many which began and continue via the #TCMparty twitter experience and via the Going To TCM Film Fest Facebook page.

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Swapping childhood stories with actress, author and TCM friend Illeana Douglas (L), myself and husband Gary Pratt (R)

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Will McKinley (L), myself (C), TCM host Ben Mankiewicz (R) at the closing party

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Actress Monika Henreid, daughter of Paul Henreid (R) and me

Overall, it was another stellar fest that included star gazing, new discoveries, a ‘family’ reunion of meaningful connections with classic film friends (or #OldMovieWeirdos as we like to call ourselves) and fully cinematic range of emotions. If you love classic movies, love TCM, and you simply want to feel right at home like never before, this is it. Hope to see you at #TCMFF in 2017!

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TCMFF 2016 ANNOUNCEMENT: Photo Scavenger Hunt!

tcm-logo-2016The days are rapidly narrowing down to single digits until classic film fans by the thousands will converge to their silver screened Motherland. Turner Classic Movies network kicks off their film festival April 28- May 1st in Hollywood, CA. And for the 2nd year in a row, the TCM folks have brought back the Social Producer program.

Selected from across the country, the Social Producers each bring a unique way to enhance the fandom experience while attending this mega event via social media. I’m thrilled to announce that I will be included in the Social Producer program for 2016 while hosting the official TCMFF  Scavenger Hunt.

Here’s how it works…

PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT:
Enhance your Turner Classic Movies Film Festival experience by participating in the Photo Scavenger Hunt! New clues for each day. Post it on social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram) tagging TCM and you’ll receive an official TCMFF collector ribbon. Show me your posts so you can collect your official ribbons. Collect all five and you’ll receive a special “Champion” ribbon on the last day of the fest!

Clues:
Star Selfie
*Take a photo of yourself with your favorite movie star’s hand/footprints at the famous Grauman’s Theatre aka TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX and post it on social media. Be sure to tag TCM so we can like/share it too!

New Friends
*Take a photo of yourself with a NEW friend you met while waiting in line. Be sure to tag TCM in your post so we can like/share it too!

Line Selfie
*Take a photo of yourself holding your line ticket or Pass while waiting in line for your favorite screening of the day. Hashtag your the screening and be sure to tag TCM, too.

#TCMFF Squad Goals
*Take a group selfie with your friends in front of one of the official TCMFF venues. Then post it on social media and don’t forget to tag TCM. We’d love to see it!

Hanging Poolside
*Take a photo at a poolside screening. Don’t forget to tag TCM!

After you’ve collected all five, you can collect your special #TCMFF SCAVENGER HUNT  Champ ribbon on the last day of the fest! So, be on the look out each day for clues.

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Thursday, 4/28:  One clue announced
Friday, 4/29: Two clues announced
Saturday, 4/30: Two clues announced
Sunday, 5/1: a “CHAMP ribbon” to be given to all who complete all 5 clues
Each clue to be announced via Social Producer Kellee Pratt with reposts via TCM Social Media, on the following sites:

Twitter: @IrishJayhawk66 or @TCM  

Tumblr: @kelleep or @tcm

For all the best in fest goodies on social media, follow hashtags #TCMFF and #TCMFFSP to see what all the Social Producers are providing in fest fun. If you see me in line or dashing down Hollywood Blvd, show me your fun Scavenger photo or posts and I will give you a collector ribbon. Quantities are limited for this special souvenir, so look for the lady with freckles and a big smile!

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CLASSIC FILM FALL REPORT: Fly in to ‘Fly Over States’

Fields of sunflowers with their friendly faces reaching up to the sky, as rumbles of enormous dark storm clouds approach rapidly. This scene was played out just a couple of days ago in my town and is pretty typical here in the heartland, as we transition from the long, hot days of late summer into cool Autumn. But what may be less known about this part of the country, is the surprising storm of classic film events swiftly advancing in the next few weeks.

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In a fun mix of both silent greats and film noir dark delights, classic film fans can appreciate the multiple offerings in northeastern Kansas and Kansas City metro area.

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FOOTPRINTS presents METROPOLIS:

  • Sunday, 9/20 at 7:30pm
  • Alloy Orchestra live musical accompaniment
  • Lawrence Arts Center, Lawrence, KS
  • cost: $19 + tax
  • Tickets and more info: FOOTPRINTS site

Mick Ranney has been the owner of FOOTPRINTS shoe store for over 35 years, operating out of an old limestone storefront, originally built as a grocery store in the 1870s. Now a successful business with a heavy focus on all things Birkenstock (plus a few other lines to boot), Mick has turned his strong ties to the community combined with his passion of classic film to bring spectacular classic film events to this enchanting small town.

For several years now, he has brought silent masterpieces and recently restored gems such as NOSFERATU (1922), BLACK MAIL (1929), BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925) and the restored classic THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (part of his WW2 Film Festival, which at that time was recently restored and only being shown in 2 venues across the country – the Film Forum in NYC and little Lawrence, KS). Always presented with live musical accompaniment (usually the famous Alloy Orchestra or Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra) in the intimate setting of the 300 seat capacity Lawrence Arts Center. You can find tickets online here, but you may want to hurry before it sells out.

*Mick’s creative skills are playfully expressed in his video clips to promote his screenings. I highly recommend not only attending in person, but also ‘liking’ the Footprints FaceBook page to check out his fun video clips.

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BUSTER KEATON CELEBRATION:

This year’s theme is Buster Keaton & The Marx Brothers: Celebrating American Laughter.  Andy Marx, Groucho’s grandson was originally scheduled to appear but canceled last month. No worries, a great line-up of guest speakers and artists are firmly on board with a full schedule of silver screen comedy treats.

Hosting this annual event since 1993, Iola is short hop from Piqua (pronounced “PICKway”), Buster Keaton’s birthplace. Recent presenters and speakers have included: members of the Keaton and Talmadge family, Oscar and Emmy winning director/producer/silent film extraordinaire Kevin Brownlow, actor and close friend of Buster’s James Karen, comedy legend Steve Allen, film critic Leonard Maltin, film preservationist David Shepard, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, and many more.

This is a must for Buster aficionados, comedy and silent film fans, and frankly anyone up for great Autumnal weekend in this quant little town.

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NOIR CITY Kansas City:

  • Friday, 10/2, Saturday 10/3, Sunday 10/4
  • Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet, Kansas City, MO
  • cost: $75 for a passport to all 10 screenings plus nightclub party
  • all the info: NoirCityKC.com 
"Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller, president and founder of the Film Noir Foundation

“Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller, president and founder of the Film Noir Foundation is a modern-day renaissance man of multi talents

Just over the state line on the Missouri side, this is the 2nd annual installment of the Kansas City Film Noir Festival. Presented in part by the Film Noir Foundation, the “Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller’s ‘baby,’ ushers in 3 days and nights of 10 noir gems. The schedule of films include two 35mm restorations and two 35mm preservations! (Three of these four are fresh from FNF!) A total of ten dark delectables to savor including, of course, The Kansas City Confidential.

Individual screenings are very affordable starting $7 per show. Full beverage and food service is offered at these shows. The Nightclub event gets swinging Friday night, 9pm-2am. With three noir acts to set the retro KC mood with sexy, jazzy and even burlesque tones, Laura Ellis, Evie Lovelle, The Latenight Callers will perform at The Chesterfield.  [NOIR CITY KC TIP: save that Alamo Drafthouse movie tix stub for a $2 drink discount.] Tickets: $10 in advance.

The best Noir City KC tip I can offer is to purchase the passport. It’s a steal for $75 smackers to get into all 10 screenings, the Nightclub and speedier, shorter lines for best seating. For directions and parking options, click HERE.

As you can see, you don’t have to fly out to one of the coasts to experience some amazing classic film events. If you’re not familiar with the Kansas/Missouri/Kansas City area, feel free to contact me for details on logistics and good places to stay and eat. Hope to see you there! Who knows. This might just change your definition of ‘the flyover states.’

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A Reel Journey To My 1st CAPITOLFEST!

As a classic film obsessive, attending a film fest is much more than the joy of screening a wealth of old movies. The joy of seeing a classic flick on that big screen, along with an audience that you just KNOW is enjoying this with equal vigor, is frankly pretty damn good.

Many times, films featured at fests are grouped via a specific theme, or are restored, or rare, or perhaps presented in a whole new light- such as with a newly composed score with live orchestral accompaniment, or introduced by a really cool speaker that has some connection to that film. But for many of us, it’s also chance to connect with those fellow film nerds face to face, in between screenings.

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then… and now

 

 

 

 

 

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I was lucky to attend my ever CapitolFest in Rome, NY last month where I discovered all of these benefits and more. For me, the journey itself was an entertaining adventure from the first yellow brick step to the Big Apple and beyond.

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On the road! (with gal pals Aurora & Annmarie)

I’ve been fortunate to have visited small fests in the Midwest, such as the Kansas Silent Film Festival and the Buster Keaton Celebration in Kansas and the John Wayne Birthday Celebration in Iowa; and of course BIG fests such as Turner Classic Movies Film Festival in Hollywood. The challenge with having film friends that live all across the country, you really only see them in person at these fests. Knowing I wouldn’t likely see my East coast pals until the next TCMFF, a trip to CapitolFest seemed in order.

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Annmarie @ClassicMovieHub, Aurora @CitizenScreen, Nora @NitrateDiva, Colleen @MiddParent and me (clockwise from top left)

CapitolFest is touted as “a vacation, not a marathon.” In all fairness, I’d say it’s actually both. Seeing nearly thirty films in three days is a thrilling vacation to a passionate Old Movie Weirdo like me. To someone else, it’s more like insane marathon. And that’s fine by me. For us obsessives, we take it all in. For those who prefer to take longer breaks (formal breaks including lunches and dinners are scheduled in) and parcel it out, you can enjoy it at your leisure.

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Either way, this fest is a win-win and let me explain why. It’s hosted at the majestic Capitol Theater originally built in 1928, in a quant little town in central New York. So much of the interior is original that you can smell it like a welcoming antique shop upon entering. I knew I was right at home. One of the impressive features to be found at the Capitol Theater is the original installation, 3-manual, 10-rank Style 70 Moller theatre organ. And what a terrific accompaniment to the silent screenings to hear those full sounds, easily filling the entire theater.

CapitolFest focuses on showing silents and early talkies that are not your typical, run-of-the-mill films. They do their best to show those films that are not necessarily rare (although some are), but rather, ‘rarely shown’. In other words, it may be due to distribution or restoration, but for whatever reason, they look for the non-standard fare. As a gal whose seen more than her fair share of oldies, the most impressive takeaway for me was that I can honestly say that out of the 28 films I watched, all 28 were my first-time screenings.

Each year, they also offer a theme of a particular star. This year’s star was Nancy Carroll. And while many of my purist, die-hard, film nerd pals (you know who you are) may be very familiar with Nancy’s work, I was not. So this was an additional bonus – to discover a glimpse into her filmography for the first time, and I was happily enlightened. Next year’s star? Mr. Gary Cooper. While Cooper is more known for his iconic classics from the Golden era of film, I prefer his early stuff from his silent/early talkie, pretty boy phase. So this fest suits nicely!

An additional perk to this event, is a ‘Dealer’s Room.’ Adjacent to the theater, they reserve space for vendors to come in and sell their classic film wares. DVDs, films on reel, books, lobby cards, sheet music, posters… tons of fun stuff. Needless to say, we were in Old Movie Weirdo heaven. None of us walked away empty-handed and I scored a cool 1958 campy SciFi lithograph for my hubby’s birthday. BOOM. You’re welcome…

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For me, the most anticipated aspect of this adventure was being able to enjoy it with friends. I couldn’t wait to see my East coast friends again plus the opportunity to meet some face to face for the first time. Much of the joy of the journey occured on the five hour car ride from NYC to Rome via gabbing and singing beloved standards at the top of our lungs with Aurora (aka @CitizenScreen) and Annmarie (aka @ClassicMovieHub), and dinners with our pals Colleen (aka @MiddParent) and Nora (aka @NitrateDiva). Plus I finally got to meet twitter pals like Shirley (aka @tosilentfilm), Marc (aka @TheIntertitler), Beth Ann (aka @missbethg), Caren (aka @CarenKayF) and more. Worth the 2400 round trip miles just to see these fun friends!

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Schedule of delightful silents and early talkies:

Friday, Aug. 7: *(all daytime silent films accompaniment by Dr. Philip C. Carli/ post-dinner accompaniment by Bernie Anderson)

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BOBBY’S DAY OUT (d. Rayart, 1926) Silent– Bobby Ray

THE FLYING ACE (d. Richard E. Norman, 1926) Silent – Lawrence Criner, Kathryn Boyd, Boise De Legge

THE BORDER LEGION (Paramount, d. O. Brower & Edwin H Knopf, 1930) Richard Arlen, Fay Wray, Jack Holt, Eugene Pallette

THE AIR MAIL (Paramount, d. Irvin Willat, 1925) Silent – Warner Baxter, Billie Dove, Mary Brian, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

~HEARST METROTONE NEWS, vol. 1, no. 220

THE TALK OF HOLLYWOOD (Prudence/Sono-Art, d. Mark Sandrich, 1929) Nat Carr, Fay Marbe, Hope Sutherland, S. Oliver

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KO-KO NUTS (Red Seal, d. Dave Fleischer, 1925) animated Silent

THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (Paramount, d. Richard Wallace, 1928) Silent– Nancy Carroll, Gary Cooper, Paul Lukas, R. Karns

MILLION DOLLAR RANSOM (Universal, d. Murray Roth, 1934) Phillips Holmes, Edward Arnold, Wini Shaw, Andy Devine

LOVE ME TONIGHT (Paramount, d. R. Mamoulian, 1932) Maurice Chevalier, Jeannette MacDonald, Myrna Loy, Charles Ruggles, C. Butterworth

-> My top picks for Friday’s list: the ‘race film’ THE FLYING ACE was fun romp with a little bit of everything- an all African American cast, mystery, a WWI ace pilot turned detective, a pretty lady in an aviator outfit, bad guys, a dirty cop, suspense, thrills, chase scenes (where you can see the canvas backdrop), and a spectacular amputee actor “Peg” Steve Reynolds that stole every action-packed scene with his creative and impressive ways of chasing down the bad guys with his multi-tasking crutch. Special shout out to prematurely hunky teen Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in the riveting, THE AIR MAIL.

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Saturday, Aug. 8th: *(daytime silent film accompaniment by Bernie Anderson/ post-dinner accompaniment by Avery Tunningley)

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THE WAY OF ALL PESTS (Columbia, d. Arthur Davis, 1941) animated

THE DEVIL’S HOLIDAY (Paramount, d. Edmund Goulding, 1930) Nancy Carroll, Phillips Holmes, J. Kirkwood, H. Bosworth

CARTOONS ON THE BEACH (Edison, d. Raoul Barre, 1915) live action & animated Silent 

CROOKED STREETS (Paramount, d. Paul Powell, 1920) Silent– Ethel Clayton, Jack Holt, Clyde Fillmore, Clarence Geldart

SKINNER STEPS OUT (Universal, d. William James Craft, 1929) Glenn Tyron, Myrna Kennedy, EJ Ratcliffe, Burr McIntosh

~Dawn Of Technicolor Presentation – James Layton, David Pierce

FOLLOW THRU (Paramount, d. L Corrigan, 1930) L. Schwab, Buddy Rogers, Nancy Carroll, Z O’Neal, Jack Haley, Thelma Todd

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DUMB-BELLES (Nathan, d. Al Nathan, 1927) Silent – Victor Potel, Marta Golden, Fred Cummings, Madelynne Fields

RAMONA (Inspiration/UA, d. Edwin Carewe, 1928) Silent – Dolores del Rio, Warner Baxter, Rolan Drew, Vera Lewis

CINDERELLA GOES TO A PARTY (Columbia, d. Alec Geiss, 1942) animated

SILENCE (Paramount, d. LJ Gasnier, 1931) Clive Brook, Marjorie Rambeau, Peggy Shannon, Chas Starrett

-> My top picks for Saturday’s line-up: this day’s offerings were jam-packed with goodies with RAMONA being, hands-down, at the top of the heap. What an incredibly heart-wrenching story of tragedy and a surprisingly sensitive take on Native-American racism. At the heart of this story, Dolores del Rio was simply breath-taking, both in beauty and skilled at her craft. Other highlights from this day include both Nancy Carroll features- THE DEVIL’S HOLIDAY (Carroll well deserved her nomination for Best Actress Oscar for this performance) and the light-hearted, pastel-colored, golf rom-com FOLLOW THRU (which includes a hilarious ladies’ locker room with both Jack Haley and Eugene Pallette in drag.) On the note of funny, DUMB-BELLES had us in stitches, too.

Sunday, Aug. 9: *(silent film accompaniment by Dr. Philip C. Carli)

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THE FAMILY FORD (Warner Brothers, d. Murray Roth, Vitaphone #790, 1929) Jim & Marian Harkins, Hope Eden, Mary Dolan

ILLUSION (Paramount, d. Lothar Mendes, 1929) Nancy Carroll, Buddy Rogers, June Collyer, Kay Francis, Regis Toomey

BLUE JEANS (Metro, d. John H. Collins, 1917) Silent– Viola Dana, Robert Walker, Sally Crute, Clifford Bruce

MR. BRIDE (Roach, d. James Parrott, 1932) Charley Chase, Muriel Evans, Dell Henderson

UNDER-COVER MAN (Paramount, d. James Flood, 1932) George Raft, Nancy Carroll, Lew Cody, Roscoe Karns

~Jack Theakston’s Short Subject Follies

OH MARY, BE CAREFUL (Goldwyn, 1921) Silent – Madge Kennedy, George J Forth, George Stevens, Bernard Thornton

THE DIXIE FLYER (Trem Carr, d. Chas J Hunt, 1926) Silent – Cullen Landes, Eva Novak, Fernand Munier, John Elliott

-> My top picks for Sunday’s line-up: The last film on the last day was an excellent choice to go out with a BANG. THE DIXIE FLYER was a bit slow-paced for the first half, but then picked up plenty of speed. By the climatic ending, it was an exhilarating thrill ride where the leading lady saves the day~ everyone was standing on their feet and cheering! As a Charley Chase fan, MR. BRIDE was a fun treat. Viola Dana kicks ass in an intense ‘saw mill close-call’ in BLUE JEANS. Since being introduced to Nancy Carroll, I became a big fan. Her performance in ILLUSION (where she’s paired up again with a Kansas local and cutie Buddy Rogers) doesn’t disapoint.

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We were fortunate to sit down and chat with the folks that make the magic happen at CapitolFest- Art Pierce and Jack Theakston. They both generously gave their time to discuss the history, the creative process in selecting these 35 mm treasures for this event and fulfilling their visions for an even more beautiful and grander CapitolFests in the years to come. Restorations are already in the works! Jack was also kind enough to let us take a peek in the projection booth and I was tickled pink! (Later he divulged a spooky story about the balcony area where we camped out for the weekend. A cinematic spirit was once captured photobombing in that same area!)

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I whole-heartedly recommend this fest for purists and newbies alike. Dates for next year’s fest are August 12-14th, 2016. Hope to see you (and Gary Cooper) there!

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HOLLYWOOD HIGHLIGHTS: The “Fake” Studio Tour

Beyond the incredible four days packed with screenings and awe-inspiring events, my recent trip to Tinseltown for the TCM Film Festival included much more. I traveled out to Hollywood and bookended my trip with a couple of extra days to take in more than just the mad dash of the official fest (…like the mad dash of sightseeing!) Perhaps if I squeezed in more time to explore the sacred hallowed grounds of Old Hollywood along with my fellow TCM pals, my post-fest melancholy would be less painful? Yeah right, but nice thought.

WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO, aka the “FAKE” TOUR:

Our pal Matt Patterson of Warner Archives is a generous soul who agreed to give my good friend Aurora aka @CitizenScreen a private tour of the Warner Brothers Studio campus/backlots. Annmarie of @ClassicMovieHub, Jeannelle of @NebraskaNellie and I happily tagged along, on my very first day in Hollywood.

This was my first-ever film studio tour. I was in awe. I clung to every word Matt said and even in a few instances when he didn’t immediately recall to mind all the films and/or TV shows that a particular building or front purposed, I carefully squinted my eyes and envisioned its history.

That infamous Warner Brothers water tower...

That infamous Warner Brothers water tower…

a row of various 'store fronts'

a row of various ‘store fronts’

Barely seen as a backdrop and window shadow via a flashback, La Belle Aurore in CASABLANCA

Barely seen as a backdrop and window shadow via a flashback, La Belle Aurore in CASABLANCA

 

 

 

La Belle Aurore today- with Jeanelle, Kellee, Aurora, Annmarie from left to right

La Belle Aurore today- with Jeanelle, Kellee, Aurora, Annmarie from left to right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we walked all over this vast sprawl of buildings of every make and style, I took in all the sights and smells. The building front of what was once Cafe Bella from CASABLANCA looked quite different now but it made me goosepimply all over to ponder its former face. The formal building with wide cascade of steps and large roman columns was once Comissioner Gordon’s HQ in the 1966 Batman. The “Embassy building” with white stone blocks and a regal black iron fence was Daddy Warbuck’s ‘mansion’ in ANNIE. A sparse area of grass with a simple, curving sidewalk and a backdrop of trees was Central Park?? There was a fake ‘L train’ that looked more like a rusted and abdoned project and a fake subway entrance with boxed-in concrete walls that greet you at the bottom of the stairs.

Can you picture 1966 Batman & Robin sprinting up these steps to see Commissioner Gordon?

Can you picture 1966 Batman & Robin sprinting up these steps to see Commissioner Gordon?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An El train that goes... nowhere. Nowhere but cool movie stardom, that is.

An El train that goes… nowhere. Nowhere but cool movie stardom, that is.

Bet your bottom dollar this "The Embassy" building allowed Annie to dream this set could be a Daddy Warbucks mansion

Bet your bottom dollar this “The Embassy” building allowed Annie to dream this set could be a Daddy Warbucks mansion

Who knew 'Central Park' was so tiny? And in Burbank??

Who knew ‘Central Park’ was so tiny? And in Burbank??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The subway that goes... you guessed it, nowhere.

The subway that goes… you guessed it, nowhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aurora (left), Kellee (center), and Matt (silliness on the right)

Aurora (left), Kellee (center), and Matt (silliness on the right)

Jeanelle, Ammarie, Kellee & Matt (left to right) on the 'faux brownstone steps'

Jeanelle, Ammarie, Kellee & Matt (left to right) on the ‘faux brownstone steps’

With faux brownstones we paused to rest on the steps for a ‘Bronx via Hollywood’ moment. At one point I grinned as I couldn’t help but picture that infamous scene from BLAZING SADDLES as I peered across a row of many false store fronts like an empty ghost town, built to decieve us onlookers.

As we peeked around (ever so carefully) inside a few of these hollowed buildings, I deeply took in the smell. I was transported back in time to the same smell of the Kansas City Museum I visited as a child. It was an “old smell” of aged wood, antiques and grand ole dame homes forever frozen in time. You could imagine all of these false structures being used in countless films and TV shows. The fronts and the productions may have changed countless times over the years, but that vintage scent revealed its ‘good bones.’

Warner Bros. Cafeteria

Warner Bros. Cafeteria

But there was more. The WB cafeteria. The recording studios for shows like Conan and Ellen. A memorial to all the WB folks who served in WWII. Rows and rows of enormous sound stages with a plaque on each massive hangar indicating its pedigree of filmography from its earliest days onward. These simple yet gigantic buildings are where the magic happended. Films like… all within the same footprint of where I stood. Again, I shuddered to think.

After a quick review of the WB employee ‘shop’ where you could buy anything from a logoed teeshirt to hardware, we ended our tour with the Warner Brothers Museum. This was a hodgepodge mix of new and old movie relics. Hats from MY FAIR LADY, sheet music from CASABLANCA, and a vast collection of costumes from the various and multiple BATMAN films just to name a few. Apparently the theme rotates the collections out from vault to this mini museum periodically and we just happen to visit during a Batman phase.

Many thanks to my pal Aurora for including us in her invite and special gratitude to Matt from Warner Archives for the tour and GENEROUS donation of his time. I’ve never been so thrilled to be “faked out”!

Hollywood Dreams Come True at TCM Film Fest 2015

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Years from now, the 6th annual Turner Classic Film Festival may be described as the year that made history. How suitable considering this year’s theme of ‘History according to Hollywood.’ There was a feeling of change in the air.

The Proof:

1. Our beloved patron saint of classic film Robert Osborne was not present this year. (All curiosities of how he was doing with his minor health procedure was aptly addressed by Ben Mankiewicz with a personal message directly from Bob, infused with all the warmth and sincerity we’ve grown accustomed.)

2. The schedule featured some distinctly newer entries in the line-up which created some controversy. But most of the rumblings quieted once the fest started with the realization of a plethora of ‘true classics’ and not-to-be-missed events available in every time slot.

3. The presence of mega star power was almost dizzying… Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Ann-Margret, Dustin Hoffman… just scratches the surface of the long list of cinematic heroes.

4. And something I was personally and proudly a part of … the Social Producer program. This inaugural concept was a brand-new journey exploring what happens when passionate fandom meets social media expression/engagement as ambassadors for the brand. My contribution was partnering with my ‘cinema sister’ Aurora aka @CitizenScreen for a fun game of asking trivia questions and passing out Buster Keaton buttons and posters to fest goers as we wait in lines. The results? Success!

My TCMFF Highlights:

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ANGIE DICKINSON~ as a special offering exclusively to Citibank clients for $25 per ticket, an intimate interview took place at Club TCM the night prior to the official start of the fest. Ms. Dickinson was as charming, generous and as delightful as anyone could have hoped. Her stories of both personal and professional relationships with the likes of the Duke and Frank Sinatra made us all feel like dinner party guests within close circle of friends. And brought out the boyish charm in our blushing host, Ben Mankiewicz.

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CORA SUE COLLINS ~ Kelly, the founder of the ‘Going To TCM Film Festival’ Facebook group, kindly arranged for a group of us to meet this popular child actress of the 1930’s- known for such roles as the young Greta Garbo in QUEEN CHRISTINA. She captivated us with her stories and photos (including a rare one of Jean Harlow from a beautifully handcrafted wood-cover album). This lovely woman, who will turn eighty-eight years old this month, kept our avid attention as we hovered closely huddled, straining to hear every word.

[THURSDAY]

Byron Haskin’s TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) ~ This was a noir I had never seen before. Plus with Lizabeth Scott (who passed this past year) in the lead, we just had to go see it. Wise choice. This lady is a BAD, BAD girl and frankly, her ill intentions are so jaw-dropping at every turn that it’s almost campy. Truly entertaining, especially with the engaged audience. And thanks to Eddie Muller and his foundation, we were able to enjoy this restoration and his intro- in a way as it should be seen.

Michael Curtiz’ THE SEA HAWK (1940) ~I’ve seen this swashbuckling classic before but never like this. Errol Flynn was impressive on the big screen. But what was most thrilling was the introduction by his daughter, special guest and author Rory Flynn, who pointed out surprises in the audience her son (Errol Flynn’s grandson and a very handsome lad). I later discovered that many of these special guests and family members would be a highlight for the fest.

[FRIDAY]

John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) ~ a majestic John Ford film on the big screen simply CANNOT be missed while at TCMFF. And this one? Aaaaahhhh. Those clouds and landscapes of Monument Valley are positively breath-taking. If it weren’t for the stellar performances of Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp (whom Ford knew personally), the cool and complex Victor Mature as Doc Holliday, and an actually evil Walter Brennan, I would be WAY too distracted by the background. And for the icing on the cake, a Keith Carradine chat with Peter Fonda about what dad (a very private guy) may have shared for a behind the scenes experience. WOW.

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Michael Curtiz’ THE PROUD REBEL (1958) ~ This was another surprise for me. I had never seen this one and was only expecting a very generic western tale. [We had attempted to see REIGN OF TERROR but despite having line #142, many of us were shut out. Small theater, more popular than they had anticipated and obviously very popular with the Spotlight passholders. Ah well.] This tale shows a very sweet bond between father Alan Ladd and his real-life and on-screen son David Ladd, and their dog. I was also very pleased with Olivia de Havilland’s performance as an assertive and independent female. It’s a tear-jerker, I warn you. David Ladd himself introduced the film, which was not only insightful but lent a completely different spin while watching him on the big screen. Then he pointed out that Olivia de Havilland’s daughter was in the audience!

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ANN-MARGRET! ~Ben Mankiewicz conducted an interview with this legendary actress known for films such as Bye, Bye Birdie (1963), Viva Las Vegas (1964) and Carnal Knowledge (1971). Conducted in the lobby of the Roosevelt hotel, I was running late so I could only watch from behind the already assembled crowd. But let me tell you, this lady has still got it. I didn’t realize it was possible to have THAT much beauty and sex appeal at age 73. Sheesh.

Charles Reisner’s/Buster Keaton’s STEAMBOAT BILL, JR.(1928) ~ This is Buster Keaton’s (my home state comic genius) last film of freedom before his contract with MGM killed his creative spirit. I was laughing to the point of near hyena levels. It’s unparalleled to experience a silent film as we did for this 70 mm world premiere restoration screening introduced by Leonard Maltin that also featured a world premiere original score composed and conducted by none other than Maestro Carl Davis with a live orchestra. A highlight of the fest for me.

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Edward F. Cline’s THE BANK DICK (1940) ~ Introduced by W.C. Fields’ two grandsons (with unmistakable genetics), they shared delightful stories and quotes from their uniquely talented and humorous grandpa. I’ve seen this film many times but to experience it along with friends on the big screen brought our laughter to tears-streaming howls.

[SATURDAY]

William A. Seiter’s WHY BE GOOD? (1929)~ my first-time viewing of this ‘semi-silent’ Pre-Code was utter delight. Starring the energetic flapper with a good girl heart, Colleen Moore. It featured no voice so this transition into the talkies blended the music, sound effects and expressive acting to keep the jazzy dance scenes fired up. Fun to see a much younger Neil Hamilton, aka the 1966 Batman Commissioner Gordon, take the male lead. With the best scoop on the most juicy dish, famed film historian and scholar Cari Beauchamp’s introduction alerted us to look for a quick cameo in the background (at a party with a man in her lap) of a yet to be discovered Jean Harlow. This film revealed a wonderfully and unexpectantly feminist tone in messaging -complete serendipity and we all cheered loudly!

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Lloyd Bacon’s 42nd STREET (1933) ~my second Pre-Code before noon. Score! A Busby Berkeley musical is like eating your favorite decadent dessert and our first nibble was served up with an entertaining intro by Broadway star Christine Ebersole. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve enjoyed this sweet treat, seeing this world restoration premiere on the enormous screen with fellow classic film friends was extraordinary!

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Special Interview with ANNE V. COATES/ interview by Cari Beauchamp ~ With an outstanding resume in film editing that spans six decades with films such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, Coates was unexpectantly funny and very down-to-earth. I only caught part of this interview as we needed to secure an early spot in line at Grauman’s for THE APARTMENT, otherwise I would’ve listened for hours.

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Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT (1960) ~ What a thrill!! Like a live #TCMparty, a group of familiar faces camped out super early to experience this magnificently dark comedy with an introduction by none other than Shirley MacLaine herself. As we waited, I passed the time as I did throughout the fest in my Social Producer role, in a fun game of pitching trivia questions and giving away Buster Keaton buttons and posters. MacLaine was as candid and spunky as I anticipated (“Fred MacMurray never picked up a check”… LOL!) and the joy of seeing this film across that enormous Grauman’s screen is positively indescribable.

[SUNDAY]

William Dieterle’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939)  ~ What a perfect choice to kick off the final day of the fest. Watching my favorite Irish lass Maureen O’Hara in her break-out role and the genius who transitioned her to Hollywood in the greatest role of his career, Charles Laughton, in this masterpiece was awe-inspiring.

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ACADEMY CONVERSATIONS: GUNGA DIN (1939) ~ I thoroughly enjoyed this classic military bromance with the hilarious trio of my man Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Victor McLaglen at the beautiful Egyptian theater. At last year’s TCM film fest, I had the pleasure of experiencing Craig Barron and Ben Burtt’s Academy Conversations presentation of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938). This year they came back with another installment with a hilarious and fascinating look at GUNGA DIN, again with the same behind-the-scenes approach to the special effects, complete with their matching themed hats. I highly recommend these two Oscar-winning artists as presenters at every year’s TCMFF – you won’t be disappointed! I was thrilled to see them again on Friday nights this month as the ‘Friday Night Spotlight’ guest programmers… yippee!

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Vittorio De Sica’s MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964) ~ I’ll admit that I could care less that I had never seen this film before, because I came to see the legendary beauty Sophia Loren in person. This was my final film of the fest and it did NOT disappoint. Her interview by Ben Mankiewicz was outstanding because if anything, her charming humor and nature-defying beauty has somehow escaped the passage of time. So I was surprisingly delighted to find this film, paired nicely with Marcello Mastroianni; to be a very funny take on Italian themes of relationships and an excellent showcase of her talents.


I went on to celebrate the fest’s joys with beloved friends at the Closing Party, meeting some for the first time and reconnecting with others which was like a big and happy family reunion. Overall, I felt more tired than last year with the Social Producer duties but enjoyed it immensely as an opportunity to have fun chatting and bonding with fest goers.

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For a peek at my activities outside of the fest, where I explored the hallowed grounds of Old Hollywood, look for my upcoming post on HOLLYWOOD HIGHLIGHTS.

The absolutely best part of the TCM Film Festival is connecting with TCM pals. That’s exactly what Aurora and I shared with our pal Debbie of the LA based radio show “Behind The Lens” with our TCMFF wrap-up report in our live interview the day after the fest: 3/30 show (VIDEO). For a pictorial along with a few videos of the many friendly faces found at this year’s fest, stay tuned for my IMAGES OF THE TCMFF 2015 post. See you in Hollywood next year…

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TCM Film Festival ANNOUNCEMENT! Look Out for new Social Producers

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As we swiftly inch closer to next week’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, more news emerges, reflecting what may be the most interesting fest to date. With a diverse assortment of film and events crammed into a full 4 day day schedule, passholders are also chattering about the highly anticipated list of mega stars such as Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret, Dustin Hoffman, and Alec Baldwin. Which barely scratches the surface of how the good folks at TCM are ‘making history’ with this year’s installment of classic film nerd nirvana.

In tune with the knowledge that TCM fans are a uniquely loyal and die-hard throng of fans, the network has amped up their social media marketing with a brand new program, Social Producers. I recently discovered that I had been selected, along with a small group of like-minded social media mavens who eat, breathe and drink in TCM, to launch this new role during the last weekend of March in Hollywood.

Here’s what you can expect…

Not unlike a fun game of scavenger hunt, be on the look out for us Social Producers. Whether you’re waiting in line for a screening or walking down Hollwood Blvd. on your way to the next fun-filled event, if you see a Social Producer, be sure to say hello and they might have a fun treat for you! Each of us have come up with an engaging proposal to share our mutual love of TCM with others at the fest. And for our friends who are unable to make it to this year’s TCMFF, we’ll be broadcasting this on multiple social media platforms so they can feel a part of the experience, too. Trust me, if this doesn’t convince you to save and pinch those pennies to make it your number one priority for next year, I don’t know what will!

TCMFF TRIVIA! Who doesn’t just LOVE to show off your classic film knowledge? When I pitched this to TCM, they enthusiastically agreed. When you see me at the fest, I will have a trivia question for you. If you get it right- you will get one of the slick buttons made exclusively for TCMFF passholders! (No worries- if you get the answer wrong, we’re happy to give you a button just for playing.)

BUSTER BUTTONS! Each Social Producer has their own distinct button. The TCMFF Trivia button is Buster Keaton (silent film genius, native to my own home state who can be seen in Friday’s schedule in STEAMBOAT BILL, JR.!)  Can you collect all of them? Heck yeah, you’ve got 4 days- you bet you can!

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AN IRISH & CUBAN VERSION OF TINA FEY & AMY POEHLER…

If you see these smiling mugs, stop and say hello!

If you see these smiling mugs, stop and say hello!

But when I pitched this idea to TCM, I wanted to partner up with my good pal, Aurora aka @CitizenScreen. Because who better to have fun chatting trivia with fellow passionate TCM festers, right?! Again, they agreed. Be sure to look out for both of us- sometimes together, sometimes at different screenings but we will both happily play TCMFF Trivia with you!

So look for all of the Social Producers. We will all be posting on social media throughout the day, for all 4 days, so everyone can feel part of this mega experience. Like some of my fellow Social Producers, we will also be capturing this on video to really enhance the moment. Your 15 minutes of TCM fame is coming, folks… see you in Hollywood!

TCM TRIVIA tweets on @Irishjayhawk66 & @CitizenScreen

TCM TRIVIA tweets on @Irishjayhawk66 & @CitizenScreen

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