In almost exactly two weeks, I’ll be flying to LA for the ninth annual TCM Classic Film Festival. This will be my first ever festival, and simply being able to say that I’m attending is more incredible than I could ever dream of, much less actually getting to do it in less than a month. I’ve been on the outside looking in at this festival since its creation when I was still essentially a child (twelve, to be precise), but due to the cost and logistics I never thought that I would ever get the chance to go, at the very least not while any classic film stars were still living. Yet after saving up on my own since the beginning of this year I have my flight confirmation and my pass in hand. Now comes the really tough part: choosing what films to enjoy! There’s a wide variety of Sophie’s Choices this year, many of them being a lot more difficult than I ever could have imagined. In fact, the jury’s still out on a few of my picks, but I’m also attending with my grandmother so hopefully she’ll be able to help me make some of those tough calls.
My game plan is to fly into LA on the 24th of April, and from there I’ll meet up with my grandmother and visit one of the many star-filled cemeteries in the city, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, before driving back to my grandparents’ home near Palm Springs, California, which is also filled with an exceptional part of Old Hollywood history. I’ll admit that visiting the graves of classic movie stars is one of my stranger hobbies within my love of older films, but so far I’ve visited the Westwood and Hollywood Forever cemeteries in previous trips to LA and really enjoyed the experience. These cemeteries are absolutely stunning, far more like beautiful parks with tributes to actors who have left this world than the decrepit and terrifying graveyards that you see in the movies. At Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills I’ll be visiting the likes of Buster Keaton, Gene Autry, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher (which I am certain won’t be without tears from yours truly), and Dorothy Lamour, another one of my favorite actresses.
From there I’ll spend the rest of the 24th and the 25th in Palm Springs with my grandparents, and we’ll likely also visit Desert Memorial Park, another cemetery that houses the graves of stars like Frank Sinatra, two of the Gabors, Betty Hutton, and William Powell. I’ve actually visited this cemetery before, but it was very early in my love of classic film. I recall seeing Betty Hutton and not knowing who she was, and not seeing William Powell at all! Can you imagine? Now he’s easily one of my most beloved actors of all time. Anyway, once all of my sightseeing is complete, we’ll be heading back to LA on the 26th, though I’m not exactly certain what time. My grandmother enjoys being early for things, though, so I’m sure we’ll be able to catch some of the daytime events before our reservation at Musso and Frank’s for the early evening. This was a hotspot for stars back in the day, and the restaurant still has recipes on their menu that were eaten by Charlie Chaplin and by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford while they were still cinema’s hottest couple.
Thursday, April 26
After an early dinner, we’ll be immediately hopping in line for our first film of the festival: Finishing School (1934) at The Chinese Multiplex House 4, starring Ginger Rogers and Frances Dee and attended by Frances’ grandson Wyatt McCrea. This decision was fairly easy, as we have the Classic Pass and are unable to catch the opening night screening of The Producers (1968), and the only other film that’s showing that allows us time to catch another screening is To Have and Have Not (1944), which I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival. Besides, I adore Pre-Code cinema, and I have high hopes for this picture when I consider that Ginger Rogers is an actress that I truly admire and that my favorite film is a Pre-Code, Jewel Robbery (1932).
From House 4 of the Chinese Multiplex we’ll head over to House 6, where we’ll be watching The Sea Wolf (1941), with Ida Lupino, John Garfield, and Edward G. Robinson. This is one of the films that I’m the most excited to see at the festival, as this is a world premiere restoration with fourteen minutes of film added in that were thought to be lost. Ida Lupino is an inspiration to me as a woman who has an interest in film, and in general this is a powerhouse of a cast. John Garfield has wowed me in picture after picture in everything from Four Daughters (1938) to He Ran All the Way (1951), as has Edward G. Robinson in demanding supporting roles in Double Indemnity (1944) and Key Largo (1948), and I expect this film to be no different. After the festival, I’ll actually be writing about my experience watching this movie in full detail as part of The Ida Lupino Centenary Blogathon on May 12th, hosted by Maddy of Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.
Friday, April 27
This day was and is by far the most difficult to plan. If you had sat me down and asked me which stars I was most excited to see after the announcement of the guests, I would have listed Eva Marie Saint, Marsha Hunt, and Ruta Lee, and unfortunately all of their pictures will be screening at essentially the same time on this day. Luckily Eva is attending two of her films on the 27th, but logistically I will have to make some serious sacrifices and I will only be able to see two of these three incredible ladies. There are many more tough decisions to be made, but right now I have a pretty fleshed out plan. We’ll be getting up bright and early to watch Grand Prix (1966) at the iconic Cinerama Dome, a film that up until the planning of my schedule I thought starred both James Garner, a phenomenal actor who I miss terribly, and Steve McQueen, my grandmother’s all-time favorite actor. I still have a lot to learn as you can see, though it’s not hard to understand why I was mistaken as this was one of the seminal racing films of the 1960s, a genre that McQueen essentially dominated at the time. Of course seeing Eva in person is the part of the festival that I’m looking forward to above all else, as she is without a doubt one of the best actresses to grace the silver screen in my opinion, and in general I find her to be a delightful lady. Seeing her was non-negotiable, and while this film and Q&A is expected to be three and a half hours long, it’s a must do, especially because I’ve already enjoyed seeing her in A Hatful of Rain (1957), and that picture falls in a spot that would conflict with many others in my lineup.
I hadn’t originally planned to watch How to Marry A Millionaire (1953) at the Chinese Multiplex House 6 because I’ve seen it so many times and I assumed there would be other screenings at the same time that would take precedence, but I was surprised to see how perfectly it fit into our schedule, leaving a comfortable hour and a half before and after it for other films, so it looks like that will be on our list. Now that I know that I’ll be watching it, I’m actually really thrilled to have the chance to see Marilyn Monroe on the big screen and in stunning Technicolor, and this is really one of those movies that never gets stale no matter how many times you watch it.
Next in the lineup, and luckily in the same theater, is None Shall Escape (1944), attended by star Marsha Hunt and my favorite host of Turner Classic Movies, Eddie Muller. This is another must-see film as I’m an avid fan of Marsha and because this picture is simply unavailable anywhere else. It’s also my only chance to catch Eddie Muller introducing a picture, which I’ve luckily already been able to watch him do on television and at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival, but of course he gets better and better every time he discusses a film. Marsha’s life is rich in history, as she was one of the stars that flew to Washington, DC and protested the treatment of The Hollywood Ten by the House of Un-American Activities Comittee, and was later wrongfully blacklisted and essentially unable to work in Hollywood. I truly hope that I can meet her in person and tell her how much her continued activism and bravery throughout the years has meant to me.
How here’s where the jury is still out. From None Shall Escape (1944) I have even more very difficult decisions to make. My first option is to stay at the Chinese Multiplex House 6 and watch two movies that are incredibly close to my heart: The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) (in 3D, no less!), and then one of Jayne Mansfield’s best pictures, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957). The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is my most beloved classic horror film, and seeing my grandmother’s expressions as the Gill-Man emerges from the water with Julie Adams in his arms on a huge screen in 3D would be a sight indeed. In addition, as my readers may remember from my list of my Top Five Classic Film Stars, Jayne Mansfield ranked number three, which is saying a lot when you think about how many classic movie stars I adore. This is quite possibly my only chance to see her on the big screen, as she’s generally not popular enough to be shown in theaters compared to the likes of Marilyn Monroe.
On the other hand, however, if I catch those two cult classics I won’t have the opportunity to see the fiftieth anniversary screening of Romeo and Juliet (1968) at the Chinese Multiplex House 1 or meet the cast that includes the gorgeous Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting, and Michael York. The 1968 version is the best onscreen adaptation in my opinion, and while I haven’t seen a lot of her other work I think Olivia Hussey is one of the most beautiful actresses of her time, if not the most beautiful. Her autograph would be a fantastic addition to my collection, and I’m really looking forward to the release of her new autobiography, The Girl on the Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet (2018), on July 31st. This is an incredibly difficult decision indeed, though I’m leaning more towards watching the first two pictures, as both of them are too much to sacrifice for the sake of meeting stars that I’m not as big of a fan of. However, the sixties contained the films that my grandmother grew up on and treasured, and if she wants to see Romeo and Juliet (1968) more, I certainly won’t deny her of that chance.
Saturday, April 28
The 28th as a whole was luckily very simple for me to plan out. In the morning, I have two different options: my favorite film in the always entertaining Andy Hardy series, Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) at the Chinese Multiplex House 4, or the iconic screwball starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in their heyday, His Girl Friday (1940) at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX. I actually entered a contest that TCM Backlot is hosting by submitting a video of myself delivering my own introduction for Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), and if I win I’ll actually be introducing the movie at the festival! I have high hopes that I’ll be chosen to introduce the movie, though from what I can tell the competition is stiff. If I am chosen it’ll make for quite the article for this blog and undoubtedly be the opportunity of a lifetime, though it is a movie that I’ve seen plenty of times due to how much I really enjoy it, and if I’m not picked I’ll probably be giving His Girl Friday (1940) a try. As shocking as this may be, I actually have never seen it, and to view it for the first time in theaters would be more than ideal.
No matter which film I end up watching, most of my day afterwards will be well spent at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX, where next up we have Bullitt (1968). Choosing this was a no-brainer for me because as I mentioned earlier, Steve McQueen is my grandmother’s favorite actor, and from what I understand this is the pinnacle of McQueen’s movies. As you can probably tell, this is another film that I have yet to see, but I couldn’t be happier to discover an actor that meant so much to someone that I care about and hopefully become a fan of his myself. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how thrilling it will be to see Jacqueline Bisset in attendance as well, as I’ve enjoyed quite a few of her movies already, including Murder on the Orient Express (1974), which is also screening at the festival and which I already reviewed for this blog in 2016.
After Bullitt (1968) I’ll be sticking around for Sunset Boulevard (1950) at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX with guest and living legend Nancy Olson Livingston. As controversial as this opinion may be, I actually didn’t care for this movie much when I first saw it a few years ago. Billy Wilder is my favorite screenwriter of all time and is tied for my favorite director with Frank Capra, but I found the relationship between the main characters so strange and the performance of Gloria Swanson so unsettling that despite its great script, I just found it to not be my cup of tea. Hence, my choice to attend this screening is really to give the picture another chance (because how can you not give any movie starring William Holden another chance?) and of course to see Nancy, who I recall as being a wonderful addition to a so-so film, which is understandable as she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. I’ve made a promise to myself between now and the festival to catch up on my Nancy Olson movies, especially by watching some of her great work in a multitude of Disney’s live-action features like Pollyanna (1960) and The Absent-Minded Professor (1961).
I originally had the evening of the 28th planned out pretty well, as we were going to head over to Club TCM and watch Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures from the TCM Archive, and then make our way to the top of The Hollywood Roosevelt and watch the poolside screening of Where the Boys Are (1960). However, once my grandmother got a look at the schedule she informed me that she actually saw The World of Suzie Wong (1960) in theaters when it was first released and enjoyed it immensely, adoring both Nancy Kwan and William Holden most of all. After learning about this I was happy to pencil the film in, as I would never turn down the opportunity to catch a picture that I haven’t seen before or the chance to watch two William Holden movies in a row! Nancy Kwan is another star that I’ll have to do some more research on as I’ve never seen any of her films. I’m really looking forward to watching some of her acclaimed work on my own before the festival like Flower Drum Song (1961) and Arrivederci, Baby! (1966), also starring Tony Curtis and Zsa Zsa Gabor, both of whom I’d watch in just about anything.
I told grandma about the plethora of films all screening at 9:30pm following The World of Suzie Wong (1960), and after I mentioned that I had never seen Gigi (1958) before, she insisted that we attend that screening. As much as I’d love to see that film and give my feet a rest because both of these films are showing in the same theater, I’m still incredibly tempted to watch The Raven (1963) and see Sara Karloff, the daughter of the master of horror in my eyes. Granted, I’m not too excited about that particular film, but I’ve had a crush on Boris Karloff ever since I watched him in Frankenstein (1931) and read about what a kind and unassuming person he was offscreen, so the amount of respect that I have for both him and his daughter is unparalleled and meeting her would be phenomenal. Perhaps I’ll convince grandma to see things my way, but either way I’m sure I’ll enjoy one of what promises to be two delightful screenings.
Sunday, April 29
I feel like the 29th is filled with films that I’m mildly interested in, but I’m not as thrilled with Sunday’s lineup as I am for the rest of the festival. Some of these choices are tough simply because I don’t really favor one over the other, nor do I necessarily dislike one over the other. In fact, you might not even see me at all of these screenings as I might take advantage of what LA has to offer on the final day of my trip or actually spend some time at my hotel rather than simply using its pillow. First up we have the 9:15am slot, which was almost a decision that was as easy as pie. Woman of the Year (1942) looked like it was going to be my pick, but during this time slot Bonham’s is also displaying some movie memorabilia and appraising some film-related items. I don’t have anything that I need appraised (unless I win something at the upcoming auction of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s personal belongings), but if the memorabilia collection that’s available to view is vast or interesting enough, I may spend this time perusing in the lobby of The Roosevelt.
Next we have one of the only films showing on Sunday that piques my interest enough to set anything aside for: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). I do love watching darker films from time to time, and it sounds like the storyline of this one is perfectly gripping and bone-chilling. Walter Matthau has already proved himself to me that he can carry a variety of roles in films like Charade (1963) and The Odd Couple (1968), the latter of which is also playing at the festival, and I can’t wait to see one of my personal favorite supporting actors, Martin Balsam, play a villainous hijacker. The film easily won its way into my lineup, but I have to admit that I’m incredibly fond of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). It’s a picture I’ve seen and adored time after time, but never on the big screen, though it comforts me to know that this isn’t my last chance as the film is playing nationwide in theaters in October of this year.
Of the pictures screening after that in the afternoon, I have yet another easy decision to make, as Hamlet (1948) is the only picture that I have yet to see out of the afternoon options that I would really care to see. It’s a long one, though, and as much as I admire Laurence Olivier in just about anything he stars in, this isn’t a must-see for me on the big screen and I may skip the afternoon’s screenings altogether.
It’s the evening lineup that I find much more fascinating. The original nitrate screening of A Star is Born (1937) caught my interest at first, as I promised myself that I would watch at least one nitrate screening after reading about how stunning these screenings are. However, for my final film of the festival my heart ended up drifting towards the even more special screening of The Phantom of the Opera (1925) accompanied by a live orchestra. Once again I’m thinking of my grandmother and the wonderful memories I have of her not only introducing me to this original silent film version for the first time, but also of her taking me to see the incredible stage production as well. This captivating story holds a very special place in both of our hearts, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end my first TCM Classic Film Festival. I’m well aware that many other film bloggers have published their own schedules for the festival, but I really hope that you all found my choices unique and interesting as well. I couldn’t be happier to attend this year, and I hope to see you there too! Let’s movie!