It’s been almost a week since the 8th annual TCM Classic Film Festival came to a close. I’m still in denial that it’s over. I had a blast living my classic film dream of seeing these movies the way they were meant to be seen with a passionate community of fans from all walks of life. I was grateful for this year’s theme of “Make ‘Em Laugh: a celebration of comedy in the movies,” because there’s nothing like hearing a wave of laughter crash over you as you watch a decades-old comedy with an appreciative audience. There were plenty of films from other genres, too, and each and every movie felt as fresh as it would have when audiences first saw it. I get chills every time I think about that.
As a TCMFF first timer, I was eager to experience as much as I could, but remembering the advice from TCMFF veterans on their blogs, I paced myself, ate at least two real meals a day, and still managed to take in 14 movies plus a few presentations. This the first of my four festival recap posts. Stay tuned for those and my full reports on my favorite films and events.
Tuesday and Wednesday: Pre-TCMFF
I arrived in LA late Tuesday afternoon and upon checking in at my hostel, I bumped into fellow blogger Jocelyn and her friend Lenore, who were also staying there. After a much needed nap I explored Hollywood Boulevard to scope out the TCMFF venues and places to eat and stocked up on snacks at Trader Joe’s. Later that evening I met up with Jocelyn and Lenore in the hostel kitchen and talked all things classic film.
On Wednesday I reunited with two of my friends from Ball State*, Lydia and Cassandra, who now live in LA. It was wonderful to see them and catch up. Though I hadn’t seen either of them in two years, we picked up right where we left off. Later that afternoon I went to the Roosevelt Hotel pool for the TCMFF-sponsored “Early Bird” meetup and the “Going to TCM Classic Film Festival” Facebook group meetup. As a shy introvert, I’m an awkward turtle when I’m in large groups of people I’ve never met, but since everyone was so friendly and welcoming to this TCMFF first timer, it became increasingly easier to introduce myself. Tip: at TCMFF, it’s totally okay to start a conversation with someone like, “Hey! Are you ___? I’m ___, from Twitter/Facebook!”
I finished the day with my first-ever In ‘N Out burger and fries, which I am craving as I type.
*My alma mater Ball State is also the university that co-sponsored the TCM summer online courses for Noir, Slapstick, and coming this summer, Hitchcock. Enroll in the free Hitchcock course here.
Thursday: TCMFF Day 1
I kicked off the first official day of TCMFF with the Ask Ben event for TCM Backlot members. TCM VP of Studio Production Sean Cameron interviewed TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, who brought a special guest—his adorable dog Bob! After a discussion of topics like the Mankiewicz family legacy, his career path, and his TCM audition, they opened the floor to questions from the audience. I was lucky enough to be handed the microphone to ask Ben a question (!!!). Since he mentioned earlier in the interview that he has a Bachelors degree in History (like Yours Truly) I asked him which film stands out to him as an artifact of its time. Stay tuned for a full report of this event, including Ben’s answer to my question. You can watch the full video of it here if you’re a TCM Backlot member.
Note: If you’ve considered becoming a TCM Backlot member but are unsure if it’ll be worth it (spoiler alert: it is), TCM announced at the festival that they now a have a 30-day free trial sign-up option.
The recent passing of TCM host Robert Osborne has left a void in the classic film fan community, but one cannot imagine the void felt among those who spent as much time with him as the TCM staff and his friends. At this special event, VP of Studio Production Sean Cameron, Producer Gary Freedman, Director/Producer Ann Wilson, actress and longtime friend Diane Baker, Programming Director Charlie Tabesh, and Host Ben Mankiewicz shared touching stories that demonstrated Robert’s warm, compassionate, respectful, and even humorous nature.
One of the last things Robert Osborne said to Diane Baker was, “No sad songs for me. I’ve had a great life. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful life so don’t be sad.” It was inspiring to see that even during this difficult time, Robert’s colleagues and friends shared their love of Robert with us and encouraged us to keep his spirit alive through classic film, and it was felt throughout the festival. Full report coming soon.
Next, fellow blogger Diana and I ran over to the Roosevelt Lobby and put our game faces on to compete in Round One of the TCM Backlot Trivia Tournament with our team “The Holden Girls (and Dave),” which we formed through the Facebook group “Going to the TCM Film Fest.” I had first connected with Diana on Twitter several months ago as we bonded over our love for William Holden. It was wonderful to finally meet her in person at the festival; we clicked immediately and it was as though we had been friends for years. We ended up seeing several movies together. Because we are extra, teammate Kate made us buttons with Bill’s face on them and Diana brought “Bill on a Stick” (a photo of him smiling on one side for our correct answers and a photo of him frowning on the other for our incorrect answers). “Bill on a Stick” also proved to be a useful way to find each other in line and in the theaters. Though it was a close match, The Holden Girls (and Dave) came out on top and moved on to Round 2 on Saturday. Stay tuned to see how we did.
Check out Kate’s fabulous online shop for classic movie themed buttons, pins, prints, and more!
I can never get enough trivia, so next I crossed the lobby into Club TCM to catch the Film Forum’s Repertory Programming Director Bruce Goldstein emcee his infamous “So You Think You Know the Movies” trivia game. He wasn’t kidding when he said that the contest was for true movie buffs: the questions were TOUGH. On top of that, there could be one correct answer, multiple correct answers, or no correct answers. Though I didn’t arrive in time to join a team, I still had fun as a spectator. Goldstein incorporated video clips and photos throughout the quiz, and there were surprise appearances by sound designer and voice actor Ben Burtt and actress Diane Baker.
Love Crazy (1941)
After chatting with a number of #TCMParty pals in person at a meetup at the Roosevelt Hotel pool, I grabbed dinner with another lovely Twitter-turned-real-life-friend Priscilla and her husband Stephen and made the trek down Hollywood Boulevard to the Egyptian Theatre for Love Crazy. This new-to-me Myrna Loy and William Powell screwball comedy was the perfect way to kick off the festival. The plot is, well, crazy: an architect and his wife to break up due to a series of misunderstandings and he pretends to be insane to stop the divorce proceedings. Not sold on it yet? Four words: William Powell in drag. Though it’s a funny film, watching it with an enthusiastic audience made it ten times better. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much watching it at home alone.
Actress Dana Delany shared an interesting tidbit about Love Crazy in her introduction: during filming Myrna Loy was in the middle of a messy divorce while William Powell was at the start of a long, happy marriage. I couldn’t help thinking about that during the movie, especially when watching Myrna Loy, whose eyes appeared to had lost their sparkle.
Martin Scorsese introduces The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
After Love Crazy we were joined by Patrick and got right back in line at the Egyptian for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, the first nitrate screening of the festival. Earlier in the day, TCM had teased a special guest would introduced this screening. It wasn’t until late that afternoon we learned it would be THE Martin Scorsese, whose Film Foundation had restored this print, which had belonged to David O. Selznick.
Despite coming down with a cold, Scorsese’s enthusiasm for classic film and nitrate stock was palpable. I could have listened to him speak for hours; I hope TCM hosts a conversation with him at a future TCMFF. I’ll admit that until this screening I didn’t understand why nitrate stock is so special and was afraid it would be over-hyped. All I knew was that it’s rare and highly flammable and visually unique. But Scorsese explained it in a way that made sense to this nitrate newbie: the images shimmer and appear three-dimensional. And boy, was he right.
I had no idea what to expect from The Man Who Knew Too Much since I’d only seen the first five minutes of Hitchcock’s 1956 remake, but I loved it. The story follows a vacationing couple who accidentally uncovers an assassination plot. The conspirators kidnap their daughter to keep them quiet, so they have to take matters into their own hands not only to save her, but also to stop the assassination. It was fun to see Peter Lorre in his first English-speaking role, but Edna Best as the mother was my favorite. No spoilers here, but there’s a great moment where she dishes out a most satisfying retribution.
That’s all for Day 1! Stay tuned for more TCMFF coverage, including my recaps of Days 2, 3, and 4, full reports of certain screenings and events, and my LA excursions.