Last 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:
“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.
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.
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 :
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!