“My hope is that we’ll be playing a lot of movies that will lead to people crying.” So said Charles Tabesh, TCM’s senior vice president of programming, about the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival in a recent interview.
Judging by the TCMFF schedule, I think Tabesh wants to make us cry before we even get there. The conflicting choices have made me tear my hair in anguish.
A nice kind of anguish, though.
Speaking of things that hurt so good, this year’s festival focuses on “moving pictures,” films that trigger powerful emotional reactions.
So, join me as I wring my hands over the options and work out a tentative schedule, won’t you?
Note: My schedule is subject to change depending on whimsy, hunger, eyeliner mishaps, peer pressure, physical exhaustion, bad luck, and the fact that there’s a fabulous tea house temptingly close to the Chinese Multiplex.
Thursday, April 28
6:30 p.m. – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Chinese Multiplex House #6 – DCP
For this first slot, I’m leaning towards 2 classics that—I blush to admit it—I haven’t yet seen: Dark Victory (1939) and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1941). Before you make me turn in my cinephile card, let me reframe my oversight as an opportunity: what better way to discover an acclaimed classic than on the big screen? Apparently my negligence in the weepie department has richly paid off.
I’m going with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, since former child actor Ted Donaldson will be there to introduce it.
9:30 p.m. – Los Tallos Amergos (1956) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – 35mm
I adore Brief Encounter. To give you an idea of just how much I adore it, whenever I get a mote of dust in my eye, I exclaim, “Where’s Trevor Howard?” But when David Lean’s tearjerking paean to buttoned-up English passion occupies the same slot as Los Tallos Amergos, a recently-restored, little-known noir gem from Argentina, I yield to the dark desire to explore uncharted territory.
Friday, April 29
9:30 a.m. – Never Fear (1949) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – 35mm
I wake up to a tough choice: should I go with feel-good #TCMParty favorite The More the Merrier (1943) at the Egyptian Theater (and on 35mm to boot!) OR celebrate the controversial brilliance of Ida Lupino with Never Fear, her first credited film as a director?
Never Fear wins the spot, since I relish the chance to feel the full impact of Lupino’s uncompromising vision on a big screen. That said, I might cave for a cute screwball comedy if I need respite from the festival’s intense program of heartbreakers. Don’t judge me. It’s a long haul!
12:00 p.m. – Double Harness (1933) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – 35mm
No contest on the next pick. Rare pre-Codes are my jam. Oh, Double Harness, you had me at Ann Harding… and then you go and throw in William Powell and a long-lost premarital sex scene? I’d better pack me some smelling salts.
2:00 p.m. – Tea and Sympathy (1956) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – 35mm
Here we arrive at the most difficult slot in the festival. I’m torn between not 2, not 3, but 5 glorious offerings that pique my interests:
- The Conversation (1974) introduced by Francis Ford Coppola – DCP
- Trapeze (1956) introduced by Gina Lollobrigida – 35mm
- Amazing Film Discoveries, a presentation by Serge Bromberg – DCP
- Tea and Sympathy (1956), followed by a discussion with former child actor Darryl Hickman – 35mm
- When You’re in Love (1937), a rarely-screened Cary Grant film introduced by the star’s daughter, Jennifer Grant – DCP
Well, I believe in supporting movies condemned by the Legion of Decency, so I’ll probably head to Tea and Sympathy. I’m also curious to hear Darryl Hickman talk about the making of this controversial melodrama. But I’m still waffling. The good news is, no matter what I pick, it’s bound to be memorable!
5:15 and 7:17 p.m. – Pleasure Cruise (1933) and 6 Hours to Live (1932) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – both on 35mm
Why sit through a single poignant movie when you can watch 2 bizarro gems from the heady days of Hays? I’m veering away from the well-promoted favorites in this slot, because—surprise, surprise—I can’t resist the gravitational pull of Chinese Multiplex #4.
I’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life on 35mm at a 1920s movie palace. At Christmas. Twice. So I’m afraid the chance to see Capra’s masterpiece at the TCL Chinese Theater doesn’t excite me.
While The Passion of Joan of Arc with a live choir score will undoubtedly give its audience chills, I don’t think I can bear to be bummed out, no matter how sublimely, on a Friday night in Hollywood. Besides, religious films, one of the festival’s themes this year, don’t exactly light my pyre—er, fire. And if you think I’m going to hell, I can live with that, provided I get there by partying with the bad boys and girls of the pre-1934 studio era.
I might even get an extra kick out of watching the pre-Codes knowing that I chose sinners over a saint!
9:30 p.m. – The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – TCL Chinese Theater – DCP
Why, TCM, why did you program one of my favorite films noirs, Repeat Performance (1947), against my must-see, do-or-die interview of the festival? WHY? [Shakes fist at the heavens as the camera rises in an epic crane shot.]
The Manchurian Candidate wins my heart, because I’ve worshipped Angela Lansbury ever since 12-year-old me saw my first episode of Murder, She Wrote on VHS. I will not miss the chance to hear this living legend/diva/queen/beautiful human being talk about her deliciously wicked turn as the World’s Worst Mother.
12:00 p.m. – Roar (1981) – Chinese Multiplex House #1 – DCP
The midnight screening of Boom at last year’s TCMFF was a major highlight for me, so I’ll fortify myself with caffeine to stay awake for this notoriously dangerous thrill ride featuring dozens of real wild animals. CGI is for wimps!
Does Roar sound ill-advised? Hell yeah. Entertaining? I’m betting away 2 hours of sleep that it will be. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Saturday, April 30
9:00 a.m. – 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone – Egyptian Theater – 35mm
I love the smell of experimental talkies in the morning! Seriously, how often do you get to wake up and immerse yourself in short films from the dawn of sound—shown on film at such an epic venue?
11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. – A House Divided (1931) and Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – both 35mm
Oh, boy. It’s the devil on my shoulder again. That lingerie-wearing, chain-smoking grayscale gun moll who calls the shots for me. And she tells me that I cannot sacrifice 2 movies from the early 1930s for a post-studio-era parody.
Even if that means passing up an opportunity to hear the riotous Carl Reiner discuss his noir homage Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1981). Or listen to Nancy Olsen recount her early days in Hollywood.
Yeah, this one stings.
But, hey, William Wyler’s second talkie? Oh, I am very there for that. And Ronald Colman’s moustache holds a deep claim on my loyalty.
3:45 p.m. – The Yearling (1946) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – 35mm
Another tricky slot. How do you expect me to choose between Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (introduced by Gina Lollobrigida), The Big Sleep, and The Yearling (followed by a discussion with child actor Claude Jarman Jr.)?
For the moment, The Yearling takes priority. But The Big Sleep—also on 35mm!—might woo me away. We’ll just have to wait and see.
6:30 p.m. – The King and I (1956) – TCL Chinese Theater – DCP
I really need to see Rita Moreno talk about The King and I, because that movie traumatized me as a kid and I’m hoping that I can work through some of those issues. Nice cheery musical about imperialist white savior complexes and male entitlement and sex slavery and child mortality, Rogers and Hammerstein. At least there’s some pretty Cinemascope eye candy and 3 magnificent central performances.
Even though The King and I is not a favorite of mine, as you can probably tell, I look forward to hearing Moreno’s memories of making it.
I will, however, be crying inside that I’m missing the elegant Technicolor palettes of Borzage’s I’ve Always Loved You (1946), which is screening simultaneously on 35mm. Hm. I might drift on this one…
9:15 p.m. – Band of Outsiders (1956) – Chinese Multiplex House #1 – DCP
This next slot is non-negotiable. Anna Karina is a goddess. I welcome the opportunity to bask in her presence.
Funnily enough, the only Godard films I’d happily volunteer to watch again are those starring Karina. Yes, I went there. Come at me, New Wave bros. Side note: If I ever meet JLG in person, I’m demanding an apology for Weekend and the migraine it gave me.
12:00 a.m. – Gog (1954) – Chinese Multiplex House #1 – DCP
Sci-fi is more important than sleep, especially when we’re talking a sci-fi mystery unseen in its original 3D since 1954!
Sunday, May 1
9:30 – The Fallen Idol (1948) – Chinese Multiplex House #6 – DCP
If you’d asked me about my must-see picks before TCM dropped its schedule, I would’ve mentioned Scent of Mystery, screened at the Cinerama Dome in—get this—Smell-O-Vision!
And then a little boy threw a wrench in the works.
Carol Reed’s The Fallen Idol is one of those masterpieces that somehow doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In this tense noir, the spoiled but lonely son of a diplomat sees more than he should and becomes embroiled in an adult world of lies and guilty secrets. Making his screen debut, Bobby Henrey delivered a miraculous child performance—exasperating, melancholy, silly, sweet, clever, and hopelessly out of his depth.
So I did a double take when I saw that Henrey would be at TCMFF to talk about this astonishing film. Unmissable. Sorry, Smell-O-Vision. Smell ya later. Or not.
12:15 p.m. – Law and Order (1932) – Chinese Multiplex House #4 – 35mm
Bagging out on Scent of Mystery offers a bonus: I’ll have time to catch another rarely-screened movie in my favorite venue. Gritty pre-Code proto-noir Western written by John Huston and starring Walter Huston? Uh, yes, please!
2:30 p.m. – A Conversation with Gina Lollobrigida – Club TCM
Last year’s Club TCM interview with Shirley MacLaine left me flabbergasted by the amount of sassy revelations the star offered up. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Ms. Lollobrigida will prove as feisty and open to questions!
4:15 p.m. – The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966) – Egyptian Theater – 35mm
Once upon a time I was reading my friends’ coverage of TCMFF and turning all unsightly shades of green over how they’d seen Eva Marie Saint in person. Now it’s my turn (serpentine waiting lines permitting)!
Eva Marie is the only Saint I want to see at the festival this year (sorry, Joan of Arc).
7:45 p.m. – The Band Wagon (1953) – Chinese Multiplex House #1 – DCP
This choice might well change, depending on the titles announced for the TBD slots. Still, The Band Wagon never fails to amaze me, so it’s not like I’d be “settling” for it. Cyd Charisse in that sizzling red dress and her slinky moves might just be the perfect finale to a show of moving pictures.