Tag Archives: tcm classic film festival

Backlots at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2017

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For the 5th year in a row, Backlots will be joining the ranks of the media in early April,  covering the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. In the years since its inception in 2010, the TCM Classic Film Festival has easily become the most prominent classic film festival in the country, attracting world-class speakers and attended by fans from all over the world.

The festival always has an overarching theme, and this year TCM is saluting comedy in the movies with a theme they call “Make ‘Em Laugh.”

The schedule is still in the works, but the lineup announced so far is phenomenal, even by TCM’s standards. Some of the highlights for me thus far:

  • The Palm Beach Story

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Starring Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, and a marvelously funny Mary Astor, The Palm Beach Story is a staple of the screwball comedy genre about a woman who divorces her husband to finance his career with the money of a millionaire she starts to date. This is a movie that we’ve been hoping to have at the festival for some time, as it’s a real crowd-pleaser and very much in the vein of The More the Merrier, which was such a big hit last year.

  • Red-Headed Woman

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In this steamy pre-code, Jean Harlow uses her feminine power to climb the ladder of success, wrecking marriages, engaging in affairs, and attempting murder along the way. With a screenplay written by Anita Loos, Red-Headed Woman is a must-see in Jean Harlow’s filmography, and a delicious example of what we think of when we think of that raw and glorious era between 1929 and 1934.

Having attended the TCM Classic Film Festival 6 times (5 as press with Backlots), I have come to recognize general trends among festivalgoers, and which movies will be sellouts. TCM has an intricate ticketing system–about an hour before the movie starts, the staff starts passing out numbers to passholders in line, starting with the Spotlight and Essential passes and then moving to the Classic and Media. Once the numbers get past the number of seats in the theater, the movie has sold out. Thus, if you hold a Classic or Media pass, it is important to get in line as early as possible, in order to avoid being shut out of a movie. The festival leaves TBA slots open on the last day of the festival to re-screen select movies that sold out, but it is left to their discretion which ones are re-screened.

Red-Headed Woman is a sellout if I’ve ever seen one. Pre-codes are immensely popular at the TCM Festival, as is Jean Harlow, as are movies from any year of the 1930s. Last year, Double Harness sold out, was re-screened, and sold out again. I would expect this event to repeat with Red-Headed Woman. If you’re attending the festival and would like to see Red-Headed Woman, I would advise you to get in line about 2 hours ahead of time. It will fill up so quickly your head will spin.

  • Twentieth Century

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Considered to be one of the first screwball comedies, Twentieth Century features Carole Lombard and John Barrymore in a zany piece filled with hilarious Carole Lombard lines and over-the-top acting by Barrymore that leaves the viewer in stitches. It’s one that I’m surprised hasn’t been shown up to now, it’s such a marvelous fit for TCM. Watch for this one being sold out too–Carole Lombard always sells well at this festival.

  • Born Yesterday

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The winner of the Best Actress Oscar of 1950 (it came as a thrilling surprise–Judy Holliday was up against Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and Bette Davis for All About Eve), Born Yesterday is an exploration of how a newly-educated woman equips herself to leave her abusive boyfriend. While on the surface it may look like a standard 1950s comedy, the movie is really an ode to the powers of education, and to a woman’s right to her own happiness. It seems especially significant in this day and age, when both education and women’s rights are under threat. I wrote a blog post about Born Yesterday some time ago, feel free to take a look.

Stay tuned to hear more festival news as it comes in. Looking forward to reporting to you from Hollywood!

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2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule, SUNDAY

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I leave tomorrow for the TCM Classic Film Festival, so here is the final installment in my rundown of the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival schedule.

Sunday will be a light day for me, because in the morning I will be going to visit an old research friend in Hollywood. However, the schedule offers some prime choices for attendees on Sunday morning, including a screening of 1961’s King of Kings at the Egyptian at 9:00, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid at the Chinese multiplex 1 at 11:00, and Children of a Lesser God at 1:00, also at the Egyptian. TCM pulls a bit of a trick on festivalgoers at 2:30, with the simultaneous programming of the conversation with Gina Lollobrigida, and the Live From the TCM Festival interview with Faye Dunaway, which will be broadcast on the channel.

I am going to try to get back from my friend’s by 2:30, in time for the Faye Dunaway interview. Dunaway is one of the most prominent actresses of the 1970s, with starring credits in such enduring classics as Chinatown, Network (for which she won an Oscar), and Bonnie and Clyde. Her appearance at the festival comes as a pleasant surprise–the interview was originally scheduled with Burt Reynolds, but when he had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances, Faye Dunaway stepped in at the last minute. It will be fascinating to hear what Dunaway has to say about her long career and her Oscar win for Network, playing at the TCM Festival that evening.

Sunday’s schedule includes many spots marked TBD, which is TCM’s way of accommodating movie fans whose film choices filled up quickly. In a TBD slot, TCM will program a movie shown in a previous time slot that was so hugely popular that many fans were left outside due to lack of space in the theater. It is difficult to speculate what will play in a TBD slot, but based on the length of the Faye Dunaway interview, I will likely not make any of the movies in the next time slot except the TBD one. I am looking forward to seeing what that choice will be.

The next thing on the schedule is Network, at 8:00. I changed my flight home so that I could see Network on the big screen, as I feel that it would be remiss of me to let one of the most eerily prescient movies ever to have been made fall by the wayside just for a flight.

Network is the story of Howard Beale, a veteran newsman fired from his job due to poor ratings, who threatens to kill himself on national television. His network sees the ratings value in his remarks, and builds an entire show around Beale and his pseudo-political ravings. In order to boost ratings even further, another show is developed surrounding a terrorist cell–and herein lies Beale’s downfall, and the network’s triumph. The movie won several Oscars, including one for Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of the ruthless news producer, Paddy Chayefsky’s writing, and a posthumous award for Peter

In 1976, the premise of a network manipulating ratings based on the ravings of a “manifestly irresponsible man” was considered satirical and farfetched. But screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky seemed to have a vision of what was to come–today, the basic tenets of Network drive much of our 24-hour news cycle, especially during this presidential election year. Networks know that the incendiary words uttered by certain presidential candidates invite shock and outrage, and so they broadcast those words over and over, analyze them, and discuss them, because they know that people will tune in to hear them. The symbiotic relationship between outrage and ratings is well known now. We seem to be living out what Paddy Chayefsky envisioned in his imaginary world of news cycle absurdism in Network. It is a simultaneously fascinating and extremely frightening situation.

MY SUNDAY CHOICES: Faye Dunaway interview and Network

See you in Hollywood! As usual, you can follow along with all the action right here on the blog, as I enable a live Twitter feed during the festival. To send us off, hit it Bing!

2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule, SATURDAY

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A recurring theme of this year’s festival is one that is familiar to anyone following current events–corruption in the media and the rise and fall of media superstars. Whether it’s the story of an unstable buffoon on the airwaves, a drifter who becomes a media sensation, or an exploration of the costs of covering a juicy news story, the theme speaks to audiences in this current political climate, as we can see similarities in each of these stories in relation to what is happening in the media today.

Ace in the Hole, playing Saturday morning at the Chinese multiplex 1, tells the story of a down-on-his-luck reporter who sees an opportunity to redeem himself via a report about a miner trapped in a collapsed cave. The public takes to it immediately, and it stays on the front pages of the paper. The bigger the story gets, the more the reporter’s life begins to disintegrate until several tragedies strike and we see the futility of greed and self-serving ambition. It is a pensive and symbolic story, and one whose message holds true over 60 years later.

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In any other time slot, Ace in the Hole would be one of the must-sees of the festival. Playing down the hall, however, is a celebration of 90 years of Vitaphone. When sound came to film for the first time in Don Juan (1926), the movie was screened alongside a bill of shorts that featured speech and song, recorded and synchronized by the Vitaphone company. Only a few survive. Since 1991, an organization called The Vitaphone Project, run by self-described “film buffs and record collectors,” has been dedicated to restoring and releasing these shorts that are so vital to understanding the history of sound on film. At the festival on Saturday morning, Ron Hutchinson of The Vitaphone Project will be on hand to discuss and screen some of the recently restored Vitaphone shorts, including some featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen, Baby Rose Marie, and Molly Picon.

For now:

MY CHOICE: 90 Years of Vitaphone

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Ace in the Hole

The next time slot features several attractive choices. A Face in the Crowd, another timely movie fitting the theme of broadcast corruption, is showing at the Egyptian. Meanwhile, the always popular One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is playing at the Chinese multiplex 1. Intolerance, D.W. Griffith’s 3.5-hour silent masterpiece, will be at the Chinese multiplex 6 (and is recommended for dedicated fans only, as it spans several time slots). The brilliant Carl Reiner will be giving a talk at Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, in the beautiful Grauman’s Chinese Theater. But it will be at Club TCM, the gathering and lounging space at the Roosevelt Hotel for festival passholders, where many stars will gather on Saturday.

Last year, Cari Beauchamp released a book in which she assembled stories from actors, directors, and screenwriters about the first time they saw Hollywood. The book is a compelling read, and at this special presentation, the stories as presented by Beauchamp in the book will be read by such stars as Laraine Newman (Anita Loos), Nancy Olson (Colleen Moore), Bruce Goldstein (Ben Hecht), David Ladd (Robert Parrish) and Sue Lloyd (Harold Lloyd). This is my pick, as it is sure to be a meaningful glimpse into the world of classic Hollywood.

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to buy the book yet, Cari Beauchamp will be having a book signing in the Roosevelt Hotel lobby following the presentation.

MY CHOICE: My First Time in Hollywood

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing this time.

 

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The TCM Festival is lucky in that it attracts some of the most legendary classic Hollywood stars to the festival for appearances and interviews. Last year the major guest was Sophia Loren, who gave an interview for the festival that will air on the channel on April 28. This year the festival continues the Italian theme with Gina Lollobrigida, who will introduce Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Saturday at 3:30. Down the road from Gina Lollobrigida at the Chinese multiplex 1 is The Big Sleep, one of Bogart and Bacall’s biggest hits and a noir classic, while The Yearling  will play at Chinese multiplex 6 and the 1953 version of Orson Welles’ radio program War of the Worlds will be at multiplex 4. Elliott Gould will also be giving a discussion at Club TCM. This is a tough one, but I think I’m going with The Big Sleep. There are few times when I can give up Bogart and Bacall on the big screen.

MY CHOICEThe Big Sleep

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: I don’t think anything, at this point.

Next up is The King and I, versus Song of Bernadette, versus Hollywood Home Movies. Along with the Shanghai Express/The More the Merrier issue, this is one of the more difficult choices of the festival. Having expected to see The King and I open the festival this year (and thus not be able to see it, with my media pass), I feel that I should see it–especially since Rita Moreno is introducing. But at Club TCM during this time slot is a truly fun annual program in which the festival brings in Hollywood home movies from the Academy and shows them to the crowd, assisted by the stories and memories of the people who are in them. The home movies program is a yearly tradition for me, and I can’t see both The King and I and the home movies due to their starting times. In previous years, I have left early from movies in order to catch the next one. But I have come to the conclusion that this is not “best practices” for the TCM Festival, so I will have to make a decision. Home movies will probably win out.

MY CHOICE: Hollywood Home Movies

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: The King and I.

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Joan Fontaine between takes on the set of Gunga Din.

As for the last time slot of the day, I’m probably going to have to choose Midnight. I love Claudette Colbert too much for anything else there.

MY CHOICE: Midnight

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing.

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See you back here for a rundown of Sunday!

 

2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule FRIDAY

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Analysis of the TCM Festival schedule continues here at Backlots. Friday morning starts off as well as any Friday morning could start, but it is also a perfect example of the joyous difficulty TCM’s schedule poses for the attendee.

THE CHOICES

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As happy as many of us are that Shanghai Express, The More the Merrier, and Love Me or Leave Me are all playing at the festival this year–we are faced with the dilemma that they are all playing at the same time, and we can’t be in three places at once.

Shanghai Express, the 1932 pre-Code starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, and Anna May Wong, is exactly the kind of film that attracts a significant part of TCM’s demographic. TCM viewers and festival attendees seem to have a real fondness for pre-Codes–two years ago, Bruce Goldstein’s presentation on pre-Code Hollywood was packed to the gills with enthusiastic fans of the steamy, sensuous world of Hollywood between 1929 and 1934. Shanghai Express is a textbook pre-Code. Telling the story of Shanghai Lily, a sexually liberated woman (“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily”) who meets a former lover on a train during the Chinese civil war, it is sure to draw a large crowd at the festival.

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Love Me or Leave Me, the classic Doris Day musical, is another delightful choice for this time slot. An increasing number of people seem to be drawn to Doris Day in recent years, and the love is much-deserved. There is more to Doris Day movies than may meet the eye at first glance–this movie, for example, was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won for Best Writing.

But both of these are playing opposite The More the Merrier, a movie that many of us have been trying to get to the festival for many years. Starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier is a farce about the housing crisis during World War II, disguised as a hysterically funny screwball comedy. Coburn’s character finagles his way into sharing a room with Jean Arthur and then rents half of his room to Joel McCrea, creating a situation in which Coburn begins to act as a matchmaker for the two younger characters.

Additionally, The More the Merrier will be introduced by Cari Beauchamp, a major draw for festivalgoers herself. In addition to her regular presentations at prior TCM Festivals, she won over viewers of the channel this past year with her appearances on TCM’s “Trailblazing Women” series.

The fact that we have been trying to get The More the Merrier for several years, along with the delightfulness of the movie and Beauchamp’s introduction, makes this a must-see.

MY CHOICE: The More the Merrier

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing, although if it were in any other time slot, I would see Shanghai Express.

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The next time slot at 11:30 is quite a lot easier on the decision-making front. I love The Way We Were, and once again, Cari Beauchamp is introducing. With her long history in politics and in the feminist movements of the 1970s, there is no one better to introduce this movie.

Nothing else in this time slot particularly grabs me. Lassie Come Home is sweet, but I don’t feel the need to see it on the big screen. The Way We Were it is.

MY CHOICE: The Way We Were

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing.

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The Friday afternoon and evening slots provide a buffet of great choices once again. At 3:00 at Chinese Multiplex 1, Serge Bromberg will present a look at some of the newest discoveries and restorations in silent film, including new footage from Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith and a previously lost Laurel and Hardy film, The Battle of the Century. Meanwhile, down the hall at the Multiplex 4, there will be a screening of the Deborah Kerr classic Tea and Sympathy, and for Coppola fans, a screening of The Conversation with Coppola present. For me, I’m torn between Tea and Sympathy and Serge Bromberg’s presentation. I’m not sure which will win out this time–my never-ending love for silent film, or my love for Deborah Kerr. Darryl Hickman, who plays Al in the film, will be a special guest, which is a plus. This one is a toss-up, but silent film may easily win out despite the pros to Tea and Sympathy.

MY CHOICE: Amazing Film Discoveries

MY MIND MAY BE CHANGED BY: Tea and Sympathy.

The evening hours commence with a choice between another pre-Code, an oft-screened uber-classic, a modern movie, a silent, and a Club TCM presentation about vaudeville. The pre-Code is Pleasure Cruise, a not terribly well-known movie and one that would be my first new-to-me pick of the festival. It’s difficult to go wrong with a pre-Code, and the new-to-me factor is a bonus.

MY CHOICE: Pleasure Cruise

MY MIND MAY BE CHANGED BY: Vaudeville 101

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The late evening is no contest. Despite the stellar lineup of movies in this time slot, including Pride of the Yankees and My Sister Eileen, Angela Lansbury is going to be at The Manchurian Candidate. That sells it for me.

MY CHOICE: The Manchurian Candidate

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing, unless Angela Lansbury can’t be there for some reason.

I’ll be back tomorrow with Saturday’s picks!

2016 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule: THURSDAY

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Ever since the schedule for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival went live a few days ago, festival attendees have been meticulously planning their schedules and making the difficult moviegoing decisions that define each year at the TCM Fest. With less than 2 weeks until the festival, the schedule was slightly late in coming out and the choices are difficult. Over the course of the next several days, I would like to analyze each time slot to illustrate the difficulties in choosing which movie to attend at the festival, which one I ultimately chose, and which movies might force me to make a last minute switch.

Since there are 4 packed days to cover, I am going to focus on one day per post. Here is the first installment of Backlots’ 4-part series about the TCM Classic Film Festival schedule!

THURSDAY, 4/28

THE EVENING CHOICES

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The festival kicks off at 6:30 in the evening with a gala screening of All the President’s Men. This event is only open only to holders of the higher pass levels, and Backlots’ media pass is not one of those, so I am now free to consider the other options. Upon inspection of the other movies in that time slot, I see that there are several options. Dark Victory is one of my all-time favorites. The story is a five-kleenex one, about a vibrant young woman who is diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor that will make her go blind before she dies. Jam-packed with stars (including Humphrey Bogart trying to speak in an Irish accent, worth the price of admission in itself) and a well-known tearjerker, it is a great opening night pick.

A frequent dilemma at the TCM Classic Film Festival is whether to attend old favorites, or new-to-you movies. Sometimes the choices are easy, sometimes they’re extraordinarily difficult. In this particular time slot, the only thing getting in my way of attending Dark Victory is the screening of Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman at the Roosevelt Hotel pool, at which there will be an interesting new approach to silent film accompaniment–a new score played by a modern DJ. Curiosity may get the better of me, and my plans to see Dark Victory may be foiled by a modern novelty.

MY CHOICE: Dark Victory

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: The Freshman

The next time slot begins at 9:30. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, the quiet but strong 1967 piece about interracial marriage has been a favorite since I was 10 years old. As Spencer Tracy’s final film and one of Katharine Hepburn’s most nuanced performances, it stands as a cinematic monument not only for the commentary it makes on civil rights-era America, but also to the brilliance of two of Hollywood’s finest actors. In attendance will be Katharine Houghton, Katharine Hepburn’s real-life niece who plays her daughter in the movie.

Brief Encounter is considered by many to be “the best movie you’ve never heard of.” It tells the story of two strangers who meet in a train station, and begin a quick and torrid love affair. The screenplay was based on a play by Noel Coward, and the action is directed by David Lean. When it was announced in the schedule, the internet went abuzz with excitement, as the movie rarely gets the attention it deserves. For that reason, I think I will attend the screening of Brief Encounter in this time slot.

MY CHOICE: Brief Encounter

MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for Friday’s picks!

Backlots at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2016

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Earlier this week, I received confirmation that Backlots will once again be covering the TCM Classic Film Festival in late April. This will be my 4th year at the festival, and I couldn’t be happier and more honored to be taking part in this special event.

The TCM Classic Film Festival is now in its 7th year, and has grown to become perhaps the biggest film festival in the world that focuses solely on classics. Classic film fans the world over flock to Hollywood during the week of the festival (generally in mid- to late April), to see their favorite films on the big screen, preview state-of-the-art restorations, and attend discussions and interviews with leading figures of the film world.

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Sophia Loren at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival, interviewed by her son, Edoardo Ponti.

Holders of the highest pass level are given the red carpet treatment, quite literally, as they walk the red carpet alongside the stars, filmmakers, and other Hollywood celebrities into the highly coveted opening night movie. In previous years, the opening night movie has been a Technicolor musical, usually celebrating a significant anniversary in the festival year, shown with members of the cast in attendance. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of The King and I, a movie that fits all the criteria for TCM’s opening night traditions, and early talk among film fans online was that this would likely open the festival, possibly with Rita Moreno in attendance.

However, TCM issued a surprise announcement a few weeks ago, shaking up our expectations for the opening night movie, and announced that All the President’s Men (1976) would open the festival. This being an election year, it is a meaningful choice and we now have new criteria by which to predict future opening night movies.

As for The King and I, that movie will be shown during the festival proper, along with such draws as The Song of Bernadette (1943), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921) and a special presentation of the silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), among many others.

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One of the highlights of the TCM Festival for fans is the appearances made by classic Hollywood legends. Every year, a major classic film star makes an appearance and has an interview, often with Robert Osborne. Last year, the guest was Sophia Loren, and this year the festival continues with the Italian theme with the appearance of Gina Lollobrigida, who will present two of her films, her Golden Globe-nominated Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968) and Trapeze (1956).

Another event that draws a crowd is the yearly footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre  (now officially TCL Chinese Theatre–but always Grauman’s to classic film fans). In 2016, the honors will go to Francis Ford Coppola, who will place his hand and footprints in the famed forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in front of a mass of fans and press. This is often the highlight of the festival, and festivalgoers often start lining up early in the morning just to secure a spot.

It promises to be a fun year. If you would like to attend the festival, there are still limited passes available. Go to http://www.tcm.com/festival and I hope to see you there!

TCM Classic Film Festival Day 3: WHY BE GOOD? 42nd STREET, EARTHQUAKE!

Day 3 was one filled with favorites and laughs. I started off the day with Why Be Good? (1929), a movie I had seen a few months ago when a new restoration was screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This same restoration was shown here, and I loved the movie so much the first time that I had to see it again.

 

The plot of the movie centers around a young girl who falls in love with a wealthy banker’s son, but has to prove that she’s a “good girl” before his father will allow him to date her. The premise sounds contrived, but in reality the film is unique and refreshingly feminist in many spots, with lines that resonate with much of feminist thought today. Colleen Moore is as cute as can be, with big, expressive eyes and movements that radiate the jazz age. It was great fun to see it screened at the festival, and I’m happy that this sweet film is getting the attention it deserves.

Next up was 42nd Street (1933), a personal favorite. Featuring much of the same cast as the seminal Golddiggers of 1933, what this movie lacks in originality it makes up for tenfold with a spectacular cast and Busby Berkeley’s creative musical numbers. Ruby Keeler is a delight as always, and the title number is one of the first real ballet sequences within a film that tells its own story within the film. The famous ballet sequences in An American in Paris and Singin’ In the Rain followed 42nd Street‘s lead in creating a veritable “show within a show,” but 42nd Street takes it one step further–the title number is indeed a story within a story within a story. Take a look:

42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933 are hallmarks of the pre-Code era, and are extremely popular with the TCM Festival crowd, yet pre-Codes are often put in the smaller theaters and easily sell out. My dream is to one day see a pre-Code programmed at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where it will not only look beautiful but also bring a lot of excitement to the festival-going crowd. I would have loved to have seen Ruby Keeler on that giant screen!

I had a large break in my schedule on Day 3, during which I relaxed with friends and got ready for the evening screening, Earthquake!, poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel. A Q&A with Richard Roundtree preceded the film, and then we were treated to one of the most fabulously low-budget movies I have ever seen. The inspiration for future disaster films such as the Airport movies and the spoof Airplane!Earthquake! stars Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner (who hilariously insisted on doing her own stunts) and focuses on a disastrous earthquake in Los Angeles, ultimately destroying the city. Its low-budget special effects left the audience in stitches, and satisfied my frequent craving for camp film. I left with a pain in my stomach from laughing so hard. Thanks, Earthquake!

Day 4 tomorrow. See you then!